We’ve already discussed what the key factors in college admission are (grades, coursework, and class rank and test scores). While doing well in these categories is very important, it doesn’t guarantee admittance everywhere. The most selective schools expect you to have good grades and test scores and use other criteria to judge who makes the best fit for the spots they have available. Even at colleges that are less competitive, admission officers look at the person behind the numbers to determine who will succeed and complement their campus environment. Here are the other criteria that come into play in the college admission process:

  • Essays
    Essays are one of the ways that a college can learn who you are as a person and who you might become as an alumni. Use this opportunity to provide an honest and well-written example of what you will bring to their institution and it can be quite effective in getting accepted at the college of your choice.  Conversely, a poorly written essay with errors can severely damage your chances of getting accepted so be sure to proofread it carefully!
  • Personal Recommendations
    Many schools require you to provide one or more evaluations by respected parties who can vouch for you based on their personal experience. Colleges use recommendations to learn more about student’s personal traits, and to get to know the student better. Quantity is not better than quality here - think carefully about who you ask for a recommendation and seek out people who can provide a side of you that isn’t already evident in your admission packet. 
  • Interviews
    The importance of the interview varies from college to college, but in most cases it is not weighted as highly as other factors. Even so, most students fear the interview and waste a golden opportunity to add favorable impressions to their file. The best way to overcome this fear is to practice interviewing by meeting admission officers at every college you visit during the search process. By the time you’ve narrowed down your list of preferred schools and sit down for the critical interviews, you should be comfortable with the questions and be able to relax during the process. 
  • Activities                                                               

    Music, theatre, sports, social activism….personal interests are ways for students to show what they will bring to college life when they’re not studying. Selecting well-rounded individuals who are planning to explore life during their college years is a good way to ensure a college maintains a thriving campus community. Even at the most selective colleges, admission officers seek applicants that will add something unique to their campus community so if you have special skills or interests, don’t be shy about them. Make them a part of your application materials and they could just be the key to being admitted!

  • Achievements
    Colleges and universities look for students who will not just succeed academically, put personally. If you have been recognized for your fundraising skills or leadership abilities, include that in your profile. Winning an award for a poem you’ve written or directing a play will showcase your creativity. Even if you don’t plan to play a sport in college, including your athletic achievements exhibits teamwork and training skills.  
  • Diversity         

    Your ethnic makeup may play a role in admission because some schools are interested in achieving a more diverse incoming class. Talk to your guidance counselor to see if there are any colleges that may be seeking someone of your ethnic makeup and use it to your advantage in your application (and financial aid) materials. 

  • College Legacy                                

    If a family member went to the college you are applying to, this could be considered favorably on your behalf. Mention it on your application or ask these family members to write a personal recommendation on your behalf. It’s not a guaranteed acceptance but it sure doesn’t hurt, especially if they are a big donor or successful alumni!