College Application Prep: Tips for NYC Students Applying to Top-tier Colleges

The SAT and ACT, and the test prep associated with both, are integral parts of your college application process. These college admittance exams serve as an objective way for institutions of higher learning to assess students--with so many variables among different schools, regions of the country, and even countries, many colleges simply want a “by-the-numbers” yardstick to compare the applicant pool. And at most colleges and universities, admissions are set up so that students from the same area, state, or region are assessed in the same applicant pool, with the same application readers. This means that, at most (but not all) top-tier universities, New York City (NYC) students will be competing against other NYC students for admittance into that institution. With the abundance of excellent high schools in the NYC area, it is important for NYC students to achieve a high score on the SAT or ACT in order to distinguish themselves in a highly competitive applicant pool.

What Top-Tier Colleges Want: Stellar ACT or SAT Scores Plus a Remarkable Resume

However NYC students, who are in one of the most competitive areas of the country, must go beyond stellar test scores to be admitted to the most elite institutions. We’ve all heard the stories of the student with the 2400 SAT who was turned down from MIT, or the person who had a 36 on the ACT and failed to gain admittance to Stanford. And even with mediocre scores, there are other opportunities to distinguish yourself beyond multiple-choice questions scored on a Scantron sheet. Whether your school of choice is one of the renowned institutions the NYC metro area offers, a liberal arts college or university elsewhere on the East Coast, or a competitive institution in the Midwest, South, or West Coast, an all-around remarkable resume is needed to stand out and gain admittance to the nation’s (or world’s) most impressive colleges.

Crafting the Remarkable Resume for a Top-Tier College

So how does a student achieve this kind of CV? The first way to do this is to attain excellent grades in school and maintain a high GPA. But even if you have these elements in place on your application, you can still do more to build an impressive track record. One method is to get involved in an activity you excel at or care deeply about. Do you have an artistic talent, such as playing the trumpet or illustrating comics? Hone it, and become one of the best. Do you have a skill such as building electronic hardware or writing code? Then become an active and engaged member of your school's computer or robotics club. Like to volunteer for those less fortunate than yourself? Give as much of your time as possible, preferably with one organization to build your reputation within it. Play tennis, or baseball? Give it your all, and see if you can take on a leadership role on your team – captain, administrative duties, etc. It’s much better, as a general rule, to take a leadership position in a few clubs or societies than it is to join numerous different clubs and hold nominal positions or simply maintain membership status. Another good rule of thumb is to join clubs or societies as early as possible; colleges are unlikely to be impressed with students who join multiple clubs in their senior year.

The 'Ideal' College Application--Different Views on What Works Best

While this article provides a general outline for how to make your college application “pop,” there are different schools of thought for the best way to build your resume. One view is that colleges are looking for applicants that are well-rounded-- Renaissance men and women who are academically excellent, who can play a sport and a musical instrument, who engage in service and volunteer activities. Another view holds that colleges nowadays are looking for a well-rounded class – they want concert pianists, football captains, brilliant physicists, novelists, and political activists to individually make up a diverse and interesting group. There is no real way to determine which is right, so it's best to do whatever feels right to you. If you like to multitask and have your hands in lots of different things, do that, with the caveat that you should remember not to solely be just a member of something. If you feel it is in your best interest to zero in on that one thing that means a great deal to you, that passion will come through in your application. Consult with teachers, college counselors, your parents, and tutors to determine what the best plan of attack is for you. And keep in mind, that even with the best SAT and ACT scores around, you’ll need to go that extra mile to show colleges what you’re really made of. Good luck, and don't forget to have fun!

College Application Prep: We Can Help

If you are considering hiring an experienced application prep expert in NYC to help your child prepare for college, Origins Tutoring can help. Please call us at 917.287.7927 so we can begin to develop a personalized college application prep program for your child.