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Help your child get into college: 7 factors that impact admissions

Carolyn Rahaman is a professional SSAT tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She holds a Master's degree in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University.

Use the below suggestions to see how you can use your role as the parent to help your student shine on her college applications.

The college admissions process considers a number of factors when evaluating an application. Certain colleges and universities weigh portions of the application differently, but most admissions officers ask themselves the same questions: “Is this student a good match?”; “Can this student handle the workload at our institution?”; “Will this student contribute to the campus community?”

Here are seven areas in which your child’s application can answer, “Yes,” to those questions.

1. Grades

An A is certainly preferable to a C. However, there is a slim margin for error. A low score at the start of the school year can reflect positively on your student if he or she ultimately raised it through hard work and determination. Signs of "senioritis" may raise admissions concerns, but if a poor mark is the result of extenuating circumstances (such as a serious illness), your child can address this directly in his or her personal statement. Encourage your student to do well throughout high school, and arrange the help he or she may need.

2. Courses

Admissions officers hope to see students who have challenged themselves and who are prepared for college-level work. Did your child enroll in AP, IB, or honors courses? Did he or she instead opt for three study halls? If upper-level options are not available, investigate classes at your local community college or online.

3. Class rank

When paired with your student's grades, his or her class rank allows a program a sense of how rigorous your child's school was, as well as how he or she responded to the curriculum. Rather than encouraging competitiveness between your student and his or her classmates, aid him or her in keeping his or her grades high and above the curve.

4. Extracurriculars

Extracurriculars help your child appear well rounded and willing to involve herself beyond what is strictly required in high school. Did your student participate in the same activities for years, or did she choose something new each month? Did your child take on a leadership role? Was she involved in clubs related to her intended major? Show interest in her extracurricular activities and offer to drive to track meets and academic decathlon tournaments.

5. Test scores

Colleges and universities typically require the ACT or SAT. Have your student study frequently, and purchase a practice book or tutoring sessions if necessary.

6. Essay

The essay is an opportunity to shine. It is also a chance to answer those questions about how your child is a good match for a given program, as well as what he or she will bring to the campus community. Ensure your student individualizes his or her essay for each college or university and answers the precise question(s) asked. Offer to proofread each draft.

7. Recommendation letters

Your child should ask for recommendation letters from those teachers who she completed upper-level courses with, where she excelled. With your student, brainstorm which educators to approach. Prompt her to establish those relationships early.

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit www.varsitytutors.com.

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