What Do Colleges Look For In Applicants?

Trying to impress admission officers and get a ride into the college of your dreams? Well, don’t shoot in the dark! Let’s discuss what colleges look for in applicants.

A college application process can be lengthy but necessary. These institutions want to admit the best possible students, and to do so, they break down admission into two categories.

The first is academics. This includes test scores, grades, GPA, and other factors that show how applied the student is to their studies. The second is personality, which incorporates a wider variety of factors.

Eyes on the prize

In order to have the most stellar application, you must combine both your personality and academic achievements into your submission. Below we will go into detail about what to include and tips and tricks about what colleges look for.

Grades Up

Your academic success is a great starting point for colleges to establish their decision. For instance, colleges are more likely to accept a student who is doing fair in a complex class than a student who has straight As but is taking four electives and simple courses.

Don’t choose the easier classes, so you get to slack off in senior year. Universities want to know that you are challenging yourself with honor classes, AP (Advanced Placement), and IB (International Baccalaureate) courses.

What colleges look for is applied students that are willing to take this challenge head-on. Heavier courseload, demanding lectures, and time-consuming homework assignments might sound exhausting, but they look outstanding in a college application.

Your grade point average, GPA, is also a good measure of how well you do in your classes. At the start of high school, you will most likely not have one. After a certain amount of time into the school year, GPAs will be calculated.

Keep in mind that your GPA travels with you throughout high school, so don’t think that slacking off in a couple of classes in freshman year won’t affect you at the end of senior year, four years later.


Sure, colleges can see your attendance, yet it matters very little to them. More prominent factors play a role in your admission, and you should focus on them.

If you want to learn more about colleges viewing your attendance, check out the article for more information!

Pencils Down

There are also testing scores and how well the student performs on the ACT or SAT. Scores are usually compared with other applicants to determine whether it is a good enough score for the student to be admitted.

A good rule of thumb is to take both the ACT and SAT at least once. After you receive your score, retake the one you did your best in. Don’t be discouraged if your first test isn’t as you wish; to practice, you can always take the PSATs or purchase ACT guides or SAT prep books.

Furthermore, a lot of students don’t do well under pressure or are not good test takers. In this case, you can make it up by having other factors in your application that stand out, such as extracurriculars and volunteering.

Extra Extra

If you are the kind of student that puts the “extra” in front of “ordinary,” then you will have colleges fighting over you! A big chunk of your application can reflect you as a person, which is an important aspect of admission.

Colleges don’t just want book-smart students; they want the best individuals that will improve the school’s overall atmosphere. Mentioning clubs, sports, and anything you spent your time on outside of class time can speak volumes about you.

Are you the kid that played video games all day after class? I think that can be an advantage. Maybe you started a gaming club in which school or competed for state titles. Whatever you do, make sure it impresses.

You can also talk about sports if you play any. Did your soccer team make it to the state finals? Or the volleyball team got their first district win since 2017? Mention it! Do your best to cover all aspects of your life and understand what admission officers are looking for in applied individuals, regardless of what they devote themselves to. 

Don’t forget to mention if you have taken any leadership or initiative role in any club or team—universities value leaders who can put their best face on and do what others won’t.

Recommend Me

The majority of universities ask applicants to submit a letter of recommendation. But why? Because there are plenty of qualities that others, especially teachers and coaches, see in us.

These letters can reflect your best soft skills and give them a better look into your personality through the eyes of someone who has coexisted alongside you for some time.

Furthermore, teachers can mention your academic skills, note improvement throughout the school year, your commitment to the work, and your overall performance inside the classroom.

Depending on how many letters you are allowed to submit, spread the love. Teachers can give plenty of academic insight, but coaches, mentors, counselors, and club sponsors can talk more about your personality aspects.

Remember to ask politely and, most importantly, in advance. These individuals take time off their day to write about you and to shine a light on your best features. Be sure to thank them and remind them of deadlines if you have any.

Writing Right

A well-thought-out college essay can allow admission officers to learn about you from your perspective. Though they like knowing what others around you, such as teachers and coaches, have to say, they also value your opinion.

This gives you a lot of freedom to explore what you want to talk about. You can provide insight into your goals, morals, values, and personality with just a page or two about yourself.

Take this as an opportunity to tell the admission officers why you are a good candidate and should attend their school. But be cautious, and avoid the five flaws found in most college application essays.

It is also essential to know whether college essays can be informal, what prompt to choose from, and a variety of other factors. You may also be wondering, “Can I Write My College Essay About Anything?” Don’t worry; I have other articles to help you through the essay-writing process.

School Spirit

One thing that colleges look for, and applicants tend to look over, is spirit. They receive so many applications, and they know you have also applied to other schools. Therefore, you should show interest and enthusiasm to attend their institution.

There are various ways to do this. Start by touring the campus, signing up for their email list, and scheduling an interview. You may also attend events, follow their social media and try speaking to an admission counselor.

Colleges also highly value Alumni; therefore, in the application process, there should be a field that asks you if any of your parents, siblings, or family members have graduated from the college. If so, select yes, as this can increase your chances of admission.

Different Similarities

Colleges highly value having a diverse campus. There is a lot that makes a campus diverse, from gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, and even age.

What colleges look for is to bring together people from different cultures, religions, interests, backgrounds, and income levels so they may prosper and learn from one another. So never feel afraid to share any of these things with a potential future college.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, your college application is made up of various different factors and bits and pieces that come together to form the bigger picture. Everything from good grades, a high test score, and after-school activities come together to show who you are.

What colleges look for are students whose dedication and experiences will add to their school. At the end of the day, remember to be yourself and work hard to get where you want to be.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *