More than a few years ago, James Miller, then Dean of Admissions at Brown University, told a group of alumni a story that sheds a lot of light on the admissions process. As Dean Miller’s daughter was applying to college, she asked her dad for help with her college applications. Even after he gave her his best tips, she responded that her friend Jenny had different – and seemingly better – advice.
Do They Even Read Them?
We all have an opinion about what the admissions committees want and how they will admit (or deny) our kids. You know they don’t read these college applications….right? They throw them down a hallway and the ones that lean against the wall get admitted… they put them in water… they admit every 10th file they receive.
Kidding aside, many people think the selection process really is nearly as arbitrary. The college application process is anything but random. Here are the top factors colleges consider when evaluating college applications, according to the National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) 2014 survey. They are ranked in order of importance.
NACAC Top Factors
- Grades in college prep courses (79.2%)
- Grades in all courses (60.3)
- Strength of curriculum (60.2)
- Admissions test scores (55.7)
- Essay or writing sample (22.1)
- Counselor recommendation (17.3)
- Student’s demonstrated interest (16.9)
- Teacher recommendation (15.2)
- Class rank (14.0)
- Subject Test Scores (7.0)
- Portfolio (6.6)
- Extracurricular activities (5.6)
- SAT II Scores (5.3)
- Interview (3.5)
- State graduation exam scores (3.5)
- Employment (0.9)
Of course, the real issue is that these categories are not cut and dry. A student may have a perfect report card…but it comes from a school with a weak curriculum yet with numerous AP courses in which the student scored 3 or below. And therein lies the confusion.
After years of work in admissions, as a college consultant and CEO of AdmissionsCheckup.com, a startup that lets students test drive their college applications with former admissions officers, I can attest to the fact that while admissions is not random, there is no perfect application.
A Dry Run
Students can get a sense of their college applications’ relative strengths or weakness by using a service such as AdmissionsCheckup. Have former admissions officers tell you how to mitigate the “negative” aspects of your application, and play up the positive.
One thing is clear– it is better than asking “Jenny.”
Photo Credit: Squaredpixels