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NEWSMAGAZINENETWORK.COM twice during her junior year and plans on taking it again this fall. Even though she took an ACT prep class before one test and used a tutor to help prepare for another, she said taking the test was still “a little overwhelming.” Sisk said that most students improve their scores with each test. “The first time will be the lowest of the scores, because they go in with a lot of anxiety and not really knowing what to expect,” he said. “And then they’ll start doing test prep, and generally, it will go up as they start to progress with the testing.” GPA vs. rigorous course load A hot topic among high school students and their parents is: What’s more important to colleges – a high GPA (grade point average), or a challenging course load? “A student should take the most rigorous course load they can and be successful,” Brasel said. “Generally, I think curriculum is probably one of the more important things that colleges look at. “Has the student challenged themselves and taken the courses that are going to help them be successful on a college campus setting?” “We’re looking for a student with a strong academic curriculum,” said SLU’s Wair. When asked if she would prefer that a student take standard courses in high school and get all As or Advanced Placement (AP) and honors courses and get a few Bs, Wair said, “Definitely, challenge themselves with the APs and get a B.” “I would much rather have a student who had all honors courses and a 3.7 than a student who had fluff courses and a 3.8,” said Drew Griffin, associate director of recruitment for the University of MissouriSt. Louis (UMSL). “I think if a student’s … taking honors courses, then we’re going to see it in the ACT score as well.” Missouri State’s Karle agreed. “If there’s anything that I recommend to potential Missouri State students, it’s to take those harder classes, to take those AP classes, because that will really help you out when you get to college,” she said. What are colleges looking for? “Some schools will focus a lot more on the numbers and then some schools will say … we also want to find students that bring something unique to our campus, students that are leaders, students that they see have potential to be successful at their institution,” Sisk said. Griffin said that for admission, UMSL focuses on a student’s ACT score, GPA and class rank. A student’s accomplishments outside of school become more important when competing for scholarships. Wair said that while strong academics are an important consideration for admission to SLU, the school is looking for students who have shown leadership by being involved in high school, particularly

in “community service and social justice … because that is a mission of the Jesuits, to serve the community.” Karle said when it comes to extracurricular activities, “It’s not always important to be a part of 100 organizations in your school.” “Sometimes, it’s more important to be involved in one or two, but take a really big role in that organization,” she said. “Leadership is very important,” Brasel said. “Community service is something that they’re looking for more and more these days.” When should students start thinking about college? Students should start thinking about college their freshman year in high school, Griffin said. “A lot of students, they apply and they don’t quite have the GPA, and they realize that as a freshman, they didn’t take it seriously,” Griffin said. “They should start building their resume as soon as they enter those doors of high school,” said Karle. “It really starts from the freshman year – taking those classes, building your GPA, really studying hard to get all the information that you’ll actually need when taking the ACT, and getting involved in things early.” Many students begin making campus visits during their junior year. “The campus visit is so important,” said Karle, “because as much as I love Missouri State, it might not be the right fit for all students.” Karle said students should come to a campus visit with a list of questions that include: What is the average class size? What types of clubs and activities does the college offer? What do students do on the weekends? What academic programs does the school offer? “I think that the more up close and personal a student can get with the university that they’re considering, the better,” Wair said. No helicopter parents, please While parents often play an enormous role in financing their children’s college education, college admissions professionals would like them to play more of a supporting role in the college application process. Wair advises parents to “become educated about the process.” “But in the same breath, I want to say to parents to allow students … to have their college admissions experience. This is really that first adult act, that first major decision that a young adult is making,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of parents that really … take over in the college search process, and that’s really a disservice to them and to the student,” Griffin said. “Walk along with them in the journey, but let the students drive or control the journey.”

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