What Do Colleges Look for Besides Grades?

College admissions is not just about GPA anymore..

Throughout the years, a prominent myth developed that admissions officers are interested primarily in a student’s grade point average. The myth tells students that their day-to-day grades on homework, quizzes, and exams is the primary indicator for their admission to the college or university of their choice. If the GPA doesn’t meet a magical standard, set uniquely by each school, you might as well apply elsewhere.

It’s time for that myth to be dispelled.

The reality is that college admissions staff takes a holistic look at everything a potential student has to offer their campus. Grades will certainly play a large role in determining eligibility, but they aren’t necessarily the deciding factor. Many applications are now designed to test how well-rounded each applicant is, allowing them to weigh what the student could potentially offer their university in terms of both academics and extracurricular activities around campus.

Admissions counselors are actively seeking applicants who can shine in a wide variety of areas, including ones that extend beyond the classroom.

For example, many colleges will inquire about volunteer work a student has done over the years. A strong work ethic and a desire to give back to the community says more about the character of a potential student than their grade point average could ever allude to. Volunteer work gives students the opportunity to share their passion with others and to assist in bettering their community in a tangible way.

In a similar vein, admissions officers also want to see plenty of extracurricular activities that supplement academics. Bear in mind that they don’t want to see the lengthiest list possible. Instead, focus time and attention on a few key areas where they can see your strength, talent, and commitment to the activity. If any positions of leadership have been earned, this is a great time to boast about your achievement instead of hiding in the shadows.

Between your time spent in the classroom, volunteering, and participating in extracurricular activities, there is a high likelihood that you made a positive impression on at least a couple of adults. Admissions officers are eager to hear what these people have to say regarding performance, dedication, and character. This is why many schools request letters of recommendation from two to three individuals who can provide an objective, accurate, and hopefully flattering evaluation of your performance with them.

If the application process doesn’t adequately cover your achievements, have no fear. This is where the college essay comes into play. Your essay won’t automatically score you entrance to a school, even if it’s beautifully written. However, it can allow admissions counselors to see a glimpse of who you are as a person apart from your statistics.

The essay is a great place to demonstrate personal growth and achievement from any area of your life, but it’s even better if you can find a way to relate it to your volunteer work or extracurricular activities. This strategy weaves all of your loose ends together and creates a cohesive picture of the ways you’ve grown throughout high school.

Of course, it’s impossible to completely discount the role that your academics play in the admissions process. Apart from your grade point average, colleges also consider two very important pieces of your academic puzzle: test scores and course load.

The first is an unavoidable part of the application process. Whether your school requires the SAT or the ACT, test scores do play a role in determining eligibility for certain schools. The number may vary depending on the college, but almost all of them will take a thorough look at your performance on these two major comprehensive exams.

The second plays a large role in how highly a college will consider your grade point average. Many schools want to see that students took an opportunity to challenge themselves with a rigorous course load. They will want to see your scores for core subjects as well as electives to ensure that you received a well-rounded education throughout high school as well.

For some students, this means taking Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes which will be weighted differently than regular classes. Adding a few of these onto a course load may be a good idea, if you know that your grades won’t suffer with the faster pace and harder material. Others may select honors level courses that allow them to make higher grades and focus on a more well-rounded course load. Either way, colleges are eager to see that students challenge themselves academically over the years.

Clearly, admissions officers are taking all of these various factors into account alongside your grade point average to make a determination regarding admittance. A college admissions counselor can help you to make the most of the details regarding your education for an application that makes a real impact. Hire a college admissions coach today to start preparing your information for the future.

How can a college admissions coach help you to craft a well-rounded college application? See the key considerations all college admissions counselors look at that go beyond a GPA.