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Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
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Senior Year vs Freshman Year

How different are senior year and freshman year of high school academically? Are colleges more focused on your performance during senior year compared to freshman year? How should I/should I not change my approach over the course of high school to maximize my chances of acceptance at a good college?

6 months ago

Senior year and freshman year are quite different academically. In freshman year, you are typically just starting your high school journey, which means you’re adjusting to the new environment, so teachers usually cater the intensity of their courses accordingly. Senior year, on the other hand, is when you have the opportunity to take advanced courses that both allow you to pursue the subjects you’re most passionate about and demonstrate your ability to handle rigorous coursework.

While colleges generally do pay more attention to your junior and senior years, as those years showcase your most recent academic performance and thus give them the best sense of who will actually be arriving on their campus, they do consider your overall performance and growth throughout high school. So, if your freshman year doesn’t go as well as you’d hoped, don’t panic - it's expected that students need time to adjust. If you show an upward trend in your academic performance, it can demonstrate resilience and determination, which are qualities that colleges appreciate.

To maximize your chances of college admission during your senior year, consider the following steps:

1. Challenge yourself academically: Take difficult courses that interest you and showcase your intellectual curiosity. These may include AP, IB, or dual enrollment courses.

2. Maintain strong grades: Aim to maintain a high GPA throughout your senior year. College want to accept students who maintain or improve their grades throughout high school, rather than those whose performance declines.

3. Continue involvement in extracurriculars: Be an active participant in extracurricular activities that you're passionate about and demonstrate leadership and commitment. Remember, quality of involvement over quantity is what's important, so shoot for leadership positions if you can, as taking on extra responsibility will impress admissions officers.

4. Develop a "spike" or specialty: Focus on developing a specialty or niche in an area you're interested in to stand out among even other talented applicants.

5. Stay organized and manage your time well: Senior year can be hectic, with college applications and various deadlines. Plan ahead and maintain a consistent schedule to make sure you stay on top of your deadlines.

6. Prepare for standardized tests: If you plan to take the SAT or ACT, dedicate time to studying and test preparation. While many colleges have implemented test-optional policies, having strong scores can still be a plus in admissions, especially at highly selective schools. CollegeVine’s blog contains more information about test-optional policies: https://blog.collegevine.com/does-test-optional-mean-test-optional/.

7. Foster relationships with teachers/counselors: Develop strong relationships with your teachers and counselors, as they can provide valuable guidance and write supportive letters of recommendation for your college applications.

8. Write excellent essays: Colleges want to understand who you are as a person, beyond the facts and figures of your application, and thoughtful, polished essays are the best way to showcase your personality to them. If you want help drafting or refining your essay, consider taking advantage of CollegeVine’s Free Peer Essay Review Tool, or submitting your essay for a paid review by an expert college admissions advisor through CollegeVine’s marketplace.

9. Lastly, apply early action or early decision if you have a top-choice school in mind, as applying early can increase your chances of admission.

Overall, your approach to senior year should be focused on maintaining strong academics, staying involved outside the classroom, and showcasing personal growth. Use your senior year to solidify your college application by investing your time in ways that will highlight your strengths, passions, and aspirations. Good luck!

6 months ago

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