What Is the Most Important Factor in Your College Application?

Like places in a race, is there a most important factor in college applications?

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There is a lot of pressure put on various things that go into an application, but which is the most important factor? GPA? Test scores? Class rank? Academic honors? Work experience? Extracurricular?

What is the most important factor?

The truth is: all of them.

Not as cut and dry as you hoped? Some students want to discover which is “most important” and then put all of their effort into improving that one element, when the reality is that all of them are important. Because all of them combine to form the full picture of you as a student. You aren’t just your ACT/SAT test scores, after all—maybe you have an impressive GPA but just don’t test well. Maybe you’re incredibly dedicated to your baseball team, but your class rank isn’t the most impressive.

What colleges want to see from you

Colleges want to see you as a whole. Many high school students consider grades and scores and tests to be the determining factor, but if that were truly the case, why would a college ask you to write an essay about your childhood hero, or about a time you were challenged and you overcame the obstacle? Why would they set aside a section for the extracurricular activities you’ve participated in over the years?

Depending on the specific college, more weight might be put on one element over the others—most commonly admissions officers site the GPA and academic rigor being the biggest (though certainly far from only) factor, but that may not be the case everywhere. And even if one factor is held in slightly higher regard, it doesn’t mean the others aren’t important.

Long story short: everything in a college app is important, so put effort into all of them.

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