Guide to the College Admissions Process

Understanding the selective college admissions process

Admissions officers review and make decisions on hundreds, sometimes thousands, of applications in a short period of time. They are under enormous pressure to assess the applicant pool in order to produce the best class and the best campus community possible. How you apply, when you apply, and what you say can all impact whether you receive an acceptance or a denial. What factors in to the increasingly selective college application process?

What Matters Most

A student’s record in and outside the high school classroom demonstrates to an admissions officer the kind of contributions he or she will make at the college level. Colleges are looking for candidates who perform consistently well or show a record of improvement in rigorous or college-prep courses. This means the right coursework, good grades, and activities that have a positive impact should be a continuous focus throughout high school.

Attention to Detail in the College Application

Admissions officers learn very quickly how to glean, within moments of opening an application folder, whether or not a student has a shot. That makes the applicant’s quick and direct articulation of her merits essential. Attention to detail counts — the benefits of a well-written essay or a stellar interview can easily be negated by careless application mistakes such as exceeding word counts, overlooking required questions, or not answering the question. Bottom line? Pay attention. For students applying to multiple schools, we have compiled some Common Application tips.

Impacts of the Internet

No doubt, technology has changed the application process — mostly for the better. Online applications submitted with the touch of a button or “common applications” filled out once and sent to multiple institutions have made it easier than ever to get organized and to apply to colleges efficiently. But technological bells and whistles can have a downside. Misuse of social media or improper video and web submissions of college applications can be disastrous. Poor choices in any of these areas could mean ending up in the deny pile.

College Application Timing & Money

Not all college admissions factors are connected to an applicant’s record. When a student applies — Priority Admission, Early Action, Early Decision 1, Early Decision 2, Regular Decision, or Rolling Admission — can impact admission. Finances — some schools consider a student’s need for financial aid while others are so-called “need blind” — can also factor in. Overall trends in admissions as well as an individual school’s particular demographics and institutional priorities also impact the process.

While some of the above elements are beyond an applicant’s control, a shrewd candidate will consider them all in an application strategy. In fact, a successful application process involves much more than just deadlines and essays. It’s about understanding all of the mitigating factors and then planning, strategizing, and knowing which schools and application pools will maximize your chances for acceptance.

At College Coach, every one of our college admissions experts has worked in an admissions office, reading, assessing, and deciding upon thousands of applications before joining our team. We know the process, we know what’s required — some of us have even written the essay questions you might be answering — and we know how it works. Simply put: we’re here to help.

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