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We recently visited a colleague at High Tech High in San Diego and we discussed the components that make a student competitive for the college application process. A measurement that he uses is G.R.E.E.T. This acronym is in its simplest form a great way to measure the criteria most admission officers look to in the application review process.

As you probably know, the selection process can vary from college to college but most schools look at G.R.E.E.T. as benchmarks for both a student’s success in high school and his or her potential in college.

The journey begins today!

Grades: The journey to college begins in the ninth grade year and, while most colleges look to the sophomore and junior years for grades, courses taken, and the rigor chosen, it is important for the student to understand that a student’s grades hold the greatest weight. A student’s G.P.A. in their core academic courses will determine the opportunities offered to them. A student who has stellar grades may qualify for merit scholarships or grants.

Recommendation: Recommendations play a significant role in the college application process. In general students will need to obtain recommendations from a school counselor and two teachers. It is crucial that the student does not choose a recommender based on how popular they are at school or how well they think they know the teacher but rather how well the teacher knows them. Additionally, students presume that recommendations should only come from teachers who gave them an “A” but actually a great story can be told about how a student persevered to earn a “B” or “C.” The University of California (UC) and California State (CalState) systems do not take recommendations from teachers.

Extra-Curricular Activities: The college and university admission committees enjoy reviewing students who have holistic applications. The student who has both a stellar academic transcript and various extracurricular may gain acceptance over the student who has only stellar grades. It is wise for a student to choose one or two activities where they can gain leadership and problem-solving skills rather than engage in several activities at a superficial level.

Essay: The essay process equates to having face-to-face time with an admission committee, particularly in highly selective admission processes because it is a moment to share, advocate, and illuminate what type of student you are and will be at their respective college. A strong and engaging personal essay(s) often reveals why a transcript is chock full of all “A’s” or has a few areas where grades indicate a student struggled. The essay also paints a picture for the admission committee to understand any academic or social interests, areas of strengths/weakness, obstacles or circumstance the student overcame, and/or anything the application or resume doesn’t already state. Think of it as a window into the mind of the student—you are inviting the admission committee to get to know you a bit better.

Tests: The standardized test is a topic of stress for many students and families. It is true that the admission committee provides a great deal of attention to these tests. Preparation for the SAT Reasoning, SAT Subject tests, and the ACT can begin as early as your ninth grade year. It is advised that students take the PSAT at the tenth and eleventh grade. The more familiar the student becomes with the format, type of questions and the content the better they will fair in their scores. A major change has taken place with the UC system where the university no longer requires the SAT subject tests for admissions but are still recommended for certain majors. There are a few on-line learning tools available such as www.number2.com, http://sat.collegeboard.com/practice, and prep work done during Advisory.