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  • Writer's pictureAlison Merzel

What really matters in your college application

Updated: Feb 12, 2020

Every year, the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) surveys its member college admissions experts to get insight into the factors that are most important to colleges in the admissions process.

Of course these factors vary by school, but here is a ranking of the top 12 most important criteria as identified by IEC members:

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

2) High grade point average in major subjects. However, slightly lower grades in a rigorous program are preferred to all A’s in less challenging coursework.

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

4) Passionate involvement in a few activities that are meaningful, inside or outside of school.

5) A well-written essay that emphasizes insight into the student’s unique personality.

6) Leadership inside or outside of school. Depth, rather than breadth, of leadership is valued.

7) Demographic and personal characteristics that contribute to a diverse and interesting student body

8) Strong counselor/teacher recommendations that provide personalized references.

9) Special talents that could contribute to campus life.

10) Intellectual curiosity exhibited through reading, research, and extracurricular pursuits.

11) Student’s character and values are seen as conducive to being a good community member.

12) Demonstrated interest and enthusiasm in attending (through campus visits, etc.).

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