I had a student tell me recently that he didn’t need to take a math class during his senior year.  His teacher apparently told him that colleges don’t check that sort of thing.  I explained that not only do schools look at your personal curriculum rigor, but they also check the individual school curriculum rigor and evaluate if the student took the most rigorous curriculum course load offered.  While colleges are not expecting students to take every AP or rigorous class offered, they are expecting the student to take as many as possible.  Admissions staffs take into account that some schools may not offer as many AP classes, but they want to see that your student took as many as he or she could.  On the other hand, if your school is extremely rigorous, an admissions staff is not going to look positively on a student who only took one or two classes when 30 are offered.  As I mentioned before do not let the teachers or your student try to tell you the senior year can have a lighter or fluffier course load because colleges don’t care what the student takes at that point.  Not true!  Admission staffs of all colleges want strength of schedule in the senior year too.  Applications are rated based on academic rigor, achievement and potential.  In addition, grades matter until the very end.  Schools have been known to pull a student’s college acceptance and scholarship because the student lost their focus. The admissions staff has other deserving students on the waitlist who took their senior year seriously.

Extra curricular activities are also very important.  It is not about how many activities your student does, but does your student show passion in those activities.  Is there leadership?  Is there a consistent interest that shows in their choice of extra curricular activities?  Schools are looking for students that are going to get involved at their colleges.  Admissions staffs aren’t looking for a long laundry list of activities where the student basically just showed up.  Rather they are looking for breath of service where the student’s interest and involvement are real.