Ambitious students (and their parents) often ask, what do colleges look for in an application? The good news: Despite the seeming ambiguity that surrounds college admissions, the answer may be more clear-cut than you think. Even better, a Costa Rica education at CRIA, one of the top international schools in Costa Rica, can give your student a leg up.
We know that this veil around the college admissions process is often a primary source of stress for high schoolers, who are either looking ahead to future admissions or staring down their junior-year applications. Because there is no set checklist to get into college – no step-by-step guaranteed in. The whole process can feel ephemeral and subjective.
Try to approach applications from an end-goal perspective: What do colleges ultimately want? In short, they want students who will contribute positively to their university environment. They seek students who have demonstrated proven success in various facets of academic life. And they select students who trend upward – who accept challenges and show positive growth patterns.
So, as you tackle each application, ask yourselves: How can I demonstrate that I’ll flourish here? And in that, CRIA can help.
#1 - Colleges Seek: Students Willing to Challenge Themselves
College admissions love students who challenge themselves, both as a sign of good character and as an indicator that the student will strive to succeed in university-level courses. A Costa Rica education, particularly one at an international school, demonstrates not only a willingness to face challenges but also the gumption to overcome them.
It begins with your student’s route to choosing one of the top international schools in Costa Rica: If you moved to Costa Rica from abroad, then your college applicant has already faced the challenges of uprooting his or her life, moving to a new country, tackling a second language, and acquiring a new culture. If you chose an international school as a Costa Rican student, then your child has stepped outside his or her comfort zone and into a school environment comprised of many cultures, languages, and even curricular challenges.
Beyond the unquantifiable, a Costa Rica education at CRIA is very academically rigorous. Beginning even in the early grades, we help you and your student to plan ahead – to build a foundation for future goals. If those include university, then we’ll get your student on track with college counseling, an appropriately challenging course load, and AP and dual enrollment classes, when applicable.
#2 - Colleges Seek: Academic Achievement
There’s no denying that strong universities seek strong students. If a young person’s goals include higher education, then they should plot a set path to academic achievement: Hard work and a solid foundation in the early years help build the basis for strong high school achievements and, ultimately, a strong college application.
What does this look like? It will depend on the university but, generally speaking, and from an academic standpoint, they seek strong grades in core subjects (math, science, history, English, and a foreign language), with a preference for honors classes, AP courses, and dual enrollment. Strong efforts, an upward trend, and solid grades in these courses are often weighted more favorably than straight-As in less challenging courses.
Beginning in primary and middle school, we work to build a pre-AP foundation to prepare students for success in high school AP and dual-enrollment courses. Our curriculum foundation is adapted from the Virginia State Standards of Learning (SoL), to make transitions to U.S. high schools and international universities as smooth as possible.
CRIA Profile of a Graduate
Our CRIA students demonstrate a strong academic foundation in the following areas:
- Knowledge and inquiry processes that allow informed decision-making
- Mathematical and scientific thinking and communication processes
- Coherent communication in English and Spanish, in the four modalities of language learning: reading, writing, listening, and speaking
- Responsible, safe, and effective use of technology to demonstrate a high level of electronic literacy for education
- Analytical and critical reading of a wide range of texts
#3 - Colleges Seek: Authenticity
We know it’s a buzzword – but it’s also today’s reality: Schools want applicants who are their “authentic selves,” both on college applications and as they enter in and proceed through university life.
At CRIA, we strive to bring out a student’s authenticity – not because it’s a trend or even because it’s desirable on applications, but because self-assurance and confidence are qualities that we believe students should acquire. Self-assured, confident young people are students who know how to identify their priorities, pursue interests, and map out the path to their future goals. Because CRIA is about education: not just schooling, but well-rounded, whole-person education.
As one of the top international schools in Costa Rica, CRIA offers some of the best academic programs and the most individualized attention, paired with diverse extracurriculars, after-school activities, and specialized programs – all, designed to help students find their passions and fortify their present and future aspirations.
And that helps shape students who are as authentic as it gets. A CRIA graduate is a self-assured and, yes, authentic college applicant who can make their case and back it up with confidence.
#4 - Colleges Seek: Involvement & Extracurriculars
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a student in possession of strong grades, must also be in want of extracurricular activities… Or something along those lines!
Colleges seek passion. Specifically, they want depth, not breadth – students who are accomplished at the select passions they have, rather than a Jack/Jane-of-all-trades who’s only middling proficient at many sort-of interests.
The takeaway: Students do not need to get involved in a little bit of everything, but rather should seek out those few things that make them truly passionate – and then, pursue them. Because universities seek students of character: young people who demonstrate leadership and contribute to their communities, who take the initiative and get involved.
Student abilities and aspirations are a core element of our curriculum and college preparatory program. Our goal is to provide opportunities – to allow students to discover their interests and passions so that they can develop aspirations rooted in a sense of accomplishment and belonging. This is how our students find their passions and fortify their present and future aspirations.
CRIA students have access to competitive sports, the Model United Nations (MUN) simulations, Student Government, the National Honor Society, and a variety of STEM, community service projects, and visual and performing arts opportunities, among others.
#5 - Colleges Seek: A Unique Worldview
Good universities seek a well-rounded student body – a little of this, a little of that, and a dense sprinkling of the other thing. Because this in-built diversity – a student body varied in its origins and cultures, opinions and worldviews, interests and priorities, academics and extracurriculars – weaves a thicker, more resilient, and more edifying tapestry of student life.
International students inherently see the world differently than do their peers. Living abroad, speaking a non-native language, studying Costa Rican history and civics, befriending others of different backgrounds, and growing up in a second culture – these opportunities help to naturally shape your children’s view of the world. And they’ll be stronger for it.
During college applications, essays and personal statements will allow your student to stand out and wow the admissions board. While so many students have to hunt down or even carve out a hook, your student’s perspective has in-built uniqueness – a perfect starting point for a strong essay and an even stronger application.
Stand Out on Your College Applications
For more information on how to get into your top colleges, visit our college counseling page and scroll down to our tips for high school freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and even seniors.
Ready to commit to a Costa Rica education and the international edge at CRIA? We’d love to meet your family and learn about your journey to researching the best international schools in Costa Rica. Learn more about the CRIA admissions process and get in touch to schedule a campus visit. We look forward to it!