What matters to admissions committees

Curriculum

1. A rigorous high school curriculum that challenges the student and may include Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) classes.

 

 2. Grades that represent a strong effort and an upward trend. However, slightly lower grades in a rigorous program are preferred to all A’s in less challenging coursework.

Scores

3. Solid scores on standardized tests including the ACT or the SAT. These should be consistent with high school performance (see #1 and #2).

Essay

4. A well-written essay that provides insight into the student’s unique personality, values, and goals. The application essay should be thoughtful and highly-personal. It should demonstrate careful and well-constructed writing.

Passion

5. Passionate involvement in a few in or out of school activities. Commitment and depth are valued over minimal involvement in a large number of activities.

Leadership

6. Demonstrated leadership and initiative in extracurricular activities. Students who arrive on campus prepared to lead clubs and activities are highly desirable.

Character

7. Personal characteristics that will contribute to a diverse and interesting student body. Many colleges seek to develop a freshman class that is diverse: geographically, culturally, ethnically, economically, and politically.

Intellectual Curiosity

8. Demonstrated intellectual curiosity through reading, school, leisure pursuits, and more.

Enthusiasm to attend

9. Demonstrated enthusiasm to attend, often exhibited by campus visits and an interview, showing,an interest toward attending the college if offered admission. Note: Social Media sharing matters

Letters

10. Letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselors that give evidence of integrity, special skills, positive character traits, and an interest in learning.

Talent

11. Special talents that will contribute to the college’s student life program. Colleges like to know what you intend to bring to campus as well as what you’ll take from your college experience.

Service

 12. Out of school experiences including work, community service, youth organizations, religious groups, etc. Again, passionate involvement is meaningful to the admissions office–casual memberships are not.

from National Association for College Admission Counseling

Percentage of colleges attributing different levels of importance to factors in the admission decision: 2011
 
​ Factor ​Considerable
importance
​Moderate
Importance
​Limited
Importance
​No
importance
Grades in college prep courses ​84.3% ​11.9% ​2.3% ​1.5%
Strength of curriculum ​67.7 ​20.4 ​5.8 ​6.2
Admission test scores (SAT, ACT). ​59.2 ​29.6 ​6.9 ​4.2
Grades in all courses ​51.9 39.2 6.9 ​1.9
Essay or writing sample ​24.9 ​37.5 ​17.2 ​20.3
Student’s demonstrated interest ​20.5 29.7 ​24.7 ​25.1
Counselor recommendation ​19.2 39.8 ​27.2 ​13.8
Class Rank ​18.8 ​31.0 ​31.4 ​18.8
Teacher recommendation ​16.5 ​41.9 26.5 ​15.0
Subject test scores (AP, IB) ​6.9 ​31.2 ​31.5 ​30.4
Portfolio ​6.6 ​12.8 ​30.2 ​50.4
Interview 6.2 ​25.4 ​25.8 ​42.7
SAT II scores ​5.4 ​9.7 ​22.6 ​62.3
Extracurricular activities ​5.0 ​43.1 38.1 ​13.8
State graduation exam ​4.2 ​14.9 ​23.8 ​57.1
Work ​2.3 17.0 ​43.2 ​37.5
SOURCE: NACAC Admission Trends Survey, 2011