What Colleges Look For In Admitting Students


Colleges look at many different factors in deciding which students to admit. To complicate matters further, these factors, and the weight given to each, differs from school to school. However, in general terms, colleges are looking for students who have the academic ability to succeed at their school. They begin that process by looking at the courses taken in high school, the grades received, the student’s standing relative to their classmates, and their test scores. Once they have determined that a particular student could succeed academically, many schools will look at a variety of other factors. Some of the other factors are discussed below.

In general terms, larger state schools tend to rely more on grades and test scores. The smaller the school and the more selective the school, the more factors are generally considered in deciding whether to admit a particular student. To determine what factors for admission are looked at by any particular school you should ask an admission counselor from that school.

Academic Achievement Reviewed

Your transcript

The colleges will look at the level of difficulty of the courses you took and the grades received in those courses. They will also be looking to see if you challenged yourself by taking advantage of the AP and accelerated courses that are available.

Class rank

The colleges will review your GPA and where you rank in your class Standardized Test Scores

SAT I, SAT II and ACT. How well did you do on the standardized tests compared to the average candidate to that school. Teacher and counselor recommendations

Most schools have forms that they ask your teachers and counselor to complete. These forms provide specific information about strengths, accomplishments, areas of improvement and recommendations


What academic awards have you received.

Academic interest (major)

Some schools have a reputation in a particular area of study. At such schools, it may be easier to gain admission if you are planning on studying a major for which they are not known.

Personal Achievement Reviewed

The list of factors a particular college is looking for in a student in a particular year varies widely. Listed below are some other factors that may be considered:

Extracurricular activities

The college will be looking at the amount of time you spent in your activities and whether you held a leadership role. The more time involved and the greater the involvement (i.e. captain of a team), the more impressive your activities will look. Remember that colleges are not looking for the well-rounded student; they are looking for a well-rounded first year class.

Character traits

What traits do you possess that reflects on your leadership, fellowship, inspiration, discipline or determination?


The interview can give put a face to your application and might highlight a special talent or problem in your record.


What sort of person and student do your teachers and counselor think you are?

Summer experiences

What have you done in the summer and how has that influenced your life/perspective? Don’t worry if you haven’t had any great experience during the summer. Most schools are impressed by someone working during the summer to save money for school. It reflects a certain level of maturity to be able to hold a job.

Other Considerations

The list of factors a particular college is looking for in a student in a particular year varies widely. Listed below are some other factors that may be considered:


Many schools try to achieve as close to a 50-50 balance between men and women as possible. Depending on the school, this may give one sex or the other an advantage if the school needs more men or more women.

Family background, race or ethnicity

Students who are the first in their family to go to college are often given additional consideration. This is also true if you are of an ethnic background that school seeks for diversity.

Residence Schools are often looking for geographical diversity in their students.

Special talents

If you are particularly talented in some area (art, music, writing, athletics, etc.) you may be given more consideration.

Area of interest

If you have a particular interest that is very unusual and to which you have devoted a great deal of time, you may get additional consideration.

Legacy status

Many schools give preference if one of your parents or siblings has previously attended the college to which you are applying.

Financial need

Some schools make admission decisions based on whether you are seeking financial aid or not.

Disciplinary issues

If you have been disciplined by your school, the colleges will look closely at what occurred.

Source by Todd Johnson

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