Strength of program, GPA, and standardized test results (if required) are the three most important factors colleges use when making decisions. Admission decisions are based on both academic and non-academic factors which are included in your college application package. The application package is a compilation of information that the admissions committee considers as it makes the admissions decisions. 


    Although a variety of factors are considered when making admissions decisions, academic factors are typically given primary consideration.



    • is the most important component of the application
    • displays specific courses taken and the final grades in each through junior year, as well as a three-year cumulative GPA
    • lists senior year courses in progress
    • also includes the Scarsdale High School Profile and course level sheet

    TEST SCORES (See the "Testing Information" tab for more detailed information)

    • are generally considered in relation to your overall performance
    • either validate an existing record or demonstrate greater potential for achievement

    ESSAY (See “The College Essay” section below): The essay allows you the opportunity both to individualize your application and to demonstrate your writing skills.



    • provides insight into your attributes as a person and a student
    • speaks to your activities and interests
    • provides context to your transcript, any particular academic situations that may benefit from some explanation, as well as overall high school experience 
    • may include teacher reports on your classroom performance


    • describe your strengths as a student in specific classes
    • reflect on projects undertaken, quality of written work, nature of your class participation
    • focus on your potential for academic growth and development
    • include observations on your personal qualities



    • evidence of your participation and achievement outside the classroom
    • greater involvement and achievement in a few significant activities are more impressive than superficial brief involvement in many

    INTERVIEW: An interview can personalize the application process. However, while interviews may be required, recommended or optional at certain schools, they may not even be offered at others. Generally, most interviews are informational. For some colleges, the interview may have an impact on the admission decision.



    While not necessary and seldom required, supplementary materials may provide additional insight into special talents, interests, or achievements. Check with individual colleges as to whether or not they welcome this information. These may include:

      • a recorded performance from areas such as music, dance, athletics, drama an art portfolio
      • original creative writing
      • additional letter of recommendation from a coach, supervisor, religious leader, etc.



      •   present a complete picture of who you are
      •   include detailed, honest biographical information
      •   reflect a final document that has been carefully reviewed and edited

    1. If the college is a Common Application school: log on to the Common Application website and complete the application.

    2. If the college is not a Common Application school:  log onto the school’s admission website and complete the application.

    3. Complete the forms required by the Counseling Office that allow for your transcripts and school information to be submitted to the colleges (detailed instructions for this will be provided in 12th grade).

    4. Talk to your teachers about writing letters of recommendation in the spring of 11th grade.  In the fall of 12th grade, you should give your teachers the necessary forms they require for submitting their letters (detailed instructions for this will be provided in 12th grade).

    5. Make  sure  you  log  onto College Board and/or ACT  and  send  your standardized scores to the colleges that require them (SHS cannot send them for you!).



    College admission officers want to read essays that are, “fresh, upbeat and lively,” according to former dean of admission, Gary Ripple. “We would like each essay to offer us a picture of the candidate that just isn’t visible in a list of courses and grades or the numbers resulting from a three-hour multiple choice examination. We want to ‘see’ the writer...There has never been anyone who is just like you...We leave it up to you to tell us how you are special.” Your essay offers an opportunity to share more of yourself with the admissions committee. It should reflect both your self-awareness and your ability to write. Sarah McGinty, author of Writing Your College Essay, explains: “The essay can show priorities, values, the ability to synthesize and connect, the ability to get something out of an experience...It can breathe life into your activities, interests, experiences, or family situation.”



    • Write your OWN essay

    Others may help you edit, but your essay must be your own “voice.”

    You portray your best self when you are honest, sincere, and straightforward. Essays which are too “professional” may not sound authentic.

    Use good judgment, seek a second opinion, but the final decision is yours.


    • Be honest

    Show your strengths as well as your challenges.

    Let the real you come through in your writing — be yourself.

    Be sincere, genuine, and direct.


    • Use the essay to reinforce information found elsewhere in your application

    Develop common themes in your activities which reflect your personality. Show your depth of interest/involvement.

    • Emphasize what is important to you...

    ...but don’t repeat activity lists or replicate what appears in other parts of the application.


    • Pay careful attention to directions

    Answer the questions asked. More is not always better.

    Be aware of the word count.


    • Proofread carefully

    Correct punctuation, grammar, syntax, spelling and usage.

    Ask someone else, such as your English teacher or dean, to read over your essay

    • Remember that you are writing to real people

    Make sure you convey what you really want the admission committee to know about you. Consider the impact of the information you are sharing on the reader. Feel free to express your thoughts and opinions, but do so with sensitivity.