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3 min read

What College Admission Decision Makers Are Really Looking For

What College Admission Decision Makers Are Really Looking For

There are so many things that can make you stand out when applying to colleges. This begs the question: what are the primary attributes to help you stand out from the competition? Thankfully we have a fun exercise to help educate you on what college admission decision makers truly value. 

We sat down with Peter Van Buskirk, former dean of admission with over 25 years of experience, to show you what behind the scenes of college admissions looks like. This interactive webinar contains a wealth of information that helps paint the picture of what college admission offices consider when sorting through applicants!

You can read this blog post for the gist, or watch the full event replay.

Putting on the Shoes of College Admission Professionals

With Peter as our guide, we are immersed in a fictional admission process while sorting through theoretical, potential students trying to get into “Easton University.” Easton is a fake, private, co-ed, liberal arts, NCAA Division III college located in North Carolina. Before sorting through which applicants we are offering acceptance to, Peter educates us on the ins and outs of the admissions process.

What College Admission Decision Makers are Really Looking For - Easton University

 

Setting the Stage

Peter introduces us to “The Pyramid of Selectivity,” a framework that dissects the various labels colleges use to describe themselves, ranging from "Most Highly Selective" to "Highly Selective," "Selective," and "Somewhat Selective." 

What College Admission Decision Makers are Really Looking For - The Pyramid of Selectivity Framework

Regardless of where a college stands on this pyramid, the paramount focus should be on finding the right fit for yourself. The ideal institution for you is one that truly appreciates your unique qualities and values what you bring to the table. It's crucial to consider your position on the competitive spectrum, whether you're closer to PBK (Pi Beta Kappa, Dean's list/Honor roll) or JGB (Just Getting By). This self-awareness aids in setting realistic expectations during the college application process. 

 

Peter strongly advises targeting schools where you occupy the upper half of the playing field, ensuring a better chance of success and compatibility.

 

There's the Agenda... And Then the Hidden Agenda

In the world of college admissions, there are two distinct agendas at play. 

The first is the overt agenda, where colleges seek out students who possess qualities such as brightness, motivation, high achievement, diversity, and a spirit of giving. This diversity encompasses not only ethnicity and race but also diversity of thought, emphasizing the importance of a well-rounded student body. Each applicant's unique gifts and talents are carefully scrutinized, as decision-makers aim to understand how these attributes could positively impact the school and campus community.

However, lurking beneath this surface lies the hidden agenda. It revolves around financial considerations, the likelihood of an applicant actually enrolling if accepted, and the notorious SAT score. Colleges are acutely aware of the return on investment they can expect from students based on their financial status, which plays a pivotal role in the admissions process. Furthermore, the chances of an applicant actually committing to a college after acceptance are evaluated, emphasizing the importance of building meaningful relationships with the institution of choice. These relationships demonstrate the alignment of the student's goals and sense of purpose with the college's ability to fulfill them.

The SAT and ACT, standardized tests, loom as a crucial factor in the equation. They serve as a tool for decision-makers to gauge a student's potential for success in their first year of college. Colleges are cautious about admitting students who may lack the motivation and resilience necessary for success, making an impressive SAT score a valuable asset in the application process. Peter advises applicants to try both tests to determine which one best showcases their value and knowledge. Furthermore, Peter recommends taking each test at least three times, as studies suggest that students tend to improve their scores with each attempt. This comprehensive approach to college admissions illustrates the multifaceted nature of the process and the strategies students can employ to maximize their chances of acceptance.

Keep in mind, it is your choice what you submit to colleges. You get to decide what they see and when!

 

The Final Decision

The college admissions process is complex and multifaceted, with numerous factors that can set you apart from the competition. It's natural to wonder which attributes are the most crucial in this highly competitive landscape. Fortunately, through this event, you now have an engaging exercise that can provide valuable insights into what truly matters to college admission decision-makers. Armed with this new knowledge, you can embark on your college application journey with confidence and a clearer sense of how to stand out in the eyes of admission committees. 

Key Takeaways: 

  • The right college for you will value what you have to offer, so focus on the right fit for you.
  • It is your choice what you submit to college admissions. Everyone’s application is different!
  • Understanding where you fall in the competitive playing field will help you set better expectations when applying.


Be sure to check out the recorded event to see who makes it into Easton and why!

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