College Admissions Trends

Every year schools readjust their focus on what’s truly important in an incoming freshman.  Here’s what they’re looking at right now…

It’s tempting to think that when it comes to admissions, colleges look at same old thing every year.

Good grades, good test scores, lots of extracurricular activities… lather, rinse, repeat.

Unfortunately schools are just as fickle as anything else in this world.

Colleges’ tastes change.  So do the ways and means through which you can apply.

And if you’re not aware of what college admissions are trending towards when you apply, you could be severely hurting your child’s chances at getting in.

So what’s hot right now?  Here’s a few things you should be looking for:

Class Rank Doesn’t Rank

Before your child drives him or herself insane trying to win valedictorian spot in their graduating class, consider this – only about 23% of schools take a student’s class rank into consideration when deciding on admission.

According to high school guidance counselors, class rank rates below several other deciding factors.   Topping the list is a student’s grades in college prep classes.  Then strength of curriculum, admission test scores, overall grades in all classes and finally the admissions essay are all considered more important to admissions offices.

Also consider that class rank only compares your student to other students in their particular school… not nationwide.  So a college can’t consider that a truly accurate representation of an applicant’s abilities.

Schools Want You to Want Them

It’s easier than ever for a student to sit down, cruise several different colleges’ websites and submit some online applications in the course of an afternoon.

Schools know this.  And when it only takes the click of a mouse to apply, it’s going to take a lot more than that to show them you truly want to attend.   Universities are now taking the time to calculate your interest level in them.   They want students who really want them.

Web site registration, campus visits, interviews and contact with admissions reps at your high school all factor into whether a school really thinks you’re serious about them.

If your child is truly interested in attending a certain college, it pays to take the time to let them know.  Otherwise they could get lost in the shuffle of thousands of faceless applications.

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Will You Get a “Fair” Financial Aid Award?

Well, the truth is — Most families never find out!  They’ll simply take what’s offered.  And many will pay more for college than they need to… sometimes up to tens of thousands of dollars more.

That’s one of the reasons we developed our Free College Funding Analysis.

One phone call with one of our education consultants can quickly identify a family’s college funding situation… and identify any number of ways that can help them.

Click here to learn more about our Free College Funding Analysis.

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It’s Not Who You Know

It’s probably not worth your child’s time anymore to hunt down a laundry list of great recommendations.  Colleges are looking less and less at them these days.

The National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC) recently showed that just 17 percent of colleges give “considerable importance” to recommendations from an applicant’s teachers or counselors.

Schools that require recommendations are now even requiring less than they did before.   University of Vermont is only requiring one now.  Tulane only asks for one too and it only needs to be from the guidance office.  College of Charleston has eliminated the requirement altogether.

While kind words about an applicant never hurt, they’re almost certainly not going to play a deciding role in admission much anymore.


Remember when a great SAT score seemed like life or death for getting into college?

Well fast forward to 2011, where more than 800 colleges and universities now don’t even require a student take the test in the first place!

Recent studies have shown that high school GPA is a far more accurate indicator of a student’s ability… NOT their SAT score.

Schools like NYU, George Mason, American University, Texas A&M and Ohio State have all dropped their requirement of an SAT score.

You can browse a complete list of non-SAT schools at  So be sure to check if the schools your student is looking are on there.  If so, you can surely save some time, effort and stress.

Make sure you’re up to date on which way the wind is blowing in the world of admissions.  Don’t waste time on things like SAT’s and letters of recommendations if the school you’re applying to doesn’t consider them.

Every school makes their decision differently.  Researching those differences could prove to be the difference when those envelopes are mailed out in the Spring.

To your successful college search,

Related Articles:

SAT – Optional Colleges

SAT – Optional Colleges, Part 2

How Demonstrated Interest Could Help Your College Admissions Chances

How College Admissions Has Changed

Scott Weingold

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Martha L. AlvaradoMarch 13th, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Thank You for the information on “college made simple article”…it was a confirmation to my daughter; she began early searching out the school of her choice.

TMarch 13th, 2011 at 6:42 pm

How does this article pertain to applying to DUKE, NC????????
What are they looking for in admissions?

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News,, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.