How to Improve Your Profile for SAT College Application?

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Is class 9th too early to start building my profile for undergraduate colleges?
Is class 12th too late to start?
What can I do if I have low grades?

In this article, we will address all your questions regarding building and presenting your profile for undergraduate college applications.

When you start hearing teachers discussing adding “more” to a students profile, you become curious. One of your first questions is probably, How much do you need to achieve to ‘stand out’ from the crowd?

You may even have enlisted for sports, become active in NGOs, been elected for a student council position and all while maintaining your grades, you might think, “I got this.” Well, that is not the time to sit back and start counting your admissions.

It is not enough to have achieved a lot if you do not present the details in such a manner as to show the committee that they need you over your competition.

If a top university is in your future, take the time; remember it is never too late to put in that extra effort. There are always finer points that can be improved on or one more step that you can take which the next applicant might not have opted to take.

To quickly review what typical admission criteria would include:

Prior to applying:
– Standardized exams, SATs & TOEFL/IELTS
– Academic record, grades from your 9th through your current grade of 11th or 12th
– Extracurricular activities

During the application process you will need:
– Letter of recommendations
– Essays
– Interview rounds, either face to face or via skype

For today, we will focus on ways to enhance your profile for the universities to which you are applying.


As discussed in the last article, Undergraduate Admissions Criteria – SAT Students, many students in India tend to relax after the 10th-grade exams, which might result in lower grades during senior secondary schooling. This is going to hurt your chances of admission unless you bring them up as soon as possible. If you are one of the students whose grades did not slip, you are in the minority and should keep up the good work. Whether you have competitive grades or not, be it for class 11th or 12th, there is always more that you can do. While these steps cannot change the past, we can make lasting changes to bring up your current grades and provide assurance of high future grades.

One of the ways in which you can stand out in your academic profile includes taking one or more AP or Advanced Placement classes. These classes offer multiple ways to enhance your profile. Aside from the benefit of providing college credits toward your bachelor’s degree, the admissions committee is able to see that you are working at a college level in high school and are able to excel at that higher level. You should add AP courses related to your future degree as it shows a deeper level of your dedication and initiative. While most students in India are unaware of this option, American students take these college preps, AP courses from 9th grade onwards, giving them an advantage. However, adding even one AP course is able to add another depth to your profile.

Another option is to take an online certificate course via a site such as EDX or Coursera. These websites have many on demand, introductory level college courses offered by top universities like Harvard, MIT, Princeton or Stanford. This means the classes are pre-recorded and you would be easily able to successfully complete one within one to two weeks, or maximum a month. Taking certificate classes is well worth the extra work and effort for a few reasons.
The university admission committee will see you take the initiative to explore the field of your interest thoroughly and willing to go the extra mile to build a future career.While these online certificate classes do not count toward college credits, they are offered by the top Universities and shows that not only can you perform at the college level, but you can perform at the competitive level of a top university. It should be noted, however, free courses on these sites do not give a certificate. The cost varies between $39.00 to $300.00 per course. If you are in 10th to 11th grade, by all means, continue to pick a new certificate course that interests you as often as your schedule allows.
If you are in 12th grade you will not have as many, but you can add more than one. The ongoing certificate classes will give the added benefit, of showing your ability to carry added workload while still excelling in everything.

    “Challenges and rewards go hand in hand, when projects are undertaken” 

Working on any project means a heavy workload; when you add an extra project you are suddenly taking on daunting challenges while watching your social life slip further away. In those times, look further ahead and remind yourself that rewards go hand in hand with the challenges involved in projects. The biggest is accomplishing what you set out to achieve, the secondary benefit is the value and substance it adds to your profile. For these, you should discuss with your teacher(s) what you can do, and when you will be able to. The only rule of thumb here is that it cannot be from your course curriculum.

Many Indian students pursue a large number of extracurricular activities. But did you know that many top universities feel that Indian students have weaker extracurriculars than other applicants?

This is for a couple of reasons.
● Involvement in too many activities: Instead of showing a few “quality” items to the committee, students typically  list  all activities right from grade 1
● Some students have been known to exaggerate, which hurts the next applicant
● Inability to “present”: You are active in 3 sports. Of these, you are the Captain of the team for one sport. Add in  your love of photography, or perhaps you were the Editor of the school paper or that traveled on  weekends  volunteering in rural villages tutoring. While all of this sounds great, all you have done is list it on paper.

A better strategy and one that will bring your application and profile to the next level would involve adding details. List your sports contributions – ie. the years you played, position(s) you held, and details of a game in which your team did well. If you are still involved, and it is possible, you could record the games, practices and add them to a venue such as youtube. Going a step further – you could edit, provide details, and/or pointers to the videos.

For a creative activity, for example an editor’s position, you could simply provide a link to the archived newsletters. Your hobbies such as photography, traveling and volunteering can all be combined in a blog online. Utilizing your talent in writing and editing, you can choose interesting shots you have taken, and write regularly about where you went, what you saw, and did. Of course, you will want to make sure you are giving interesting highlights and that your writing is not static.

When picking which or how many activities to highlight, use the bucket list method!

Some of the many options of extra curriculars, interests and/or hobbies include:
– Academics, where your certificate classes would fall
– Sports
– Arts such as painting, drawing
– Performing arts, like singing, dancing, photography
– Writing
– Community service/volunteering which might include working with an NGO, the school, your family or even on your own – things can be clean up, organizing, or even tutoring

Not all extracurricular can or even should be shown. Some, as in our example above, can be better highlighted in your CV and details mentioned in the letter of recommendation from your counselor, principal or whoever would be appropriate.

Whenever you are creating a blog, or video channel, keep in mind you do not want to appear as though you just threw this together to impress the committee and add information like how long you have been involved and that only recently you have been able to add an online dimension. You might also consider adding things from the past like if it is a blog to highlight your photography, add your first ever picture and the touching story behind it. Get creative and find a way to bring more of the past to give it that extra element.

Tip: Do not be intent on adding so many interests that it becomes a juggling act.

                 “Quality beats quantity everytime”

Although you do not want to spread yourself thin trying to cram as much as possible into a short time, you also do not want to have only one area of interest. A longer history of a shorter list of interests shows a discriminating focus and ability to manage your time.

Be equally picky when choosing which extracurriculars to include from pre-ninth grade. Here you want only the most significant, such as head boy/girl, other positions of leadership or achieving a high placement in competitions like the olympiads. In high school positions of leadership especially those that garnered prestige for the school will also hold more weight than say, singing in your room and just telling the committee.

Remember – anyone is able to make a claim about anything, so taking those steps that not only show your accomplishments but give you a chance to flex your creativity goes a lot further.

Make the extra effort and your profile will stand out above other international applicants who have not taken the initiative to add the work or their own personal touch; what the experience has done for you and how you have conveyed the significance of that experience to the committee.

Thank you for taking time to read through this, we hope the information assists you.

Good luck in your endeavors!

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Additional Resources can be found at:

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  1. Thank you for the wonderful article

  2. Thank you for the terrific post

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