Without seeing a transcript, test scores, or a resume, we can learn a lot about a student in 10-15 minutes. I can't necessarily tell where he'll get into college without more information, but I can tell whether he's going to be successful in the college application process, and even in life after college.
Here are a few signs (for us) that a student is going places.
1) He smiles, looks us in the eye, and shakes our hand when we meet him.
2) He's respectful of his parents, but doesn't let them talk for him.
3) He's engaged in the conversation. He doesn't look bored by a discussion of his education.
4) He asks thoughtful questions.
5) He's self-assured, comfortable talking about himself, while at the same time not seeming too self-impressed.
6) He admits what he's not good at, where he's made mistakes, or areas of his life where he needs to improve. He doesn't blame those shortcomings on other people.
7) He's genuinely interested in the things he's doing. He can't hide his enthusiasm for water polo, drama or collecting stamps.
8) He has a favorite class and teacher.
9) He seems genuinely happy and excited about life after high school.
10) He thanks us at the end of the meeting.
I don't care of a kid is a C student with the worst scores in the history of standardized tests. If he can show us some or all of these qualities, he's got potential, and the right college will help him fulfill it.
Any kid can develop and benefit from these traits. Almost all of them are about attitude more than they are ability. So even if your SAT scores are low, or you just can't seem to grasp chemistry, or you didn't make the varsity soccer team, remember that success in the college application process and in life are about more than just your numbers and your accomplishments.