HOW COLLEGES MAKE ADMISSIONS DECISIONS
Objective Criteria in Admissions Decisions
*Academic Courses in Grades 9-11: Advanced courses (Honors and AP) count more. What
courses does your high school offer? What is the level of difficulty of the courses you have
*Overall and Relative Performance: What is your GPA (Grade Point Average)? What are your
grades in your most challenging courses? What is your relative standing compared to other
students in your class (class rank)?
*Senior Courses in Progress: Have you continued to challenge yourself in your senior year?
Are you taking additional courses in science, math, and/or foreign language? Senior year
courses may be used as a “tie-breaker” between comparative applicants!
*Test Scores: Test scores (SAT and/or ACT) usually count for about 10-15% of the admissions
decision. Usually, your best section scores will be combined to compute your highest total score.
Some schools require SAT Subject Tests – be sure to check with the admissions office of the
schools to which you are applying.
*Volume of Applications the College Receives: Is the college selective? How and when do
they select their class? Do they use early decision, early action, regular decision, rolling
admission, deferred admission, or waiting lists? Do you meet the profile of previous applicants
who were admitted? Be careful of binding application decisions!
Subjective Criteria in Admissions Decisions
*Extra-Curricular Activities: What do you do when you are not in class? Depth of
involvement – quality vs. quantity in school activities, church, community/volunteer work, part-
time work, travel, summer enrichment programs.
*Essays: Required or suggested? Either way, DO THE ESSAYS! Stick to the topic and length
requirements. Write the essay yourself, but do have other people help you edit and proofread.
*Recommendations: Follow instructions for the format of the recommendations. Choose
someone who knows you and your skills/abilities, not someone intended to impress the school.
Give the writer plenty of time to prepare with clear instructions, and provide an addressed,
stamped envelope if the letter is to be mailed directly to the school. Follow up with a thank you
letter to the recommender!
*Interviews and Campus Visits: Interviews may be required for some scholarships or
admission into some programs. Prepare carefully! Do your homework before you go, have a list
of questions you want to ask, people you would like to speak with, and facilities you would like
to see. Always fill out a survey card at the end of your visit.