What Do Colleges Prefer?
The Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) polled its members to find out what colleges are most interested in regarding potential students. IECA members are in a good position to answer this question as they visit many colleges each year and are in frequent contact with admissions officers.
Top Twelve Strengths and Experiences Colleges Look For in High School Students
- A rigorous high school curriculum that challenges the student and may include AP or IB classes.
Grades that represent strong effort and an upward trend. However, slightly lower grades in a rigorous program are preferred to all A’s in less challenging coursework.
- Solid scores on standardized tests (SAT, ACT). These should be consistent with high school performance.
- A well-written essay that provides insight into the student’s unique personality, values, and goals. The application essay should be thoughtful and highly personal. It should demonstrate careful and well-constructed writing.
- Passionate involvement in a few activities, in or out of school. Commitment and depth are valued over minimal involvement in a large number of activities.
- Demonstrated leadership in activities. Students who arrive on campus prepared to lead clubs and activities are highly desirable.
- Personal characteristics that will contribute to a diverse and interesting student body. Many College seek to develop a freshman class that is diverse: geographically, culturally, ethnically, economically, and politically.
- Demonstrated intellectual curiosity through reading, school, leisure pursuits, and more.
- Demonstrated enthusiasm to attend, often exhibited by campus visits and an interview, showing an interest toward attending the college.
- Letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselor that give evidence of integrity, special skills, positive character traits, and an interest in learning.
- Special talents or experiences that will contribute to the college’s student life.
- Out of school experiences including work, community service, youth organizations, religious groups, etc. Again, passionate involvement is meaningful to the admissions office; casual memberships are not.