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No more SAT/ACT for the UCs

5 Areas to Focus on to Prepare for College

News reverberated everywhere when University of California Provost Michael Brown announced in November 2021 that “UC will continue to practice test-free admissions now and into the future.”

For many high school students, not having to take standardized tests as part of admissions is a welcome relief. But this may still beg the question: if the UCs won’t be looking at my test scores, what else can I do to be a strong applicant? Below are 5 areas that you can focus on throughout your high school career, whether or not you apply just to the University of California:

1. Improve your GPA

Having a strong GPA gives you flexibility in your college choices. While you may feel all is lost for a certain subject if you earn what you consider a disappointing grade, college admissions look favorably on improvement from one semester to the next, one year to the next. Whether it’s going to your teacher’s office hours, joining a study group, consulting online resources, or signing up for tutoring, putting in effort in your learning won’t just move the needle on your grade report, but help you in becoming resourceful.

2. Maximize academic opportunities at your high school

Every high school has different academic offerings. Given this, colleges evaluate student performance on what can be accomplished by that student at that particular high school. If you have an interest in math, make sure that you take all the math classes that are offered at your school, and make sure that these classes increase in difficulty. If you’ve already done that, come up with ways you can continue your interest outside of what is offered.

3. Develop a deep interest in at least one subject area

In addition to maximizing the courses offered at your school, you’ll want to show that you’re developing an interest in a particular subject area. But you have to go beyond just earning As in all your English classes, or all your language classes, or whatever subject area it may be. Once you’ve already worked towards those strong grades in academic courses offered at your high school, you’ll want to demonstrate your growing interest via participation in related clubs and organizations, individual and/or team projects, volunteering opportunities, or other extracurricular activities.

4. Aim for achievements in your talents, skills, and/or interests

Shiny medals and trophies are certainly worth your time, effort, and energy, but these aren’t the only measures of success that college admissions officers are looking for in competitive applicants. While practicing piano, taking dance classes, or playing around with CAD help you in developing your talents, skills, and interests, you’ll want to demonstrate these developments somewhere, somehow. Consider a performance, project, competition, job, or another platform where you can showcase what you’re good at or passionate about.

5. Become a problem solver

Colleges and universities are looking for students who will make meaningful contributions to their campuses. One of the best ways to do so is to become an effective problem solver. How do you go about doing this? There’s no one right way to go about this. You can help resolve disputes within your club, come up with a fundraising idea for your sports team, or maybe get other students involved in an ongoing community initiative. What’s important is that you identify a need in what you’re involved in, and you take action towards fulfilling that need.

While you may still make time to review for the SAT/ACT for schools outside of the University of California system, all institutions of higher learning are looking for students who aren’t test-taking robots. They want students who have a love of learning, show dedication and commitment to themselves and others, and can make a difference in the lives of those around them. Redirecting your energy to the aforementioned areas will help you in creating not only a strong college application profile, but also a unique high school experience for yourself.

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