The College Acceptance Criteria: What They’re Really Looking At

Dear College Made Simple reader,

What is it that separates accepted students from the reject pile?

Of course, the easy answer is test scores, GPA, and extracurriculars. But not so fast.

At most colleges, most admissions will be good enough to pass that initial test… but then the real decisions get made.

Knowing how that happens – the focus of today’s story – can only improve your chances.


 The College Acceptance Criteria: What Schools REALLY Look At

 1. Money

Put plainly, many college admissions decisions come down to money.

There are a few elite colleges that have a need-blind admissions process. For just about all the rest, just as important as scores is net tuition revenue – the amount of money an incoming class is expected to make the school.

Higher education is, after all, a business. And businesses run on revenue.

 2. Uniqueness

One college admissions officer told The Daily Beast a story – an applicant with near-perfect test scores and a stellar GPA made the first cut.

But then, as so often happens, the pile of acceptances had to be whittled down. And this applicant had a bland, boring essay, without anything in his or her background that stood out.

The result? Eventual rejection.

It can’t be stated enough – good grades and scores only get you through the initial screening. If you want to make it through the further rounds, you need something to jump out at an admissions officer.

That could mean an unusual skill or experience. It could be an essay that shows personality.

The point is – Make your admissions officer remember you…

Stick out in their mind – and you’ll have a better chance of sticking through the numerous rounds of cuts that knock other applicants out.

In an upcoming CMS report, we’ll go through 3 more college acceptance criteria: Personality, Quotas, and Luck.

To your college funding & admissions success,

Scott Weingold

Co-Founder, College Planning Network LLC
Publisher, – The free educational resource of College Planning Network


Related Articles:

College Admission Strategies

College Application Checklist


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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.