It is the end of November, and officially college application season for high school seniors. The end of the fall semester can be exciting and nerve-racking for students taking steps to complete their applications and submit them in December and January (for the Common Application). Since 2020, many colleges and universities have revised their expectations for applicants, particularly considering standardized tests, which became more challenging to administer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Given these fluid circumstances, it is helpful to revisit the different components of the college application and where students should be placing their energies in 2021/2022. 


The Transcript 

The part of the college application that is mainly established prior to senior year is the transcript. This includes the Grade Point Average (GPA) and the types of classes taken. What is important to note is not only the grades that students receive but also the courses that they choose to take. Among an increasingly competitive applicant pool, students must choose their classes carefully, opting to challenge themselves academically with Honors, Advanced Placement (AP), and elective courses that define interests and explore future career paths. Students with high GPAs but less rigorous and generic high school class schedules are less impressive to college admissions than students who choose more academically rigorous courses and show consistent interest in particular subject areas. Some electives with the most utility are foreign languages, public speaking/speech and debate, journalism, computer science, and personal finance (if it is available). Do not underestimate taking part in the arts as well, since creativity is becoming increasingly valuable as a 21st-century skill. 


The Scores 

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, standardized testing has been disrupted, causing colleges and universities to revise their typical expectations for applicants. Two-thirds of bachelor-degree institutions in the United States are not requiring students to submit SAT or ACT scores for 2022/2023 enrollment. Many of these colleges are private, liberal arts colleges that generally place more value on the college essay, letters of recommendation, and extracurriculars. Before you decide whether to submit SAT/ACT scores to specific colleges, consider whether their policies are test-optional, test-flexible, or test-blind. Test-optional schools give students the option of opting out of submitting test scores. This enables students to place more of their energies on their personal statement essay and resume rather than test preparation. However, if many other students opt to submit test scores to your school of choice, your application could be at a disadvantage if missing that component. Alternatively, test-flexible schools give you the option of submitting other test scores in the place of the SAT/ACT, such as AP tests, International Baccalaureate (IB) tests, or school-administered placement tests. These tests can be highly valuable, as they can help students test out of general education courses in college. Finally, some schools have adopted a genuinely test-blind policy, which means that SAT/ACT scores will not be considered in the application process at all. With these schools, the quality of the transcript, essay, and extracurriculars becomes paramount. 


The Essay and Extras 

A component of the college application that should not be underestimated is the personal statement. This portion of the application showcases a student’s personality and writing skills and can help an applicant stand out from the rest. The name of the college application essay is important because it should truly be “personal.” It should not read like a resume or a list of accomplishments that your letters of recommendation can echo. The prompts on the common application are a great place to brainstorm. Think about something unique that you would like to showcase about yourself, such as a talent, belief, or personal experience that shows how you overcame adversity. Be sure to zero in on a moment and use your writing skills to paint a picture for the readers rather than telling them how to feel. The personal statement is an excellent opportunity to show your skills at self-reflection and capacity for growth as an individual. And, of course, do not forget to revise and edit your writing. Careless stylistic and grammatical errors can create a negative impression on the reader, regardless of the quality of your ideas. 


Finally, it is important to secure quality letters of recommendation from impactful teachers and a resume of extracurricular activities. The majority of colleges and universities require 2-3 letters of recommendation, and these letters must reflect your academic achievements and personal interests. Teachers and mentors who know you well because you have taken multiple classes with them are a great choice, as well as teachers of Honors and AP classes are aware of your academic achievements and study habits. Remember that teachers have a lot of other commitments, so it is important to set them up for success by giving them copies of your resume and all the information and materials they need to send your letters in plenty of time. You are unlikely to get a strong recommendation letter if you wait until the last minute to take this step. Your resume should reflect your activities and accomplishments throughout high school, including but not limited to athletics, clubs, the arts, student government, volunteering, and any work or internships that apply to your aspirations. Again, be sure to proofread your resume and entire application for errors before submission. Finally, some colleges and universities will give you the opportunity to do virtual interviews, which are a great way to showcase your talents and accomplishments present in your application in a more personal way.  


How Afficient Academy can Prepare you for College Applications 

Afficient Academy’s math and English programs provide ample opportunities to prepare your children for success on their college applications. Our rigorous, Common Core-aligned curriculums help prepare students for the Honors and AP classes they will encounter in high school and enable them to accelerate their learning beyond grade level. This can help your children have impressive transcripts entering their senior year. The vocabulary module of our Afficient English product teaches 300 new vocabulary words per grade level, helping to set your children up for success on the verbal portion of their college admissions tests. Finally, our Afficient English product also teaches essential personal narrative writing skills in every grade level. Students can learn how to “hook” a reader with a compelling story, zoom in on small moments, and illustrate details using descriptive vocabulary and figurative language. Afficient English students also have a firm command of the writing process, including planning, drafting, revision, and editing, and master all the grammar and writing conventions throughout the grade levels. All in all, you can rest assured that Afficient Academy will help ready your children for the college application process, and eventually, the college experience. Interested in learning more about Afficient Academy? Please contact us at 408-726-2245 or send us an email at