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How To Prepare For Common Application Essay #1

Stephen Friedfeld, Ph.D
12/17/2015

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling's (NACAC) 2013 "Admissions Trends Survey" there are seven prominent student characteristics that are most highly valued by admission offices across the U.S. While the evaluation process is different for each school, this will help you and your child better understand which factors within a student's profile are generally sought after from an admissions perspective.

1.     High school attended - Just as your course load and transcript are predictors of success in college, so too is the environment in which those grades were attained. Colleges love to receive applications from students at reputable high schools that have sent them many students before hand. This adds an element of certainty regarding the quality of teaching, grading and courses the applicant has taken.

2.     Race/ethnicity - Upon visiting a college campus, you'll notice that most are full of students from different backgrounds and walks of life. In order to maintain a well rounded and vibrant community, colleges and universities set goals for admitting students of various ethnicities each year to help diversify the student body.

3.     State or country of residence - In a similar manner, schools today work extremely hard to recruit both domestically and internationally. Within an admissions office, each officer will be assigned a territory or region to cover. Some may be tasked with regions within a single state (Northern California, for instance), while others may cover multiple countries within a single region of the world. In the U.S., students hailing from underrepresented states who maintain strong credentials will certainly be given an advantage.

4.     First generation status - In recent years, the recruitment of first generation students has been one of the more prominent changes in the landscape of college admissions. Schools with large endowments have been at the forefront of this change, being financially able to provide need-based aid packages for many first generation students on an annual basis.

5.     Ability to pay - Even for schools with more substantial financial means, an admissions office still looks to accept students who are "full-pay" each year. These tuition payments, in part, help to offset the financial aid output from a college each year. With the most selective colleges today spending tens of thousands of dollars per student across four years, full pay students can be valuable assets to schools with mid- to low-level endowments.

6.     Gender - Just as colleges set goals and quotas for their yield of minority, international and first generation students, they also must be cognizant of keeping a balance of male and female students on campus. This balance can have a substantial effect on an applicant pool if the college is in need of more male/female students than usual in a given year.

7.     Alumni relations - This category mainly refers to legacy students - those who have direct-line relatives who are currently attending or have previously attended the institution to which they are applying. In addition, an admissions office will also look favorably upon applicants whose parents are active donors, board members or closely affiliated to a person of importance at the university.

(Stephen has 10+ years of admissions experience at Cornell University and Princeton University. He is a founder of AcceptU, an admissions counseling group comprised entirely of former admissions officers from highly selective colleges and universities. For questions or to learn more about AcceptU, contact Stephen (stephen@acceptu.com, 617-424-0700) or visit www.acceptu.com. )

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