What Colleges Are Looking For—The Big Five

Chalk Talk #41

Applying to college can be a daunting process. With so many different moving parts working together to build one solid application, it can all feel very overwhelming. That’s why it’s important for your students to know what colleges really want to see in an application and what, to them, constitutes a strong candidate. Though not all colleges care about the same things equally, there are generally five things that colleges really want in an application, what we like to call “The Big Five.” Share these with your students!

The Big Five:

  1. Grades and Course Rigor
    • Colleges want to see consistently strong grades, or second best, that grades improved over the course of high school. Colleges would rather see slightly lower grades in tougher courses than straight As in easy ones.
  1. ACT/SAT Scores
    • These are very important. Colleges use ACT/SAT scores to see how you compare to students nationally and how ready you are for college-level work.
  1. Essays
    • Many colleges require applicants to write essays, which is your chance to tell your story. (Usually smaller or more selective colleges require this.)
  1. Involvement
    • Colleges are looking for students who have been involved in 2–3 activities outside of class. “Activities” can include sports, clubs, jobs, internships, etc. Almost all colleges like to see that you have been involved in something outside of class because it means you will enrich a campus community.
  1. Recommendation Letters
    • Most colleges require applicants to secure letters of recommendation from coaches, teachers, etc. Strong rec letters can set you apart in the sea of applicants.
  1. Bonus-Demonstrated Interest
    • “Demonstrated interest” is how much you show a certain college that you only want to attend their school.

Want to learn more? This Chalk Talk was pulled from our recently released The College Playbook!

Written by college admissions expert Lucas Spielfogel, The College Playbook gives students the perfect play-by-play on how to win at the college admissions process. Your students will benefit from the same down-to-earth advice that has helped students across the nation find the best college for their passion and skills. 

Click here to download a free sample!

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