Most high school students believe that the only way to college is to get straight A’s, take part in tons of extracurricular activities and graduate as a valedictorian. It is true that strong grades and participating in certain activities does make a student more desirable by colleges and universities but it doesn’t mean that only these types of individuals have a chance at obtaining a higher education.
It is possible to still gain interest from colleges even with a less than stellar track record. When it comes time to begin applying to schools, students worried about how their track record will be perceived do have some damage control options available to them.
The most important thing to keep in mind–first and foremost– is that colleges know that no one is perfect. Use this fact to your advantage and create a strong application that keeps things honest but still positions you as an ideal candidate for acceptance.
College applications are pretty straightforward but the personal statement essay will be your time to shine. This is the opportunity to provide details about anything that needs explaining.
For example, if the prompt asks you to describe an important experience in your life, discuss why you would be an ideal fit for the school, etc., those are great topics that allow you to talk about your past, any mistakes you made and how those experiences have made you a stronger person.
Focus on the Positive, Not the Negative
Avoiding any mention of mistakes made in the past is difficult to do when applying to colleges so it’s best to be honest from the start. However, that doesn’t mean you need to focus solely on the discrepancies. Mention them briefly but then quickly move on to what insight you gained and what steps you took to turn the situation around. Colleges know people make mistakes but what they care most about is what was learned as a result.
Leaving certain information off the college application might seem tempting but if the truth is discovered, which is highly likely, it won’t do any favors as far as making a great first impression. Colleges ask for a lot of documentation like transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc. Chances are any discrepancies will be found out eventually–if not right away. It’s better to address any issues upfront instead of having to explain things after the fact.
Use Letters of Recommendation to Your Advantage
Aside from explaining your situation in a personal statement essay there are other ways to show a college or university the strength of your character and why they should consider you for acceptance. Letters of recommendation serve as academic testimonials from individuals that know you well enough to speak on your behalf.
Started high school with poor grades but eventually brought your marks up? Seek a letter of recommendation from the teachers that have witnessed your progress. They would be the best qualified to speak at length about what you’ve gone through and how you’ve grown as a result.