Are you a high school junior planning to apply to top colleges and universities next year? This post is part of a series of posts that will help you prepare for next year’s application process.
Oh, and if you don’t want to wait for the monthly posts, please download Preparing for College in High School: A To-Do List for Eleventh Graders. It’s all there.
Your high school path suddenly takes a detour. Your grades, which had been steady and consistent, take a nosedive. Perhaps it’s due to illness, personal or family issues, or a learning disability that eventually made itself clear. As you move forward into the summer before your senior year, it is time to consider whether or not this impacts the colleges you plan on applying to.
For most students, the answer is yes. Sometimes, the circumstances change your mind about how far you would like to be from home. In other cases, illness or other family issues have a financial impact that necessitates finding financial safety schools, or looking first to a nearby community college for a period of time. If your challenges impacted your GPA or course selection, then that also may impact the schools you choose to apply to.
Yes, you will have opportunities to explain your circumstances, and many times, you will be met with a sympathetic reader on the other side of your application. Sympathy, however, does not guarantee admission. Be prepared to discuss your situation. You can do this through your essay, an additional statement, your guidance counselor recommendation, or, in some cases, a personal interview on campus with an admission counselor. In most situations, the admissions staff will be evaluating your response to the challenge. Did you overcome adversity? What did you learn from the situation? Is the college going to be able to meet any future needs you might have?
In most cases, it is to your benefit to discuss any aberrations or weaknesses in your academic performance. The keys are incorporating your challenges into your college search and then finding the appropriate avenue to explain your record.