For all colleges and universities, your academic record tends to carry the greatest weight in the admissions process. In particular, student grades, difficulty of courses, and SAT scores factor most heavily in college admissions.
But strong academic record is no guarantee that you will be accepted to the school of your choice. Why not? Well, most admissions committees practice what is known as “holistic” review (also known as comprehensive review).
What this means is that, while your academic record carries the most weight, admissions folks are also interested in who you are as a person and what you can bring to their college. They determine who you are by looking at your activities, references, and essay responses.
This emphasis on a holistic review can make admissions process very complex. If all colleges just used a mathematical equation of student grades and SAT scores to determine admission, it would be very easy to see if you could get into a specific school or not.
Holistic review, by contrast, is inherently messy.
By taking a holistic review, admission committees often rely heavily on knowing who you are as a person by reviewing your entire application and not just focusing on academic credentials. Private colleges have long relied on holistic review to help build a vibrant and diverse freshman class. In recent years, however, more and more public universities—UC Berkeley and the University of Washington—have adopted a holistic admissions policy as well.
Now the point I am about to make is very important, so pay attention.
There is no mathematical formula that will determine if you will get in to a certain school or not. The problem is that everyone thinks that there is a secret calculation that will determine their admission fate.
Get over it. It doesn’t exist.
All you can do is try to stack the odds in your favor. To do that, make sure that you are applying to schools that tend to accept students with similar academic credentials. And make sure that your personal statement clearly reflects something unique about you. Also, choose your letter writers carefully.
By doing this, you will give yourself the best odds at admission. But remember, there are no guarantees in college applications. There is fair amount of luck involved in admission decisions. You cannot control everything and it is crazy making if you try.
About: Professor Jane Dabel
A skilled professor, speaker, and consultant, Professor Dabel has won widespread respect for teaching excellence throughout her distinguished fifteen-year career. An award-winning professor and director of California State University, Long Beach’s Freshman Writing Tutorial Program (designed to help students improve their writing and time management skills), she is the perfect instructor with whom to explore how to apply to college. Professor Dabel has spent more than a decade developing proven techniques to help students avoid procrastination, manage their time effectively, and learn effective organizational methods.
In 2004, Professor Dabel took her extensive knowledge of admissions and used it to develop a strategy for helping high school students through the college application process. She founded Ocean Educational Consulting, LLC and began working as a private college admissions consultant where she created her Six-Step College Application program. Using this method, Dabel has helped high school students gain admission to public universities, liberal arts colleges, the Ivy Leagues, and universities in the United Kingdom.