How high school students can get into the college of their dreams

Many high school students focus just on their GPAs believing high academic classroom performance and perfect SAT scores will open doors to their college dream school. Perhaps this was the best path to take a generation ago, but 21st Century colleges and universities want more.

According to Elizabeth Dankoski, founder and CEO of The Dream School Project, believes straight As and high SAT scores can actually backfire on a student. Ivy League schools like Harvard, Yale, and Cornell aren’t looking for perfect. They seek out a unique and talented student body.  Harvard

Dankoski says, “Fifty percent of the college application comes from the essays. Unless you live a great story, you’ll never be able to tell a great story. And the only way to live a great story is to develop a genuine sense of purpose and passion.”

The Dream School Project CEO advises students to develop a project showcasing their passion and making a difference in their community. Dream schools want students with ideas and energy. They are looking for future leaders who will make a difference in this world.

Projects can vary, but the ones that grab college admissions officers come from the heart. Take 8th grader Laurie Wolff. She became upset when classmates refusing to dissect an animal received failing grades. Laurie collected signatures on a petition and then courageously testified before the Las Vegas School Board urging that students be given the option to perform virtual dissections. The School Board listened and adopted Laurie’s recommendation.

Now that girl is Harvard material. Unknown

Abby, a San Francisco high school student helped limit the sale of plastic water bottles within the city due to the harm plastic bottles have on the environment. Abby recruited and trained volunteers and coordinated “grassroots pressure” tactics. She generated over 1000 handwritten petitions and created over 220 photo petitions. Through her efforts the campaign encouraged San Francisco and local national parks to go bottled water-free. 

Now, Abby is one girl with a story to tell on her application to Yale.

Beachwood High School journalist, Stephanie Bleyer (16) uncovered disturbing findings. None of the 4872 tons of trash collected in her Cleveland suburb was actually recycled. In her school newspaper, Bleyer wrote, “Ladies and gentlemen of the city government, in the future when you sign an ambiguous contract and advertise false city programs, give the whole true story or else student journalists like myself will.” The mayor responded by overhauling Cleveland’s solid waste reduction program.

UnknownIt’s a sure bet Stephanie’s college application essay will show the Cornell Admission’s Board that this Ohio girl is unique and talented.

Yes, keep up your grades and study for the SAT, but more importantly, show your passion and make a difference while you’re still in high school. If you do, admission to the college of your dreams will be more attainable.





Michael is the author of four published novels—Goodbye Tchaikovsky, The Abduction of Joshua Bloom, and The Koolura Series—The Legend of Koolura and Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback. He is also a columnist for the Los Angeles Examiner writing articles about parenting and education. His blog features YA authors and books.

One thought on “How high school students can get into the college of their dreams

  1. Joe Bock Reply

    Yes things are a far cry from when I was admitted to college when the only thing that mattered was your GPA and SAT scores.

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