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Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

What Matters in the College Application

The junior year in high school has to be some kind of stress-related test for teenagers. The poor kids are trying to get good grades, excel in any sport or extra-curricular they love, select colleges, take the SAT and subject tests, become responsible almost-adults, drive, work, and with any luck, maybe even have a crush!

So, in our roles as supportive and unconditionally loving parents, how can we help them focus on what really matters? It would be cruel to say they need high grades, extra-curricular activities that include sports, music, leadership, work experience, and community service, so what really matters?

Well, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the list (in order of importance), looks like this:
  • Grades in college prep courses
  • Strength of curriculum (reputation of school)
  • Admission test scores (ACT or SAT)
  • Grades in all other classes
  • Essay or writing sample
  • Class rank (if your school does this)
  • Demonstrated interest (contact the applicant has had with the school during admission)
  • Counselor recommendation
  • Teacher recommendation
  • Interview
  • Subject test scores (Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate)
  • Extracurricular activities
  • SAT II scores
  • State graduation exam scores
  • Work experience
There you have it. It does all matter, so the important role for a parent is likely to help them learn how to manage time, prioritize how they spend their time, and be happy with their performance. Learning how to live with stress seems to be an important goal for juniors, and parents can help!
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.