What Do Colleges Look for in Applicants?

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Are you finished with high school? If yes, then it is time to think about your college. Let us start by looking at the answers as to what colleges look for in applicants. Preparing for your college application can be tough, particularly if you don’t know the criteria that colleges look into the applicants. With the right information, you can submit the best application to the college where you want to create your future.

How Do Colleges Evaluate Applicants?How Do Colleges Evaluate Applicants?

Different colleges have different ways how they evaluate applicants. What do colleges look for besides grades? According to ivywise.com, US college admission usually look at two parts: the “hard factors” – composed of GPA and test scores, while the “soft factors” – composed of extracurricular activities, essays, and recommendations.

On the other hand, it was emphasized in collegeadvisor.com that Harvard University uses a 1-6 rating system, which means one is the highest score while six is the lowest. They based it on six factors which are academic performance (GPA and test scores), extracurricular activities (community service, etc.), sports, personality (through an essay and interview), recommendation letter, and alumni interview.

Colleges usually use the “holistic review” approach in looking into college applications. It means they are not only focused on the student’s academic performance but also on other factors like talents, personality, and recommendations from other people. In this manner, they ensure they get the best students who can bring positive change to the world in the future.

5 Factors Considered During the College Admissions

5 Factors Considered During the College Admissions

It would be helpful if you knew the factors considered during college admission. As mentioned above, colleges not only look at the student’s academic performance but also use the holistic review approach. Below are other factors that you should consider and prepare to make your college application stand out:

Excellent Academic Performance

What grades do colleges look at the most? Although academic performance is not the main focus of the college application, it is the first thing that admission officers look for. That’s why your GPA should be impressive. As much as possible, you should belong to the top class. It is also good if your grades greatly improve, especially in the challenging courses. It would help if you aimed to have a GPA of 4.0 to increase your chances of getting into the best school.

Although some college does not require SAT or ACT results, it is much better if you also have them. The results will strengthen your application, particularly if you get high scores. According to collegeprep.uworld.com, your SAT score should be 700 to 730 in Math and English to get into an Ivy League School, while your ACT score should be a minimum of 31. You will have higher chances of being accepted into your preferred college when you have higher test results and GPA.

Extracurricular Activities and Sports

What do colleges look for in extracurricular activities as it is one of the factors considered in the college application. According to collegeadvisor.com, Harvard University highly considers extracurricular activities at the national or international levels, particularly if you receive accomplishments and awards. Secondly, they consider local or regional accomplishments, such as being a class president. They still consider participation in the activities even if you don’t have any distinction or award.

If you are a world-class singer, writer, and photographer, you have more chances of being accepted. If you are a great athlete that can be a good varsity player or have the potential to be a coach, it is your edge against the other applicants.


You will be evaluated not just according to how smart you are. Your personality will be checked based on your extracurricular activities, essay, and letter of recommendation. First, your extracurricular activity should reflect your personality. Community service is a good impression of what your advocacy is. It also sends a message to the admission officer that you are passionate and dedicated to rendering voluntary services to the community. It is through the extracurricular activities that your curiosity, leadership, and persistence show.

You will also be asked to write an essay. You will be given some questions in which you must share your ideas through your answers. What do colleges look for in application essays? Your essay should also be impressive. It would help if you composed your ideas straightforwardly and concisely. For example, Princeton University requires students in the admission process to write an essay. For them, it is the chance for the applicants to share their ideas without the teachers or counselors to proofread their work. In this manner, the university will see your writing ability.

Lastly, you will be asked for some letters of recommendation. It can be from your teacher or high school counselor. You can also submit a letter of recommendation from influential people in your place, like politicians. It shows that you are highly recommended, and those people vouch that you deserve to be accepted.

Alumni Interview

Some colleges, particularly Ivy League Schools such as Harvard University, conduct alumni interviews. Instead of the admission offer, who will interview the applicants, it will be the alumni. Usually, alumni volunteers give their time and effort to help the college choose the best students through an interview.

Going through the alumni interview is also a good way to showcase your personality. Since the admission officer will not interview you, you will also have the chance to learn more about the university or get some tips for studying by asking the alumni. By showing curiosity, they may encourage them to consider your application.

Additional Considerations

There are other factors that the admission officer considers. Even if you don’t have the above factors but have something that contributes to the college’s diversity, you still have the chance to be accepted. Examples are geographical location, race or ethnicity, studying abroad, and rare life circumstances. That’s why during the writing of an essay and interview, you must give your best and let them know how deserving you are to be accepted.

3 Character Traits Colleges Look For

3 Character Traits Colleges Look For

Different universities are looking into various character traits for college applicants. Some of these traits are mentioned below:


The universities want intelligent college students. You have more chances of being accepted if you have a high GPA and standardized test results. Stanford University is straightforward when they want academic excellence in their students. It is because if you are intelligent, you will have a high chance of succeeding. Even Brown University looks for intelligent and highly motivated students that can offer positive contributions to the Brown University community.

Leadership Qualities

Universities like the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Columbia seek student leaders. If, during your high school days, you are the class president or you join in the extracurricular activities that cultivate your leadership skills, then you must include that in your application. Universities prefer students who have leadership skills to lead and create a positive impact on the university. Through leadership, you will show your commitment to serve the community.

Curiosity, Risk-Taker, and Driven

Universities prefer to have students who do not enjoy being in their comfort zone. In the comfort zone, there is no progress. Like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, they are looking for driven students who are willing to take risks to find answers to their questions. They want their students to plan for their future and, at the same time, never be afraid to fail. It is only in failure that lessons are best learned. They want to produce creative and successful students who do not easily give up when failures or circumstances occur.

How to Stand Out in Your College Application: 3 Tips

How to Stand Out in Your College Application: 3 Tips

To get into the best college, you must submit an impressive application. Below are some tips you can follow:

Start Early

To submit an impressive application, you need to fill in the content. The content is based on your high school years. That’s why you must start early. Work on your application starting high school. You must study hard to maintain your high GPA. Eventually, you will need to acquire high SAT and ACT scores though some colleges do not require these tests.

As early as in high school, you must participate in extracurricular activities. As much as you can, try to excel in those activities. Get more recognition, serve communities, play, and win your favorite sports. All these are needed in your college application, but you must work on it starting high school.

Improve Your Social Media Presence

Little did you know that your social media impacts your college application. Use appropriate words when posting to your social media accounts like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. According to usnews.com, some colleges look into the applicants’ social media to do a background check. Take note; personality is one of the factors considered in the college application. One way to validate this is through your social media account. That’s why to be careful in what you post online!

Learn More About the University

You can read the university website and learn more about their values, mission, and vision. This way, you will know what they seek in your essay, a letter of recommendation, and answers to their interviews. When you completely know about the university, you can also answer all your questions. If this happens, you will create a positive impression on the admission office about your eagerness to get accepted.

Wrapping Things Up: What Do Colleges Look for in Applicants?

What do colleges look for in applicants? Well, in general, they are looking at the academic performance. That means you must have a consistent GPA in your high school. Though not all colleges require SAT and ACT scores, it would be helpful if you also earn high test scores. Your extracurricular activities are also important as it measures your personality. It presents your leadership skill and compassion through your community services.

Meanwhile, the sports you played also showcase your versatility and time management skills. Lastly, your personality is checked through the essay you wrote, the recommendation letters you submitted, the interview you answered, and your social media presence.

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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