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The factors that matter to admissions counselors for colleges continue to change. Before the pandemic, colleges started moving away from using SAT and ACT scores as a factor of considerable importance in their decisions. The pandemic sped up college’s decisions to not use it as a factor. Now, a few years removed from the pandemic, some universities are again emphasizing the importance of SAT and ACT test scores.

If you plan on attending college after high school, every class and extracurricular seemingly impacts the strength of your college application. Our Guidance Team at LuHi is very well-versed in what factors matter most in the college decision process. Here are 3 tips from their office:

1) For the most accurate information, go straight to the source.

Let's say you're interested in Baylor University, CSU, and GCU. The best place to start to see what matters for each application is on their website. The admissions page of a college’s website will tell you the information most relevant to their decision. Each college is unique. You can also pick up the phone and call their admissions office if you prefer.

2) If an application says a component is optional, think of it as required.

Does the application say three recommendation letters are recommended? Or maybe it says you have the submitting test scores is optional. Plan on sending all three recommendations as well as your test scores. They wouldn't list it if it didn’t play a role in their decision.

3) Admissions reps want to see your character come through.

According to the National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC), 70% of admissions officers say that a student’s character attributes are either “considerably” or “moderately” important in the admissions process. Private universities rate character as more important than public universities.

There are three main ways to show your character:

  • Your essay
  • Your recommendation letters
  • The nature of your extracurricular activities and work experience

If an admissions office conducts interviews, then that will also be a place for your character to shine through.

Some high schools, like LuHi, have started incorporating character development into their curriculum. Some schools have designated programs or courses. But most, like LuHi, build it into their current class offerings. Christian Decisions and Leadership are two examples of LuHi courses with character development incorporated. As a Christian school, our focus is on Christian Character Development.

Let’s talk test scores.

An article from C2education shares that test scores are making a comeback in college applications. “While the magnitude of the impact of submitting scores varies, all of the schools below show the same overall trend: submitting test scores improves an applicant’s odds of admission, in some cases offering more than double the acceptance rate.”

See the infographic below for a breakdown of the most important factors in college admissions decisions. We also recommend these three articles for further reading:

  1. 2022-2023 State of College Admissions
  2. 6 Common College Admissions Myths
  3. The Importance of Qualitative Factors in College Admissions


Originally published in 2017, updated for accuracy in 2023.

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