What Colleges Look For

Getting into the college of your choice has become increasingly competitive. While there is some variability in what admissions officers look for, the following are the factors considered by most schools.

  • What colleges look for illustrationA rigorous high school class schedule. Doing well in AP and honors classes is a major plus.
  • Grades and class rank that are high enough to suggest you will be able to succeed in college. Your grades in your junior year and in the first semester of your senior year are the most important. Even if you don’t do very well in your first two years of high school, a transcript that shows improvement is well regarded.
  • Good scores on the ACT and/or the SAT. Admissions officers use these scores as a standard measure to compare applicants from different schools and backgrounds.
  • Involvement in extracurricular activities. The key here is to participate in a small number of extracurricular activities at an intense level rather than participate in many activities at a surface level. Here is where you can demonstrate leadership abilities.
  • An application essay that is thoughtful and well written. Your essay should demonstrate the ways in which you to stand out from the other applicants. Emphasize any special talents and experiences that can help the school attain a well-rounded and interesting student body.
  • Strong letters of recommendation from your teachers and your guidance counselor. Admissions officers look for letters that speak to your special skills, positive character, and interest in learning.
  • Community service that demonstrates your compassion and willingness to help others. Community service is not a requirement, but is particularly helpful if you are applying for a scholarship.
  • Enthusiasm for attending the particular school. You can demonstrate your strong interest by visiting the campus, as well as during interviews if they are part of the admissions procedure.

Pay attention to each of these factors as you progress through high school.