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What are the main things colleges look at when deciding who to admit?

I care a lot about school and my future. I also tend to do well in school. #graduate-school #school


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John’s Answer

Sierra as you know, every college is slightly different in terms of what it looks for in applicants, and finding a good fit between a particular applicant and a particular college is very important. However, it’s possible to make some broad statements about the kinds of qualities and skills that competitive colleges are seeking.

TOP 7 THINGS COLLEGE ADMISSIONS OFFICERS LOOK FOR ON YOUR COLLAGE APPLICATION

1) STRONG TEST SCORES – Of those colleges and universities that require the SAT or ACT as part of your application – and a small (but growing) number of schools do not – admissions counselors seek scores that match of exceed the scores of their current students. For better or worse, standardized college entrance exam scores are seen as the most objective measure of your college potential.

2) GPA – It goes without question that grades are an extremely important element of your college application. Colleges will ask you to submit official transcripts from your high school and possibly recalculate your grade point average based on some internal system they use for weighting different types of courses. Your goal, from the first year of high school forward, is to achieve the best grades you can.

3) CHALLENGING COLLEGE-PREP COURSES – Your challenge is not just to get the best grades you can – but to get the best grades you can in the most academically challenging courses as you can. Most colleges will place greater weight on these "tougher" courses – and even go so far as to rate a B in an advanced class (IB, Honors, AP) on a higher scale than an A in a comparable mainstream class.

4) LEADERSHIP – Most colleges and universities are seeking leaders from within their applicant pool, and you can make your application stand out by having one or two leadership positions over the course of your high school career. Being a leader in one or two organizations means much, much more than simply being a member in 10 clubs and organizations. Not only does leadership show a certain level of maturity and character, but colleges also have an eye to all their student organizations and their need to recruit future leaders.

5) INVOLVEMENT – There's no requirement for community service to gain admittance to college, but just about all college-bound high school students have jumped on the bandwagon, volunteering throughout the local community. It seems to be one of these unwritten rules that applicants who volunteer many, many hours in the service of supporting others will become a key campus activist. Regardless of the importance for admission to college, most experts agree on the value and self-fulfillment people get in helping others.

6) KILLER ESSAY – The essay is a tool used by some universities to learn more about you and why you want to attend their school. Definitely take the time to carefully consider the questions and write, edit, rewrite, and proofread your essays – with an eye to what the essays reveal about you and your personality. Some admissions counselors admit that an amazing essay can push a marginal applicant into the accepted student group.

7) RECOMMENDATION LETTERS – One other nice touch – especially for a college you really want to attend – is to ask a professional such as a former (or current) boss to write a letter of recommendation for you. Even better if that person has some sort of tie to the college as a donor or alumnus. Other possibilities include your supervisor from one or more of your volunteering/community service projects or a coach from one of the teams you have played for.

Sierra while top colleges certainly do want students who have a track record of academic success, they’re also interested in bringing in students who have the qualities that will allow them to use their academic skills to do great things on campus and throughout their lives.

Hope this was Helpful Sierra

Thank You Youssef. Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much. John Frick

Thank You Paul. “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” — Mahatma Gandhi John Frick

Thank you Ro for your continued support. “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” — Mahatma Gandhi John Frick

Thank You Jake. “The broadest, and maybe the most meaningful definition of volunteering: Doing more than you have to because you want to, in a cause you consider good.” – Ivan Scheier John Frick

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Youssef’s Answer

Hi Sierra -

Another thing schools consider (mainly graduate schools) is what do you intend to do after you get your degree. Think of this as your game plan, where you tell a story that ties what you did before school, your skill set and knowledge from school to whatever you aspire to do after.

For example if you are currently working in an entry level job in sales or engineering and you always wanted to get into marketing and branding, Your plan can be to go to a business school double down on marketing classes, make the connection with classmates who either worked in marketing or plan to work in marketing and leverage that network to land the job you want.

This game plan might change during school and that is very common, but the administration looking into these applications needs to make sure that the applicants they accept did some due diligence and planning on why they need to go back to school.

Schools may have different questions in their applications but what your goal is and what you intend to do with your degree, is almost always part of your application.

hope this helps.

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Ro’s Answer

There are some great answers here - one thing I'd like to emphasize is the Recommendation Letter - ask your teacher/mentor to be specific when writing the rec letter to really show your personality, accomplishment, and confidence in your ability to do well in college. It's best to avoid generic letters (ex: she is a great student and is a joy to have in my classroom), and show something specific (ex: she was an excellent group leader in our biology project and lead her team to resolving the scientific problem accurately utilizing her communication skills).
This will make your rec letter stand out and help you get noticed!

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Janet’s Answer

Colleges want to see if you can handle the work load and the academic demands. They also want to know what you can offer their college community. To these ends they look at your grades and the types of courses you took in high school. They look at your unique attributes and contributions as a person to your school, community and family. For example, if you are a good student, do you help tutor students? Do you help support your family while maintaining good grades? Do you contribute in other ways such as being a team member or an artist, musician or actor in school or community events?

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Ron’s Answer

The other respondents have covered most of the bases. I'll just add a couple of other points, speaking as a parent with kids currently in college:

1. Some high school kids think that their profile needs to be loaded up with as many extracurricular and volunteer activities as possible. My experience is that it is just as impressive, and I might argue even more impressive, to have fewer activities with at least one in which you show dedication and growth over time. That might be a sport or theater or any other meaningful activity. The key is to stick with it throughout your high school years, showing growth within that activity, meaningful milestones related to that activity, and hopefully rising to a leadership position. I've seen other high school kids who spend the bare minimum amount of time with a club or a volunteer job just to get it on their record, even though they cannot name any meaningful accomplishments or prove that they really cared about the activity. I think it's better to have a small number of activities that you can speak passionately about rather than a large number of activities that simply "check a box."

2. My other recommendation is to have some sort of artistic activity (singing, dancing, acting, painting, creative writing, playing an instrument, etc.). Ironically, for people interested in non-artistic colleges/majors, showing some sort of artistic skill or interest can be a key difference between yourself and other candidates applying.

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Janet’s Answer

Colleges want to see if you can handle the work load and the academic demands. They also want to know what you can offer their college community. To these ends they look at your grades and the types of courses you took in high school. They look at your unique attributes and contributions as a person to your school, community and family. For example, if you are a good student, do you help tutor students? Do you help support your family while maintaining good grades? Do you contribute in other ways such as being a team member or an artist, musician or actor in school or community events?

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Sam’s Answer

GPA / extracurriculars / did you pursue what you were passionate about / make tangible difference. Are you an easygoing person to talk to in an interview.

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Janet’s Answer

Colleges want to see if you can handle the work load and the academic demands. They also want to know what you can offer their college community. To these ends they look at your grades and the types of courses you took in high school. They look at your unique attributes and contributions as a person to your school, community and family. For example, if you are a good student, do you help tutor students? Do you help support your family while maintaining good grades? Do you contribute in other ways such as being a team member or an artist, musician or actor in school or community events?

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