What Do Colleges Look For In Applicants?

There are many factors that go into admissions decisions and there is no magic formula to ensure you will be admitted into a particular college. However, most colleges do use some similar criteria as they select their incoming freshman class.

Students should find out the entrance requirements for any college they are considering. You should also know in advance how selective a college is. Bear in mind, meeting the entrance requirements does not guarantee entrance into that college. There are many factors colleges will look at including GPA, class rank, standardized test scores, personal statements and essays, which courses you have taken, recommendations, extracurricular activities and interviews.

The weight of any given statistic varies between colleges. Large state university systems typically use a mathematical formula based on GPA and SAT or ACT test scores. They also are partial to students from their own state.

Some private colleges will look more closely at personal statements and essays, teacher recommendations, your leadership abilities and your areas of talent.

When filling out college applications, remember this is the time to present yourself in the best possible light while still using your actual past record. Colleges want to know the following things about you:

  • How well can you handle the academic pressure at their campus?
  • Do you value the unique advantages they offer?
  • What will your contributions be to life on their campus?
  • How will your personality and character be a positive influence for them?
  • How well will you handle managing your independence from home and family?
  • Have you learned to budget your time, set priorities and make sacrifices?

As you think about and answer these questions, follow these guidelines:

  • Don't merely tell them what they want to hear. Instead, show them, illustrating with specific examples from your past. The college will infer that your future behavior and values will follow from your past history.
  • Don't just give examples. Explain what those examples meant to you. How have they shaped your current outlook?
  • Don't just tell the college that you did certain things. Outline the reasons why you did them. Your motivations behind your past actions are the best predictor of your future behavior.

Even though there are no guarantees of being admitted, following these tips will show the colleges that you are a serious candidate. Keep working away at those applications and know that in a few short months, this will all be forgotten and you'll be looking forward to starting the next chapter of your life. In the meantime, I want to wish you all a Happy Holiday.