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Articles / Applying to College / Last-Minute "Fixes" for Student with So-So SAT's?

July 10, 2010

Last-Minute "Fixes" for Student with So-So SAT's?

Question: I'm a rising senior, and applying to college is seriously stressing me out! I've taken the SAT I and SAT II's already, but the scores are not satisfactory. What can I do as a last-minute fix to make my college app look better for top notch schools?

Admission officials at "top notch schools" are wise to anything that smells like a "last-minute fix." If your test scores are well below the typical admitted-student range at the colleges that interest you the most, then your admission odds won't be good, unless you have special traits that these schools are seeking. Many of these traits are out of your hands ... e.g., your race and ethnicity, unusual athletic prowess, an atypical background (e.g., you grew up on a houseboat), or VIP connections.

But perhaps there IS something that is exceptional about you that admission officials will want to know about. For example, do you have a unique hobby? Have you published a novel (it's not too late to start writing ... it's just early July! ... but write FAST ;)) or spent hours on a particular unique project or passion? Don't only focus on school activities, organizations, or clubs. Think, too, about your personal interests ... things you do in your free time that may be uncommon.

If nothing comes to mind, then you can certainly take a shot at your dream colleges anyway but, at the same time, you should be searching for other schools where your test results will fall more squarely in the middle range. Although it can be frustrating to realize that you're good enough to attend any college in the country and yet may be turned away from the ones you most desire, there is often a "meant to be" aspect to this crazy admissions system that can lead you to a place that may not be front and center on your list right now but could end up as the perfect place for you.

So don't just look for 11th-hour application add-ons but, instead, put some time into researching colleges where your test scores will fit and where you will fit, too. (But, of course, you can also study for the SAT's and try them again in the fall.)

Once you identify some colleges that excite you but that are also "Realistic" or even "Safe" options, then this whole process won't seem quite as stressful.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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