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What do colleges look at?

What's the most important part of the application? #college #application

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John’s Answer

Karoline your college admissions application is your chance to make a good first impression at the college of your choice. Colleges and universities are looking to attract the best students to their campuses, and they review every application closely. It is important to present a solid, clearly thought out, submission when you are applying to university. How you prepare your college application can determine whether or not you pass the admissions process. Let's take some time to look at some particulars common to all college applications, and how best to approach them.


A students high school GPA is the first aspect of a college application that an admissions panel considers. Universities are looking for students with the ability to apply themselves to their coursework, and to ultimately progress to graduation. While extracurricular activities will prove to the admissions board that you are well rounded, and an asset to the campus community, grades remain a deciding factor. The student who works hard in high school, and has an impressive history of academic achievement, has the better chance of being accepted to their college of choice.

Closely tied to any student's GPA is their high school course history. The college admissions board looks at more than just a student's grades, they consider the courses being taken. A history of taking Advanced Placement classes will show the admissions board that you are committed to your education, and are prepared for the challenges that college will bring. AP courses often require college level work, and a top grade in one of these classes will have more weight than a top grade in a regular class. This should not imply that students who performed well in regular classes will not be admitted to college. Quite the contrary. But it does show the degree to which the college admissions board scrutinizes the applications it receives. Students who have achieved top grades in more challenging classes will score higher in the review boards estimation than students who received top marks in a regular course of studies.

Your SAT and ACT scores are further deciding factors in the college admissions process. While they will not necessarily make or break a student's chance of acceptance, they do help to add extra weight to a college application. Colleges want to see students that can demonstrate a broad range of knowledge, and that have the skills to reason and think logically. The ACT and SAT testing process gives the admissions board the opportunity to assess a student's capabilities, and to see beyond the student's high school class scores. A top performance on your SAT or ACT exam can also help to balance any deficiencies in your high school GPA.

College admissions experts say that the quality of a college hopeful's extracurricular activities matters more than the number of activities he or she participates in. Experts note that merely participating in an extracurricular activity is not enough to impress admissions committees at prestigious colleges, which typically seek students with significant extracurricular accomplishments in addition to strong academic credentials. College application officers encourages students to participate in activities that will help them clarify their career goals and guide them toward the undergraduate degree program that's the best fit. The career exploration activity helps students demonstrate self-awareness and maturity in their undergraduate applications. It's a signal to colleges that says, "I understand what I'm walking into. I have found awareness to back up my thoughts that I might want to do this."

The college admissions essay is one of the most important aspects of any application. It is your chance to speak to your educational and career goals, discuss your past successes and to explain to the review board why you would be a good addition the the college's campus. This is also an opportunity for the admissions board to see how you express yourself, and to assess your writing skills. An outstanding essay can ultimately sway an admissions board, and has helped to get many a student with less than stellar grades accepted to the college of their choice. Your admissions essay is your chance to let your personality shine, and to convince the college board that they want you in their student body.

Hope this was Helpful Karoline

Thank You Brianne. “Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfish caring, patience, and just plain loving one another.” – Erma Bombeck John Frick

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Jennifer’s Answer

Hi, Karoline!

Typically, there are over a dozen different aspects of a student's application that colleges and universities consider in the application process. The top two, however, are the rigor of the student's academic coursework and the grades earned. After that, depending on the institution's priorities, things like standardized test scores, essays, and evidence of character are considered.

Focusing on your academics and being the best version of yourself is the best thing that you can do to prepare you for the college admissions process. Good luck in your endeavors!

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Brianne’s Answer

Hi Karoline, I wanted to second what Jennifer and John have advised here on the important aspects of your college application(s). I am going through this process with my stepson and everything they've advised is correct. Your classes/courses and your grades will have a lot of weight regardless of which college you are looking at. Everything else that follows (like those mentioned above) are key contributors as well but will have some variance based on the school you're looking at.

Keep your grades up and stay involved in any extra-curriculars. Good luck!

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Cameren’s Answer

In general, when applying for admission into undergraduate programs, admission boards look at transcripts and overall GPA, rigor classes taken (AP and dual enrollment, ACT/SAT scores, extracurricular activities, personal essays, and letters of recommendation. However, they do take all of those areas in the context of what high school you attended. For example, if there are two students, one from a large high school with many extracurriculars and AP classes available and the other with only 3 AP classes and few ECs available and they both take the same amount of both, it would look better for the students whose school offers less as it looks like they are taking advantage of most of the opportunities presented by their school. ACT/SAT scores and grades are also looked at in comparison to your school district.

Essays are also a big component because they serve as a chance to express who you are and your goals and it is the one chance for the admissions board to really get to know you as a person and decide if you would be a good fit for the incoming freshman class. So my best advice to you is to take advantage of opportunities presented at your school (e.g. clubs, sports teams, AP classes, etc.), stay on top of your grades and form relationships with teachers who will be able to speak highly of you in letters of recommendations, and always have others proofread your essays.
I hope this was helpful!