College Admissions Expert Elizabeth Levine: Evaluation in the College Admission Process

Elizabeth Levine

What are the criteria and priorities for evaluation in each college's admission process?
Although every college is different, as are their priorities for admissions decisions, the list below outlines the top 12 strengths and experiences colleges look for in high school students that is based on a nationwide survey of IECA (Independent Educational Consultants Association) members, of which I am a member.
1. A rigorous high school curriculum that challenges the student and may include AP or IB classes.

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

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

4. A well-written essay that provides insight into the student's unique personality, values, and goals.

5. Passionate involvement in a few in or out of school activities. Commitment and depth are valued over minimal involvement in a large number of activities.

6. Demonstrated leadership and initiative in extra-curricular activities. Students who arrive on campus prepared to lead clubs and activities are highly desirable.

7. Personal characteristics that will contribute to a diverse and interesting student body. Many colleges seek to develop a freshman class that is diverse: geographically, culturally, ethnically, economically, and politically.

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

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

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

11. Special talents that will contribute to the college's student life program. Colleges like to know what you intend to bring to campus, as well as what you'll take from your college experience. The application essay should be thoughtful and highly personal. It should demonstrate careful and well-constructed writing.

12. Out of school experiences including work, community service, youth organizations, religious groups, etc. Again, passionate involvement is meaningful to the admissions office; casual memberships are not.
If you have any questions about the college admissions process or the above information please do not hesitate to contact me at or by phone, 845.551.6946.
Elizabeth Levine
Signature College Counseling is an Orange County, Hudson Valley based company
that works one on one with students and their families in navigating the admissions process so you attend the college that is right for you.
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