4 Factors That Could Affect Your College Acceptance Chances


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Most college applicants are aware of the basic ways in which their college applications will be screened. Standardized test scores are weighed, GPAs and transcripts are compared, and letters of recommendation are taken into account. While these factors may be among those most heavily weighed by admissions committees, they aren’t the only factors that influence your chances at an acceptance.


Many smaller details are also taken into account when college admissions committees compare candidates and decide who makes the cut. To learn more about four of the lesser-known factors that affect your chances at college acceptance, keep reading.



1. Do You Give Back To Your Community?

You’re probably already aware that your involvement in extracurriculars will be considered when you apply to colleges, but you might not know that exactly which extracurriculars you choose to pursue might play a role in your college acceptance. While sports and leadership positions can only help your chances, many admissions committees now agree that service projects are the extracurricular of choice.


Likely influenced by Harvard’s recent Making Caring Common initiative, many admissions committees are increasingly on the hunt for applicants who give back to their communities. This doesn’t just mean participating in a fundraiser or going on a service learning trip over the summer. It means choosing a cause that is relevant to you personally or to the communities of which you’re a part, and maintaining and building upon your service to this cause over a period of years rather than days.


For more information about service projects, including how to find one or start your own, check out these CollegeVine posts:


How to Help High School Freshmen Find a Volunteer Project

Best Places for High Schoolers to Do Community Service

Considering a Volunteer Abroad Program? Read This First

Do I Need Community Service for My College Applications?

32 Community Service Ideas for Teen Volunteers



2. Do Your Social Media Accounts Reflect Positively On You?

We at CollegeVine are often asked if college admissions committees review the social media accounts of applicants. While this is far from a routine practice, it certainly isn’t unheard of these days. In fact, we have heard of several high profile cases in recent years in which inappropriate conduct online resulted in the revocation of a college acceptance. So, while it’s unlikely that an admissions committee will go out of their way to review the social media account of each and every applicant, you should know that your conduct online can impact your college acceptance.


Stay ahead of this possibility by building a responsible online presence. Lock down your privacy settings so that only your personal friends can see your posts, but also remember that nothing online is truly private. Everything you post or are associated with online could be viewed by potential employers or college admissions committees. Also remember that your image is affected by others who you’re associated with online, whether you like it or not. If you have social media contacts who post questionable material, you might consider blocking them to limit the appearance of posts they might tag you in or add to your wall.


For more tips about building an online presence in high school and using social media responsible, don’t miss these posts:


How Inappropriate Social Media Behavior Can Affect Your Admissions Decision

Preparing Your LinkedIn, Facebook, & Twitter for Your Summer Job Search

Why Would a College Rescind an Acceptance?

Will Admissions Counselors Look At Your Social Media?

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3. Have You Established a History of Challenging Yourself?

Good grades and test scores are always a strength on your college application, but they may not tell the whole story. Often, an admissions committee is more interested in seeing that you’ve selected challenging coursework and found ways to extend your learning than they are in seeing a string of straight A’s.


This can be a tricky balance to strike and it might take some figuring out before you hit your stride. Meet with your guidance counselor to discuss class choices as they relate to your college admissions goals. If you intend to apply to very selective colleges, you will need to pursue your high school’s most challenging track of classes to be competitive. Admissions committees are well versed in evaluating the strength of your transcript, and they won’t be fooled by flawless grades in ho-hum classes. Wow them by pursuing classes that truly challenge you.


You can further impress the admissions committee with your work ethic by extending your learning outside the classroom. Taking summer classes in your areas of interest, self-studying for AP exams, or participating in an independent study all show similar initiative and a willingness to tackle challenging work.


To learn more about extending your learning opportunities out of the classroom, see these posts:


6 Tips For Building a Senior Schedule That Will Impress Colleges

Can I Self Study a Language in High School?

A Guide to Pursuing Research Projects in High School

How to Plan and Implement an Independent Study in High School



4. Have You Shown Interest In the College?

An admissions committee has two primary goals. The first is to accept a pool of students who are talented, committed members of the community. The second is to accept a pool of students who will actually attend. If an admissions committee accepts only students whose top choices of colleges are elsewhere, they are unlikely to fill the incoming class. Instead, they need to choose qualified applicants who are likely to enroll in the fall.


You can give your admissions chances a boost by expressing interest in your top choice schools. This means things like reaching out the admissions team personally at college fairs or campus visits. It could also mean meeting with professors or coaches, following up with personal thank you notes, and even writing a letter of continued interest if you are waitlisted or deferred. To learn more about expressing interest in your top choice college, check out our popular post, How to Express Interest in a College.


There is no secret formula to college acceptance, but you should know that there is more to evaluating your application than simply your grades and test scores. Consider these four angles of evaluation to boost your chances even more as you apply to colleges.


For more guidance in the application process, consider enlisting the help of CollegeVine’s Applications Guidance service. Here, you will be paired with a personal admissions specialist from a top a college who can provide step-by-step guidance through the entire application process, from college list to college acceptance.

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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.