What do admission officers look for in an applicant?

Updated: Sep 9

Every college has a different set of factors that are used in the admission process to evaluate an applicant. These factors include but are not limited to the following: Student's GPA, high school curriculum rigor, test scores, demonstrated interest in the college and major of choice, behavioral attributes such as intellectual curiosity, leadership and community service as well as participation and skill in extracurricular activities such as athletics, arts, academic, etc.


To find out more about a particular college's factors of admission, the student has to research more through the following resources:

a. College Website's Admissions section

b. College's Virtual Tour/Campus Tour

c. Common Data Set(CDS) - Every US college publishes a CDS document that states detailed information about the admissions statistics for prior years including a data table that shows what factors are most important for the college's admissions process. For example, you can google any college's CDS survey for the prior years by using the term - "(College name) Common Data Set" including test score policies and GPA ranges.


Here is a sample data set for Yale University:

https://oir.yale.edu/sites/default/files/cds_2020-2021_yale_vf_030521.pdf


Section C6-C7 of the Common Data Set shows the factors that are most important for admission to Yale's undergraduate program:



As you can see here, Yale has given most importance to Rigor of secondary school record, class rank, Academic GPA, application essay, recommendation, extracurricular activities, talent/ability, character/personal qualities in the 2019-2020 admission cycle.


Together all of these sources can help to piece together a college's admission criteria for students interested in applying to a specific college. Working with an independent college counselor will help since counselors have already reviewed many such resources and are experienced in the process of helping students to apply college applications.


Once the admission criteria is understood, every student must review each of the factors and ensure that he/she not only meets most of the criteria but also exceeds in some of the expected requirements of that college to be a more competitive applicant at that college. For example, if demonstrated interest is important to the college, then it is important to attend campus tours or college admissions event and be in touch with the admissions counselor to show demonstrated interest. Students who take an interest in understanding the admission criteria and take action to meet or exceed the required factors may find more success than students who blindly apply to a college unaware of the college's admission review process.

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