Factors That Determine Admission

There is no single determining factor in an applicant’s admission; all colleges and universities use different processes to assess an applicant’s file.  While one small, private school may appreciate leadership qualities and community service involvement in a prospective student, another small, private school may look for a student who can benefit from its research facilities or specialized programs.  Some schools rely more heavily on GPA and standardized test scores while other schools take a more holistic approach. There is no magic formula in admissions, which is why the overall impression of your application is so important.  As an applicant, you want to do your best to make your application appealing to each school on your list.

Below is a list of the categories that have the most weight in a college or university’s decision to admit.

Rigor/Strength of Applicant’s Academic Program
What courses has the applicant taken? Has the student taken advantage of the curriculum offered at his or her high school? Has the student taken the highest course offered in a language/math/science sequence? Has the student followed any particular subject area with interest?

Grades in Courses
How has the student done overall? Have the student’s grades remained consistent? Has the student gradually improved (upward trend) his/her grades? Do the grades demonstrate strengths or weaknesses in certain subject areas?  Where does the student stand in relation to his/her classmates?

Test Scores
Do the student’s test scores mirror his/her GPA? How has the student done on the SAT and/or the ACT? What SAT Subject Test results show particular strengths?  Are Advanced Placement scores being submitted?

Letters of Recommendation
Is this the type of student who would do well in college? Is this student a leader? Is this student a person who is ready for the adult world? Does the letter reveal any outstanding qualities that were not evident in other parts of the application?

Activities
Two factors are considered: consistency and leadership.  How has the student contributed to his/her high school? Has the student shown commitment to a specific team, club, or group through consistent involvement? Has the student achieved something noteworthy outside of the classroom? Is the student’s résumé an indication of dedication and genuine interest or simply a laundry list of different pursuits?  Does the student possess proven leadership qualities?

Essay and Overall Application Quality
Can the student write clearly? Does the essay introduce the applicant to the admissions committee in a favorable light? Does the essay show an ability to be creative and analytical? Are all parts of the application carefully completed? Does the applicant express genuine enthusiasm about attending the college or university?

Other
Interviews, intellectual curiosity and innovative thinking as displayed through a variety of mediums, demonstrated interest in the school or program through a campus visit or attendance at a regional reception, significant alumni ties (is the student a legacy?) to the school, auditions or portfolios, other special talents (is the student a recruited athlete?), has the student shown any interest in particular majors or programs.