One of the most important aspects of your application is your academic transcript. While your GPA is an important factor, it’s not the only part of your transcript that admissions officers are looking at.
Class selection is a major influence on a college’s decision. Selective colleges want to see that you’re willing to challenge yourself by taking the highest level of courses available at your high school. Depending on your school, those classes could be AP, IB, honors, or dual enrollment classes. Whatever the case, as you go through high school, colleges want to see that you’re willing to push yourself academically because it shows that you’ll do so once you get to campus. Many colleges even say that a B in a more difficult course is better than an A in an easy course. That said, taking lots of hard classes won’t help if you’re doing poorly in them, so be careful not to get in over your head.
Take at least one class that you don’t need in the least. Be it in high school or college, have one class that the only point to you being there is to enjoy yourself. -Jessica P., Duke TIP alum
Colleges receive a school profile from your guidance counselor and compare your transcript with what they know about your school and class. That means they look at the classes you took in comparison to the classes offered, the grades you received compared to the grades your graduating class received, and your overall transcript compared to any previous students from your high school who attended that college.
Your elective classes are also evaluated. Colleges look to see not only whether you’re willing to challenge yourself on subjects that aren’t required, but also to see what your interests are. They want to get a sense of the kinds of classes you might take once you start college. If you’re applying to specialized schools like conservatories, then demonstrating an interest in those subjects is especially important. Extracurricular activities are also helpful in that regard.
For more information on building a great transcript, check out this US News and World Report article 6 Tips From College Admissions Pros on Standing Out.
Listen to Christoph Guttentag, dean of undergraduate admissions for Duke University, discuss what parents and students can do to prepare for the challenges and opportunities of the college selection process.