What’s Working Right Now For College Admissions 🌟

Best PracticesNow that this year’s college admission’s cycle is winding down and most students have received their acceptances, we always go back and review student files of students we have worked with the past year to study trends and patterns to figure out what’s currently working—not what worked last year, or five years ago, but what is currently working today…because the college admissions formula is a constantly moving target.

And we want to pass onto you some foundational principles and strategies for what we have found that is working today to help you in your educational journey, with hopes of helping you earn an acceptance to your desired university.


Below is What is Working Today for College Admissions:

1) GRADES —The #1 factor that time and time again helps to propel students into their desired university is high grades. Keep in mind that the universities many students are applying to are first and foremost “academic institutions”. Therefore, grades matter—and a LOT.

Earning high grades shows admission officers the student is serious, that he/she has the capability and talent to perform well in coursework, has put in the time and effort, and is able to remove distractions, focus, discipline him/herself and consistently earn high grades in coursework.

Trends in academic success2) TRENDS IN ACADEMIC SUCCESS — College admission officers also look at trends of your academic success, and if there is an attractive upward trend, or if there is an inevitable decline in academic performance. Admission officers want to see great promise and potential in a student, and this is reflected in a student’s continued ability to perform well in coursework over the duration of the high school years.

Students who continually push themselves to become more serious, dedicated, and focused during their high school years, and this is reflected in the performance of their course grades, will have a stronger college application. Therefore, students should understand that trends matter, and their promise and potential as a college applicant is reflected in their ongoing academic performance during their high school years.

3) STRENGTH OF COURSE PLANNING —The strength of a student’s course selection is given considerable weight in the college admissions review process. Remember, courses are not always equal. There are different “levels” of academic rigor in coursework in many instances. For example, there are “regular” courses, “honor’s” courses, and “AP courses” or “IB courses”.

If a student earns an “A” in a regular course in comparison to a student who earned an “A” in an honors or AP course in the same subject, obviously the admissions officer is going to look more favorably on the student who took the harder course.

For proper course planning, students should first keep health and well-being at the forefront of all decisions, and then only push themselves to the best of their abilities understanding that earning respectable grades in more rigorous coursework is preferred at the more selective universities.

Extracurricular activities4) EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES —Extracurricular activities continue to be the “secret weapon” of many college applicants as students are participating in clubs, organizations, and service-based programs. But it is not so much that students are in these clubs, organizations, and service-based programs. What really matters is what students are actually doing—what are they accomplishing in these enrichment opportunities?

Having rich, deep, and meaningful contributions is important when it comes to extracurricular involvement. A student’s growth and development, and ability to have significant results, and can preferably support this with metrics of some sort, is what college admission officers are looking for.

Additionally, if a student can showcase his/her results in a bigger and broader way, making more of an impact,with regional, state, or national success, a student’s application can carry more weight in the college admissions review process.

5) LEADERSHIP— This is important, especially with the more selective universities. Leadership is defined in many ways, of course. “Top tier” leadership, including president, founder, chairperson, and captain is oftentimes associated with “top tier” universities.

Other roles of leadership include board member and cabinet positions, or being a lead intern, or lead volunteer in a club or organization. Finding leadership positions in some way, is important for the growth and development of a student, and it also looks great on college applications.

Let’s ask you a hypothetical question. If you created a university, would you want to admit “leaders” or “followers”? This is the same mindset of college admission officers.

Being a leader is a more coveted role that is more attractive to college admission officers.

Good character6) GOOD CHARACTER —College admission officers desire students with good character. They want students with integrityhigh morals and ethics, and who are positive, contributing members to their high school, and community.

College admission officers have a vested interest to attract the best and brightest students for their next entering class, and who have been raised on good ol’ fashioned values of hard work, being kind and nice to others, and who are honorable individuals.

This matters — and a LOT.

How are college admission officers going to assess the character of a student? This will be reflected in teacher evaluations, counselor reports, and through reading student applications, and essays. A student’s character will be brought to light, and this can either support or negatively affect the application review process.

The bottom line is being of good character is an important ingredient in the formula for a successful college applicant.

Cultural richness7) CULTURAL RICHNESS — Cultural richness is important because admission officers want students who have an inclusive and tolerant mindset, and who embrace diversity, and the many unique differences within our society. Universities are a melting pot of curious and intellectually engaged students who come from differing backgrounds, perspectives, and ideologies.

Therefore, it is important that students are culturally sensitive and “play well with others,” especially students who are quite different than they are. Students who are understandingopen-mindedcompassionate, and respectful will be received favorably in the admissions process.

8) ESSAYS—Essays are crucial in the admissions process and can “make or break” a college application. College admission officers are looking for students to “tell their story and bring an authenticinsightful voice to their essays. They want to learn who the student is, what drives and propels them to do the things they do, and what accomplishments they have made, along with the positive impact they have made in their high school, surrounding community, and world.

Being “metric driven” can be helpful as quantifiable data to support the “things” students have done add more validity, credibility, and impact to their story. Awardshonorsfigures for how many people students have positively impacted, or money they have raised through a fundraiser, for instance, can add considerable weight to a college application.

College Admissions9) COMPELLING HOOKS —Lastly, compelling hooks that are differentunique, and “wow” always add flavor and texture to a student’s application. These can fall into so many different categories from amazing research publications to high-value internship opportunities, to summer immersion experiences, to students writing books, developing a podcast show, or being featured on a radio or tv show, for instance.

Students are doing so many interesting, cool, and neat things these days, and admission officers want to see vibrancy, impact, authenticity, and a student being the best “YOU” that he/she can be, while “bettering the world” in some amazing way.

We hope we have given you some context and perspective for what is working “today” for college admissions.

The bottom line is college admission officers are looking for vibrantgrowth-mindedcurious, and passionate students to fill their next entering class. And they are looking for action takers, who have initiative and forethought, and have proven to do interesting, unique, and impactful things to better themselves, while creating positive change in the world!

To Your Success,

Drs. Jeff and Brian Haig