Unfortunately for college applicants, there is no magic, straightforward formula for earning an acceptance in the college admissions process. Since the evaluation for college admissions is completed by human beings, about other human beings, in an environment with yearly increasing numbers of applicants who excel and exceed the requirements for admissions, subjectivity in decision making naturally follows. In addition, yearly fluxuations in the number of students on campus (i.e. over or under-enrollment from previous years) can affect the number of acceptances sent in any given year. Then, add the complexity of forecasting “admissions yield” or the percentage of students likely to enroll after being accepted, which can adds a speculative aspect how many admits to make. And, lastly, for public universities, the unknowns about state budgets (which in California aren’t passed until June 30th, months after admissions decisions are made in March) and how many students the state will fund at all levels of higher education can further complicate who does or does not get accepted to a college. (Remember colleges run like any other “business”, they need to balance how much they “spend” in relation to how much “income” or tuition and state funding, they take in.) The lack of a formula or other straightforward meritocratic system to determine college admissions can create additional un-ease and stress for both parents and college bound teens. To relieve pressure, find a trusted advisor for regular college admissions “check-ups” throughout high school, which compare a college bound student’s progress to the criteria used in making college admissions decisions, and become educated about how colleges make admissions decisions.
In general, applicants are evaluated based on the following information: grades, classes and the types of classes (i.e. Advanced Placement, Honors or College Prep) taken during high school, SAT or ACT scores, and Extracurricular Activities. While colleges publish average Grade Point Average (GPA), SAT and ACT scores of admitted students, extracurricular activities, AKA leadership activities, are more nebulous to define–which can send blood pressures rising. Before getting worked up, listen to the following podcast to understand more how colleges view extracurricular activities and weigh the student’s leadership experience in college admissions decision making.