Admission Officers Reveal the Most Important Factors Driving Decisions

A new NACAC study reveals what admission officers see as the most important factors they consider when evaluating applications.

Interesting… I would have put ECs above the essay. ECs shape and reflect the person’s character and personality. Anyone can have a ghostwriter write their essay.

I would switch #6 with #10. Most counselors really don’t know the students that well, and ECs are where students show their ability to work with a team and leadership skills. I guess when students ask about the ECs on this forum, we now know how to answer!

No surprise that the first four (all grades, college prep course grades, SAT/ACT, strength of curriculum) are the academic-related credentials.

Surprised at the high school the student attended as being such an important factor. Interesting…

I don’t know. At info sessions I have asked admissions reps about whether they look at the core subjects or all the subjects such at arts and health etc and they have all said they focus on the 5 core subjects. I also do not believe the high school you went to carries more weight than race and the ability to pay. Just my opinion.

It’s not the recipe for the secret sauce. It doesn’t tell you what they look for in an essay or any other category. It doesn’t name the colleges, etc. The body of the report includes comments like, “Colleges Accept Nearly Two-Thirds of First-Time Freshmen, on Average.” That hints this is all over the map, so to say.

When you read it, most colleges said “high school attended” was limited (36.7%) or no influence (41.6%.) And so on.

Interesting but not surprising. As @lookingforward says “it’s all over the map.” It’s kin to looking at the mean or average. Sometimes the individual points are most telling and in this case what you really want to but can’t see. A few thoughts…Some high schools are feeder schools for some universities and have been for decades. A student’s high school and/or zip code is an indication of socioeconomic status and race. Heck your name is an indication of race and religion. And an “indication” is not absolute…usually.

Well, zip code is over-rated.

We don’t know how the responders interpreted the questions. (Same issue with the Common Data Set questions.) I don’t think this is about feeder schools. Rather the context. 78% said hs was limited or no factor. The rest may be referring to the actual rigor, the number of rigorous classes, etc. Val at one sort of hs is different than val at another. Some elite hs arrange internship opps, while in others, the kid is on his own. The individual applicant is still looked at, for his/her record, but the light can change.

Agreed. One thing is clear…grades and test scores first and always have been. The rest is subjective.

The survey covers over 1000 schools, presumably including both Harvard and Podunk U. I am sure their admission criteria are vastly different. I won’t be surprised if EC has a higher weight at Harvard than at Podunk.

And by the way–are the really going to tell the truth? Polling is notoriously fraught with issues.

For a ll I know, no Harvard, just schools with time on their hands. Or some low level newbie told to respond as he/she thinks. There are few absolutes in this. Holistic isn’t about individual points, in isolation.

That podunk comment makes me think of my favorite Ivy League U in the Podunks. It is ‘gorges’ though ?.

I think the trends charts are interesting - things like the weight “GPA in college prep courses” has been going down while “Overall GPA” has been going up in importance. The SAT2 people are going to hate this - it’s close to the least important factor out there.

I think #1-4 are universally significant across just about all college admissions evaluation. The rest can be all over depending on the college, particularly if it’s holistic. Note that no “hook” is listed, yet at holistic schools, it can very well be #5 or higher in weight.

SAT subject scores are probably relatively high in importance (as academic credentials) at the few colleges that use them – but most colleges do not use them at all.

Problem is that grade inflation is through the roof everywhere: so schools starting putting more weight on the SAT ad then the SAT2s to validate grades and competence but then the scores get in the way of admissions and their need to bend the bar fr so many various pools of applicants. The more subjective it is, the easier it is to hide whats happening. It can never again be only grades because they really dont mean much anymore.

But this is a time when so many colleges, including some fine ones, are going test optional. And grades are what they are. It can be pretty obvious that some under-resurced high school with a minor percent of kids off to four year colleges may have grade inflation (versus themost competitive hs.) But there’s a lot more seen in the app that can indicate academic, intellectual, and self-advocacy strengths. And LoRs and choice of ECs can be indicative.

A more cynical view is that some colleges overemphasize the SAT/ACT (not the subject tests) because the SAT/ACT is the most important factor in the selectivity portion of the USNWR rankings.