Applying to college can get overwhelming and it’s not unusual to stop and as yourself: “What are colleges looking for?” While every college is different and every school and course of study looks for certain qualities in their applicants, there are also qualities that are desirable across the board. Those are the things that we will be discussing today.
For the past 10 years an organization known as NACAC (the National Association for College Admissions Counseling) has been conducting a study to determine what various schools look for in college applications. The study has analyzed a range of colleges and trends in admissions choices and it offers students key insight into the admissions process. The data in this study can help you determine what schools are after and help you when it’s time to prepare your application. What you will read here today are facts based on their findings.
What are Colleges Looking for: Grades
For most schools grades mattered most with one caveat: schools will be particularly interested in the grades you received in college prep courses. In fact, over 80% of officers in college admissions offices rated this factor as the most important one. Generally, the term “college prep courses” refers to math, English, science, foreign language and social science so make sure that you study hard in these subjects!
What are Colleges Looking for: Curriculum
Grades alone won’t get you into college and admissions officers like to see applications from students who looked for more than just a basic education during high school – students who weren’t afraid to take on challenges. This may be by taking advanced placement courses, honors courses or even just 4 full years of straight academics with no electives at all. If the college that you are trying to gain entrance to is very selective then the importance of this factor will go up considerably.
What are Colleges Looking for: Test Scores
What are colleges looking for when it comes to standardized tests? Are you aware that there are more than 800 colleges who (for certain applicants) do not consider these tests relevant? That being said, the ACT and SAT are still extremely important factors for most colleges and it’s important to do your best when you take these exams. More than 59% of college admissions boards rated these tests as being considerably important on college applications. Keep in mind, though, that even if your scores on these tests are excellent, they still will not make up for atrocious grades. Test scores augment a complete application package.
What are Colleges Looking for: Other Factors
Academics aren’t everything and schools will consider many additional factors when evaluating your application. Some of these include your eagerness to attend, the application essay, extracurricular involvement (music, athletics, acting or volunteer work) and anything else that makes you unique and tells the admission committee that you’d be a valuable addition to their community.
Factors that Aren’t Always Considered Important
While every college and admissions committee is unique, some of the things that ranked low in terms of importance were letters of recommendations from high school counselors, rank in the high school class, letters of recommendation from high school teachers and even (unbelievably) the interview with the admissions board. We should note that some schools also put little emphasis on extra curricular activities, but on the whole schools prefer if you participate because it offers a good indication that you can juggle responsibilities and manage your time well.All in all, if you are looking to get into college then you should pay very close attention to the factors listed here and try to do your best in these categories. Don’t give up on the things that are not highly important, though, because they do still factor in to the admissions process … just in a smaller way. If you work hard and do your best chances are it will be easy to answer the question “What are colleges looking for?” because the answer will be: You!