Admission Tips: Important Factors Colleges Consider When Choosing To Admit Students


The period between submitting a college application and awaiting the final decision can be a nerve-wracking time for high school seniors. Understanding the intricate web of factors influencing college admissions can help students and their families manage expectations and navigate this crucial waiting period.

Important Factors Colleges Consider When Choosing to Admit Students
(Photo : Pexels / Andrea Piacquiado)

The Key Factors in College Admissions

According to a 2019 report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling, several factors weigh significantly in the college admissions process. High school GPA, grades in challenging courses, and the difficulty of the student's curriculum are among the top considerations. Experts stress the importance of starting early in high school to build a strong academic record.

Anna Ivey, founder of Ivey Consulting, emphasizes that the college application journey begins on the first day of ninth grade. Students should focus on three main areas: academics, extracurricular activities, and personal qualities. The shift from building credentials to presenting them occurs around the summer before 12th grade.

Admissions officers seek students who have maximized opportunities within their high school environment. If certain advanced courses are unavailable, students are encouraged to pursue the most challenging curriculum possible. This not only showcases intellectual curiosity but signals a passion for their chosen field of study and a strong work ethic.

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The Evolving Role of Test Scores

Traditionally, standardized test scores played a pivotal role in admissions decisions. However, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted many institutions to adopt a "test-optional" approach, allowing applicants to decide whether to submit test scores. This shift underscores a broader trend: colleges are placing less emphasis on standardized tests and focusing more on holistic evaluations.

Extracurricular Activities: Showcasing Passions and Leadership

Extracurricular activities provide a platform for students to demonstrate their passions and leadership qualities. Colleges seek applicants who have connected their coursework with meaningful involvement outside the classroom. Adam Sapp, director of admissions at Pomona College, notes that the landscape has changed, with a greater emphasis on diverse forms of leadership and extracurricular engagement.

When discussing extracurricular activities in their application, students are encouraged to use the essay to convey personality and explain the significance of their involvement. Hasana Parker, a computer science major, exemplifies this approach by highlighting her participation in the drama club, track team, and yearbook, while also delving into her leadership role in founding an organization advocating for diversity in education.

The Subjectivity of Admissions: Institutional Priorities

While colleges aim for fairness and transparency, the admissions process remains subjective. Beyond grades and test scores, institutions seek personal characteristics and abilities that contribute to a diverse and well-rounded student body aligned with their mission. Anna Ivey introduces the concept of "institutional priorities," criteria that schools must meet with each incoming class, which can vary annually.

In some instances, factors beyond an applicant's control, termed "institutional priorities," influence admissions decisions. These may include specific needs such as exceptional talent in arts, music, or athletics, as well as achieving a balance in gender, in-state versus out-of-state students, or fulfilling department-specific requirements.

The waiting period during college admissions is undoubtedly a time of anxiety and anticipation. However, understanding the various factors influencing admissions decisions empowers students to navigate the process more confidently. Building a strong academic foundation, showcasing passions through extracurricular activities, and recognizing the subjective nature of admissions can provide a clearer perspective on this pivotal stage in a student's educational journey. As students await their decisions, the key is to focus on what can be controlled, stay informed, and approach the process with resilience and patience.

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