Updated: July 6, 2012 8:59AM
Dear Mr. Bradshaw — My daughter will be a high school freshman in August.
Each year, we hear about students who have nearly perfect grades and who have taken several Advanced Placement classes being rejected by top colleges. We want to make sure she has the right preparation and advice about her options. How can we better prepare her for the college selection process? — ParentDear Parent
— Excellent grades and test scores, plus strong leadership skills, are key to gaining admittance to a top college.
State colleges tend to be more lenient when it comes to grades and classroom performance, but not top-tier colleges.
Harvard had 35,000 applicants last year, and 81 percent of those accepted chose to enroll. More than 14,000 applicants to Harvard scored above 700 on the critical reading, math and writing portions of the SAT, and more than 3,800 were ranked first in their respective high school classes.
Freshman statistics show 41 percent of the students admitted excelled in extracurricular interests, including music and other expressive and performing arts; 35 percent in debate, political activities and student government; 21 percent in social services, and 20 percent in writing and journalism.
In addition, 57 percent said they intend to participate in recreational, intramural or intercollegiate sports.
The question is, how do you prepare for a top college in a way that will separate you from the pack?
Start studying for the SAT as a freshman, because SAT scores play a huge roll in admissions. In addition, you will need to take two or more SAT II Subject Tests if you plan to apply to a top-tier college. That means you need to do well on five or more tests.
Take the SAT in the freshman year. It will establish a benchmark and a guide to the student’s strong and weak points.
I offer a five-week SAT boot camp for juniors. The courses are taught by Harvard students who had perfect scores on the tests they tutor. If you hire a tutor, ask to see his or her test scores. If they haven’t scored 800, it is unlikely they are competent to guide you to reach a higher level.
Besides the SAT boot camp, I have developed a leadership skills program that will help a student develop the techniques, skills and confidence needed to succeed. America’s leading colleges no longer look just for students with great grades and top test scores. They look for students who make the most of opportunities and resources around them and meaningful impacts in the community.
As we were developing the leadership curriculum, we asked ourselves what we wish we had known about how to develop leadership skills in high school. The program includes instruction in time management, public speaking, presentation preparation, writing, interviewing and listening effectively, running meetings, basic and advanced computer skills, and fundraising techniques.
I applaud your interest in getting an early start on the college selection process. Establishing an educational framework that will support your daughter’s interests and eventually intrigue college admissions officers is nothing to leave to chance.