Today marks the beginning of our second semester, and faculty have just received their “grade verification sheets” to turn in tomorrow morning so that the school can run report cards.

For many of our seniors, these grades will be the last that colleges see before making final admissions decisions. A 2011 Kaplan telephone survey asked 359 college admissions officers from top colleges around the US: “What would you most consider to be an application killer?”

Responses:

  • 53% said “A low high school GPA”
  • 19% said “A low SAT or ACT score”
  • 15% said “Low grades in college prep courses”
  • 10% said “A light course load”
  • 2% said “Weak letters of recommendation”
  • 1% said “Poorly written essays”
  • 0% said “Lack of extracurricular activities”

It would be nice if they would have asked what puts a student over the top when they are on the bubble. To find out, I asked our Director of College Counseling Katie Voller-Berdan. She didn’t hesitate: “Commitment,” she said. Admissions officers want students to show commitment to the things they do. It is fine to try out new things, but “one-and-done” activities to build a resume don’t help in the admissions process. Colleges like to see a student who volunteers with the same service organization over a number of years, stays involved in student council for more than one election, works her way up from C-team to JV to varsity basketball.

For students on the bubble, a good essay helps too, she added.