Monday, January 01, 2018

College Application Marketability (CAM)

The following is a rough approximation of the relative importance college admission committees give to basic elements of a typical application:
  1. Coursework (grades and rigor): 40%
  2. SAT/ACT test scores: 30%
  3. Essays (Common App, personal statements, supplements, etc.): 15%
  4. Everything else (extracurriculars, leadership, legacy, ethnicity, etc.): 15%
Let’s assume that an average honors or AP-level high school course requires about eight hours of work per week (four hours in class, and four hours outside class). Assuming six classes and 36 weeks of school per year, that’s 1728 schoolwork hours per year for the typical college-bound high school student. By the end of junior year, that’s 5184 academic hours. Just to be safe, let’s round down to 4,800 hours. That’s 120 hours per CAM point.

Suppose a student spends an average of two hours per week over the course of 12 months preparing for the SAT. This requires a total investment of 104 hours. To be safe, lets round up to 120 hours. That’s only four hours per CAM point.

Similarly, time invested in planning, drafting, editing, and polishing college application essays is hugely profitable! Let’s assume the average student needs to write one 1000-word Common App essay and eight 500-word supplemental essays and personal statements; that’s nine college application essays totaling 5000 words. To do an outstanding job on these critical pieces of academic work might require 75 hours. That’s only five hours per CAM point.

The takeaway:

Making a serious commitment to long-term standardized test prep and to putting in the time and effort required to write great college essays is highly intelligent!

Yes, of course, you should do all you can to take the toughest courses and get the very best grades possible. You do need to show sincere interest in your favorite schools, committed involvement and initiative in pursuing extracurricular activities for your own enjoyment and in service of others, and accomplishment of notable NTA's ("non-teenage activities").

And, of course, there are only so many hours in the day. Nothing on Earth is more important than maintaining good mental and physical health, properly balancing work and play, and getting enough rest and sleep. You can't do your best work if you're sick, unhappy, or exhausted.

Notwithstanding these important considerations, the fact remains that work on test prep and college essays is up to 30 times more productive than anything else the typical high school student can do to maximize CAM and boost the odds of admission to a top school.

Imagine that you’re taking an additional half-course called “CAM Class” throughout junior year and during the first semester of senior year. The content of this independent study course will consist mainly of your own research into “good fit” colleges, standardized test prep, college essay work, and general college application planning and preparation. You’ll put far less time into CAM Class than you would into any ordinary course – but your devoted participation here has the potential to do far more for your chances of gaining entrance to the college of your dreams than do all the other courses you’re currently taking put together!

This is an incredible opportunity for those committed students willing to step up, embrace the challenge, and make a relatively small sacrifice of time and energy in exchange for the excitement, fulfillment, and future success that only a great college education can provide. It’s smart to commit yourself to building the best college application package you can by working diligently to maximize your score on the SAT or ACT and nail your college application essays.

Make a plan to investigate various colleges and universities that match your goals and fit your personality, prepare thoroughly for the SAT or ACT, write and finely polish your college essays, and complete and fine-tune your college applications well ahead of time. If you can, find a qualified test prep coach and private college counselor to help you along the way. If this isn’t possible, you can do quite well working entirely on your own – without paying for any outside help at all – simply by reading good books on these subjects, researching online, putting in the time, and becoming an test prep wizard and college application expert through self-study.

There’s no better investment than the time and energy required to earn an “A” in CAM Class.

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