Sometimes it is hard to tell what colleges are really looking for in their prospective college applicants. Getting into college will be easier if you consider how colleges make college admissions decisions.
1. Colleges want students who will be successful academically at their school. That is why a student’s GPA and SAT and ACT test scores are usually at the top of the college’s admissions criteria. They like students with high test scores because this usually improves their college ranking in polls such as the U.S. News and World Report. They want students who will be eager to challenge themselves in their courses and do well.
2. Colleges want students who are resilient and can bounce back. They know that going away to school is not always easy, but they hope that students will handle the ups and downs and continue to grow from them. They do not expect students to fall apart if they receive their first C on a paper they spent hours on. Rather, they would hope that these same students would seek out a professor and get some feedback about what they can do to improve their next assignment. If a relationship falls apart, they don’t expect students to call their parents and threaten to drop out.
3. Colleges want students to be excited and passionate about participating in activities that interest them. They do not want a freshman class that does nothing but study. They expect students to get involved in political activities, campus and community events, and intramural sports. This is where students learn to work as a team and gain leadership responsibilities that will be useful in their careers later on.
4. Colleges want students who want to attend their school. That is why it is important that you plan a visit if at all possible. Take the tour, go to the information session, and meet for an interview if you can. Check out their website, talk to current students, email a professor and ask a question about a particular program. Meet with a college representative in your community and ask some questions about the school. All of these things show that you care and are interested enough to do some exploring on your own.
5. Colleges want students to be themselves. They are interested in a unique group of individuals who will all bring something special to the freshman class. Don’t try to be something or somebody that you are not. College admission committees know enough about high school students to figure out pretty quickly whether an application is your work or that of an over zealous parent. Take time in your college search to find schools that are a good fit for you and write thoughtful essays and responses that reflect your unique qualities.
Perhaps, we will never know why some students get into particular schools and others do not. There will always be a certain mystery about what goes on behind the college admission committee doors. Somehow in the end, the decisions usually work out for the best for most students. It isn’t whether you attend your first or second choice school, but what you will do with your college experience that will make the biggest difference.