Getting Accepted: Q&A With A College Admissions Counselor

When applying to your dream school, the first person to see your completed application is your admissions counselor.

To make sure you have the best chance of getting into your school, I sat down with an admissions counselor to see what exactly goes on in the admissions process. Here is what she said:

Q.  What is your role exactly in the admissions process?

  • A.  In the admission process, admission counselors are typically the first set of eyes that look at a completed file for admission.  All schools are different, but at many small, private colleges, the admission counselors do the initial file review of an application. We review a student’s grades, coursework, test scores, personal statements, letters of recommendation, and make initial admission recommendations.  We are able to provide more information about why or why not a student is ready to attend our institution based on our previous interactions with the student. It is also our job as admission counselors to educate prospective students on college and the admission process, and to be a helpful resource for any questions along the college search.

Q.  As an admissions counselor, what do you look for in a student?

  • A.  There are several factors we consider and like to see in our applicants. The first factor that we must consider is a student’s academic profile. While test scores and grades do not give a full picture of a student, they are probably the most influential factors in a student’s chances for college admission. We want to see strong grades (no D’s or F’s, even in honor or AP courses) and test scores near or above our average ACT/SAT. These factors are important because they are the best indicators of a student’s college readiness.  We want students to succeed and need to see that they are ready to take on even more academic challenges.
  • We also like to see that a student has completed sufficient years of math, science, social science, and English, as well as at least one year of foreign language. AP and honors courses are also important, although we would rather see strong grades in regular courses than failing grades in AP and honors (It’s okay to wait to take more challenging coursework until you’re ready!)
  • Other factors that we like to see, although they have less weight in a student’s admission decision, are community service, leadership, and achievement in extracurriculars.

Q.  How can a student improve their chances of getting noticed?

  • A. Students should first be dedicated to their studies. If you want to be noticed, do well in school! Students should also do what they can – take test prep courses, practice tests, study often – to do well on the ACT/SAT. Again, the grades and test scores are the most influential factors in a student’s chances for college admission at any institution.
  • Beyond grades and scores, students can also stand out by writing a personal statement or getting letters of recommendation.  A personal statement is a great opportunity for a student to express what cannot be said about him/her by a test score: success stories, strengths, goals, and strategies for overcoming future challenges.  Be sure to edit carefully! Don’t let an error get in the way of your chances for acceptance.  Glowing letters of recommendation can also help a student stand out from the thousands of other applicants.  Letters of recommendation should be written by a teacher in an academic course (gym and study hall do not count) who will be able to attest to your academic strength.
  • Unique experiences can also help a student stand out.  Students who participate in amazing service work, start up a foundation or business, have work or internship experience, achieve in athletics or the arts, do research, or make an positive impact in their community are not often overlooked. We like to see students who have strong character, passion, creativity, and act upon it.

Q.  What does it mean when you call a student multiple times? Do you really want them to attend?

  • A. After students are accepted, we want them to attend. Some colleges call their accepted students more than others; some don’t call at all. We just differ in the way in which we communicate with accepted students and their families.  If you are getting phone calls from a college though, whether accepted or not, it is likely that they want you to apply and attend if accepted.

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Amber Bray

Amber Bray

Amber Bray is a senior at North Central College studying journalism and graphic design. Apart from her classes Amber writes a relationship advice column, along with other pieces, for the North Central Chronicle. She also writes and designs for North Central’s online magazine, The Viewfinder. Amber is a trivia fanatic and in her free time she enjoys board games, reading and writing fiction, and spending time with friends and family.