For Counselors - Advice to Assist in Counseling Your Students

The choices students make today will have an impact on their college options in the coming years. Clarify their goals as a student and community member, and push students to engage in behavior that will put them on solid footing during the college application process.


Competitive colleges and universities are looking for those students who have planned carefully. Students who hope to gain admission to UNCW and other competitive colleges should keep in mind the following:

  • Choose senior year courses wisely
    The perception that the junior year of high school is the most critical is a myth that can damage the chances for admission for even the brightest of students.
  • Consider taking a full and rigorous senior year program
    If AP or IB courses are available, students should challenge themselves by including some of these courses. There is not a specific, magic number of AP or IB courses that will make an applicant more competitive, but some rigorous courses in their senior schedule, within the context of what your school offers, are important.
  • Take additional courses in English, math, science, social studies and foreign language
    Even though a student may well have completed your high school graduation requirements early, selective institutions want to see additional academic challenge continue through their senior year.

Extra-Curricular Activities

  • Stay involved in extra-curricular activities that are meaningful
    It is not a long list of activities that is important, but rather a deep level of involvement in a few areas.
  • No one will judge which activities a student chooses
    A student may be working to help support their family, playing an instrument in a school band, working on your school's newspaper or yearbook, or be involved in student government, community service or faith-related activities. Involvement is personal -- it is not our job to judge or qualify one means of involvement as better than any other.
  • Student should participate in whatever they choose to the best of their ability, and consider taking on a level of leadership if they are able to
    Activities provide balance, dimension and meaning in their life. Leadership provides further training to become successful in life.

Standardized Testing

  • Take standardized tests at least twice before sending results to colleges and be frank regarding the reporting of test scores
    Encourage students to review all scores and consult with you and college admission offices to discuss the options below for reporting your scores.

  • SAT Score Choice
    Score Choice can reduce test-day anxiety by allowing students to choose the SAT scores by test date to send to colleges or universities at no additional cost. Essentially, this allows students to see their scores, before submitting them. UNCW encourages SAT score choice.

  • SAT Scoring.
    If a student submits all SAT test scores, UNCW will select the highest score for each sub-section, even if they come from different test dates, to create the highest overall score for a student.

  • ACT
    As an alternative to SAT, the ACT is offered at various high schools in your area, as well as at UNCW. Like the SAT, UNCW will choose the highest score from the ACT sub-sections from different test dates; to created the highest overall composite score.

College Essays and Short Answer Responses

  • Draft Essays
    Between a student's junior and senior years of high school, they should begin to think about and write some drafts of college essays.
  • Take your writing seriously
    This is the very last part of a student's college application over which they have complete control. Grades cannot be changed, standardized test results are what they are, but a carefully thought-out, well-constructed essay that answers a university's prompt(s) and provides more information about the applicant might have an impact on an admission committee's decision.
  • Proofread
    Colleges are not looking for Pulitzer Prize-winning essays, but a well-written college essay should be without simple grammatical mistakes. Students, parents, counselors, English teachers, etc. should proofread essays before submission.


  • Forge positive relationships with core academic teachers and counselors
    Students should have a conversation with any teachers they are considering asking to write a recommendation for them. A recommendation should come from an individual who knows the student on a personal level.
  • Ask for a positive, confident recommendation
    Competitive colleges like UNCW are not looking for a recommendation that recaps a student's transcript and/or professes to the kindness of a student. We want to know why a student stands out from our other 12,000 applicants, and, ultimately, why a particular student will make an impact academically, creatively and socially on our campus.

The Value of Four Full Years in High School

While a student may have fulfilled graduation requirements and be eager to end their high school career, we hope they will stay in high school four full years and find ways to challenge themselves, rather than graduating or being released early.

The Admission Committee is often faced with making distinctions between many highly-qualified applicants. Those students who have taken advantage of all that their high schools offer are usually better prepared academically and more mature, appealing candidates.