College Admission: Factors You Need To Know

November 21, 2022
By AdmissionSight

College Admission Factors: You Need To Know

What matters in college admissions?

There are numerous college admission factors in the United States. To gain a comprehensive understanding of applicants, admissions officers consider both “hard factors” (such as grade point average and test scores) and “soft factors” (such as essays, extracurricular activities, recommendations, and demonstrated interest).

However, how these aspects are understood can confuse families, which contributes to the air of mystique surrounding the college admissions procedure. What makes this even more confusing is that most admissions officers base their decisions on a foundation of common factors and that the college admissions process is shrouded in secrecy.

For that reason, you must have a basic understanding of what matters in college admissions. This ensures that you understand the process and have the right idea of what to do in applying for college.

Most important factors for college admission

1. Course load and grades

This is the single most important among the many college admission factors. It is also the one that most parents are unaware of during the beginning years of a student’s education in high school. The question that admissions officers will ask is as follows: “Did you take challenging classes in high school, and did you get good grades?”. Making an informed decision about your classes will make a big difference.

Male student reading a likely letter on a library.

You should find out the grade point average (GPA) of students who were accepted to the college(s) to which you will apply and strive to achieve the same or a higher average than those students. Providing evidence that your grade point average has increased throughout your academic career can also make a favorable impression.

2. Standardized test scores

Although an increasing number of universities are now test-optional, most selective universities still require students to take such tests or place a high value on the results of such tests. One of the few ways that admissions officers can compare students from different states and school districts is standardized testing.

Consequently, formulate an early plan for standardized testing. Determine how you will approach these tests as early as your sophomore year in high school, and make it a priority to seek out preparation assistance whenever possible. It plays a significant role in the admissions process.

Many colleges will average their applicants’ highest verbal, mathematical, and writing scores. Even though you are allowed to take the SAT or ACT more than twice, it is not recommended that you do so. According to the findings of psychometrics, which is the study of testing, most people will not improve their scores on a test by taking it multiple times.

3. Exemplary letter of recommendation

One of the most important factors for college admission is the letter of recommendation. Some colleges would request more than one letter of recommendation. Though you will need one from your guidance counselor or principal, you should get one from teachers or coaches who are familiar with you and what you do.

Although colleges place significant importance on the first two college admission factors, some colleges place a moderate to a significant amount of importance on recommendations. A transcript cannot tell a college everything there is to know about a student, but letters of recommendation from a student’s guidance counselor and teachers can.

Colleges can learn about your character, integrity, interests, and unique talents. It can demonstrate to them the impact you’ve had on the members of your school community. It also gives the impression you’ve left on the instructors and counselors you have interacted.

Therefore, begin forming relationships at an early age. It can make a significant difference if you have a teacher or coach who is familiar with you or if you have a good relationship with the guidance counselor at your school. Because of this, a letter that demonstrates real knowledge of a student’s background, abilities, and character will be given greater weight by a university.

4. A great essay

When competing with many other students with the same grades and test scores as you, the quality of your application essay and your responses to the supplemental questions can make all the difference. In addition, there will always be other people with grades and test scores comparable to yours, regardless of how well you do.

Taking an exam in a desk.

Like letters of recommendation, application essays help colleges learn more about applicants. The admissions committee will read your essay to understand better who you are and why you would be successful at their institution. To write a great essay, you should focus on creating a beautiful narrative, as some students stick to a generic essay about themselves.

The type of writing you do for coursework in high school is very different from the personal essays that colleges require you to submit. A well-written reflective essay gives admissions officers and other readers insights into the student’s distinctive personality, values, and goals in life.

5. Extracurricular activities

Extracurricular activities are an excellent way to demonstrate your skills and interests to prospective colleges and highlight what you can contribute to campus clubs, organizations, sports, and programs. This is especially important as part of the many college admission factors you need to know.

However, you should know that the number of activities you participate in is less important than the dedication you bring to each one. It is not essential to join twenty different school organizations, complete one thousand hours of community service, and play every sport in high school. You must have a few activities in which you invested a significant amount of time and effort while in high school.

Most selective colleges are looking for students who will contribute to a college community that is accomplished, interesting, well-rounded, and intellectually stimulating. Some schools have a system where students can present evidence of their extraordinary abilities and accomplishments. Consideration should be given to these opportunities by those engaged in research, the performing arts, visual arts, writing, and making (engineers and creators).

Myths on college admission standards

Now that you know college admission factors, you might think you are ready to go. This is partially the case. When applying to colleges, many incoming students have the misconception that they already know which strategies will assist them in attracting the attention of admissions officers positively.

One example is that some students think that grades are the only thing the admissions committee looks at. According to Joe Shields, an admissions counselor at Goucher College in Baltimore, many colleges report that, while academic performance is essential, they take a multifaceted approach to reviewing applicants. “A holistic admissions review process allows students to demonstrate their best qualities and discuss how they would be a good fit for that college,” he says.

Another fact that is frequently misunderstood is that gaining admission to a college or university outside of the most competitive schools is not nearly as difficult as many students believe it to be. This can be a problem with this mentality. You can be overconfident and end up fumbling.

Young man being interviewed for college application.

According to a report published in 2019 by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, an average of two-thirds of first-time freshman applicants to four-year schools in the United States were offered admission to one of those schools. Approximately 80% of the places accepted at least 50% of the applicants. Not every college will want you, so it is wise that you take each application seriously.

Other myths about college admission standards are as follows:

  • The most essential thing is to achieve a perfect grade point average.
  • Your examination performance can make or break your chances of being accepted.
  • The more clubs and activities you can list on your resume, the better.
  • Only a teacher who gave you an A grade should be the person you ask for a recommendation.
  • Making an effort to be imaginative in your essay is a terrible idea.

Now you have a vision of the college admission factors that every student should consider. Your college admission should now be easier and more straightforward. However, to ensure that you get into the college you want, you can get help with AdmissionSight. You can talk to our experts today to get started.

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