In this competitive admissions climate, non-A students often feel inadequate. Here’s what to do if, on paper, you’re not at the head of the class:
Choose extracurricular activities that demonstrate your passion. Do you have a special talent? Did you travel to Israel or contribute to the Jewish community? Make sure your extracurricular time represents you and is communicated well.
Try to raise your GPA in 11th and 12th grades. While grades remain the most important factor in college admissions, colleges review your transcript beginning with your senior and junior years; they’re looking for an upward trend. So if you’re disappointed in your freshman and sophomore record, stay focused on making the grade in your junior and first semester of senior year.
Focus on the best college match for you, not the best college by rankings. What are your unique interests and needs? Which schools meet those needs?
Be open to exploring options. Just because you’ve never heard of a school doesn’t mean it’s not a good choice. To help clarify your preferences, visit a variety of schools.
Consider SAT-optional schools. These colleges will look at factors other than SAT score such as grades, creativity, writing ability, interests, activities, and life experiences.
Demonstrate interest in your choices. Colleges keep track of your visits, interviews, emails, etc. If you show strong interest in a college you’re serious about, it will be noticed by the admissions office.
Always include two safe choices. In this competitive climate, ensure at least two options.
Use your essay to highlight your unique qualities and skills. Colleges like to know that you have a good sense of yourself and that you’re the kind of person who will contribute to the university. Tell them about your special skills, such as working with children or playing the violin, and background/interests, such as Jewish leadership experiences, which might enhance life on campus.
Explore a nontraditional admissions path. You might begin at a less well-known campus or attend a community college with the aim of raising your GPA and transferring at a later time.
Think about a gap or postgraduate (PG) year. You might take a year after high school graduation to work, study, travel, or volunteer—and talk about those experiences on future college applications. The Reform Movement offers two gap programs in Israel—Carmel in Haifa, a full-year for college credit, and Shnat Netzer, an international ten-month Jewish leadership program in Jerusalem.
Keep a positive perspective. How you do in college will be more significant to your future success than the name of the school you attend.
—Judith Berg, educational
consultant, certified educational planner, past president of
Temple Beth Miriam, Elberon, New Jersey, and a URJ vice chair