Admissions

Information about college admissions.

College Admissions 101: Understanding the College Admissions Process

Wondering how to approach the college admissions process? If you need college admissions assistance, we’re here to help. On this page, we’ll break down every aspect of university admission and give you college admissions advice to help you succeed. In addition to our school-specific admissions articles, this page will also cover other key details about college admission, including:

  • Our top 9 common college admissions requirements
  • Finding college admissions essay examples
  • How to write a college admission letter
  • Our top pieces of college admissions advice
  • How college admission advisors can be helpful to your college application journey
  • And much more!

We’ll talk about how college admission advisors can provide expert college admissions assistance and help you navigate university admissions. Scroll past the school-specific college admissions articles to begin your dive into the basics of college admissions advice. We’ll cover key tips on how the college process works, where to get college admissions assistance, and more.

 

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What is the Admission Process?

The university admissions process is the process through which students apply to college. Most students think the university admissions process only spans their senior fall. In fact, you might think that your college admissions requirements begin and end with your Common App. However, this isn’t the case. 

In reality, the college admissions process is much more complex. This is why many students require college admissions assistance. At most schools, each college counselor is responsible for hundreds of students. This means that most high schoolers don’t get the college admissions assistance they need. However, if you work with a private college admission advisor, you’ll receive one-on-one guidance throughout your college journey. A college admission advisor will help you choose the right extracurriculars, build a college list, draft your essays, and more. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the admissions process, consider reaching out to a college admission advisor. 

As many college admission advisors will tell you, the admissions process actually starts as soon as you begin high school. The earlier you begin thinking about university admissions, the more likely you are to succeed. In this guide to the university admission process, we’ll walk you through every aspect of university admission. We’ll discuss how the university admission process works, what you can do to prepare, how college admission advisors can help, and more. 

As you think about university admissions, remember that you can’t control every aspect of the university admission process. University admissions are fickle, and there’s no perfect formula to get accepted at every top school. Knowing when to ask for college admissions assistance can make the process a lot easier. With the right college admissions advice, you can maximize your odds of getting into your dream schools. 

What Does the College Admissions Process Include? 

There are many moving parts to consider when researching how to apply to college. The college admission process includes, but is not limited to:

  1. High school course selection
  2. Academic achievement throughout high school
  3. Extracurricular activities
  4. Standardized testing
  5. Creating your candidate profile
  6. Building a college list
  7. Visiting campuses
  8. Drafting and editing college essays
  9. Completing the Common Application, Coalition Application, or other school-specific applications, and more!

As you can see, university admission is complicated. With so many moving parts, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the university admissions process. If you’re looking for support and college admissions assistance, college admission advisors—like our team at CollegeAdvisor—can help. College admissions advisors work with you to bolster every part of your academic and extracurricular profile so you stand out to top schools.

The college admissions process is more competitive than ever. This makes finding the right college admissions advice all the more important. At most top schools, many students already engage in extracurriculars and get top grades. So, as you approach the university admission process, it’s important to find ways to stand out.

Now that we’ve discussed what the university admission process entails, let’s break down every step of the university admission process in detail.  We’ll explain how the process impacts your university admissions odds and how college admission advisors can help.

College Admissions: A Changing Landscape

More students are applying to college than ever before. This means that the university admission process has become even more competitive in recent years. Over the last ten years, Ivy League acceptance rates have steadily decreased to all-time lows. This is in part due to a steady increase in overall applications. The Common App saw a 19.8% increase in their application volume in the last year alone.

Another significant change in the university admission process in recent years is the increase in test-optional policies. Although there is a slight increase in the percentage of applicants who have chosen to submit test scores (after a stark drop off at the beginning of the pandemic), the percentage of Common App institutions that require test scores has decreased to 5%.

Additionally, more and more top universities have made the shift to stop reporting their university admissions data. So, students applying cannot compare themselves to past admitted students’ scores and GPAs. This is a challenge for students because they cannot see if their SAT scores are within a school’s desired range. 

However, this change is also an indicator that schools are more focused on a holistic college admission process. It allows students to focus on the schools that would be a strong fit for them academically, socially, and financially, without comparing themselves to others. In a holistic college admission process, no one criteria will bar a student from university admission. 

A holistic college admissions process means that the focus is less on a student’s numerical qualifications. Rather, the student’s more qualitative traits, like their background, extracurriculars, and personal essay, play a larger role in their application. Each component is considered more equally and within context. 

It can feel difficult to know exactly how to stand out in university admissions. However, start by understanding what the different steps of the university admission process are and why they matter. This can help you know what to focus on in your applications.

College Admissions Requirements: What to Expect?

So, how do college admission requirements impact your own university admissions process? In this section, we’ll break down every aspect of the college admissions process. We’ll discuss common college admissions requirements, how they impact your applications, what kind of college admissions assistance you might need, and how college admission advisors can help.

In this guide, we break down common college admissions requirements into nine sections:

  1. High school course selection
  2. High school academics
  3. Extracurricular activities
  4. Standardized testing
  5. Creating your candidate profile
  6. Building a college list
  7. Visiting campuses
  8. Writing a college admissions essay
  9. Filling out your applications

While this may seem like a lot to manage, CollegeAdvisor has a range of resources, like webinars and blog posts, that provide college admissions assistance to help make the university admission process as straightforward as possible. If this process is entirely new to you, a college admission advisor can help walk you through the process from start to finish.

College Admission Requirement #1: Selecting Courses in High School

Along with your application, most schools will require you to submit a high school transcript. This reflects all of the courses you’ve taken throughout high school. Your transcript allows admissions officers to see that you’ve satisfied their minimum course requirements as well as what electives you chose to take. Beyond your grades, your chosen courses and their difficulty level help show admissions officers what interests you. 

Admissions officers take note of the difficulty of your courses. So, if you are able to, pushing yourself in your high school classes can help make your applications more competitive against other applicants. This means taking Honors and AP classes when possible to demonstrate that you are prepared for the rigor of college.

College Admissions Requirement #2: High School Academics 

One of the most important aspects of your university admission application is your Grade Point Average, or GPA. Your GPA is a summary of every grade you’ve received in high school and how you have risen to the challenge of your coursework year after year. Not only can a high GPA reflect academic excellence; a GPA that has steadily improved can reflect a commitment to self-improvement. So, don’t get hung up on a single low grade. When you think about GPA and college admissions, it’s the trends that matter most. 

Senior fall can be an incredibly stressful time for students as they begin the university admission process. So, be sure you find a way to manage your coursework and keep your grades up throughout your final year. Getting college admissions assistance from knowledgeable college admission advisors can help take some of the pressure off you as you work on your applications. This will give you the time and energy needed to succeed in your classes.

College Admissions Requirement #3: Extracurricular Activities & Your Activities List

Your extracurricular activities showcase what you like to do and what you care about outside of the classroom. Admissions officers will look at your extracurriculars to learn how you choose to spend your free time. Rather than approaching extracurriculars as a way to impress admissions officers, think of your extracurriculars as opportunities for personal growth. 

When thinking about what types of extracurriculars “look good” on college applications, most people giving college admissions assistance will recommend “depth over breadth.” That means activities that showcase commitment, growth, dedication, leadership, creativity, or any other positive attributes of your character.

Remember, your college application should not be what admissions officers want to see. It’s about what makes you you. Don’t pursue activities that don’t interest you just to help you get into college. Instead, find your passions and dedicate yourself to them. A college admission advisor can help you identify your unique strengths and how you can best stand out during the admissions process. 

College Admissions Requirement #4: Taking Standardized Tests

More and more schools have adopted test optional policies. However, standardized test scores are still a great opportunity to strengthen your application. These scores are used in conjunction with your GPA and transcript to get a sense of your academic abilities and how you perform in a testing setting.

The SAT and ACT are challenging for all students regardless of their academic abilities. So, start your preparation early. Build a study schedule to prepare ahead of your testing date. Our college admissions assistance extends to test prep, so you can count on our advisors to help you create a game plan for how you want to approach your studying, when to take practice tests, and what you need to review to feel confident.

College Admissions Requirement #5: Creating your Candidate Profile 

A candidate profile is a snapshot of who you are, what you do, and why colleges should admit you. In the university admission process, many schools use a holistic review process to assess applications. This means they will consider each part of your application and how they work together to tell your story.

When crafting a candidate profile, you may need some college admissions assistance to decide what is worth including. A college admission advisor can work with you to determine which details you want to highlight in your application and how they complement each other. 

In addition to providing college admissions assistance, an advisor can provide an outside opinion, similar to that of an admissions officer. This can help you understand how an outsider might view your candidate profile from your application.

College Admissions Requirement #6: Building Your College List 

Creating your college list is one of the most important steps in the university admission process. As you begin thinking about which schools you’d like to apply to, it is important you make sure your list is balanced. This means you should have a mix of reach, match, and safety schools. These terms refer to your odds of admission, which reflect how you compare to the average student profile and the school’s acceptance rate.

Having a variety of schools will ensure you are maximizing your potential and, ideally, your acceptances. That way you will have multiple schools to choose from when it comes time to enroll. This will ensure that you can attend a school that meets all of your needs: academic, social, and financial.

If you’ve never thought about what kind of school you might like to attend, getting college admissions assistance from one of our college admission advisors can help. We’ll ensure you have a well-balanced list that reflects your strengths and desires.

College Admissions Requirement #7: Campus Visits & Demonstrated Interest

While visiting college campuses isn’t necessarily a requirement for university admission, it can show demonstrated interest to the admissions office. Demonstrated interest is just what it sounds like: it demonstrates your interest. This means you’ve taken the steps to learn more about a school, whether that be through a college visit and tour, attending an online information session, or connecting with alumni. 

Certain schools will factor demonstrated interest into your application decision. At these schools, it is considered beneficial to show demonstrated interest. However, many schools do not take DI into consideration. So, it is important you do your research. 

Regardless, visiting a school is always beneficial. Learning more about a college, whether in person or virtually, gives you something to write about in your “why this school” essays. It can also help you in any university admission interviews.

If you are not sure how to maximize the benefits of a campus visit, a college admission advisor can offer college admissions assistance. They will help you think about what to look for, what you liked or disliked about the college, and how to infuse your experiences into your application.

College Admissions Requirement #8: Writing Your College Admissions Essays 

Your university admission essay is a crucial part of the application. Admission officers look to essays to get a sense of who you are, including your beliefs and perspectives, and the experiences that have led you to who you are today. Not every university admissions essay will ask you to show why you want to attend a given school. However, after reading your essay, your admissions officer should understand why you would be a good addition to their school.

Your essays should embody the candidate profile that you created earlier on in the university admissions process. They should reflect your very best qualities and effectively communicate something about you that your academic and extracurricular history on their own do not.

Writing a college essay requires you to pick a topic, brainstorm, write a first draft, edit, rewrite, proofread, revise, revise again, and distill your thoughts and ideas into a final polished draft. The type of essay, length, and prompt you need to respond to may change the way you choose to approach your essays. 

For a more in-depth look at the writing process, check out our college admissions essay guides. We have detailed step-by-step breakdowns for prompts from a range of schools, like Brown University, Carnegie Mellon University, Dartmouth College, MIT, and more.  

College Admissions Essay Examples

When writing a college admissions essay for the first time, it can be helpful to read over college admission essay examples. While you should never aim to copy someone else’s work, you can look at strong college admissions essay examples for inspiration. As you read over some college admissions essay examples, consider what you think is good about them and why they worked. Then, you can apply those ideas in your own essays.

Do you feel like you need more college admissions assistance to write a successful essay or like you’re not sure what to look for in college admissions essay examples? In that case, you’d likely benefit from a one-on-one coaching session with one of our college admissions advisors. Your college admission advisor will help you write each individual college admissions essay and provide college admissions assistance, including expert feedback on what works and what could be better.

Admissions officers know providing students with college admission essay examples can be extremely valuable. So, many schools also provide their own college admissions essay examples. Looking at college admissions essay examples that are specific to the schools you want to apply to can help focus your ideas as you begin writing university admission essays.

Here are some quick links to schools that provide their own college admissions essay examples:

If you want to check out a CollegeAdvisor-approved collection of college admissions essay examples and why they worked, take a look at these 10 Best College Admissions Essay Examples.

College Admissions Requirement #9: Filling out your Applications 

There are specific university admission portals you must use to submit your college applications. Depending on the school, you will be given the option to submit your applications via the Common Application, the Coalition Application, or a school-specific application.

The Common Application is one of the most common application portals. The application goes live on August 1st and allows you to centralize the university admission process into a single application for multiple schools. 

Each school will have their own unique questions and supplemental essay prompts. However, you can save your Personal Statement essay and information about your academics, extracurriculars, family, and test scores to share with multiple schools.

The Coalition Application is similar to the Common Application. The application window depends on each individual school, so be sure to check when your school begins accepting applications and when their application deadline is. While many schools use one or both of these sites, some schools have their own school-specific portal. 

It is important to note that certain schools will have their own college admissions requirements, so be sure to research and review each school’s university admission guidelines. Especially if you are applying to many schools with different university admissions requirements, you may want some extra support and college admissions assistance. Our college admissions advisors can provide expert college admissions advice to help you navigate the university admissions process.

Now that you know what kinds of college admissions requirements you might encounter and some ideas about how to utilize college admissions assistance, let’s touch on one aspect of university admissions you may not be familiar with.

The College Admission Letter

One element of the college admissions process you may not know about is the college admission letter. While most schools will not require a college admission letter, the skills you hone by writing a college admission letter can also help you feel confident tackling a college admissions essay.

In the case that writing a college admission letter is part of your university admission process, you’ll want to be sure you give yourself ample time to draft and edit. If you have to write a college admission letter and need college admissions assistance, a college admission advisor can walk you through every step of the brainstorming and writing process.

What is a College Admission Letter?

So, now that you’re aware that your applications may include a college admission letter, you might be asking yourself, what is a college admission letter? A college admission letter is, essentially, a cover letter for your college applications. Along with the other materials included in your application, a college admission letter gives admissions officers an introduction to who you are, what you’re excited about, and why you’d be a good fit for their school.

Just like how you’d review college admission essay examples to get a sense of what a strong college admissions essay is like, it can be helpful to review a college admission letter example to give you a sense of what a strong college admission letter might be like. While your college admission letter might look different from someone else’s college admission letter, there are some basic components that should be included in every college admission letter.

If you need to write a college admission letter for any schools on your list, make sure it includes the correct information and formatting.

Your college admission letter should include:

  • Your name and contact details
  • Your academic background
  • Your extracurricular background
  • Your interest in the school

You can approach your college admission letter similar to how you would approach a cover letter for a job. In your college admission letter, try to be concise but specific. Include details that point to experiences and interests. Then, use these details to show why you deserve a spot at this college.

Your college admission letter heading should include:

  • Your name
  • Your full address
  • The date you will send the letter
  • Who you are sending it to
  • The name of the college
  • The college address

After your header, you will start your college admission letter with a greeting or salutation: “Dear ____”. Your college admission letter may be addressed to a specific admission officer, your regional admissions officer, or the office of admissions. Formatting your letter correctly helps make it easy to read and shows an admissions officer you have done your research. Plus, you’re demonstrating that you know how to present yourself professionally and clearly.

Then, you can get into the main content of your college admission letter. Your letter should begin with some kind of introduction or hook, giving your reader a sense of who you are and your interest in the school. In the rest of your letter, you might touch on your academic interests, extracurriculars, and how these experiences have led you to your interest in this particular school.

Finally, be sure to end your college admission letter with a closing salutation. If you need more college admissions advice about what exactly to include in a college admission letter, be sure to check out our college admission letter guide. If you’re interested in more hands-on college admissions assistance, our college admissions advisors can provide individualized college admissions assistance.

College Admissions 101: Final Thoughts

Now that we have reviewed recent university admissions trends, writing a college admission letter, college admission essay examples, and what to expect from college admissions requirements, you’ll likely be left with the sense that the university admissions process is complex—and it is! That is why understanding these complexities and why they matter is crucial to success in the university admissions process.

Even when you know what to expect as you begin the university admissions process, you may find you still have questions. You might even want college admissions advice that is unique to your situation and the college admissions requirements of the specific schools you choose to apply to. That is where our college admissions advisors come in. When you sign up to work with a college admission advisor, there is no question too big or too small to address.

Our college admissions advisors offer college admissions assistance in all areas of university admissions, from writing your college admission letter to reviewing college admissions essay examples to building your college list. With a college admission advisor offering their expert college admissions advice, you can feel confident through every step of the college admissions process.

CollegeAdvisor.com offers a range of college admissions advice to help students get accepted into top colleges. If you want college application guidance from expert college application advisors, get started today with your free account or schedule an advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.