2. Grades (25%) and Extracurriculars (20%)
While having an "A" in every class is helpful, it is definitely not required; however, one should maintain an "A" overall. It should be a 92/93 at least, and one should be mostly in, if not in all, advanced classes. SSAT's (10%) are not nearly as important as your school grades, so keep this in mind during the year. Remember also that your grades tie in directly to your recommendation. That information is the most obvious of all.
More importantly, one should be the most well-rounded as possible. Try to find some community service options in your area, be it working at an animal shelter or volunteering at the local food bank. Develop a couple of academic activities as well, such as Model UN, Debate, Mock Trial, or Math Team. These usually stand out most because they are more individualistic as a result of their lower participation rate. If your school does not offer these, try to find your niche in the arts by participating in your school's play or submitting to the literary magazine. As expected, have at least one competitive athletic sport.
3. Interview (20%)
The interview and the essay are, arguably, the most important part of your application. If your interview is successful, it will add another 20% to your chances of getting in, but if it fails, it could take away all of your chances. The interview is your sole chance for the interviewer to experience you in the fullest and you should dominate the conversation to maximize on this time. When they ask you a question, don't stick to the narrow answer it at first allows. Instead, tie in life experiences that you find meaningful in addition to the base on which you start.
For example, "What do you like most about our school?" "I quite like the colonial architecture, which reminds me of my school trip to the Northeast during which we compared British architecture of the 1800's to that of New England's and the changes that occurred due to lack of materials and desire to change from the motherland." This way, you include information that adds depth to your intellectual appearance instead of giving a generic answer like other applicants along the lines of, "I like the school's academic rigor," because that shows so little about you as an individual compared to the other answer. Also, when you ask questions, make sure they're not ones that could easily be answered by the school website. To avoid this, prepare questions beforehand. Always remember, a firm handshake, eye contact, confidence in speaking, and the absence of "um" from your answers will just add to your appearance.
4. Essay (25%)
The essay is similar to the interview except that you have an opportunity to show your capabilities with the English language. Brainstorm about a few ideas beforehand, write an introductory paragraph for each, then choose one and expand. Remember, eloquence is key, as is a grammar check afterwards.
Turn the table on the norm in your essay. An example, "If you could meet anyone from the past, who would it be?" Instead of giving an obvious answer such as, "Jesus, Lincoln, Washington, or Confucius," consider such options as Nixon or Wang Mang and explore the reason this meeting could be beneficial. Spin a negative person, such as Nixon, in a positive light.