Because the number of college applicants has been rising in recent years, colleges have become more selective and therefore much more competitive. As you go through the process, it can help to know what schools are really looking for.    

Among the factors most frequently considered for admission at colleges are:

  • Grades
  • Grade point average
  • Courses taken
  • Rank in class
  • Standardized test results
  • Personal interview
  • Personal recommendations
  • Application questions
  • Personal essays
  • Extracurricular activities  
  • Special talents and skills
  • Geographic location
  • Ethnicity
  • Alumni relationship
  • Major/college applied to

Admission officers evaluate applications in different ways, depending on how selective, or competitive, their college is. At one extreme are open admission colleges, which require only a high school diploma and accept students on a first-come, first-served basis. Many community colleges have this policy. At the other extreme are very selective colleges, which admit only a small percentage of applicants each year. At these institutions, admission officers look carefully at every aspect of a student's high school experience, from academic strength to test scores. Since the majority of applicants are strong academically, other factors become more critical. Although they receive a great deal of publicity, there are only a small number of colleges that are this selective. Most colleges fall somewhere in between and consider course work, grades, test scores, recommendations and essays.

Each college has their own system for rating the various factors; however most of them put the emphasis on the high school record so you should do the same.