What Are Colleges Looking For?
Many families often ask me what it is that colleges are looking for when choosing candidates. A few years ago, IECA (an educational professional organization) surveyed hundreds of colleges and the results are below. Knowing these factors can be very useful in early preparation for students.
- A rigorous high school curriculum that challenges the student and may include AP or IB classes.
- Grades that represent strong effort and an upward trend. However, slightly lower grades in a rigorous program are preferred to all "A"s in less challenging coursework.
- Solid scores on standardized tests (SAT, ACT). These should be consistent with high school performance.
- Passionate involvement in a few activities, demonstrating leadership and initiative.Depth, not breadth, of experience is most important.
- Letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselor which give evidence of integrity, special skills, positive character traits, and an interest in learning.
- 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.
- Special talents or experiences that will contribute to an interesting and well-rounded student body.
- Demonstrated leadership in activities. Colleges want people who will arrive prepared and willing to take leadership of student activities and events.
- Demonstrated intellectual curiosity through reading, school, leisure pursuits, and more.
- Demonstrated enthusiasm to attend, often exhibited by campus visits and an interview, showing an interest toward attending the college.