Factors in the Admissions Process

What Are Colleges Looking For In An Applicant?

Collegeadmissions representatives make tough decisions as they decide whichstudents to accept into their freshman class each year. Here are a few things that they are GENERALLY looking for in an applicant:

1. A transcript filled with CHALLENGING classesSpecific courses desired are:
  • English - 4 years
  • Mathematics - 3 or 4 years (including Algebra I, Geometry, Alg II)
  • Foreign Language - 2 or more years (3 or more is desirable)
  • Laboratory Science - 3 or more years (including Biology and Chemistry)
  • Social Science - 2 or more years (including American, Global, Government)
  • Electives - 3 or more additional academic course from the five course areas above
  • Other courses, such as music, art, business and computer are valuable supplements to the courses previously listed, but shouldn't be chosen instead of college preparatory courses.
  • Honors, Advanced Placement, and college courses - These courses demonstrate your ability to handle advanced work. Taking these indicates your willingness to accept a challenge. Selective admissions committees take special note of students with at least one advanced placement course on their transcript. This does not mean that you must take advanced placement courses to be admitted to a selective college.


    2. Fabulous grades. Your hard work will show in your cumulative GPA and class rank. If youwould like to see what your transcript looks like, see your school counselor.


    3. High scores on college admissions tests (either the SAT or ACT or both). 

    4. Involvement in activities. They are interested in what you've done with your time: clubs, honor societies, competitions, sports, music, jobs, volunteer work. Not sure where to start? Sign up for a club in Flex Time Manager! Help out at your church! Volunteer in the community! Take part in a summer program! Why does involvement matter? Check out this article: http://www.nextstepu.com/should-you-join-a-club-in-high-school.art#.WGMlwLYrKHp

    5. Excellent personality and character. The true character of who you are will show through your terrific admissions essay, your dynamic interview, and the inspiring letters of recommendation that your teachers and coaches will write as they think about the reputation you have built in your high school years. Scroll down for resources on how to optimize each of these opportunities to highlight your strengths!

    Students who wish to see the average GPA and test scores of students accepted to any specific college or university should see their counselor to learn how to find this information. 


    Writing Admissions Essays

    In some circumstances, writing an excellent college admissions essay could make all of the difference between acceptance and disappointment. 

    According to The Princeton Review's 
    Cracking College Admissions, "Admissions officers think of your essay as a little window into your personality. They also see it as evidence of how well you write, which is something they care about a great deal" (page 135).

    For ideas and pointers about writing your admissions essays, check out these websites:  






    It can also help to read samples of great admissions essays.  You can find some here:


    Finally, there are a few things NOT to do in a college essay.  Check out this article before you hit "SUBMIT":


    Making a Great Impression

    Whether you're shaking hands at a College Fair, meeting with an admissions rep in the high school guidance office, or having a formal admissions interview on campus, it's important to show the best of who you are.

    Check out these tips for "How To Ace The Admissions Interview."