The Many Factors of Successful College Admissions

by Neil Chyten

Is your child applying to college this year? Or, will your child’s college journey begin next year or the year after? In either case, following a predetermined plan will always have a better outcome than going about it in haphazard or random fashion. 

Over the years, I have worked with many families who have waited until the last minute to engage in the college search and admission process. One mistake many of these families make is that they expect their school’s guidance counselor to lead the way. As well intentioned as school counselors are, they simply do not have the time to provide students with the instruction they need to take full advantage of all their hard work of the past 12 years. In that respect, the college admission process is like a bottleneck.  Get it right and your child will find a college that matches his goals, desires, hopes, and dreams. Otherwise, your child may miss out on the opportunity to attend the best possible college for his/her future. 

There are many factors that go into a successful college admission plan.  It starts with an understanding of what your child hopes to achieve at college, and maybe even in life. Add to that variable factors such as environment, location, campus culture, choice of majors, university or liberal arts, class size, accessibility of professors, reputation, opportunities for internships, financial aid, and so many more.

In order to have an effective college admission plan, you must first evaluate your child’s starting point and priorities, and then sprinkle in test scores, levels of courses, grades, and high school index. The goal is to provide each college with a reason to want to select your child. To do so, you must convince the admission committee that your child will make a positive contribution both to the college’s campus and its culture. Colleges don’t like to make mistakes, so you must convince them that selecting your child is a good, safe, and advisable thing to do.

There are those who say that college admission is an art form. We respectfully disagree. College admission is a science, and though imperfect, it can be predicted and enhanced. For example, how is it possible that a student could be accepted at Harvard and MIT, and rejected by the University of Chicago and Stanford? How could it be that a student with a 3.9 unweighted GPA, 1550 SAT, and six AP courses along with six 5’s on the AP exams is rejected by all eight Ivy League colleges? How could it be that a student with a TOEFL score just over 100 gets rejected by Carlton and Smith, but accepted by Harvard?

The answer is that college admissions is a lot like a Rubik’s cube; spin all the dials correctly and you can successfully navigate through the ocean of numbers, tests, extracurricular activities, recommendations, interviews, demonstrated interest factors, scholarships, and essays. But then again, one wrong move can cause your colors to mix. College admission is a science that requires a scientific approach.  

In all, there are 20 factors that determine where you will be accepted. These include some obvious ones such as: GPA, SAT/ACT test scores, AP/IB Test scores, high school profile, level of courses taken, and admissions essays. Others include demonstrated interest, special talents and abilities, free-time activities, teacher recommendations, other recommendations, and intangible factors such as drive, resilience, and making the most of opportunities. To have a successful college admission experience, all you have to do is design and follow your own personal roadmap to success. And as for that Rubik’s cube, you can learn to master that as well!.

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