2 answers

What do colleges and universities look for in applicants?

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I've always been told that you should be a "well-rounded" person if you want to get accepted to a good college, but that has never made sense to me. If I was a part of a college board I'd want students that excelled in a field that they are passionate about and would rather them be great in that area than be alright in every area. So what do they look for when considering who to accept into their schools? Thanks for any input and advice! #college #university #students #application #college-admissions

2 answers

Lindsey’s Answer


Hi Sam! Great question. I'm sorry it hasn't been answered yet! In the meantime, I thought I'd link you to a couple relevant Q&A on CareerVillage.org that should be super helpful.

How do you make your college application stand out?

  1. Get involved in school and within your community - but find leadership roles. You can even start a program at your school - colleges want to see how you've made a difference.
  2. Take pre-AP and AP courses - colleges want to see that you can handle tough classes.
  3. Start building relationships with your teachers (or boss) so they know you as a person rather than just a name - their recommendation letters will help the admissions team get another perspective on you.
  4. Get a job - colleges want to see if you can balance work and school
  5. Your essay is the best way to stand out - I know that won't happen until your Senior year - but you can start jotting down experiences - so when it comes down to write it, you're ahead of the game.

What is the most important thing to focus on while completing college applications?

In short, college admissions want to get to know YOU! Aside from showing them who you are on paper via your grades, extra curricular activities and work history, your personal statement and/or essays is your biggest opportunity to do that. Your college application essays should be a genuine and candid look into your life, who you are and what you're passionate about.

Lindsey recommends the following next steps:

  • Speak to a few students who attend the college(s) you hope to attend and ask what their applications were like /if they have any tips for you.
  • There is a ton of advice about how to stand out in your college applications here on CareerVillage.org, so do more searching on the site!

Matt’s Answer


Hi Sam!

That is a great question, and one I had when applying to colleges as well! I used to work for admissions at my university and can speak to your questions about being a well-rounded student. Keep in mind that I no longer work for admissions, so a few things could have changed since I was last there. We used to split our application into three separate components: academics, extracurricular, and personal statement.

First, academics. Academics comprised of your GPA and SAT/ACT test scores. If your school provides AP/IB/Advanced courses, I recommend taking them. If you are challenging yourself and using whatever your school has to offer to your benefit, that will reflect very well on you. Academically challenging yourself shows dedication and drive.

Second, extracurricular. LID is an easy acronym to help out with this one. LID stands for Leadership, Improvement, and Dedication. Instead of being involved in 10 different clubs, we looked for students who were dedicated to one or two clubs and stuck with it. For example, let's say you join a sports team your freshman year on JV, eventually move onto varsity, and finally become captain of the team. In this example, you have dedicated a lot of time to this sport, you have improved from JV to Varsity, and finally took on a leadership position.

Lastly, the personal statement is a few essays that you showcase who you are and is your opportunity to provide an admissions officer a glimpse into your personality. Every person's story and journey is unique, so lean into yours! An admissions officer is reading thousands of essays, and this is your chance to be something more than a list of grades. One piece of advice that was really helpful for me is to give your essay not to a family member to read, but to someone who doesn't know you very well - perhaps a parent's coworker. The reason being is that if someone who doesn't know ever detail about you can read an essay and get a strong sense of who you are, then your essay is golden. Otherwise, always go back and edit some more.

You do not need to have a million different hobbies to be considered "well-rounded." Instead, show your passion and dedication. I hope some of this helps!