M.L. of Dix Hills, NY writes:

In order of importance, what are college admissions officers really looking for?

The College Whisperer responds:

Show me ten college admissions officers, and I'll show you ten different rankings of the criteria they use to determine the quality of a student's record.

The black and white of GPAs and SAT/ACT scores sometimes yield to the shades of gray (or, with the help of your College Connection counselor, the veritable rainbow) of the personal statement, supplemental essays, high school resume (that formal extension of the all-important "brag sheet"), and, where offered or required, the personal interview.

This said, there are certain criteria that all admissions officers look for, and we'll give you most of them -- though the order will vary, depending upon the college and the officer.

A Top Ten list, of sorts, from our friends at the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA).

Here's what a survey of IEAC member consultants say college admission officers are looking for in prospective students:

1. A rigorous high school curriculum that challenges the student and may include AP or IB classes.

2. Grades that represent strong effort and an upward trend. However, slightly lower grades in a rigorous program are
preferred to all As in less challenging coursework.

3. Solid scores on standardized tests (SAT, ACT). These should be consistent with high school performance.

4. Passionate involvement in a few activities, demonstrating leadership and initiative. Depth, not breadth, of experience is
most important.

5. Letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselor that give evidence of integrity, special skills, positive character traits, and an interest in learning.

6. A well-written essay that provides insight into the student’s unique personality, values, and goals. The application essay should be thoughtful and highly personal. It should demonstrate careful and well-constructed writing.

7. Special talents or experiences that will contribute to an interesting and well-rounded student body.

8. Demonstrated leadership in activities. Colleges want people who will arrive prepared and willing to take leadership of student activities and events.

9. Demonstrated intellectual curiosity through reading, school, leisure pursuits, and more.

10. Demonstrated enthusiasm to attend, often exhibited by campus visits and an interview, showing an interest toward attending the college.

The list is, by no means, all inclusive, and different schools may look for different attributes, dependent upon the colleges' needs, mission statement, recruitment objectives, and so on.

This Top Ten list is, however, a great starting point for college-bound high school students. Consult your college planning counselor to take the next step.

Plan. Prepare. Prevail!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer.
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