What do admissions officers look for in an applicant?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

What do admissions officers look for in an applicant?

Rod Bugarin
Former Admissions Officer Columbia, Brown, and Wesleyan University

What do admissions officers look for in an applicant?

Here is my video response to the question.

Nancy Meislahn
Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Wesleyan University

What do admissions officers look for in an applicant?

Here is my video response to the question.

Pam Proctor
Author The College Hook

What do admissions officers look for in an applicant?

Here is my video response to the question.

Eric Furda
Dean of Admissions University of Pennsylvania

What do admissions officers look for in an applicant?

Here is my video response to the question.

Ellen erichards@ellened.com
Owner Ellen Richards Admissions Consulting

A meaningful education earned in an unconventional manner

On May 28, 2009, eleven years after she began her pursuit of a bachelor’s degree, 41 year old Cathy Watkins delivered the valedictorian speech to her fellow classmates. Watkin’s classmates are also her fellow inmates at a maximum security state prison for women. In her speech, she reminded her audience that, “Even though these walls can restrict our physical movement, they cannot restrict our imagination, nor our connection to the outside world.” While many students graduating from college this year may not know what the future holds, Watkins and many of her classmates who graduated from the Marymount Manhattan College program with bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees and high school equivalency diplomas know that their future will play out within prison walls. The question is simply how they will stimulate their intellect. For those who return to the outside world, there is promise. According to Marymount Manhattan’s president, Judson R. Shaver, the relapse rate for women who have been through the program is zero.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

What do admissions officers look for in an applicant?

Strong grades in a rigorous college preparatory curriculum. After these first major academic requirements, then it depends on the mission and needs of each college. Certain schools may use the SAT scores in considering candidates, other schools are test-optional. Some schools weigh extracurricular interests and leadership potential more heavily than recommendations and essays. For other colleges, the essay plays an important role. Some admission offices utilize the evaluations from interviews while others consider the interviews to be informative rather than evaluative. Each admissions office has its own mandate and requirements.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

Schools Are Looking to Fill a Need-Where Do You Fit In?

A fundamental truth of the admissions process is that schools’ decisions depend as much on their institutional needs as on an applicant’s record. Admissions professionals at each school are building communities--educational communities--but they are looking at education in the broadest sense. Consequently, while academics are a critical component, more central to the decision making is what an applicant will bring to the community. Every applicant need not have a special talent, an all-around good guy is important, as is a great academic record, but applicants must recognize that they are pieces in puzzles being assembled by admissions offices across the country.

Elizabeth PhD
Educational Consultant The Education Planner

Who gets into Harvard?

Harvard's admissions office is sorting through more than 4,000 applications for students who applied to the College under an early action plan, Harvard has implemented Single-Choice Early Action this year. Students admitted under this plan could not apply to other colleges under Early Decision or Early Action. Students' fate and future are held hostage until Harvard decides, in mid-December, who is in or out of the first round of applicants. Harvard's website clearly states that their isn't a minimum SAT score required for consideration, but data drawn from their Common Data Set, reveals the facts on last year's entering class. More than 30,000 applications were received last year for the entering class of 2011. Ninety-one percent of 2011 applicants submited SAT scores and 32% submitted ACT scores. The middle 50% of students' SAT scores for Critical Reading: 690-800; Math 700-790; Writing 710-800. The ACT range for the middle 50% was 31 - 34. Harvard doesn't consider class rank, a question asked on the Common Application, the online application shared by several hundred colleges. For students who attend highly selective public or private high schools, such as Lowell High School in San Francisco, Crystal Springs Uplands School in Hillsborough, CA or Hunter College High School in Manhattan, class rank could put otherwise highly qualified students at the bottom of that list. Harvard's practice is a benefit to students who might, for example, rank in the bottom 25% of a high school class that is made up exclusively of academically talented students. Harvard isn't looking for students with just good grades and high test scores. Their admissions website goes into great detail about how they craft their entering class. Extracurricular activities, leadership, service, and work experience are all considered. They seek well-rounded students, "lopsided" students wtih achievements in research or extracurricular activites, students with unusual backgrounds, and most importantly, students who will in combination make for a dynamic learning environment. That desire for creating a dynamic learning community means that there is no way to game the system. While one student may have a flawless academic record, another student might offer the university a special talent in music or the performing arts, a history of scientific research, or speak four languages. Nonetheless, like other highly selective universities, the admission rates are low, and hundreds, if not thousands, of bright and talented students will be turned away. Last year 2,205 students were offered admission at Harvard. Most college deadlines haven't passed. Students who aren't accepted under Early Action or Early Decision plans still have time to complete applications to other universities. Students shouldn't consider these other colleges "back-up schools." They should only apply to colleges where they would be happy to go --even if it isn't considered a highly selective school. Students who have done their research wlll find many outstanding colleges that will provide a terrific undergraduate experience. Within that well-chosen list, admission to any college should be considered a success.

Geoff Broome
Assistant Director of Admissions Widener University

the List

GPA Test Scores High School course Rigor Extra-Curriculars Essay Letters of Recommendations These are a few of the things. If an office brings you in for an interview, then we want to see that you can form clear and concise thoughts. We want to see a level of maturity, and we are looking for intellectual originality.

Calli Christenson
Director CLC College Prep Services

What do admissions officers look for in an applicant?

More than anything else, admissions officers are looking for student who will be a good fit for their university. They are looking for applicants who, not only represent themselves well, but represent the college in a very positive light, as well. This is why it is important to be genuine and truly yourself as you apply to schools. Put your best foot forward, but remember that it is most important to be yourself. Every college is looking for something a little different.