What are the most important admittance criteria for the majority of schools?

The general rule is that the more selective the college, the more weight is put on your academic record. If your academic record (grades, difficulty of classes taken, test scores) puts you in the admissible pool, then the other factors come into play. These include essays, recommendations, unique skills and most importantly, your personality. 

What’s the trick to getting accepted at a big-name college?

The bigger the name, the fiercer the competition is. To even be considered, you must have an excellent grade point average, a very strong transcript with the most challenging classes possible and outstanding test scores. Even with all that, you will need to stand out amongst the other applicants through your interviews, essays, activities and letters of recommendation. Go ahead and apply at the the top schools if you think you have a chance, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Make sure you apply to at least one safety school and concentrate the bulk of your applications on colleges that will challenge you academically but allow you to breathe and enjoy college life. 

What is the magic formula for getting accepted at my dream school?

It’s simple: there isn’t one. Colleges aren’t just looking for students with the best grades – they want to find the best candidates for each available spot. Do your research and make sure your dream school matches up with what you can handle or that dream could quickly turn to a nightmare if you aren’t able to meet the challenge academically. Outside of that, our advice is to put your best effort into your application. Let the college know you much you want to attend and make sure the school can see what sets you apart from other qualified applicants.

If my grades and test scores are at the low end of a college’s acceptable range, do I have a shot at being admitted?

Yes, but you’ll need to prove that you are able to meet the demands of the coursework in order for a college to take a chance on you. To do so, you’re going to want to utilize your interview, essay and recommendations to illustrate character and leadership. If special circumstances prevented you from achieving the level you are capable of, share your story and make your case for a college to select your application over another. 

What is the ideal number of activities or special interests to include on my application? 

Colleges are looking at your level of involvement, your leadership, your creativity, not a laundry list of activities. They would prefer to see a couple of interests that you have really gotten involved in so find something you love and focus on it. The activity itself doesn’t matter; in fact, most colleges seek students with unique interests and skills in order to create a dynamic campus environment.   

If I apply for financial aid, does it lower my chances of acceptance?

Most colleges decide whether to make an offer of admission without considering your family's financial situation. But they don’t want to offer spots to students who have no ability to attend the institution so once again it’s important for you to find the right match for you. If you find the place that values you for what you do well and they agree, that school will do it’s best to get what you need in order to complete your education. These colleges know they can't satisfy the financial aid needs of all applicants so do what you can to help them find ways to assist you. Don’t forget that personality, talents and special circumstances often can be tied to scholarship opportunities so use your interview, recommendation and essay to highlight factors that may help you gain additional financial support.

What is the most typical blow-it on an application?

That’s easy. Submitting applications that are late, contain typos or are incomplete are at the top of the list. Right below that are not following instructions, improper postage and failing to follow up to make sure that all of the required parts of the application have actually arrived. Depending on the severity of the error and the school, some will allow you to make it right but institutions may also use these as an excuse to put your application in the reject pile. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to attend the college of your dreams because you were careless. Take the time to proofread each application several times and ask a parent or friend to do so as well.