What Colleges Look For in College Applicants
I’m starting to apply to colleges, so I have been doing some research on what colleges look for, and some tips to applying. Here are some things that I found on what colleges look for in applicants:
- A Challenging Curriculum: Colleges want to see students who challenge themselves, even if it means getting a B average, rather than straight As. They would prefer to see a B in an Honors/AP course, rather than an A in a regular course.
- Strong Grade Averages with Rising Trends: Yes, Colleges like to see good grades, but they like to see improvement and proof of hard work. So, it’s important to stay on your game and not slack off at all! Always try to improve your grades.
- Involvement in “Extra-curricular” Activities: Colleges are interested in seeing if you are active outside of school. They want to see if you’re passionate, curious, committed, and if you’re a leader. It’s important to remember that “quality over quantity” and “depth, not breadth”, are the key phrases here. Colleges want to see how committed you are and how passionate you are for certain things. They don’t want to see a ridiculous list of short-termed activities. Instead, emphasize the activities you’ve been doing the longest and that you love doing.
- Work and Out-Of-School-Activities: Work experiences and non-academic activities are important to colleges because they show your responsibility, maturity, and dedication. Colleges want to know if you’re dedicated and responsible, if you work or if you have somewhere you travel to to study or do an activity, it shows your levels of dedication and responsibility.
- Community Service and Volunteer Work: Colleges are interested in what you, as an individual, can bring to the college community. What better way to show them than to prove to them your volunteer and community service history. They aren’t only interested in the required projects you have to do for school, but they also want to know what YOU have done on YOUR own to help your community.
- The Essay(s): College application essays are extremely important to the colleges, and can even be what admits you to a college. Some colleges have these essays as options and it’s always in your favor to do them. Well written essays will boost your chance at getting into the college. Colleges want to get to know YOU. They want to know your personality, your values, your goals, and your thoughts. Make sure your essays are carefully written and proofread by a few different people. Here are some tips for writing a college essay.
- Standardized Test Scores: We all know about those dreaded SATs, ACTs, IB and AP tests we all have to take. Colleges want to see that your scores are consistent with your grades. Try to score toward the higher end of the suggested scores of the college you’re applying to. For example, if the college you’re applying to claims the average score for accepted students on their SATs was a 1600, aim for at least 100 points higher than that. It’s usually best to take the SAT twice for colleges usually go with your higher scores, no matter if the test was taken first or second. It’s not a smart idea to take the test more than three times because then it makes you look desperate, and it can be expensive. Make sure you’re familiar with what tests the college you are applying for accepts and doesn’t. To find out if whether you should take the SAT or the ACT, you can click here.
- Letters Of Recommendations: Letters of recommendations are usually requirements on college applications, and some schools even let you send more than required. Using these letters is really important. Letters from non-teachers such as coaches or supervisors who have known you for a while, are also really important because they are other ways that colleges can see if you’re a leader, if you’re dedicated, and what you can bring to their student body.
- Attributions, Honors, Awards, and Talents: Colleges get thousands of applications each year, and the applicants all have the same “perfect” grades. In order to be accepted, an applicant needs to stand out. Make sure you list all of the attributions, honors, awards, and unique talents you may have. Make sure you emphasize everything that makes you different, that makes you an eye catcher for the college.
- Diversity: Again, Colleges want diversity in their student body and in their community. They look at everything in applicants from cultural, geographic, and ethnic diversities to academic and extracurricular diversities. Colleges are extremely proud of the difference and diversity of their schools, so make sure you are what they’re looking for!
Ultimately, the basic points to remember are emphasize your qualities, get those test scores, nail the essay, take challenging courses, and stand out.
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