Looking Beyond Academics: What Looks Good on College Applications — Layman's Terms Skip to content
Applying For College Admissions

Looking Beyond Academics: What Looks Good on College Applications

In layman's terms

- This article explores other elements of a student's college application besides their grades.


While important, grades and test scores are not the only thing that admissions officers look at when making their admissions decisions. Below are some other things that matter.

Extracurricular Activities/Leadership

  • Admission officers want passionate, active students who will positively impact campus. They know the difference between someone who joins a bunch of different clubs just to spice up their resume and a student who is deeply invested in activities that matter. Students who are leaders in their communities are going to be favored over those who are not.


College Admissions
  • The college essay is your chance to let the admissions office know more about who you are and how you'll contribute. No one has ever gotten into a college just because of a great essay, but a great essay can make the difference for a borderline candidate.

Showing Interest in the School

  • Everyone wants to be loved, and college admissions officers are no different. They want to choose students who are excited about their school and are more likely to attend. Students who visit the campus, sign in at college fairs, go to in-school information sessions, and correspond with admissions officers are more likely to get their attention. If you are really excited about a school, be sure to let them know.
  • Apply Early Decision/ Early Action

    • One of the best ways to show a college that you really love their school is to apply early. Research from Common App suggests that it is easier for B students to get into college if they apply early.

    Having a “Hook”

    Athletic Hook
    • Admissions officers have many institutional priorities to consider, including building great athletic teams, having a diverse class, and promoting alumni children. Students who have these “hooks” are going to be at an advantage in the admission process.

    Being a Good Match for the School or Program

    • If you are applying to an undergraduate business school, it helps to be strong in math and have some business experience. If you are looking at nursing programs, it helps to have good science grades and hospital volunteer hours on your resume. Admissions officers at specialized programs are looking for students who will excel in a particular field. They may be willing to overlook a couple of bad grades in courses that aren't relevant if you have a clear academic or extracurricular strength that makes you a good match for the school or program.


    • Some colleges offer on-campus interviews, and others will give you the opportunity to interview an alumni in your hometown. The importance of the interview varies among colleges, but making a great impression on your interviewer can sometimes tip the scale in your favor.

    For more layman's guide on navigating college & university visit the College section of our website.

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