After selecting a college, the next step is gaining entrance. Some advice from the gatekeepers: 1. Plan a rigorous high-school schedule and keep your grades up. Colleges like to see...

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After selecting a college, the next step is gaining entrance. Some advice from the gatekeepers:


1. Plan a rigorous high-school schedule and keep your grades up.












   Requirements


Washington state requirements for entry into public colleges:


4 years of English
3 years of math
3 years of social science
2 years of science (one lab science)
2 years of foreign language
1 year of fine, visual or performing art


Washington state minimum requirements for high-school graduation:
3 years of English
2 years of math
2 ½ years of social science
2 years of science (one year of lab science)
1 year of occupational education
2 years of physical education
1 year of arts
Individual schools, however, vary in what they require.


Ballard:
4 years English
3 years math
3 years social science
3 years science
1 year occupational education
1 year physical education


Garfield:
4 years English
3 years math
3 years social science
3 years science
½ year physical education
½ year health


Issaquah:
4 years English
2 years math
3 years social science
2 years science
2 years occupational education
2 years physical education
1 year arts
½ year economics
½ year health

Colleges like to see transcripts filled with science, math, social studies, language arts and foreign languages — especially if many are honors, Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes. “We like a person who’s an academic risk-taker, someone who seeks challenges and rises to meet them,” says Michael McKeon, dean of admissions at Seattle University. “We’d rather see a B in an AP class than an A in a regular class.”


2. Follow your passions outside of school and don’t worry about looking good.


“Admissions people aren’t necessarily interested in students who’ve belonged to 20 different clubs,” says Linda Jacobs, who runs a private college-placement service in Seattle. “They’re looking for people with a passion for something” — whether it’s keeping bees, learning Swahili or designing Web sites. “They like to see signs of hard work, initiative and commitment, that a student can stick with an activity and get better at it.”


3. Avoid slacking off your senior year.


Colleges are concerned when they see math and science courses give way to study halls and jewelry-making, because they want students who can land on their feet in the fall.


At the same time, colleges like to see grades that are on an upward trend. So use the extra time senior year to improve a GPA that’s less than stellar.


4. Don’t count on high SAT scores to make up for poor grades.


Colleges often steer clear of applicants with low GPAs and high test scores, figuring they might be smart but lazy.


5. Take time on your essay


Many colleges have become smitten with candidates through their writing. The trick is not to pontificate (look it up) but to be yourself. Write about your roots, the things that excite you. Do you make comics? Love soccer? Live on a farm? What makes you unique?


“The essays that really touch us are the ones that are deeply personal,” says Richard Shaw, dean of admissions at Yale University.


6. Think before you apply for Early Decision.


Some schools hope to nab top applicants by letting them apply early (usually by Nov. 1) and giving them an early answer (usually by Dec. 15).


But there’s a catch: If a school admits you Early Decision, you must attend that college. (Not to be confused with Early Action, where students are accepted early but there’s no requirement to attend.)


What’s more, you can expect a flimsier financial-aid offer because the college knows it doesn’t have to compete against other colleges’ offers.


Counselor Linda Jacobs says many students would be better off applying for regular decision and using the extra time to raise their grades, retake the SAT or craft better applications.