Admissions Factors

From surveys conducted over the past decade by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), the top factors in college admission decisions are the student's:

Grades in college prep courses
Rigor of high school classes

Factors of varying significance are:

Standardized test scores
Essays or writing samples
High school recommendations
Interest in the college or university
Extracurricular activities.

Student development and maturation do matter. While a student's high school grades are important, they are also indicators of improvements in his or her ability to handle academics in successive years. The high school transcript can attest to both an upward trend of grades and curriculum rigor. A teacher's job is not only to convey the course material but also to take the student to a higher level of performance. Letters of recommendation substantiating a student's intellectual promise speak volumes about study habits, time management skills, motivation, and perseverance in meeting challenges, for these are characteristics that will get one through college.

To say the least, standardized testing is controversial. In Asia, standardized testing determines eligibility for specific universities, which then feed their graduates into defined categories of employment. In the United States, standardized test scores do not have this same level of influence on admission decisions.

CollegesGPS takes the position that standardized test scores by themselves are not necessarily indicative of academic ability. But as part of a college application, standardized test scores provide statistical reference points of timed performance. Significant disparities between a student's test scores and high school transcript require explanation. Essays provide opportunities to not only reveal why college is the next step, but also why a particular college is of interest to the applicant. Context and motivation can mean everything.