Your Academic Record: What Are Colleges Looking For?

From an admissions reader’s perspective, there are many nuances to interpreting a student’s academic record.

Their first priority: deciding whether they’re confident a student could handle the coursework at their institution. In other words, would that student succeed academically?

From there, it’s about gauging the student’s promise in going above and beyond, both in and out of the classroom.

How would this student contribute to the each department, classroom environment, and the intellectual atmosphere overall? In what subject areas would this student truly excel?

It’s usually those students whom colleges count on to further their name recognition, strengthen the alumni network, and give back in the future.

While there are plenty of other factors for admissions committees to evaluate, academics are by far the most important. So when it comes to reading transcripts, admissions officials have three main interests:

They balance their consideration of GPA with the rigor of courses. Getting A’s is ideal, obviously, but how much are you willing to challenge yourself? The general wisdom from the admissions world is that it’s worth the risk of getting a B in an honors or AP course, rather than playing it safe for an easy A.

Bottom line: colleges like to see students who are willing to push themselves.

Admissions also take into consideration the courses that are available at that particular high school. With the counselor letter of recommendation, admissions counselors also receive a profile of the student’s high school, which lists every AP and honors course available.

Bottom line: colleges like to see that students take advantage of as many opportunities available to them as possible.

Lastly, admissions are looking for one of two things over a student’s four years: (1) a consistently strong performance throughout high school, or (b) an upward trend in a student’s grades.

Bottom line: while they understand that the transition into high school can be tougher on some students than others, hard work and steady improvement are the best signs that a student will be prepared for college courses.

How are you already pushing yourself? Where could you be taking advantage of opportunities that are available to you? Where can you help yourself improve?

Learn what your can do right now to increase your chances of acceptance and lower your college prep stress level. Attend our live webinar, The Path to College: What Every Junior Needs to Know.