College admissions have become very competitive. Many high school students who plan to attend a good school spend a good deal of time preparing their resume to be reviewed by potential colleges. In addition, students often plan to apply to many schools, in the hopes that they will be accepted into at least one school of their choice.
With so many qualified applicants, schools have expanded undergraduate admissions requirements in order to further identify the most suitable candidates. As an applicant, this means that you must understand what each school is looking for and present your qualifications in your college application to reflect a complementary match in skills and talent.
Schools develop their specific admissions requirements and weight each criterion differently. As an example, one school might place great weight on standardized test scores like the SAT, while another school places more weight on high school GPA. In today’s competitive environment, there are many applicants who have similarly competitive test scores and academic profiles, so schools often consider additional factors in order to decide who will be accepted. If you are looking to get accepted into a competitive school, you must find ways to differentiate yourself from other applicants. You shouldn’t solely focus on academics, or sports, or charitable work – you need to be as well-rounded as possible.
We have listed many of the admissions requirements that schools will use to evaluate your application. Most schools will publish their basic admissions criteria on their website, but they won’t tell you how much emphasis they put on each element. In addition, schools won’t always publish some of the more intangible factors that may influence admissions decisions.
Example of General College Admissions Criteria
1. GPA Requirements
Some schools have minimum GPA requirements. In general, schools are obviously looking for a strong high school academic performance, as it is often a good indicator of how you will perform in college.
2. Level of Coursework
Don’t think that you can pick the easiest classes in high school, obtain straight A’s, and you will get admitted into an Ivy League School. In today’s competitive environment, most colleges expect more than that. Competitive colleges value a student who has challenged him/herself with tough coursework, such as Honors or Advanced Placement classes.
3. Class Rank
Some institutions value how you performed in relation to your peers. This is especially true of competitive institutions, who are looking for the best and the brightest. Colleges often also look at the competitiveness and academic strength of your high school.
4. Extracurricular Activities
Colleges aren’t going to judge you on your interests, but they will want to know how well you are going to fit into their campus life. You should consider being more involved in sports, your church, working a part-time job, volunteering with senior citizens, playing in the chess club, or traveling with the debate team. Choose what you like to do and get involved!
Just like extracurricular activities, colleges also value students that are a part of an organization. Examples might include the Rotary Club, the Mathematics Club, Future Leaders of America, etc. These are usually organizations to which you must apply and commit a certain amount of time and effort in order to retain membership. Organizational memberships show that you are advancing your academic knowledge or responsibility in the community, and at the same time showing that you are a team player and able to work with others. It’s also a bonus if you hold a position of leadership, such as being the President of the Student Council or the Director of Charity Events for your club.
5. Standardized Test Scores
All four year colleges and universities accept both the SAT and ACT tests. Most schools publish both the minimum scores necessary for acceptance and the average scores of their previously admitted incoming class. This will help you see how you compare to other students at the school and how competitive your scores will be against other applicants. Schools place different weights on standardized tests like the ACT and SAT.
6. Letters of Recommendation
Most schools require that you submit several letters of recommendation, so they have an idea of your character and accomplishments. Letters of recommendation typically come from someone like a teacher, boss, prior alumni or mentor.
7. College Application & Essay
You will be required to complete a college application, generally including one or more essays. The application itself requires you to provide basic information about yourself and your academic history. Some of the questions on the application may try to gauge your interest in the college.
The essay portion of the application is another tool schools may use to look at both your writing skill and your level of maturity. Remember, in college you will be required to submit many essays and term papers. Be sure to take ample time to write and correct your essay, and have a teacher, counselor or parent look it over before submitting your application.
Colleges pride themselves on their past and their traditions. If someone in your family, like your parents, went to the school to which you are applying, you should note that on your application. Alumni can also submit a letter of recommendation with your application. It’s important to note that while having a relative or boss as an alumni might improve your application, it’s not going to automatically get you admitted into the school if your application is not up to the school’s requirements.
9. School Interest
This is an admissions factor that many students overlook. Colleges know that you are applying to multiple schools and they want to select students who really want to attend their school and will be involved in the school’s campus life. A school may attempt to gauge your interest by asking interest questions on the application. One of the best things you can do to show your interest is to visit the school, go on a guided college tour, and meet with an admissions counselor. Make sure you sign the log at the visitor’s office – some schools will actually check to see if you were there!