Colleges look for key numbers on student transcripts

Take the CAPS program. It’s a good way to get to know a potential career field.

Don’t take the CAPS program. It takes up too much time.

Take the hardest classes offered. It’ll up a weighted GPA.

Don’t take the most difficult classes. Colleges only look at an unweighted GPA.

Participate in many activities and clubs. Colleges like a well-rounded student.

Focus on one particular thing you’re passionate about. Colleges like that in a student.

Confused yet?

There’s a good deal of contradictory advice students receive from counselors, gifted teachers, administrators and parents.

It’s time to discern fact from fiction.

According to BV gifted teachers, a good transcript consists of a few main things: a complete high school transcript, community service and involvement, clubs and activities, work experience and leadership opportunities, weighted and unweighted GPA, ACT/SAT scores, references, awards and possibly more.

According to Julie Mills, an advisor at Purdue University, one of the first things colleges look at is a student’s GPA.

She also said that colleges will look at the student’s grade point average in their core classes, and they will unweight the number. Certain out-of-state universities will not consider any student with a failing grade in any core class, no matter what their grade point average may be.

However, Mills also said that taking more difficult classes both looks good and a transcript and prepares students for the college work load.

“I would rather see someone take harder classes and be prepared for college than worry about lowering their GPA,” she said. “And taking all basic classes in high school will most likely mean the same for college.”

Going hand-in-hand with GPA is a student’s class rank; however, colleges and universities are starting to look at this number less and less.

“Class rank used to be fairly important,” Mills said. “But what I’m hearing is that most universities don’t use it any more except for with scholarships.”

The other number colleges take seriously is that of the applying student’s ACT or SAT scores. Many colleges will take either score, but according to Mills it’s best for any student planning on attending college to take both.

“Some people do significantly better on one than the other,” she said. “The composition is different. If you have the opportunity, definitely take both.”

Mills also said that the ACT seems to be the better exam for fast test-takers, while the SAT is better for the intuitive student.

It’s also good to keep in mind that colleges will take the better score on either test. This means that students who feel they could do better should definitely give it another go.

Colleges and universities don’t look at community service hours as much as scholarship committees do. According to Mills, committees are looking for students who participated in community service that really helped people in need.

“When you’re on a committee you’ll be looking for an outreach from the heart,” she said.

All in all, Mills said that high school is all about challenging yourself, doing your best and finding out your strengths and weaknesses.

“Overall, take the most rigorous course work you can, but also develop strengths outside of your academics so you know what your good at before you go to college.”

by Sara Naatz