Getting In: What Do Colleges Really Want?

Based on my experience as an independent college admissions counselor, I would put the issue of discovering the secret to what colleges really want in their applicants right up there with finding the fountain of youth. In other words, it's an ongoing elusive quest where the rules are constantly changing and each college has its own set of so-called “institutional priorities." The phrase institutional prioritiestranslates simply into “The kinds of students we're looking for this year."

As you decide on the colleges to which you will apply, how can you know the kinds of students those schools will be looking for? Well, if you ever figure that out successfully, drop me a line, because you and I will then become rich. It's a highly illusive art. Yes, there are general trends and tendencies, but the exact answer is unavailable. To cite a lyric from Paul Simon's song, Slip Slidin' Away, “The information's unavailable to the mortal man."

So, we do our research, develop our theories, and take our best shot. It's rather like playing the lottery. In fact, with the most competitive colleges out there — the so-called elite schools — it seems exactly like a lottery. There are so many dazzlingly qualified applicants that selecting the best ones could likely be done by pulling their names out of a rotating drum.

Keep reading Show less
Find Your Best Fit
Find your best fit college and track your favorite colleges.
Connect with your future classmates
Offer not stacking up? These articles may help
Expert advice and answers to common SAT and ACT questions