What are Colleges Looking for in Today’s Students?

In today’s competitive environment, it may come to no surprise that college admissions are taking into account more than just your grade point average (GPA), and standardized test scores. While both are weighed heavily in the college application process, admissions are also interested in what you can potentially bring to the campus.

Whether you embody a commitment to social responsibility or you’re a born leader; your application is a chance to demonstrate and prove those skills. Use this as a guide for starting to familiarize yourself with the college application process and how you can demonstrate great potential for the college you’re applying to.

What are Colleges Looking For? Ask Yourself These Questions:

Can You Contribute to the Campus Community?

Do you share a passion for sustainability with the college you’re applying to? Or perhaps you plan on dedicating a few hours towards a campus organization, such as the Student Government Association. During the admissions process, many colleges are looking to identify potential candidates that can demonstrate growth, potential and character – in hopes of bringing that to the campus community. So whether your essay is centered around the contribution you can bring to your local community in the next twenty five years or you have more flexibility to center your essay around a topic of your choice; use this as an opportunity to weave in a few of your goals, aspirations and of course, your accomplishments.

Do you Meet Application Essentials?

1. A Well-Crafted College Essay

Some aspects of the college essay go hand-in-hand with what was previously stated above, but since it’s your opportunity to differentiate yourself from the thousands of other applications; it deserves to be acknowledged a second time. If you’re in the early stages of planning for college, use this time to start practicing the college essay and centering your focus around different topics. Practicing writing on a broad range of subjects will not only help you to impress admissions, but it’s a skill you will value in the midst of writing research papers when you finally get to college.

2. Specific Entrance Requirements

Many colleges and universities require you to complete a number of different courses before you can be considered; below is an example of what UVM expects of first-year and transfer students (please note that this is just the minimum, most applicants complete course work beyond this):

  • Four years of English
  • Three years of mathematics (Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and geometry)
  • Two years of the same foreign language (American Sign Language meets this requirement)
  • Three years of science, including a laboratory science
  • Three years of social sciences
  • Course work not completed at the high school level may be fulfilled by equivalent college-level academic work. In general, one semester of college work is considered equal to one year of high school study. Any exceptions to these requirements are made on a case-by-case basis.

3. Positive Recommendations

Since your standardized test scores and high school curriculum can’t exactly demonstrate your character, that’s where your letter of recommendation come in. A letter of recommendation from your teacher, school counselor and/or employer can showcase your skills, initiative and your abilities. Colleges often ask for two to three recommendation letters, so be sure to start asking around early to ensure that you meet all of your application deadlines.

4. Solid Scores on Standardized Tests

Standardized tests provide you with an opportunity to demonstrate your skills and knowledge on various subjects. Some colleges will consider your highest section scores across all SAT and ACT dates submitted, so be sure you check with your college to see if that’s an option.

5. High School Transcript and Mid-Year Grades

According to experts at Family Education, “Admissions officers value grades that represent strong effort. Grades should show an upward trend over the years. However, slightly lower grades in a rigorous program are preferred to all A’s in less challenging coursework.” With that being said, a challenging course load and a strong GPA will not only reflect well on your application, it will help prepare you for college-level curriculum.

Do you Participate in Extracurricular Activities?

Extracurricular activities are a great way for you to develop new skills, friendships and, of course, impress admissions with your dedication to an activity. These activities range from sports teams to student council and even the school newspaper – so whether you’re involved with a high school activity, or serving the local community, use your application and/or your college essay to showcase your commitment.

These days, the college admissions process is less about numbers and more about each student’s growth and potential – though good grades do help. The best way to demonstrate this potential is to focus on what you’re truly passionate about, and taking full advantage of every opportunity that comes your way.