College would be a pretty dull place if only those students who liked to sit in a library and read were admitted. Admissions officers are looking for more than just students who are capable of earning good grades. US colleges in particular are looking for students who will bring a spark to a class discussion, who will start a new club, who will sing in an acapella group, or who will make the residence hall a better place to live.
One US admissions officer once said, "When I'm considering an applicant, I try to decide whether this is the kind of student I would want as my son or daughter's roommate." Obviously, being a good roommate is not something that can be determined by looking only at a transcript. Most schools realize a GPA does not make up the total student.
Extracurricular activities play a big part in distinguishing you from other applicants. And quality, creativity, and commitment are much more important than quantity. Colleges value students who are deeply involved in just a few activities and who remain committed to them year after year.
Students may ask, “what activities should I do?” The answer is that the nature of the activity itself rarely matters; colleges want to see that you are investing in areas of passion. There’s no need to do one service club and one sport and one instrument. Try to find things that matter to you—colleges want to see students who have made their own paths. Your focus should be on exploring what you love in grades nine and ten and then committing to those things in significant ways in grades eleven and twelve.
Some students may struggle with identifying their extracurricular interests. Please see your PAC counselor or your college counselor if you would like help brainstorming possible areas that you might pursue or ways that you might want to spend your summer.
Summers: Summer can be a good time to deepen your investment in your academic and/or extracurricular areas of interest—or to seek out new ones. It may be a time to get an internship or a job, to go to overnight camp, to do volunteer work, or to shadow an adult in a possible career field of interest. It may be a time to write, to do art, to join a club team, to attend sports or music or theater camps. It may be a time to visit colleges.
Some students choose to take college classes over the summer. This is a good idea if you are interested in a particular subject or want to explore a new discipline, or if you want to get a sense of what it might be like to be away from home and live on a college campus. But please know that, with rare exceptions, spending time on a particular college campus will not in any way increase your chances of acceptance to that individual school.
Please do not spend the whole summer in test prep or tuition. Colleges want to see students who devote time to pursuing their interests, not to pursuing better test scores. Lastly, we strongly suggest that you save some time in the summer for relaxing and spending time with family. It is important to have time to recharge so that you are ready for the next school year.
Applying to Summer Programs: If you are applying to a summer program that requires the SAS College Counseling Office to send your transcript or other supporting materials, please fill out this form.
Some students may be interested in the athletic recruitment process. These students should meet with their SAS college counselor to discuss the role of athletics in the college application process.
Students with talents in the arts may want to share their abilities with the college admissions office, whether or not they plan to major in the arts. Visual arts students may want to submit a portfolio of their work, while performing arts students might post sound clips, film, or a video of their work online. Students intending to major in these fields will most likely be required to go through a portfolio review or an audition process. They should check the submission and timeline requirements for each individual school and talk with their SAS college counselor about their plans.
Many students dream of playing a sport in college, and there are many opportunities for doing so. Most colleges offer not only varsity and junior varsity teams, but also club and intramural teams. This means that students can make thoughtful choices about how large a role athletics will play in their college experiences.
Some students hope to be recruited to play sports in college. It is worth noting that this can be a difficult path -- with less than 10 percent of US high school athletes playing their given sport in college, and less than a third of those receiving an athletic scholarship, the truth is that it is extremely difficult to become a recruited athlete. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has data on the likelihood that a student with be able to compete in athletics beyond high school. The NCAA also offers toolkits for Divisions I-III, information on scholarships, recruiting calendars, and frequently asked questions (FAQs). The SAS college counselors will also be happy to answer questions you may have about the athletic recruitment process.
Steps to Take
If you truly are a superior athlete, not just at SAS or at IASAS but compared the universe of students playing your sport, there are some steps you need to take early in high school.
Think about the level at which you want to play in college. NCAA Division I and II teams require year-round commitment, and you will often spend as much time with sports as you do with your academics. There is more variation in the commitment required at NCAA Division III schools and at schools in Canada. If you want your sport to take up less of your time, consider playing at the club or intramural level.
If you think you want to play at the Division I or II level, register with the NCAA Eligibility Center in your junior year.
Begin to make a list of colleges where you might be able to play. If you are playing a sport such as swimming or track where you can objectively be measured by your performance times, it is much easier to assess your athletic talents and compare your times to a college's team. For team sports like football or soccer it's a bigger challenge to realistically assess your skills. It is important to talk with your coaches about the likelihood of your being able to play at different levels.
Create a video. A recruiting video is one of the most important ways an athlete can attract the attention of coaches. The content will vary depending upon the sport. Sports such as volleyball and football generally work best with a collection of 15-25 highlight plays illustrating your ability. Continuous play sports such as soccer, basketball and rugby should have 10 to 15 highlight plays, perhaps with an additional game half included to show overall ability. Keep your video short, simple and as professional looking as possible. You should upload it to YouTube so that you can provide a link to the coaches.
Create an athletics resume. This should include the name of your high school, your GPA, and any test scores you might have. It should also include teams you’ve played for, positions played or events in which you participate, summer programs attended, and any relevant times, statistics or accomplishments.
Make contact with coaches in your junior year. Check each college’s website to find out who you should contact. When you email the coach, provide a brief introduction explaining who you are and why you're contacting them. Keep the message short, but attach your resume and a link where they can view your video.
Attend summer programs. Attending summer sports camps, tournaments, and ID events allows you to get an assessment of your skill level and provides some exposure to coaches. Camps help athletes get better and to get noticed. Therefore, it is worth researching sports camps to find one or more that you would like to attend.
Are You Being Recruited?
Students sometimes think they are being recruited when they receive mailings from a college admission office. But please know that colleges purchase lists of prospective students from several sources, so if you received an email or letter, it may have nothing to do with your athletic talents.
If you receive an email, letter or questionnaire from a college coach it can be a good thing, but it doesn't necessarily mean you're being recruited. If a coach calls you, that’s a strong sign -- it means there is some interest in you. Should a coach invite you on an official visit where the expenses are paid by the college, it is serious stuff.
Regardless of whether you initiated contact with the coach or are being actively recruited by a coach, there are some questions that you should consider asking him or her in order to be sure that this college's athletic program is right for you. Here are several sample questions that you may find helpful:
How many athletes are you recruiting?
How do I fit into your program?
Where am I on the depth chart?
What are my chances of playing as a freshman?
What are my chances of being a starter?
What or how many other athletes do you currently have in my position?
What is your coaching philosophy?
Based on your past experience with student-athletes, how do I compare to those who have or have not gained admission?
How many athletes are graduating?
How is your program different from others?
Can I try out as a walk on?
What is the 4-year graduation rate for athletes on your team?
What would your players tell me they like most or least about you?
How much time is devoted to/what is the schedule for practices?
When are the competitions typically scheduled/how often do students miss class?
Because colleges want to admit students who are likely to enroll, a growing number of admission offices now take account of how well informed and serious a candidate is about the school. When a choice has to be made between two equally qualified applicants, your interest can provide the necessary edge.
How can you show you're interested in a school? Starting in junior year:
Go to the school’s website and sign up to be on their mailing list.
If the school sends you email, open it—and click on one or two of the links in the body of the email.
Chat with admissions representatives who visit SAS.
Send your admissions representative thoughtful questions via email about academics, housing options, extracurriculars, and campus life. “Thoughtful” questions are those that seek information that cannot be found on the college’s website. But please do not flood your admissions representative’s inbox with emails— don’t send more than one email every other month.
Visit the campus, if possible
Set up an interview if they are offered.
Send thank you notes after tours, interviews, and meetings.
Please note that not all colleges track demonstrated interest. Neither large public institutions nor most of the most highly selective research universities in the US have the resources or desire to consider this as a factor in reviewing applications. If you have questions about which colleges do and do not track demonstrated interest, please ask your SAS college counselor.