How do you set realistic expectations for your eligibility at selective Colleges before you have taken Standardized Tests or otherwise demonstrated your academic abilities?
The Early College Search Question You are on top of your College Search. You (or your child) aren’t yet well into your Junior year, but you want to make sure that you are doing all the right things (academics, extracurriculars, etc.) so that you are an Eligible College Student. Or maybe you want to take advantage of a family trip to see some potential Colleges. Excellent! Now what?
The Realistic Search – Many institutions state they use a holistic approach in their admissions process, which means they are looking beyond (not instead of) test scores and grades when considering your application. BUT that doesn’t mean they don’t heavily weigh your test scores and grades when considering your application. At highly selective Colleges, RARE exceptions may be made for a phenomenal athlete, a young Yo Yo Ma, a student who has overcome amazing obstacles or contributed in a spectacular way in their community (no, I don’t mean you went to the Humane Society every week to walk dogs).
If you don’t fit into one of the exceptional categories, you need to be aware that a student that doesn’t match a school’s academic (grades, test scores) profile is less likely to be accepted into that institution. Furthermore, these so-called “reach” schools are much less likely to offer you merit aid. Long story short, be realistic and compare your academic profile to that of a typical accepted student to know whether a particular school is a “safety” “match” or “reach” school. Remember that comparing your academic profile to the typical admitted student as your sole criteria for whether you are likely to be accepted into a College is oversimplifying the Admissions process.
PARENTS: Motivating Your Student by Exposing Them to a Great Institution A great way to motivate your child to do well in High School is to expose them to a great institution that motivates them. I don’t think too many kids would walk on Stanford’s campus and not think, “Wow, I’d like to go here!”. (When my kid said that, I said “I’d like to go here too!”) Downside: if there is no way their academic record or your wallet are going to make that school possible, you may be setting them up for disappointment. On the other hand, never say never when it comes to your child getting into a “reach” school. I think you need to make an educated decision about what schools to expose to your child, as motivation.
The Early College Search Answer – You may not be far enough in your high school education to know where you GPA is heading, especially as you might choose to add some more rigorous courses (Honors, AP) into your workload as an upper classmen. And at most, you have only taken the PSAT. But there are ways you can take your limited knowledge and project some answers to help you target your search. And there are many things you should be doing now to make sure you are an Eligible College Student.
Extending Limited Knowledge – This College Board webpage provides information to help analyze your PSAT scores, including a chart to convert Sophomore year PSAT scores to likely Junior year PSAT scores, and a chart to convert Junior year PSAT scores to likely SAT Scores (see Standardized Tests and When Do I Take Which Tests? if you are thinking “huh?”). This information is for 2014. If you are looking for the same information for a more current year, type psat to sat conversion chart (and the year) in your internet search engine. Think about how you handle the demands of a more rigorous class and how your extracurricular activities and personal life are impacting your ability to study and apply yourself in class. If you have not been applying yourself, now is a good time to make changes and set goals. A College will be impressed if you bring up your grades after a slow start, even if your overall GPA is not stellar. See Grades and Test Scores – How do I Fix This? if you feel your academic record doesn’t reflect your abilities.