6 things colleges look for in an applicant

What Colleges Look For

By Miriam N. Parker, College Counseling Center Of Atlanta
06/01/2015
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Do you ever wonder what colleges are really looking for in prospective students? Well, here are the answers. The six most important elements of an application that college admissions officers look at when evaluating a student for admission are:

1. Grades

This is the most important piece of the application. Colleges will look at both your actual grades and whether you took the most challenging courses you could handle. Choose a rigorous course load but make sure you have balance in your life.

2. Standardized test scores

These are from the ACT, the SAT and the SAT subject tests. They are important parts of your application but not as important as your grades.

3. Essay

The admissions essay is an important piece of your application because it allows you to convey something personal about yourself that is not found in any other part of the application. The usual length of a college admission essay is around 500 words. Make sure your personality shines through in your essay!

4. Resumé

Admissions officers will review your resumé to see the activities about which you are passionate.  These days colleges are looking to see what you really care about and how you spend your time. They do not expect you to have lots of activities in each category, but they would rather see that you have dedicated yourself to a few things. They would prefer to see that you concentrate on the things you care about most than that you joined every club your high school offers.

5. Recommendations

Colleges also look at recommendations from teachers and your school counselor to obtain another perspective on your
personality and performance as a student. Usually colleges would prefer that you ask teachers from core academic subject areas to write the recommendations. You should ask one teacher from the math/science area and another from the English/social science area. Ask teachers who know you well.

6. Interviews

Some schools will use one-on-one interviews to evaluate you. This is not as prevalent as it was in the past, which is why your essay has become a more important vehicle to allow admissions officers to get to know the real you. If you are offered an opportunity to interview, be sure you do it.

Most colleges look at the whole package a student provides them with and make their admissions decisions based on a synthesis of this information.

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