There are definite criteria for acceptance to a college, and it’s not a mystery. A student needs to be qualified in academic and extracurricular achievement, talent, and character. Also, admissions wants students with personality who will fit into the balance of their campus community.
There are “softer” criteria, too, that admissions looks for: passion, intellectual curiosity, enthusiastic energy, maturity, and leadership. Many students meet these qualifications, especially at competitive colleges. So, what, on top of all of the above, makes an applicant stand out?
- You need good grades, but good grades in challenging courses, like AP and Honors classes. Colleges want to see a thirst for learning rather than a thirst for GPA boosters
- Class rank is important, but colleges will make sure your class rank compares well with other high school rankings
- Test scores offer a standard of measurement, as every applicant takes standardized college entrance tests. You want to be in the upper level of scores for the colleges you apply to
- You need extracurricular depth, and being involved in everything won’t cut it. Colleges want to see you focus your interests and become involved enough to be a contributing part of an activity
- Community service shows compassion, commitment and character. It shows that you think beyond yourself. Community service can also open more doors to scholarships
- Work experience shows initiative and work ethic. Summer jobs, internships, and starting your own business are good ways to demonstrate you are an exceptional candidate for college
Beyond the Application
- Recommendations from teachers, employers, and coaches confirm what your application states
- Interviews can tell the college if you have interpersonal skills and maturity. You also reveal your personality in an interview, so prepare your answers ahead of time.
- Essays show how thoughtfully you express yourself, and the voice in your essay can demonstrate the type of person you are.
Other things that can be decisive for admission are:
- Diversity: ethnic, geographic, or socioeconomic
- If you have legacy, or if you can fill out a college athletic team, you will be noticed.
- If you demonstrate you have overcome an adversity, a college may feel you will be a successful student.
You are more than just numbers (grades and test scores) to college admissions. You are a person who should demonstrate both that you have the necessary qualifications and that you are a comprehensive candidate with interests, character, reputation, and work ethic.