The list of important factors that can affect your college acceptance odds is LONG. Though there are many commonalities between schools, not all colleges factor them into your acceptance odds the same way. For example, your choice of major may affect your acceptance odds at a few schools but it won’t have any impact on your acceptance at other schools.
In general, these are some of the main factors that could affect your odds of getting accepted in a college:
Academics and Rigor
It’s no surprise that GPA (here are some tips on how to improve your GPA) plays a big role in your college application, but another big factor is academic rigor—or how difficult your classes were. Just taking the standard core classes won’t exactly impress (even if you get good grades). Add a few AP or dual-credit classes into your schedule. Even if you get a few B’s, you’ll have increased your rigor, which colleges love.
ACT / SAT Test scores
Another no-brainer element: the ACT and / or SAT. No matter which you take (colleges don’t actually prefer SAT or ACT scores over the other) higher test scores will increase your acceptance odds. Not only that, but ACT / SAT scores can also qualify you for scholarships and certain forms of financial aid. So study up.
Choosing one or multiple ways to demonstrate interest in a college can increase your acceptance odds significantly. Colleges want to know you really want to attend, after all. So visit the colleges on your list, opt for an interview, follow them on social media, and keep up a steady stream of communication with them. They do check, and it does matter.
You’re more than your grades, and colleges know that. They want to know what you’re interested in, what you’ve participated in, and what you’ve dedicated yourself to. Colleges prefer to see one or two extracurricular activities you’ve really put a lot of time and effort into, as opposed to many extracurricular activities that you’ve only been lightly involved in. It could be a sport, a club, a hobby, a community activity, or more!
Showing a steady commitment to the field of your chosen major shows that you have explored it thoroughly and are making an informed choice, which is a huge plus point. For example, if you’re planning on becoming an English major and took a bunch of extra English or writing classes, colleges will be more likely to accept you into the program. However, there are pros and cons to declaring your major on your app.
Letters of recommendation
Glowing letters of recommendation from a high school teacher or coach can give your application the edge over other applicants. These letters are often overlooked, or ignored entirely if they’re optional, but can be a helpful boost.
Writing a strong personal essay is your best chance of impressing the admissions committing and swinging the decision in your favor. This is your time to shine, to show them just who you are. Depending on the prompt you’re given, you could write about a challenge you overcame, a lesson learned from failure, an unexpected life event, a cause that really matters to you, or any other number of creative things.
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