What Admission Officers Look For


Your transcript reflects more than just your grades; admission officers want to see that you have challenged yourself with the coursework you have selected. Did you pick a curriculum that will prepare you for college? Did you take AP level classes if they were available? Colleges want students who have pushed themselves, and this drive will be obvious through a student’s transcript.

Test Scores

While some colleges are opting out of requiring standardized test scores, more selective schools are continuing to use them to compare students against one another. Start planning early in your high school career by taking practice exams. Since students can take these tests multiple times, start preparing as early as your sophomore year. Don’t feel like it is too late for you if you didn’t start preparing early. There are plenty of viable options for ACT and SAT prep that are available online and at the library.

Tell YOUR story

Before writing a college essay full of fluff that you think admission officers want to read, consider something real and interesting in your life. You don’t need to save lives or want to solve the deep issues of the world in order to appeal to colleges. In fact, most admission officers are tired of hearing these often dramatic essays. Dig deep within yourself and write an essay that is real rather than trying to write something that you think someone wants to read. Was there something specific in your life that lead you to your current college goals? Colleges want to hear about your real perspective.

Appeal to your specific school

Admission officers are there to weed out the best students for THEIR schools. They know you are most likely applying to many colleges, but you don’t need to make that obvious when writing your essay and application. Colleges want students who really want them in return. When you are explaining why you want to go to the specific school, make sure to gear each essay toward that school and its strengths in your plan for college and future success. You don’t want to talk about your desire to attend that school for a specific program if they don’t have it. Do your research about the school and it will show in your writing.

The best recommendation

Many colleges require letters of recommendation with applications. If you are required to do so, or just want to in order to make a bigger impact, make sure you are choosing teachers who know you well. Choose educators who have influenced your high school experience, your college goals and those who know your strengths. Ask teachers who are truly your biggest fans. Give teachers plenty of time in advance, since a thoughtful recommendation letter will go farther than something that is rushed and forced. If a teacher is hesitant when you ask, you may want to reconsider having them write a recommendation letter for you. Maybe they are too busy or don’t feel like they are the right person for the job.

Quality over quantity

A last minute ditch to add clubs and extracurricular activities to your senior year will be apparent to admission officers. Having a deeper focus on less activities over a longer period of time will show more commitment and passion on your end. Participant in clubs and activities that you want to be involved with over something that you think will look good on your application. Admission officers are looking for a true commitment from students because that will most likely reflect on their future success at that college.

Use social media to your advantage

With the increase in social media, admissions officers will use networking sites as a way to really get to know you. When you are adding photos and posts, consider if it’s something you want to be public. If you are posting things online it’s no longer private and fair game for officers to use in their decision process. Use social media to your advantage. If you have a passion, use your social media accounts to connect with others who work in the field you are passionate about or write a blog to share your passion with others. Admission officers will take notice.

While there is not a set checklist to ensure your acceptance to your top college(s), students should be thoughtful in the application process. Admission officers are looking at thousands (or more) essays and letters each year. Try to stand out in a way that offers your own unique perspective because that is most likely what they want to learn about.


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