With thousands of colleges to choose from, how does a student find a school that is a good fit for them, and how do they get in?
Finding a College
Research is key, as is sufficient self-awareness by the student to know what the important criteria are for them. Students are encouraged to make full use of virtual and in-person offerings to get to know colleges more fully than simply their ranking. We also work with students to help discern what academic and extracurricular offerings are most important to them. We know each student is different and has individual wants and needs for a college experience, and we aid in the process of sifting through the options to find those “best fit” schools. The ultimate goal is to find a college where the student can be happy, successful, challenged but not overwhelmed, and exposed to myriad opportunities for growth and exploration. Getting In
There is no single formula for gaining admission to a selective college. Everyone knows that strong grades in challenging courses are important, but so are all of the other factors that make students unique individuals. Here are some suggestions to consider throughout your high school experience.
- As a rule, selective colleges seek applicants who have succeeded in the hardest courses they can handle across the five core disciplines. Breaking down this statement, the five core disciplines refer to English, History, Mathematics, Science, and Languages. Some students may prefer to specialize long before college, but the most competitive candidates have continued studying in all five departments throughout their high school careers. The other half of the statement, succeeding in the hardest courses they can handle, is trickier. Hamden Hall offers many honors and Advanced Placement© courses in every department, yet almost every student has a different schedule, because every student has different strengths. Colleges would like to see students challenging themselves, but not to the breaking point. Getting A’s in all of the easiest classes a student can find is not recommended, and neither is getting C’s in all AP classes. With the guidance of the Academic Dean and the College Office, the goal is for each student to find the appropriate level of challenge in their courses and course progression.
- Colleges want to admit serious students, and they also want to admit individuals who will blend together to create a vibrant, diverse community on their college campus. So while straight A’s on a transcript are wonderful, colleges also want applicants who have contributed to their communities. However, as with academics, extracurricular involvement is not a one-size-fits-all mandate. Students should contribute according to their interests and abilities, and community can be broadly defined as school, town, family, or even virtual. Hamden Hall offers students the opportunity to get involved in clubs, publications, music, sports, theater, and art, and the greater New Haven community offers opportunities in seemingly countless organizations and forms: athletics, jobs, volunteering, music, etc. There is no “right” extracurricular commitment; in general, students should find productive and meaningful ways to spend their time outside of the classroom.
- Lastly, colleges are looking for growth. Students should spend high school learning how to be a successful student and proving they are ready for college-level academics. Transcripts should provide evidence of this growth, in the form of improving grades and/or increasingly challenging classes (senior year classes and grades absolutely count). Similarly, students may find themselves joining a club or team as a first year and emerging as a leader by senior year, or they may discover and nurture a passion or talent, perhaps going from taking an art class to putting together an art portfolio to include with college applications. Colleges like to see students who try new things, are curious, nurture their passions, and work hard to learn and excel.