Factors that play into admission decisions for colleges are discussed in detail in the 2019 State of College Admissions report. Chapter 3 of this document looks at various variables that go into a high school senior's application, ranging from GPA to extracurricular activities, and the weight each variable has on the college admissions decision.
On page 15 of the report, the variables are broken down into the factors colleges consider and categorize them into importance levels of considerable, moderate, limited, and no importance. For high schoolers, this information can be a helpful guide to understand what colleges are looking for in applicants. They can then focus their time and energy on the areas that will get them into the university of their choice and get them the most scholarship dollars.
For Lutheran High School, this report is a good indicator for us to focus our students' efforts on our students in the right direction. If GPA is something a college weighs heavily, we can assess if we are equipping and supporting students to achieve the highest GPA possible. If ACT and SAT scores are most important, we know to expend resources on a solid college test prep program.
This infographic breaks down the top 4 factors that colleges find most important. For example, 75% of colleges find Grades in All High School Courses to be of considerable importance, and 73% find Grades in College Prep Courses significant. The drop-off after that is sharp. There's a 10% drop to the next most important factor for college admissions: Strength of Curriculum. Admissions Tests Scores are the 4th most important factor considered by colleges. Even so, less than 46% of colleges believe ACT and SAT scores to be of considerable importance. This percentage has been declining in recent years, a trend expected to continue post-COVID-19.
We've also listed two factors that many students and parents weigh heavily, but colleges often do not: Class Rank and Subject Test Scores (like AP or IB tests).
Colleges also consider some other admissions factors better to reflect the personal characteristics and passions of students. This gives insight into an applicant and their academic performance, and many of these factors are moderately crucial to universities, including essays, teacher recommendations, and participation in extracurricular activities.
Overall, there is not one specific set of factors that influences a student's admission to a university. Still, it is beneficial to know and understand the trends and stay well-informed as your student prepares for college.