What Are Colleges Looking For?                       by Patti Brugman

 We were just at the St. Francis College Fair last night (as listed on our calendar a few weeks ago) where I had a chance to talk to several students. The question seemed to be whether or not they should apply to reach colleges like USC or Columbia or smaller colleges like Lafayette, Gettysburg, or Kenyon.  One girl asked, “If I apply to a school like Cornell College, do you think I’ll be accepted?”

         All colleges are looking for certain qualities in a student body.  Truthfully, the admissions representatives that I met last night would be delighted if every student there would send them an application. They are that excited about this population of kids. Isn’t that great news?

         Below, are some of the important criteria that college reps told me they are looking for in their applicants. Communicate these points in your essay and your interview (optional) and you’ll be in great shape.

 1. Can you do the work? Colleges universally want to know that students who come to their school can work to the institution’s expected level. This is what your transcript and scores communicate so add colleges to your list that are within the expected range.

2.     Do you have the right grades? Colleges look at your high school record, but they also look at your school’s profile.  If you took the most rigorous load your school offered and did well, you’re in line for the most competitive colleges. If you took a light load and got Bs and Cs, look for colleges that are least competitive. And don’t be hard on yourself.  There is a school for everyone.

3.     Are you an interesting person? Who colleges accept has a lot to do with the other applicants, which is why acceptance is so unpredictable.  Colleges want a class of kids who will be different enough so that they will educate each other through the variety of their interests.  The more interesting you are, the more interested colleges will be in you!

4.     Will you add to the diversity of the campus? Diversity is so important to colleges right now and so confusing to applicants. Colleges want more than just a range of racial and regional representation. (So, if you’re Hispanic and living in Montana, you have it made!) Everyone is diverse, in some way, because everyone is different.  Communicate your desire to study poverty or your devotion to archery or scuba diving and suddenly you’re diverse!

5.     What have you accomplished?  Besides having read “Moby-Dick” three times, or caring about childhood obesity, show that you have actually done something with your interests.  The more you take part in the world around you, the more interesting and diverse you become.  Be sure to do service, take responsibility, and voice your opinions, and you’ll be fine.