How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process | PrepMaven (2023)

Bonus Material: Behind-the-Scenes Look at College Admissions

How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process | PrepMaven (1)

Do you know what happens after you submit your application?

In our post What College Admissions Officers Look For, we took a high-level look at what colleges look for in students.

In this guide, we’ll take a deep dive into how they actually read and process your application.

We’ll focus mostly on the mechanics and structure of the admissions reading process at selective schools like Princeton, NYU, Stanford, and Vanderbilt.

Plus, we give our readers free access to our Behind-the-Scenes Look at College Admissions, which examines two actual applications to Columbia College and their admission decisions. Grab this below.

Here’s what we cover:

  • Where Did We Get Our Data?
  • An Overview of the College Admissions Reading Process
    • Step 1: Screen and Sort
    • Step 2: Individual Reads
    • Step 3: Committee
    • Step 4: Final Decision
  • Major Takeaways
  • What About COVID-19 and College Admissions?
  • How I Got Into Princeton Series
  • Bonus: Behind-the-Scenes Look at College Admissions

What Data Did We Use?

Many parents are surprised when we explain that a lot of information about the admissions process is publicly available. Like burger chain In & Out’s “secret” menu, much of the process is not so secretive anymore!

For example:

  • Many former Ivy League admissions officers have written books and articles revealing the “secrets” of the college admissions process
  • NYU admissions officers share their experiences on an official school blog
  • New York Times reporter Jacques Steinberg was given behind-the-scenes access of the admissions process at Wesleyan Universityand wrote a book about it
  • Lawsuits against schools like the University of Texas at Austin and Princeton University claiming discrimination in the admissions process have produced detailed, publicly available information about the admissions process at those schools

For this article, we reviewed the above sources (and many more) to dig into the admissions process at several schools, including:

  • Dartmouth College
  • Duke University
  • Hamilton College
  • Harvard University
  • New York University
  • Princeton University
  • Stanford University
  • Swarthmore
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • Vanderbilt University
  • WesleyanUniversity

Note: Thesesources were published between 2002 to 2017. While certain details might now be different, the overall processshould not have changed much.

The College Admissions Reading Process

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Each college has its own specific way of judging applicants. The general admissions process of the schools we researched, however, is remarkably similar!

Selective admissions processes typically follow these four steps:

  1. Screen & Sort – organizing the apps and sending them to the appropriate admissions officer
  2. Individual Reads – one, two, three, or more individual reads to form initial impressions
  3. Committee – deliberation of applications among a group
  4. Final Decision – the lucky few are selected, financial aid packages are created, and acceptance letters are mailed out

We’ll take a deep dive into each of these steps next.

Step #1: Screen and Sort

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Selective schools can receive upwards of tens of thousands of applications! Take a look at this table to see the stats for 2020.

2020 Applications and Admittances

How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process | PrepMaven (4)Princeton University32,8351,8485.6%
How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process | PrepMaven (5)Harvard University40,2482,0155%
How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process | PrepMaven (6)University of Chicago34,3722,5117.3%
How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process | PrepMaven (7)Yale University35,2202,3046.5%
How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process | PrepMaven (8)Columbia University40,0842,5446.3%
How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process | PrepMaven (9)Stanford University45,2272,3495.1%
How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process | PrepMaven (10)Massachusetts Institute of Technology20,0751,4577.2%
How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process | PrepMaven (11)Duke University36,2522,1706.0%
How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process | PrepMaven (12)University of Pennsylvania44,2053,7899.0%
How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process | PrepMaven (13)Johns Hopkins University27,2561,9227.0%

The first part of the admissions process is getting organized! This usually means sorting and sending applications to the appropriate regional team.

Admissions officers are often assigned to a geographic region. In addition to reading applications from their region, they are also responsible for recruiting students and getting to know the local high schools and guidance counselors.

Numerical Scoring

Numerical scores are sometimes calculated for each applicant. This is simply an attempt to incorporate some sort of organization and scientific rigor into a very qualitative process.

  • How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process | PrepMaven (14)Hamilton, for example, uses one overall score on a 9 point scale for their “Applicant Rating”
  • Princeton assignsAcademic and Non-Academic ratingson a 5 point scale (1 is the highest rating, 5 is the lowest). They also have a rating for “Institutional Priority.”
  • Stanford gives scores in multiplecategories: Tests, High School Records, Letters of Recommendation, Non-Academic, Support (Letters of Recommendation), Non-Academic, Self-Presentation and Intellectual Vitality

How are these scores generated?

Depending on the school, a staff member or regional coordinator may scan the application and apply the initial scores before the first read, initial readers may be responsible for generating this score, or the scores may be computed automatically by a computer system.

The Academic Index for Recruited Athletes

If you are a recruited athlete in the Ivy League (and increasingly in other schools as well), you are also assigned an Academic Index. This is calculated based on standardized test scores and high school GPA. Academic Indexes range from around 170 to 240.

The purpose of the Academic Index, or AI, is to ensure that:

  1. Every recruited athlete meets a minimum AI of at least 176
  2. The academic credentials of recruited athletes is no more than 1 standard deviation below that of the rest of the student body

Ivy League institutions have agreed to uphold these standards to keep the athleticplaying field competitive while maintaining high academic standards.Just like the other ratings used in college admissions, a high AI is great, but it won’t guarantee admission.

Step #2: Individual Reads

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First Read

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The main job of the first reader is to pass an initial, fair judgment on a new application.

First readers have varying levels of experience. Some are hired part-time to supplement the admissions team. Some arefresh out of college.

Immediately after graduation, my college roommate served as an admissions officer for Princeton University, responsible for first reads in his region. This was his first job, and he was 22 years old when he started.

After the first read, which often takes less than 10 minutes, an initial idea of how competitive the candidate is forms. In some cases, the first reader assigns a written recommendation of Accept, Deny, Likely, or Unlikely (or some other variation).

The first reader is sometimes responsible for creating an application summary card and creating detailed notes for each application.

Application Summary & Notes

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The application summary card lists key details about the applicant. Admissions officers are responsible for reading thousands of applications over the course of several months and will often review an application file at various times, so summary cards are essential for allowing a quick scan of an application and refreshing their memories.

Note-taking is also essential. Admissions officers often take important notes on a card that follows the application from officer to officer and ultimately to committee. Nowadays, physical reader cards might bereplaced with digitized versions, but the idea is the same.

If the application goes to committee, the first reader may be responsible for presenting/summarizing the application to the committee group and advocating for the applicant.

Second and Third Reads

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Some schools (e.g. NYU) will go to committee after the first read. Many other selective schools have two or more reads before the next stage of the process.

Admissions readers and officers go through intensive training to provide standardized and objective judgements. However, they have varying levels of admissions experience and their assessments and opinions might be shaped by their individual backgrounds and preferences.

Or, perhaps the first reader was having a bad day and missed something. Maybe he has more knowledge about science achievements and extracurriculars, while a colleague has broader knowledge about music and athletic achievements.

The second and third read can be thought of as a validation or second opinion for the first read.

This additional perspective is especially helpful for more subjective and difficult to judge scenarios, like these:

  • How do you rate an underrepresented minority at an under-resourced school with a great essay, okay grades, and few extracurriculars because he was working after school?
  • How much do you value the impact of certain “hooks,” like alumni legacies, 1st generation students, exceptional talent, or departmental needs?
  • How do you make subjective judgments about character and personal qualities to determine “fit” for the class?

According to a Dartmouth admissions officer who kept her identity a secret,

How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process | PrepMaven (19)

“You expect it to be more numbers driven than it is, but the message we always got was to make sure we consider everything else in the application…There’s a high degree of subjectivity, at least in the first read, but that’s what the second and third read are for. The probability that you get two people in a bad mood is … lower than the probability that you get one person in a bad mood.”

Many schools make sure most applications receive at least two full reads before going to committee.

The second reader will add additional input and notes to the applicant’s file. The second reader often agrees with the comments and recommendations of the first reader but sometimes they will disagree.

Team Reads

The first and second reads (and third reads, etc.) are usually done individually and at home on the admissions officer’s own time.

Faced with an increasing number of applications, admissions teams from schools like the University of Pennsylvania and Swarthmore are implementing a team-based method of reading applications to further streamline the process.

According to the Daily Pennsylvanian:

How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process | PrepMaven (20)

“Under Penn’s new regimen, admissions officers split into teams of two and read one application at the same time in the office. Then they discuss the application together and come to a consensus before passing it along.

After the team of two screens the application, it is given to admission officers responsible for the geographic region where the applicant lives. An exceptional applicant may skip this step and be handed immediately to a selection committee that includes school-based representatives. This committee will make the final decision on a potential acceptance.”

Not Everybody Goes to Committee After Individual (or Team) Reads

Some schools can make a decision after the initial reading process without sending the application to committee.

For example:

  • How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process | PrepMaven (21)Exceptionally strong or exceptionally weak applicants often get ‘fast-tracked’ to the top for a chance at a quick decision
  • Schools with very quantitative admissions processes (e.g. large state schools) can make decisions without significant group deliberation
  • A senior admissions officer may have ultimate discretion to make the final decision after reading the notes and scores from the initial reading process

In The Gatekeepers, which takes an in-depth, behind the scenes view of Wesleyan’s admissions process, New York Times journalist Jacques Steinberg shares his observations and research about the reading process at different schools.

He talks about Stanford’s committee process, or lack of it:

“At Stanford, for example, the officers rarely met as a committee, which meant that the odds of someone sympathetic being able to advocate to the group…are low.”

At Wesleyan, when readers arrived at a consensus on an application, the director of admissions would often endorse the choice, forgoing the need for committee deliberation.

“In the main round, in which there would be nearly six thousand applicants, each application would be read by two officers and then sent on to Greg Pyke, the interim director of admissions. If the two readers were in consensus on a decision, Greg would likely endorse the choice. But if there was a split recommendation, he would probably send that application to the committee for consideration during a series of meetings in early March.”

For many schools, however, final decisions are made in Committee, where a group of individuals discuss student applications and pass final judgment.


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Every school has a slightly different committee process, but the overall idea behind committee judgement is similar.

A group of individuals gets together to discuss and decide the fate of your application. The group considers the notes, scores, and recommendations of the initial readers. A discussion ensues and each officer can share their opinion on the fit of the candidate for the school.

Hamilton’s Committee Process: Senior Officer Has Final Say

In Creating A Class, Mitchell L. Stevens describes the Committee process at Hamilton, a selective liberal arts school:

How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process | PrepMaven (23)

“The primary form for evaluative storytelling in the office was committee, the weeks-long series of meetings during which officers consider and collectively determine the fate of applications. In contrast to the quiet solitude of reading and rating, storytelling was collaborative and often highly theatrical.”

Admissions officers from the initial reading process use their “pink sheet” (application summary form) and read off key details from the application (grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, essay comments, recommendation letter summaries, family information, initial recommendations for Admit/Defer/Wait List/Deny) to a committee of at least three officers. The Dean or Assistant Dean is present.

After the presentation and a discussion (sometimes debate) between committee members, the most senior officer has final authority over each decision.

At Hamilton, committee evaluations for easier decisions can take 5 minutes, but some cases can take 30 minutes or more.

Wesleyan’s Committee Process: Quick Discussion & Majority Vote

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In The Gatekeepers, Jacques Steinberg describes the very fast committee process at Wesleyan:

“It was those committee hearings, coming just days before final decisions were due, that provided the most visible drama of the admissions process. In a form of sudden death, each applicant would be discussed by the committee for no more than five minutes, after which a vote would be called…the majority, again, would carry the day.”

NYU’s Committee Process: All Applications Debated in Committee

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NYU admissions officer Rebecca Larson describes the committee and final judgment process in the official school admissions blog:

“Our team re-reviews the notes the first reader took on your application. The first reader will discuss your grades, the rigor of your curriculum, extra-curricular involvement, fit for NYU, quality of your essays, and what your teachers/counselor had to say about you. Once we read those notes, the committee discusses what to do with your application. We may vote to admit, deny, wait list, or refer a student to a different program at NYU–there are lots of different outcomes for each application.”

Sometimes committee goes smoothly and other times the group is split between a particular decision. While we all get along well, we will get into arguments over some students. The benefit of committee comes from the diverse perspective each admissions counselor brings to the group–one counselor may see something in an application that another counselor doesn’t, and that dialogue is really important as we build the class.

We do this 63,000 times! Then we go back and look at our admissions decisions one last time to make sure all students received an individualized and holistic review. Once our decisions are finalized, applications are sent over to the Office of Financial Aid where students are packaged with scholarships, loans, grants and work study opportunities.”

Harvard’s Committee Process: 2 Step-Process Involving Faculty

Harvard uses a two-step committee process that involves the faculty. A subcommittee discusses and votes on an applicant, and then they present their recommendations to the larger full committee. Harvard’s Dean Fitzsimmons describes the process in an interview with the New York Times:

How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process | PrepMaven (26)

“Each subcommittee normally includes four to five members, a senior admissions officer, and faculty readers.

Once all applications have been read and the subcommittee process begins, the area representative acts as an advocate, and summarizes to the subcommittee the strengths of each candidate. Subcommittee members discuss the application, and then vote to recommend an action to the full Committee. Majorities rule, but the degree of support expressed for applicants is always noted to allow for comparisons with other subcommittees.

Subcommittees then present and defend their recommendations to the full committee. While reading or hearing the summary of any case, any committee member may raise questions about the proposed decision and request a full review of the case.

Many candidates are re-presented in full committee. Discussions in subcommittee or in full committee on a single applicant can last up to an hour. The full Committee compares all candidates across all subcommittees, and therefore across geographic lines.”

4.Final Decision

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By the end of committee, colleges will be close to the finish line.

Colleges must consider the size and selectivity of the various schools within their College (e.g. Engineering vs. Arts and Sciences). They also must consider their institutional priorities, like strong athletics and diversity, as they make their final decisions.

Typically, after the final decision, admitted applications get sent for consideration of scholarships, loans, grants, and work study opportunities before final decisions letters are mailed out.

Major Takeaways

To recap, in this post, we took a comprehensive look at the mechanics of the application reading process.

Here are some big takeaways:

1. The admissions reading process of selective schools is remarkably similar

The process will most likely resemble some version of these four steps:

  1. Sort
  2. Individual reads
  3. Committee
  4. Final decision

Larger, less selective schools will have a less “holistic” approach that make quicker decisions based mostly on academics.

There’s no need for you to spend an inordinate amount of time researching the reading processof all the schools on your list.Understand the general readingprocess (which you’ve already done if you’ve made it this far) and you’ll be set!

2. Your application is read quickly

Admissions officers will often average less than 15 minutes to assess your entire application. How long exactly? It varies by school. Check out former UVA Associate Dean of Admission Parke Muth’s interesting post about “fast and slow reads.”

What should you do with this information? Make a strong first impression! Quickly and effectively communicate your strengths in your application.

3. Admissions officers are real people!

For example, NYU admissions officers look like this:

How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process | PrepMaven (28)

Rebecca Larson (the admissions officer in the middle) really likes One Direction, looks forward to the the snacks her colleagues bring in for their committee meetings, and genuinely seems like she’s having fun at work.

What should you do with this information? Put a face on the process to make things less intimidating and help you create a more personal application.

4. Quantitative scoring is often used, but the process is very qualitative and subjective

Numbers and guidelines are used to create a standardized, efficient sorting process. However, at the end of the day, your application is being judged by real people with emotions and feelings. What’s more, colleges have something very specific they’re looking for.

What does this mean you should do? Tell a story through your application that is personal and emotionally engaging and you might be able to convince an admissions officer to go to bat for you during committee!

It can be discouraging to hear that your application is read fairly quickly.

However, please do not confuse “quickly” with “not carefully.” Admissions officers are experts in digesting a lot of information in a short amount of time. They understand the impact their decisions have and are extremely deliberate in their decisions. Most admissions officers genuinely care about your prospects and are looking for ways to accept, not reject you.

COVID-19 and College Admissions

The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly influenced the way that colleges look at applications.

It’s revealed a lot about equity and access, for one thing. It’s also made it difficult for students to zero in on certain aspects of applications, like extracurricular activities and standardized test scores.

COVID has definitely impacted what colleges look for in applications, especially from a judgment perspective. You can learn more about this in our post COVID and College Admissions.

Has it changed the structure of admissions? Likely not. Officers might be changing how they look at aspects of applications, but the process probably remains the same.

How I Got Into Princeton Series

Interested in how other successful applicants have navigated the college admissions process?

We’ve created an entire series that takes a deep dive into the journeys of current and past Princeton students.

Check out Erica’s story, the first in this series.

“People telling me that I was worthless only drove me to study more, to work harder, to prove them wrong.”

You can find a summary of all of these stories here: How I Got Into Princeton Series.

Next Steps

So, now what? If you’re in 9th, 10th, or 11th grade, you’ll want to focus on the Golden Rule of Admissions and developing your Three Pillars.

As you put pen to paper and start working on your application and college essays (ideally in the summer before senior year), keep in mind how your application will be read to keep things in perspective.

We’d also like to give you access to our Behind-the-Scenes Look at College Admissions, which debriefs two real applications to Columbia College and their admission decisions.

How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process | PrepMaven (30)

How Colleges Read Your Application: A 4 Step Process | PrepMaven (31)Greg Wong and Kevin Wong

Greg and Kevin are brothers and the co-founders of PrepMaven and Princeton Tutoring. Theywere engineering majors at Princeton and had successful careers in strategy consulting and finance. They now apply their data and research-backed problem solving skills to the college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.

applyingcollegecollege admissions


How colleges read your application a 4 step process? ›

How Selective Colleges Read Your Application
  1. Step 1: Screen and Sort.
  2. Step 2: Individual Reads.
  3. Step 3: Committee.
  4. Step 4: Final Decision.
Mar 1, 2021

How do colleges read so many applications? ›

In the US admissions process, colleges and universities take many factors into consideration. Admissions officers look at “hard factors” (GPA, grades, and test scores) and “soft factors” (essays, extracurricular activities, recommendations, and demonstrated interest) to gain a full picture of applicants.

Do admissions officers read your entire application? ›

Of course they are read! Essays give admission officers real insight into the applicant. You might wonder how a huge school would manage reading thousands of essays, but you can trust that they hire extra staff, if necessary, to make sure the entire application gets a close look.

How do colleges look at your application? ›

Good grades, a challenging high school curriculum, standardized test scores, extracurriculars, and a strong essay are a few key factors admissions officers assess. Each university may emphasize different elements of the application process.

How do colleges decide who to accept? ›

Courses and Grades

A student's grades in college-preparatory classes remain the most significant factor in college admission decisions. Highly selective colleges look for students who: Complete core academic requirements.

How do colleges notify you of acceptance? ›

These days, most college acceptance letters will arrive as either an email or application status update on a college's own application portal. Afterward, you'll usually receive a hard copy of your acceptance letter in the mail and further updates via email or mail.

Do colleges know how many you applied to? ›

For the most part, the answer to this question is: no. College admissions officers don't have secret meetings to gossip about which of the incoming freshmen applied to their schools.

How fast do colleges look at applications? ›

Every college has its own timeline for evaluating student applications. It's not unusual for a college's application process to take four to six weeks. Colleges that have an application portal allow students to go online to check the status of their applications at any time.

What not to ask admissions officers? ›

But all the same, it's not a good idea to ask about the school's party culture or anything related to drugs and alcohol. Questions that make you seem uninterested. Don't ask admissions officers questions that compare them to other schools.

Does one person review your college application? ›

At most selective colleges an application will be read by a minimum of two admissions professionals, and could be read by as many as four. Generally, the first reader is the regional admission officer–the person who knows the school and region, and may have met the student.

How many applications do colleges read a day? ›

Every admissions office has a goal for the number of essays that must be read during any given week. However, college admissions officers and admission readers may read approximately 50 applications per day, spending approximately 15 minutes per application.

Do colleges look at your social media? ›

Yes, colleges can look at the public version of your social media accounts, but they don't have some sort of secret, government-like power to access your private information. It's much more likely that your social media behavior would only be brought to their attention if it causes a stir.

What will make colleges not accept you? ›

Here are seven common reasons why college applications get rejected, according to some experts:
  • Failure to meet high GPA or test score standards.
  • Insufficient academic rigor.
  • Lack of demonstrated interest.
  • Application essay errors.
  • Poor fit.
  • Academic integrity concerns.
  • Competition.
Sep 13, 2022

What makes colleges more likely to accept you? ›

ACT / SAT Test scores

No matter which you take (colleges don't actually prefer SAT or ACT scores over the other) higher test scores will increase your acceptance odds. Not only that, but ACT / SAT scores can also qualify you for scholarships and certain forms of financial aid.

Can a college reject you after acceptance? ›

Yes, colleges can revoke an acceptance offer any time, including after admitted students put down their deposit. Most revoked admission offers occur between May 1 and the start of the fall semester.

How do I know if I didn't get accepted into a college? ›

Colleges send out emails to applicants, but they usually don't contain an acceptance or nonacceptance letter. Instead, the email you receive is likely going to direct you to the college's online application portal. Today, most colleges have an online portal where students can check the status of their applications.

How long does it take for colleges to accept you? ›

The average turnaround time for an admissions decision for schools with rolling admissions is four to six weeks, though in some cases students might have to wait longer. For regular decision candidates, the wait is more like eight to 12 weeks. Students handle that waiting period differently, experts say.

Do colleges tell you they rejected you? ›

While colleges are not likely to share their specific reasons for rejecting an application, colleges do tell you if they rejected you. For students wondering what to do if you get rejected from all colleges, you may want to consider taking a gap year and reapplying next year.

What is the top 10 rule when applying for college? ›

You may qualify if you meet the requirements by graduating in the Top 10% of your class at a recognized public or private high school in Texas or a high school operated by the U.S. Department of Defense, and be a Texas resident or eligible to pay resident tuition.

What qualities do colleges look for? ›

Here are 9 character traits that colleges often cite when they describe what they are looking for in students.
  • Curiosity. ...
  • Persistence. ...
  • Risk-taking. ...
  • Compassion. ...
  • open-mindedness. ...
  • Social Consciousness. ...
  • Creativity. ...
  • Collaboration.

Do colleges care about senior year? ›

The important thing to know is that colleges do look at your senior year grades. So, a weaker performance in senior year than in previous grades can impact your application and college admissions decisions.

How do colleges decide how many students to accept? ›

Offers of admission are based on each school's enrollment objectives. Making admissions decisions is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Large state schools may use a test score and GPA formula. Highly selective schools may have multiple reviewers with many voices weighing in on a decision.

Do colleges check if you open emails? ›

Last week, I told you all about demonstrated interest, which is an admissions factor (next to essays, recommendations, and GPA) at many colleges and universities.

Do colleges look at every single application? ›

That is only for statistical purposes. Colleges assess every application individually, assessing the applicant's academic grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, community involvement and letter of recommendation. Different colleges use different systems to evaluate student applications.

Who reads my college application? ›

The person who reads your application in a college admissions office might be a dedicated admissions officer, a faculty member, or a student or part-time essay reader. They are reading your essay in the context of your application overall.

Do colleges care when you submit application? ›

It's critical to submit your application for admission by the published deadlines or they won't be considered. But there are also deadlines to submit financial aid forms to the colleges on your list. There are two main forms that might need to get filled out and submitted: the FAFSA and the CSS Profile.

When can colleges start looking at you? ›

College coaches can begin to contact recruits starting January 1 of their sophomore year. In addition, recruits can also begin to take unofficial visits at that time. Recruits will need to wait until August 1 of their junior year to take official visits and receive verbal scholarship offers.

What is a red flag for admissions offices? ›

What is an application red flag? Simply put, it's something on a college application that can make an admissions officer second guess how qualified an applicant is or if they're a good-fit for the school. A red flag can be as serious as a disciplinary infraction, or as simple as not following application directions.

How do you stand out to admissions officers? ›

We delve into what looks good on college applications and offer examples of what makes a good impression and conversely, what does not.
  1. Choose Your High School Classes Appropriately.
  2. Earn Good Grades. ...
  3. Use Your Personal Statement to Tell Your Story. ...
  4. Participate in Extracurricular Activities. ...
  5. Volunteer. ...
  6. Keep Accurate Records.
Apr 20, 2023

Is it okay to make mistakes on college applications? ›

If you realize you've made a mistake, don't panic. College admissions officers aren't going to nitpick over a minor error, but several errors may show you in a bad light. If you have significant errors or omissions, reach out to the admissions office of the college you applied to.

Should you be honest in a college application? ›

Be honest and genuine, and your unique qualities will shine through. Admissions officers have to read an unbelievable number of college essays, most of which are forgettable. Many students try to sound smart rather than sounding like themselves.

Can colleges see your advisor on common app? ›

If you choose to invite an advisor, that action will remain private. The advisor invitation and profile information will not be visible to any of your colleges or any other invited recommender.

What do colleges look at besides grades? ›

Besides grades, colleges look at SAT® and/or ACT® scores, leadership experience, course load difficulty, letters of recommendation, application essays, and more. So, it's important for students to realize that good grades require time and dedication, but so do many other important factors.

Does shadowing look good on college application? ›

Exploring Job-Shadowing Opportunities

While you might not gain hands-on experience this way, you'll be able to watch what they do on the job. You can add this to your college application to show how strong your interest is in a particular field.

Do colleges compare you to your classmates? ›

Admissions officers sort applicants by region first, and then often subdivide within regions by other factors, which can include race, gender, intended major, or smaller geographic areas. Thus you are compared to other applicants from your high school, but not directly.

Do colleges look at GPA or weighted GPA? ›

Colleges will look at either weighted or unweighted GPAs in your application. They do tend to prefer weighted, because it gives more information about the difficulty of your classes, but don't worry if your school uses an unweighted scale.

Can you be denied into college because of social media? ›

According to the Kaplan study, almost ten percent of admissions officers claim to have revoked an incoming student's offer of admission due to what they discovered on social media.

Does it mean anything when colleges send you letters? ›

It has evolved as colleges have ramped up their efforts to generate as many applications as possible. A stated interest or test score triggers some mailings. Other times it is just a pure mass mailing. Receiving mail from a college does not mean that you have a better chance to gain acceptance.

What are the 4 steps to college? ›

Working a little harder today will make getting into college even easier.
  • Take the right classes. To get into college, start by taking the right classes in high school. ...
  • Meet the challenge. ...
  • Achieve honors. ...
  • Tap into computing.

What are the stages of the college choice process? ›

The college choice process—the steps that students take to apply for and enroll in college—can begin as early as middle school, and ends once a student completes high school and enrolls in college (Hossler et al. 1989). It is often defined by three stages: (1) predisposition, (2) search, and (3) choice.

How many steps are a part of the college admissions process? ›

If you want to successfully complete the college application process and make yourself as competitive for college admission as possible, you'll be directly or indirectly working on your college applications well before the deadlines approach.

How long does it take for a college to read your application? ›

It can take a few weeks to a few months to hear back for a college admissions decision, depending on the type of application you submitted. Early applicants — such as early decision or early action — will generally hear back in December while regular decision applicants will receive their admission decision in April.

Do colleges look at all four years? ›

Colleges see all your grades, but they tend to look most at your junior and senior years.

What are the 4 C's in college? ›

Consequently, the present study aimed at exploring how to enhance the 4 C's (critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity) among the college students of the Communication Skills Course in Tanzania through the Project-Based Learning model.

How many steps does the average college student take? ›

On average, students walked approximately 9,600 steps per day prior to the study. By the end of the study, the participants in the 10,000-step group averaged 11,066 steps, those in the 12,500-step group averaged 13,638 steps and those in the 15,000-step group averaged 14,557 steps a day.

How do colleges send decisions? ›

There's also a little bit of variation in how decisions are conveyed: you can expect many colleges to send acceptance letters by email or online portal, though some will still send a formal letter in your mailbox, too.

What does it mean when a college gives you priority status? ›

Schools typically use them to try to entice students who normally wouldn't consider their school. Priority applications are often sent to out-of-state students, as well as those with test scores well above the average scores of the school.

What is priority status in college admissions? ›

A priority deadline for college admissions is basically what it sounds like: it's not a hard deadline (you can still submit after it), but applications that are submitted before the deadline will receive priority by the admissions team.

How long does it take for a college to accept or reject you? ›

Every college has its own timeline for evaluating student applications. It's not unusual for a college's application process to take four to six weeks. Colleges that have an application portal allow students to go online to check the status of their applications at any time.

How many admissions officers look at an application? ›

At most selective colleges an application will be read by a minimum of two admissions professionals, and could be read by as many as four. Generally, the first reader is the regional admission officer–the person who knows the school and region, and may have met the student.

Can a university reject you after acceptance? ›

Yes, colleges can revoke an acceptance offer any time, including after admitted students put down their deposit. Most revoked admission offers occur between May 1 and the start of the fall semester.

Do colleges review applications as they come in? ›

You might think that applications are read as soon as they get sorted, but this is not typically the case. Because many schools use a holistic review process, schools usually wait until all application materials are received before reviewing your application.


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