What Do Colleges Look For?
Proven Academic Achievement
The most important factor in the college admissions decision is your academic transcript. Colleges are looking for strong grades in an academically challenging program. Specifically, they will be looking at the types of courses you have taken, the number of courses, the level of courses and the grades you earned. Did you take the most challenging academic program that you are capable of handling? How did you perform in the courses you have taken?
Standardized Test Scores
The amount of weight placed on standardized test scores in the admissions process varies from college to college. Standardized scores provide colleges with a measure to compare students from different schools. As a general rule, the more selective the college the more important test scores are due to the rigorous and academically challenging programs offered at selective institutions. It's important to keep in mind the standardized test scores are only one of many factors that college admission officers consider when evaluating an application.
Extracurricular Involvement/Work Experience
Here the emphasis is on quality rather than quantity. College admission officers are not interested in a list often activities with little time commitment and involvement. Admission officers are looking for those students who have invested their time, energy and commitment to pursuing one or two activities in-depth. In short, admission officers are looking for those individuals that will make a genuine commitment to their college community.
This is the part of the application that students often rush to complete. The essay is a critical factor in the admissions decision and, it is entirely under your control. Take the time to think about and write an essay that demonstrates your writing ability and makes your application "come alive". The essay is your golden opportunity to let them know more about you, who you are, what you value and what your future goals are.
Some colleges require or recommend an interview while others do not. For some schools, the interview is provided solely to inform you about the college and provide you with an opportunity to ask questions. For other schools, the interview provides admission officers with additional information about you and your future goals. Depending on the school, this information may or may not be used during the application decision-making process.
The school recommendation is written by your college counselor. As your primary advocate, the counselor will attempt to present an assessment which is fair and accurate and which emphasizes achievements and talents. This comprehensive letter includes information about academics; extracurricular involvement; and, most importantly, a sense of the character of the applicant. All recommendations remain confidential to ensure integrity.
Each college has its own specific requirements for teacher recommendations, but in most cases two are requested. Some colleges are very specific and ask for recommendations from teachers in certain disciplines: The teachers you choose to write your recommendations should be from your junior and/or senior year courses and should be able to speak to your abilities and accomplishments both in and outside the classroom.
The Application Document
Presentation is everything! Never work on an original application before completing a draft copy with your college counselor Neatness and clarity are important. If you choose to file an online application discuss details with your counselor. The appearance and content of the application will reflect a great deal about you, therefore, it is very important that you invest time and thought into each application. Unless otherwise stated, you should always type your application.
College Board Online www.collegeboard.org
At this comprehensive site you will find information about the SAT program, financial aid, Scholarships and the admissions process. Using your own preferences, search the College Board's ExPan database of over 3,000 2-year and 4-year colleges.
This award-winning site allows students to search for schools from a database of over 4,000 colleges and universities. Students can also explore careers and majors, get advice from an expert college panel, do a scholarship search and find out more about the financial aid process.
College Net www.collegenet.com
Search database of thousands of 2-year and 4-year colleges, universities, junior colleges, technical schools, law schools and medical schools in the United States, Canada and New Zealand. College search related articles, 3-D campus tour; apply for certain colleges on-line.
College View Campus www.collegeview.com
Profiles of over 3,400 2-year and 4-year colleges and universities in the United States. Search the database by: major, state, student body size, type of college, athletic programs, city size or name. Find out about career planning and financial aid, take a virtual college tour and file electronic applications.
My College Guide www.mycollegeguide.org
Another comprehensive site that allows students to do a college search using their own preferences and criteria (region of the country, cost, freshman class size, size of the community and type of school).
International Education Service www.ies-ed.com
A placement service for foreign students interested in studying at colleges in the United States and Canada matching with institutions based on academic, financial and geographic needs.
Peterson's Education Center www.petersons.com
An extensive education site with information about K-12 schools, colleges and universities, graduate schools, study abroad programs, careers and jobs, summer programs, financing your education, distance learning and testing.
Yahoo's Higher Education List www.yahoo.com/Education
A comprehensive listing of links to a variety of sites related to higher education and the college search process.
Common Application https://app.commonapp.org/
Some US universities subscribe to the Common Application. Fill out one of these forms and apply to several universities with copies.