[CUA Office of Public Affairs]

College Admissions Officers Value Student Involvement

High school students who want to boost their chances of getting into their first college choice should make extracurricular activities a part of their high school years.

More college admissions officers are considering factors besides grades and test scores when evaluating applicants, says Michelle Petro-Siraj, executive director of admissions at The Catholic University of America.

While students with high SAT scores and perfect grade point averages may seem like attractive candidates, those measures don’t always reflect the well-rounded students colleges seek today.

"Although it’s not easy to earn 1600 on the SAT and a 4.0 GPA, it’s easier if all you do is sit in your room and study," Petro-Siraj says. "That’s fine; however, we like to see you’re able to study and have commitments outside of the classroom."

The idea that extracurricular activities impress admissions officers is not new. But Petro-Siraj says her staff is wise to the ways of students who suddenly show multiple interests in their senior year. "We don’t like to see someone who wasn’t involved in 9th, 10th or 11th grade who then realizes ‘I’m not in any clubs’ and joins a bunch to bolster their activities," she says.

Students who take leadership roles in their clubs, or positions with extra responsibility — like editor of the school paper — are given extra credit. Sports participation demonstrates an affinity for teamwork and cooperation. Volunteer work is also valuable in admissions officers’ eyes, because it demonstrates an interest in contributing to the community.

Grade-conscious students also should keep in mind that straight A’ s on a transcript look great, but it’s more meaningful if they make a B in an Advanced Placement or honors class than an A in a standard course.

"We’re not just looking at the smartest students, but at the choices they made in participating in their high school environment," Petro- Siraj says. "We can always spot the people who took the easier way out."

For interviews, contact Michelle Petro-Siraj, 202-319-5305.

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