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“Each student and their family engages with our college counselor on a regular basis.”

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What Colleges Look for in Successful Applicants

Applying to colleges can be overwhelming. There is a steady increase in college applications, which means, even more competition. In a 2019 study, the National Association for College Admission Counseling reports that, from 2017-2018, colleges saw a 6 percent increase in applications from first-time freshmen, a 2 percent increase in applications from transfer students and a 7 percent increase in applications from international students.

At Saint John’s Prep, the preparation process begins long before your child’s senior year. Calculated decisions throughout high school can help set your child up for admission into one of their top college choices. A good place to start is by understanding what colleges are looking for as they sift through thousands of applications every year. Here are some good tips to keep in mind: 

Enthusiasm about their school

Whether it be through their application essay, speaking with admission representatives, a campus visit or an interview, your child will have a number of touchpoints with each college they’re applying to. When they show that they are genuinely interested in attending that specific college (and asking questions is a great way to engage on that level!) and not just applying as a means to an end, they stand out among a throng of students just going through the motions. 

An authentic voice

Your child’s application essay is a great place to shine. In addition to solid grammar, encourage your child to express their unique personality, values and goals. This is another great opportunity to differentiate themselves from the throng of other student applicants. If possible, encourage your child to write a fresh essay for each college application—it will keep their essays original and focused.

High achievement 

While GPA and ACT/SAT test scores are certainly important, achievement also includes enrolling in challenging classes and putting in extra effort even if it means receiving a lower grade in the process. This indicates that your child is willing to get out of their comfort zone and has the internal drive to learn and grow – a major indicator of academic and life success. 

At Saint John’s Prep, we offer two amazing options for high academic achievement: International Baccalaureate (IB) courses AND classes from Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict. It’s rare for students to have access to both opportunities on one campus!

Depth of knowledge

When your child spends time investing in a few activities that interest them as opposed to doing a little bit of a lot of things, this shows off their unique passions and depth of knowledge. This is significant as colleges want to see angled, proficient and passionate students. Encourage your child to highlight ways their involvement in these activities draws on and grows their leadership skills and makes a community impact by including a polished essay and resume along with their application. Each component they include should touch on their most important areas of involvement and their depth of knowledge in a robust but concise and truthful way.

Special talents/skills

Is your child a proficient violin player? Are they a decorated soccer player? Or maybe they’re a scholar who has been researching a particular subject. Highlighting these special skills and accomplishments is another way your child can set themselves apart from their competition during the application process. Include multimedia footage, research notes or any other evidence of their skills in action.

Intellectual curiosity

One of the biggest determining factors of academic success is a healthy dose of intellectual curiosity. Encourage your child to showcase their extracurricular pursuits! Admission counselors will see their sense of initiative and curiosity and recognize that they are eager to assimilate into the college’s academic environment, ready to contribute, learn and grow.  

At Saint John’s Prep, we help prepare your child 

Because we are a small private prep school, we are able to get to know our students individually. This translates into a high-quality education with one-on-one direction and mentoring from staff and faculty as students build their talents and interests. Matching personal qualities with key opportunities is just one advantage our students and families experience.

At Saint John’s Prep, we work extensively with students from grades 9-11 to help prepare them for the college admission process. Each student and their family engages with our college counselor on a regular basis to develop a personalized plan for college and career development. It’s important to look at the big picture—not only what each student will study and where they will attend college—but how their plan aligns with who they are and who they want to become. This helps students better articulate their strengths and goals in their college applications, showcasing the talents and maturity they developed at Saint John’s Prep.

Some facts about college counseling at Saint John’s Prep:

  • We have 3 counselors plus an international student advisor for international students for 280 students—a very good ratio!
  • We offer advising every Tuesday where students meet in small groups using a curriculum developed by the counseling office.
  • The Saint John’s Prep attitude is that college is not an “if” but a “where.”
  • To view a complete list of college acceptances, click here.


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