Stay the Course: Free Tips From College Consultants

What two experts tell clients about building a better transcript

Well Tested
What I’d say to any student—whether it’s early, midway, or late in the process of applying—is, when you’re considering highly selective universities, it’s clear that what those schools value first is an unquestionably strong academic record. That means taking the most challenging classes available at your school and doing very well in those classes; it doesn’t mean just taking difficult classes. You’ve got to have strong grades over time and really strong standardized test scores. That will open up doors for a variety of colleges. But not everybody fits the mold of being eligible for highly selective schools, and I feel passionate that there’s lots of opportunity for almost all students.
Steven Mercer
Mercer Educational
Consulting, Santa Monica

Well Rounded
Obviously kids need to excel academically to be eligible for the top colleges. Beyond that, the question is, Who are they when they’re not in the classroom? A kid’s extracurricular profile can tell a story about who they are in terms of their interests. Say a kid loves children and they’re working at summer camp, volunteering, and tutoring kids, and they want to study psychology. That makes sense, as opposed to someone saying, “I want to go to Yale. How am I going to make that happen?” In many cases that ends up looking transparent. Parents ask, “Which program is better for the summer?” My response is always, “Which one will be more meaningful?” Forget about what’s “better.” If it’s meaningful, it will be better.
Candice Frankel
Frankel College
Counseling, Santa Monica