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College Admission Secrets Pt. 2: What Does and Doesn’t Matter on Your College Application

Tue, Dec 22, 2015 @ 12:02 PM

College Admissions SecretsAll Information On Your College Application Is Important, But Some Metrics Are More Valuable Than Others

Do you know what really matters on your college application? Students and parents alike can buy into a lot of misconceptions about what’s ‘most important’ to colleges and how students can work to stand out when applying to their dream school.

In this three-part series, we’re going to bring you some important college admissions secrets that will help families demystify the college application process and better prepare you to gain admission to your top-choice college.

College applications have many components, from the standard transcripts and recommendation letters, to the more nuanced information like how well the applicant knows the school, how he or she compares to other applicants in the same region, and more. There’s a lot of information that students need to provide when applying to college, and while it’s all important, some components don’t carry as much weight and others may actually be more important, than families realize. Here are some college admissions secrets about what information does and doesn’t matter on your college application.

Demonstrated interest serves the colleges more than the applicants.

Enrollment management is a big part of the college admissions process. It’s not just a school’s goal to build a great well-rounded class, but also to ensure that accepted students attend. Colleges want a high yield, or percentage of admitted students who enroll, and admitting students who show a profound interest in the institution is one way to manage that. While demonstrated interest, like visiting and submitting thoughtful, detailed applications, is a great way for students to improve their chances of admission, it’s a tool that, in the end, serves the school’s interests more.

Class rank does not matter as much as you think it does.

For the past few years, the importance of class rank in the college admissions process has been steadily declining. According to NACAC’s annual State of College Admission survey, only 15.2% of colleges rated class rank as of considerable importance. This is a steep decline from ten years ago when 31% of colleges rated it as considerably important. The truth is, while it is something that many colleges will look at, it’s not an impressive metric for admissions officers. Just because a student is number one in his or her class doesn’t mean he or she is automatically more competitive in the applicant pool than someone who was just in the top 15% of his or her class. Students should focus less on where they fall on their class rank list and spend their time achieving and maintaining good grades in challenging courses – which is the most important factor college consider.

Your ability to pay can sometimes be a factor.

Many colleges and universities have need-aware admissions policies, meaning a student’s ability to pay can be taken into consideration when deciding whom to admit. Now, this doesn’t mean that colleges that are need-aware are only going to admit super-rich applicants that can pay the full sticker price. The practice is more nuanced than that and can actually benefit students who may need a significant amount of financial aid. However, it’s important to know that for some students on the cusp, it can help their chances of admission by not applying for financial aid. Admitting students that can pay their full tuition without loans or grants can help colleges with their bottom line and allow them to provide more aid to students who need it. It’s a trade off.

As we said in Part 1, the college admissions process is a complex machine, with many moving parts that are sometimes out of the control of those vying for a spot at a top college. While it’s important to understand how information is used to make admissions decisions and what facets students need to be concerned with, it’s also important to remember that the best thing you can do in this process is be yourself. Plan ahead, make good grades, and make sure you’re applying to colleges that are the best fit for you and your goals.

IvyWise

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