Getting Accepted to US News Top 100 College & Universities

Let’s look at some statistics and realities. Archbishop Walsh Academy graduates attend college at a much higher rate than their peers from most public high schools. An eye-popping 94 percent of our grads are college bound when they leave Walsh. We’re proud to foster an environment for students to launch into college – but even more so for the top colleges and universities where so many of our Eagles soar.

Many are admitted to the most prestigious institutions listed on the US News Top 100 College & Universities. Our students put in the hard work that positions themselves for amazing postsecondary careers. In the last five years at Walsh alone, our students have been accepted to: 

  • Cornell University (17th) 
  • The University of Notre Dame (19th) 
  • Georgetown University (23rd) 
  • University of Rochester (34th) 
  • College of the Holy Cross (35th) 
  • Boston College (36th) 
  • Oberlin College (37th) 
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (55th) 
  • Muhlenberg College (67th) 
  • Virginia Tech (75th)


Why is this? Well, the International Baccalaureate Programme certainly has something to do with it – a rigorous curriculum that prepares students early for college-level work and adult responsibilities. There’s also something to be said for the social and emotional benefits of a Catholic education, in which faith-based values are learned and tested daily to nurture thoughtful, considerate, well-rounded individuals.  

At Archbishop Walsh students gather the tools to thrive in life and the real world. But they must take those first successful steps in the halls of higher education. 

Let’s get there – together!

What Does It Take To Get Into Top Colleges and Universities? 

US News Top 100 Colleges and Universities may seem out of reach, but work ethic and life structure go so far. Any student can put in the work. Hard work creates opportunity. Hard work feeds ambition. In the bigger picture, hard work builds academic success and personal character to forge paths toward these top colleges. 

The most important focus areas include grades, classes, extracurricular activities and recommendations. Having all of these puzzle pieces makes all the difference when pursuing the schools of their dreams

GPA & Test Scores Matter 

Top colleges and universities will look at your overall grades from ALL of your high school years, so it’s important to take each year seriously. Some people wrongly believe the senior year doesn’t matter as much. But it’s important to show the college enrollment officials you put forth serious effort and achieve great academic marks from beginning to end. This demonstrates the personal drive and ability to learn and grow consistently. 

Make it your goal to do every single assignment and put max effort into ALL of your classes. 

Selective colleges and universities focus intently on both GPA and standardized test scores, like the SAT and ACT. Don’t count on one above the other. College application reviewers NEED to see you excel in the classroom AND when put to the ultimate tests. 

Take College-Level Courses 

Top colleges look to see if you took any type of AP, honors and/or International Baccalaureate classes. College-prep classes allow decision-makers to project how well you perform in a postsecondary environment. The best and brightest demonstrate a high-level capacity even before officially setting foot in a college classroom. 

If you end up taking AP classes (highly recommended), be sure to finish the process strong by passing AP exams at the end of the year. If you score really well, the credit often transfers over to an equivalent college-level course. If possible, try to take an AP class that aligns with your intended major. 

Find a Passion Outside of School 

Top colleges want the full picture. They want to know WHO YOU ARE and WHAT YOU STAND FOR

College admissions professionals aim to assess the personality and well-roundedness of students beyond their grades and classes. Colleges select students that fit their standards of character – which typically include provable demonstrations of volunteerism, moral values and leadership. They look for students who are unique, and your activities outside the classroom can help your application stand out. 

If two students have the same GPA and SAT scores, but only one of them participated in  extracurricular activities, guess which one the college or university is most likely to accept. Here are some extracurricular activities top colleges weigh heavily: 

  • Academic clubs 
  • Sports teams 
  • Arts & culture 
  • Community service
  • Work experience & internships


Look around your school and community. There are always activities to participate in – and more importantly take a leading role.

Creating Connections & Finding the Right Recommendation 

Almost every college-application process requests letters of recommendation from credible adults who can vouch for a student’s abilities and character. Choose the right person(s) to write them. 

If you have a teacher or a school counselor with whom you connect, they could be the right choice. But if they only reiterate the grades and test scores easily seen in your high school transcript, it may be best to approach a community leader who knows your value. Some likely candidates could include a:

  • Volunteer coordinator
  • Athletic coach
  • Religious official
  • Private music/art teacher
  • Employer


The best recommendations come from a person who truly knows you as a person and can capture your essence in and/or out of the classroom. The recommendation writer must highlight the ways you shine. (Helpful hint: plan ahead and allow the person at least a month in advance to write it)

Tell Your Story

Most college applications also include a section for students to write a personal essay. They may ask students to discuss life lessons or take a stance on an issue. These essays not only demonstrate a student’s ability to write and think critically, but also who they are as individuals and what they value most.

At many top colleges and universities, application reviewers read thousands of essays each year – many of them on the same topics. Make sure yours is written (well) in ways that let your viewpoints and values shine through. It’s often helpful to frame essay responses around life experiences that have shaped you into the great person you are today. 

Let’s Work Toward the Top College or University of Your Dreams!

Here at Archbishop Walsh Academy, we prize academic excellence and a well-rounded experience that looks outstanding in college applications. In addition to teachers and administrators who work tirelessly to help students succeed, we have college counselors who guide the application process to emphasize factors top colleges and universities weigh most heavily.

This, of course, includes US News Top 100 Colleges and Universities. 

Is college a top priority for your student? Come visit us and let’s work toward that college acceptance letter!