Ever wonder what’s most important for the college admissions process? Below are the 7 primary factors as well as some less important ones which are worth noting.
According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 79 percent of schools surveyed rated grades in college prep
courses considerably important. In the same survey, 60 percent said grades for all courses were important along with the overall strength of the high school curriculum. In short, schools look to see that you are consistently challenging yourself to learn complex concepts, along with your overall diligence as a student. So, a B in an AP class may be assessed just as significantly as, if not higher than, an A in a regular class.
2. SAT/ACT Scores
You may know that many highly-ranked liberal arts colleges and national universities have gone “test optional”. But it’s no surprise that SAT/ACT scores still ranked right up there in the same 2015 NACAC survey — described as important by 56 percent of schools. It comes as no surprise that some schools — including highly selective ones — place a sharp emphasis on test scores, so being able to hit your SAT/ACT target remains important.
3. Personal Statement/Essay
Rapidly growing in importance, the personal essay enables admission panels to get a clearer view of who you are as a person. By the time you’re applying to colleges, everyone has gone through life challenges and has accomplishments, and this is your shot at telling the story of how you coped, and then moved ahead. On paper, many applicants can look the same to admissions officials sifting through thousands of grades and test scores. The 2015 NACAC survey found that 61 percent of schools rated the personal statement moderately or considerably important.
4. Extracurricular Activities
It’s not about having many activities, it’s about how committed you are to on an activity that demonstrates a honed skill, hobby, or passion. Most schools will require a a resume that contains your general interests and accomplishments in a sport, club, volunteer activity, etc.. NACAC’s survey revealed that most schools considered extracurricular activities moderately or very important.
5. Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation are typically an essential portion of the college application. Schools that require the letters usually need two. Letters should come from teachers (or your even your counselor); however, these should be people who know you about your accomplishments and/or what makes you exceptional. Teachers should be those from core classes like a history or science teacher. These letters can play a role in the admission process; however, based on an NACAC survey, around 40 percent of schools considered these letters essential; less than 20 percent considered them moderately important. (Many large state schools do not require them so make sure you check the school’s website.)
6. Subject, AP, and IB Tests
Almost 70 percent of schools surveyed stated that these tests were of limited or moderate importance; though a high score can certainly enhance your application. Less than a third of schools stated that the SAT Subject tests are of no importance as the majority of schools do not even ask for them. (About 13% of the more selective schools require the Subject Tests and the number seems to be diminishing each year. Schools are realizing that students take enough tests!)
7. Class Ranking
Since fewer high schools are ranking their students, class rank has diminished in importance. According too NACAC’s survey, only 14 percent of schools considered class rank relevant. NOTE: For those high schools that do rank, colleges will consider it to be fairly important in the acceptance process.
Range of Other Factors
Here are some other factors that may influence your being accepted to the college of your choice:
- Interview: There’s nothing like meeting you in person, and some schools may want to see how enthusiastic you are about them, in addition to what you have put down on paper. You’re likely to encounter this with Ivy League schools.
- Athletics: That’s right, athletic skills can play a key role in admission at schools with strong programs, with some institutions actually recruiting highly-successful students based on their achievements in sports in high school.
- Additional Essay: Some schools want you to submit an essay that tells them exactly why you want to attend their particular institution of higher learning.
- Legacy: Did one or more of your parents attend an Ivy League school — Harvard, Yale, Brown, etc? This is a factor many of these institutions may take into consideration.
- First generation to attend college: If your parents did not attend college, being a first generation student can give you an edge.
- Ethnicity/gender: It’s a fact that many schools practice affirmative action and will consider your racial and/or ethnic status, as a way of helping to increase the diversity of their student population. Since there are more females than males attending colleges sometimes being a male can provide an additional edge!
- Geography: Another factor that may come into play, because schools like to see themselves as building diversity based on where their students come from.
- Portfolio: If you’re aiming for admission to an art-oriented school or program, you are likely to need a portfolio containing examples of your work.
Being aware of all of the factors that impact your acceptance will make it easier to understand the process and use what you can for your advantage.