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US: +1 651-246-8988 | INDIA: +91 080 41234927 | WHATSAPP: +91 6366 834954
Let’s start with the big question: how important are my grades?!? Perhaps your scores in 9th weren’t very strong. Maybe you fell sick in 11th and bunked an exam or two. Either way, your marks don’t seem up to par and you’re worried. The answer to this question? Your grades are important. You are applying to an institution of higher education, after all. Universities like to see good performance that is consistent from 9th-12th grade. And when we say “good” and “consistent”, that doesn’t mean that you need to be consistently receiving 100%. Universities know that we have strengths and weaknesses, but we should always try to do our best in school. That being said, if you have a gap where your grades are less than normal, don’t worry. Universities know that students go through rough patches. If you are concerned, you often have the opportunity to include information that will attest for your gap in performance.
And then there’s the SAT/ACT. As you explore universities, you’ll find that some universities no longer require standardized tests for admission. Others require it only for scholarshpis. However, since a standardized test is often the only objective manner to measure one candidate against the other, many universities still put weight on the SAT. That being said, remember that last year’s average SAT score was 1500. While it’s always good to aim to do your best and get the highest score possible (especially as high SAT scores often correspond with higher scholarship opportunities), there are many opportunities for admission and scholarship at quality universities for students who aren’t scoring a 2400. Also, if you struggle with the SAT, why not try your hand at the ACT? It isn’t as well-known in India, but if you’re looking for an alternative get in touch with us.
Thankfully, universities are embracing something called “holistic admissions“. This is the idea that students are admitted not only for your academic abilities but for who you are as a whole person; how you will fit into their campus. This means they look at things like extracurricular activities, leadership activities, evident passions, etc. These areas of your life are best exhibited through the college essay and the letters of recommendation.
The purpose of the college essay is twofold: it is both a writing sample as well as your opportunity to tell the admissions officials something about you. Some use it simply to know that you have the ability to write articulately; others use it as a supplement to your application to get to know you better. This will give the officials a glimpse of you as a whole person rather than just a list of grades and activities. How important is the essay? Very. Whether a writing sample, a glimpse at you as a whole person, or both, the college essay is an essential part of your application when it is requested.
Letters of recommendation offer a similar support to your application as the essay. But this time, somebody ELSE is vouching for what you say about yourself! In your application, you list your grades and activities. In a letter of recommendation, somebody else has the opportunity to speak to your abilities, character, and chances for success. Basically, your teacher, principal, guidance counselor, or coach is vouching for you. Choose your recommenders wisely!
Many students express concern about extracurricular activities and/or community service. Activities outside the classroom are important to have, but many students are so busy studying that they don’t have much to show. Our answer: DON’T start up an activity for the sake of your college application. Rather than seeing an application stacked with activities and volunteer hours, universities would like to see that you are involved in what is important to you. If this means that you practice the tabla 12 hours a week, awesome. If it means that you are captain of the debate team, perfect. If you teach sign language at a local NGO, cool. Extracurriculars and community service help to show the college that you are more than just your scores; in addition to being a student, you have interests that are important to you. These interests often teach you more than just a skill; they offer a glimpse into your character. Have you learned leadership? Teamwork? Perseverance? Compassion? Additionally, these interests often carry into college, so listing and writing about these give the university a sneakpeek of what kind of contribution you can make and be to their college community.
At the end of the day, that is what universities are looking for: a candidate who will be a stellar member of their campus community. Make sure that every aspect of your application shines!

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