US COLLEGE ADMISSION & TRANSFER
Admission > US COLLEGE ADMISSION & TRANSFER
What Scores What Universities
GPA IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR
Of course, the level of GPA required would depend on the university the student applies to. However, the truth remains that the higher the GPA, the higher the chances a student has of being accepted. The student’s percentile or rank within the grade is less important than the actual letter grade the student receives.
SAT I SCORE IS THE NEXT MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR
Most top 50 universities require SAT I scores. The college admissions office will not determine students’ acceptance or rejection by ranking SAT scores, but students do need to have SAT I scores above a certain level to garner the chance to apply to top-tier universities.
All prestigious universities, including the Ivy League, require SAT II. Most students choose two subjects. However, some top universities including Harvard still prefer the students to have at least three SAT II subject scores. The score should be in balance with SAT I. For example, if a student has an SAT I score over 2000 and SAT II scores less than 700, the student should try to raise his or her SAT II scores.
The most common question from parents who come to counseling is whether the student should take SAT II literal arts subjects if applying for a liberal arts college, or whether the student should take SAT II science subjects if applying a science-related major. To emphasize once more, admissions officers do not award extra points for ta correlation between the student’s prospective major and the scores of SAT II subjects.
As a result, it is best to choose a course that will give the student the best score. However, if the student happens to be confident in many subjects, the student may strategically choose subjects that will make the student stand out against the crowd. For example, a science high school student with a high US History score or a liberal arts student with a high Chemistry or Physics score could be another way to make a statement about the student. However, students should keep in mind that it is not easy to get more than 700 in all subjects, except for MathⅡC. Consequently, it is important to approach SAT II persistently and strategically.
TOEFL is not required for students who have lived in the United States for more than 5 years or those who are American citizens. Korean students are required to take the TOEFL test. Prestigious universities are highly likely to decline students with a low TOEFL score. They are also likely to decline students if a student has an outstanding TOEFL score, but a low SAT I score. Typically, a TOEFL score of around 105 is enough for any school. TOEFL measures whether the student is able to follow classes at a university level. However, the case is different for universities that require only TOEFL scores and not SAT scores. For these universities, a higher TOEFL score is important.
ACTIVITY (EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES), SERVICE ACTIVITY, LEADERSHIP, CLUB ACTIVITY, AP, INTERNSHIP, ART, SPORTS
Top-tier universities in America do not select students purely on the basis of academic achievement. Of course, some basic level of achievement is mandatory, but unlike Korean universities, high grades do not guarantee admission. American universities do not prefer a student who is only good at academics, but a student who has the potential to excel regardless of the environment—a person who is versatile and talented in multiple fields. They look for students who will strengthen the prestige of his or her alma mater and serve the nation well. In that sense, activities may be more important than grades.
Top-tier universities in America do not select students purely on the basis of academic achievement. Of course, some basic level of achievement is mandatory, but unlike Korean universities, high grades do not guarantee admission. American universities do not prefer a student who is only good at academics, but a student who has the potential to excel regardless of the environment—a person who is versatile and talented in multiple fields. They look for students who will strengthen the prestige of his or her alma mater and serve the nation well. In that sense, activities may be more important than grades. Nor do the universities require a document to prove that the activities are authentic. While there is an entry in the application form, they do not require any official documents. What is important is how much the student has developed the habit of helping others since an early age, and what students have felt and learned from these activities. Later on, the activities will become material for the essay. The same applies to acceptance into renowned private high schools. The Phillips Exeter Academy, a prestigious boarding school in the United States, weighs grades the most out of all American private high schools However, the majority of students who are accepted are not students who simply score within the 98 -99 percentile range of the SSAT. They are students who have SSAT scores between 80% and 90% and are extremely versatile. They have volunteered regularly since a young age, they are strong writers, and they are highly talented in nonacademic areas, such as playing a musical instrument.
Next, let us examine internship activities. It is relatively rare to find institutions in Korea that allow high school students to intern at their organization. However, because prestigious universities prefer students with a large gamut of social experiences, many students find ways to do internships regularly. Then where can students find internships? This is one of the most common questions parents ask. Being active is key—take the example of a student who was accepted to Harvard University. The student called all the embassies in Korea and asked them to offer him an internship. Among the embassies he contacted, he was accepted by a Sudanese Ambassador, and he helped the ambassador with translation and filing during his vacations. He managed to infuse his experience into his essay, which helped him get noticed by the school.
Let us look at AP next. For more information about AP, click on the AP section of our homepage. This article limits its scope on how advantageous it is to have AP scores for university admission. AP courses are college-level classes in a variety of subjects that students can take while still in high school. Taking AP courses or exams and scoring well communicates that a student is a strong candidate. In the past, it was possible for students attending certain foreign language high schools to enter a prestigious university without taking the AP if they had outstanding extracurricular activities. But nowadays, almost all students preparing for admission to the US in special-purpose high schools study AP subjects and take the exams. Three or four subjects are the average. In short, if students at one’s high school study for the AP, preparing for the AP and taking the exam is mandatory. Although three to four subjects are the average, if the student wants to stand out with AP, he or she should take at least 5 subjects. More information can be found at Steven Academy's admission seminar and consultation.
The application essay is the most important factor in determining the results of an admission. Students who want to enter top-tier universities cannot achieve their goal without crafting a good essay. Admissions staff read down several hundred essays a day. A cursory skim is enough for them to determine whether the writing comes from a true, heartfelt experience. The essay also reflects the student’s character: admissions officers decide whether the student is critical, proactive, or merely imitating someone else’s essay based on the writing that they have read. Consequently, essays are very difficult and must be approached with utmost care in order for the essay to be reviewed positively.
The interview with the admissions officer is highly helpful, but the interview with the people from the university is not as helpful.
LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION
Letters of recommendation are very important. Even if all the above steps are completed, the examination cannot be successful if the letter of recommendation does not support the candidate. It is best to maintain a good relationship with teachers by being active throughout the school year. Usually, three recommendation letters are required; one from the Counselor and two from subject teachers. Students from general high schools without a counselor can replace the counselor’s reference with a letter by a senior-year homeroom teacher. While they need two recommendation letters from course teachers, it is highly recommended that they get from teachers of core subjects, especially the most confident subjects or from teachers of whom they have gained favor. In Director Huh’s experience, external letters of recommendation have not been very helpful for students. So far, we have briefly summarized the major components necessary for admission into American universities. For more detail, we recommend you to consult with Director Huh.