In this article, I am going to address the most confusing topic for parents which is – profile building for undergraduate college applications. You may have seldom heard that the student will need great marks, work in NGOs, participate in sports and dance competitions and a lot more. Amidst all these many students and their parents feel pressurized and lost. What is important is to understand is that indeed there are many things to be done but they need to be accomplished over a period of time and have to be in sync with who the child actually is and what does he or she aim to do. In order to achieve all of this it is important to first follow these basic rules;
1. Start Early for the application process – When you start 3-4 years before the ‘D day’ of the application process, you have time to understand the lay of the land.
2. Gain some prior knowledge about your chosen field – Long-term planning helps you be prepared for what you truly want. Helped by psychometric and aptitude assessments, subject matter inputs and inclinations, workshops, summer programs and job-shadowing (if not possible, then job assessments), kids can really understand what they want. Some of my students have spent 2-3 years exploring nuances of different career options or education pathways while continuing to build their foundation in basic subjects. They were much clearer in terms of the path that they wanted to follow than others who started out later.
Now once we understand what we aim to do and if top universities from USA are on your list, we have a lot of things on hand which need to be accomplished.Many students in India tend to relax after the 10th-grade exams, which might result in lower grades during senior secondary schooling. This is going to hurt your chances of admission unless you bring them up as soon as possible. If you are one of the students whose grades did not slip, you are in the minority and should keep up the good work. Whether you have competitive grades or not, be it for class 11th or 12th, there is always more that you can do. While these steps cannot change the past, we can make lasting changes to bring up your current grades and provide assurance of high future grades.
One of the ways in which you can stand out in your academic profile includes taking one or more AP or Advanced Placement classes. These classes offer multiple ways to enhance your profile. Aside from the benefit of providing college credits toward your bachelor’s degree, the admissions committee is able to see that you are working at a college level in high school and are able to excel at that higher level. You should add AP courses related to your future degree as it shows a deeper level of your dedication and initiative. While most students in India are unaware of this option, American students take these college preps, AP courses from 9th grade onwards, giving them an advantage. However, adding even one AP course is able to add another depth to your profile.
Another option is to take an online certificate course via a site such as EDX or Coursera. These websites have many on demand, introductory level college courses offered by top universities like Harvard, MIT, Princeton or Stanford. This means the classes are pre-recorded and you would be easily able to successfully complete one within one to two weeks, or maximum a month. Taking certificate classes is well worth the extra work and effort for a few reasons. The university admission committee will see you take the initiative to explore the field of your interest thoroughly and willing to go the extra mile to build a future career. While these online certificate classes do not count toward college credits, they are offered by the top Universities and shows that not only can you perform at the college level, but you can perform at the competitive level of a top university. It should be noted, however, free courses on these sites do not give a certificate. The cost varies between $40.00 to $100.00 per course. If you are in 10th to 11th grade, by all means, continue to pick a new certificate course that interests you as often as your schedule allows.If you are in 12th grade you will not have as many, but you can add more than one. The ongoing certificate classes will give the added benefit, of showing your ability to carry added workload while still excelling in everything. Many Indian students pursue a large number of extracurricular activities. But did you know that many top universities feel that Indian students have weaker extracurriculars than other applicants? This is for a couple of reasons.
“Quality beats quantity everytime”
● Involvement in too many activities: Instead of showing a few “quality” items to the committee, students typically list all activities right from grade 1
● Some students have been known to exaggerate, which hurts the next applicant
● Inability to “present”: You are active in 3 sports. Of these, you are the Captain of the team for one sport. Add in your love of photography, or perhaps you were the Editor of the school paper or that traveled on weekends volunteering in rural villages tutoring. While all of this sounds great, all you have done is list it on paper.
A better strategy and one that will bring your application and profile to the next level would involve adding details. List your sports contributions – ie the years you played, position(s) you held, and details of a game in which your team did well. If you are still involved, and it is possible, you could record the games, practices and add them to a venue such as YouTube. Going a step further – you could edit, provide details, and/or pointers to the videos.
For a creative activity, for example an editor’s position, you could simply provide a link to the archived newsletters. Your hobbies such as photography, traveling and volunteering can all be combined in a blog online. Utilizing your talent in writing and editing, you can choose interesting shots you have taken, and write regularly about where you went, what you saw, and did. Of course, you will want to make sure you are giving interesting highlights and that your writing is not static.When picking which or how many activities to highlight, use the bucket list method!Some of the many options of extra curriculars, interests and/or hobbies include:– Academics (competitions, Olympiads, scholarships and many others)– Sports– Arts such as painting, drawing– Performing arts, like singing, dancing, photography– Writing– Community service/volunteering which might include working with an NGO, the school, your family or even on your own – things can be clean up, organizing, or even tutoringNot all extracurricular can or even should be shown. Some, as in our example above, can be better highlighted in your CV and details mentioned in the letter of recommendation from your counselor, principal or whoever would be appropriate.Whenever you are creating a blog, or video channel, keep in mind you do not want to appear as though you just threw this together to impress the committee and add information like how long you have been involved and that only recently you have been able to add an online dimension. You might also consider adding things from the past like if it is a blog to highlight your photography, add your first ever picture and the touching story behind it. Get creative and find a way to bring more of the past to give it that extra element.
Tip: Do not be intent on adding so many interests that it becomes a juggling act.
Be judicious, be wise and be consistent. All the best!