When you begin the college application process, you may start to wonder what criteria is assessed by admissions departments at universities. While each college may have its own decision-making process when it comes to reviewing applications and admitting students, the most common approach is a holistic review. There are many parts to this approach versus a clear standards approach, and in true holistic reviewing, not one of these aspects will make or break the outcome on its own. Let’s take a look at what all goes into consideration during an admissions decision.

Test Scores

Even in a push towards test-optional college admissions decisions, when a test score is present on an application, it is considered as part of the criteria. While universities may not make decisions solely based on how a student performs on standardized tests, a test score, whether good or bad, will be hard to ignore as a main determining factor. Learn more about how to Cultivate your best results with our test preparation offerings

Class Rank

Another important aspect that is considered in the admissions decision is how your academic performance compares to others in your class. Where you rank among your peers may be equally as telling of your academic achievements as your actual test scores. 


Awards that you have received throughout your education can also be important criteria that are considered. Recognitions such as being on the President’s List, being on Honor Roll, participating in programs such as National Honor Society, and more, are all examples of excellent educational achievements. In addition, awards that you receive outside of strictly academics, such as recognitions for community service or leadership, can also be useful for your application. 


Not only will college admissions counselors thoroughly review what extracurricular activities you actively participated in throughout your educational career, including clubs, programs, sports, and more, they will also assess what particular passions and talents you have as an individual. It is important to make it adamantly clear what you are interested in, how you spend your time outside of academics, and why you are passionate about these things, especially when extracurriculars relate to the field of study you are intending to pursue. 


Having positive letters of recommendation from advisors or teachers is another way to improve your appeal in your application. There is an added depth of understanding about you that these letters give college admissions counselors, and they allow them to see a side of you that you may have trouble articulating yourself. Former advisors and teachers can speak on your passion, drive, enthusiasm, work ethic, and more, giving insight into who you are as a person in addition to who you are as a student. 


Last, but not least, the essay portion of your application weighs into the decision-making process. This is often the most dreaded aspect of the college application. We address some of the most common mistakes made in the essays in our recent blog post. By avoiding these, and putting your best writing foot forward, you can have a well-rounded application fit for a holistic review. 

If you have more questions about what all is taken into consideration in a holistic review of college applications, or if you would like assistance throughout the admissions process, reach out to Cultivate. Our team of college admissions experts can help you Cultivate the acceptance you deserve. Contact us today