One of the most common questions that college counselors are asked is “How do I get accepted by a particular University?” Well each college or University in the USA will have their own peculiarities in what they are looking for, but there are some things that are common across just about all of them.
If you look on the websites you will often find something about how they make their admissions decisions, schools may rank them differently in order of importance but below are some of the key qualities that colleges and universities will look for in your application.
1. Ability to excel in classes.
It’s common knowledge that colleges and universities want students to have a high-Grade Point Average (GPA). Above all, admissions officers want to select students who will succeed in college.
Good grades in high school are one indicator that students are likely to flourish in college as well.
As part of your application, you will need to ask your school for your transcript, this is a breakdown of your grades from Grade 9 onwards. If your grades were not as high as they could have been back in Grade 9 it is not the end of the world, colleges look kindly on students who show an upward curve in their grades and finish strong.
2. Willingness to take on a challenging course load.
Colleges and universities will also consider the strength of your curriculum.
The more selective schools, especially, prefer candidates who have taken the most challenging courses available to them as they believe that a student who seeks to challenge themselves in high school will likely continue to succeed in college.
This can be a challenge for international students who may not have access to the most demanding curriculums such as AP’s or the IBDP, however, there is a way that you can present a better picture in your admission.
Many international students will elect to sit AP exams in addition to there school exams, AP’s are recognized as being a strong pre-college course and so your efforts will be recognized as you demonstrate a strong work ethic and commitment to academic study.
3. Commitment to extracurricular activities.
An extensive laundry list of activities is not as impressive as a long-term, deep commitment to a few activities of high interest to you as colleges and universities will be looking to see if you demonstrate a strong commitment.
Try to take on just a few extracurricular activities for a long period of time and to spend several hours a week on each of these activities.
Another quality you can demonstrate through your extracurricular involvement is leadership.
· For example, are you a captain of a sports team?
· Have you started a new club linked to one of your interests?
· Do you hold a position of authority in your school, and what have you achieved with it?
· Are you a mentor for disadvantaged or younger students?
Keep in mind that colleges and universities are also communities seeking to select students who will enrich the overall campus culture. Ideally, these students will be passionate leaders who will make a positive contribution to the campus.
5. Respected and admired by teachers and other adults.
This is where letters of recommendation come into the picture.
Not all schools require letters of recommendation, but many want letters from teachers, guidance counselors, coaches, or even the principal of your school.
Through these letters, colleges are looking for an honest portrayal of your abilities and personality. they will show schools whether you are a leader in class, polite to teachers and students alike, someone who demonstrates the strength of character, integrity, etc.
If you are able to choose who writes your letters of recommendation, you should select:
· Teachers who teach the subject you are most interested in (the subject you plan to major in during college, the subject area that most of your extracurricular activities are focused on, etc.)
· Teachers who teach a class that you particularly excel in
· Teachers who have taught you for a long time or with whom you have developed a strong relationship
The better a teacher knows and likes your student, the better the letter of recommendation will be.
It’s also great if the teacher is likely to have specific anecdotes or examples of you being a good person, a hard-working student, or a leader.
6. A good personality and/or excellent character.
The college admissions essay; also called a personal statement, is your chance to show admissions officers your personality. It presents you with the opportunity to reveal more about your passions, character, ideas, views on life, etc.
A well-written essay that gives admissions officers a positive impression of you can be the deciding factor in admission to the school.
A poorly written essay or one that reflects poorly on you can do just the opposite.
7. A genuine interest in the college or university.
Demonstrating a genuine interest in the school can work in your favor, particularly at the most selective colleges.
There are many ways in which you can demonstrate an interest in a college or university.
· Sign up for the newsletter – and read them, colleges can track if the email is opened or not.
· Do an online virtual tour of colleges and universities you are interested in. This is particularly important for international students who may well find it more difficult to visit in person.
· Attend any webinars being run by the admissions team.
· Talk to any college representatives who are visiting your school, make sure you ask them questions about things that are not already on the institution’s website.
· Requesting an interview by an alumni or a member of the admissions team if they are available.
· Applying early decision can also be an advantage. Applying early decision demonstrates that an institution is your first choice.
8. A willingness to serve others.
We mentioned earlier that colleges look for students who will make positive contributions to the school.
Another way to demonstrate this quality is through a willingness to serve others.
· Community service hours and a passion for helping the community can be a big “plus” for you, and a bonus on your application.
· Colleges want to know that you care about positively impacting the people, communities, and the world around you, particularly those who may be less fortunate than you.
This is a sign that you will be a good influence on campus and you will use your education to make a difference in the future.
If you can demonstrate the majority of the qualities that colleges look for in a student, you should have a strong chance of admittance to even the most selective of schools.