What Are Colleges Looking For? Ask Your College Admissions Counselor!

colleges, admissions, students of color, test preparation,, college counseling, GPA, affirmative action, affluent, impoverished, SAT, ACT

What do colleges expect?

Our college admissions counselors say “What are schools looking for?” is one of their most commonly-asked questions. How do I get into my dream school? What about my safety school? What if I don’t have what it takes to get into college?

College acceptance rates and their corresponding criteria vary from year to year based on a range of metrics including, but not limited to:

  • The pool of applicants and its characteristics
  • A college’s diversity and financial quotas (That’s why it’s important to talk to one of our college counselors early about scholarships.)
  • The number of spaces in specialized programs such as computer science, engineering and nursing

Admissions experts agree: grade-point average (GPA) still functions as the gatekeeper of most reputable four-year universities. Standardized tests are falling out of favor for many. Many elite schools, though, and elite programs at those schools still require the SAT. (Ask one of our admissions consultants about the SAT, like which schools and programs require it, and how can help with SAT test prep.)

The message seems to be “Get good grades and use your application to present your best academic side.” That’s where our college admissions counselors can help.

General Requirements

Consider the following models to identify safety, match and reach colleges:

Affluent Students are expected to exceed expectations in school, 3.8- 4.2+, and on standardized tests, 1350-1550 SAT score, for priority college admission status

  • Most colleges require parents who claim their children as dependents to report their financial information via their previous year’s tax return
  • In certain cases, these families also have alumni connections, which aid a student’s propects for college acceptance
  • Depending on the university, ethnicity, race and/or religious affiliation may sway admission’s departments to meet a diversity quota;albeit, not all colleges have specified “diversity quotas.” Our college admissions consultants can help position you for acceptance by taking advantage of opportunities you may not know about.

Lower Income Students are expected to meet expectations in high school, 3.0-3.7, and on entrance exams, 1100-1300 SAT score. And they probably benefit from subject test prep with our admissions counselors most, to put them over the top and prepare for more rigorous college work.

These students will likely need to secure funding for college admissions through:

  • Public or government grants
  • Military funding or the GI bill
  • Private “need-based” scholarships
  • A student’s ability to pay tends to be more significant here

Students Living at or Below the Poverty Line are expected to “survive.” These students have a larger margin of grace, particularly for college admissions to state schools and certain private schools. Earning a 1000 SAT and a GPA of 2.5+ is a start:

  • Grants and scholarships abound, particularly if a student belongs to a marginalized group
  • A student’s ability to pay is less significant
  • Colleges analyze “growth” on high school report cards; if these students show progress between 9th and 11th grades, universities often wager these students will continue to show promise, grit and determination. College essay help with one of our admissions counselors can help you shape the narrative of your academic trajectory in the most positive light.

Students Who Do Not Meet the Expectations of their peers may have other options:

  • Family alumni and connections
  • Wealth
  • Athletic talent
  • Severely adverse or difficult childhood experiences, trauma or disabilities
  • Strong resume of sports, art, community service, internships, etc.

A student may be an effective learner but still perform poorly because they’re too self-conscious about testing, too. Working with one of our college admissions consultants can help reduce text anxiety and manage time on tests.

For your best chances at college acceptance, our admissions counselors recommend the following:

  • Maintain 3.5+ GPA
  • Strive to perform on college entrance exams
  • Rise to meet college admission standards
  • Secure college funding (FASFA first)
  • Analyze college freshman profiles (GPA, test score and demographic data)
  • Identify safety, match and reach schools. (There’s no shame in attending community college first.)
  • Seek sound college counseling advice and often

University entrance is an uphill trudge no matter who you are, but colleges are well within reach if students and parents know where they stand, have a plan and stick to it.

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