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College 101

Beef Up Your Transcript, Even If You’re a Vegetarian

The Ten Commandments. The Declaration of Independence. The script for the series finale of “Breaking Bad”. Your high school transcript. These are all important – nay, mythical –documents. Of course, the high school transcript might be the most influential one, at least at for you.

No other piece of paper has the potential to launch your college career or drag you down into the depths of mediocrity like your transcript.  It can result in your future looking like this or this. Like it or not, your transcript is a record of how you performed academically over a four-year period, so college admissions committees look closely at what it reveals about your potential to succeed at their schools. Let’s talk ways to improve what they see:

Six Ways To Class Up Your Transcript

1. Get to Know Your Guidance Counselor. You’re too young to wine and dine your counselor (or booze and schmooze 'em if they’re not into wine), but you can still put on a nice smile and drop in to say “hi” every now and then. Your guidance counselor can give you advice about enrolling in challenging classes, and steer you away from not-so-impressive ones.

2. Take Honors and Advanced Placement Classes. These show colleges that you are a super-serious student ready to survive, and even thrive on, challenging work.  Heck, they might even earn you college credit, saving you or your parents a few thousand dollars. Check out Fight Club: Honors v. AP Classes.

3. Don’t Take Classes Pass/Fail. Geh. Pass/Fail is for losers.

4. Take More Than the Minimum. Yes, we know that the idea of sitting through academically challenging classes during your senior year makes you want to weep hot tears of despair, but colleges are more likely to “ooh” and “aah” over someone who buckles down for AP Spanish Lit than someone who wastes their time and intellect baking chocolate chip cookies in Home Ec.

5. Even If You Struggled, Show an Upward Trend. You’ve seen it before at the Olympics: a gymnast rocks the balance beam… then falls flat on her butt upon landing. This can't be you. Make sure you actually show up and perform during your senior year, because colleges will notice if your grades slump. Similarly, even if your grades tanked during junior year, show admissions offices  that it was a fluke by acing your senior year.

6. Take Advantage of Electives. Electives doesn’t equal easy. Feel free to take classes that might not be college preparatory, but help you learn and grow in other ways.

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