What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How the Human Factor Affects College Admissions

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Vinay Bhaskara in a CollegeVine Livestream. You can watch the full Livestream for more info.


What’s Covered: 



The so-called “human factor” plays a really important role in admissions. This is particularly true when you’re aiming to get into smaller liberal arts colleges or highly selective colleges and universities. Even at schools that aren’t particularly selective, that personal component will affect things like merit scholarship money or honors college admissions. In this article we will discuss what the “human factor” is, why this means you need to create a balanced college list, and what the target demographics are for many schools.


What is the Human Factor?


Remember that the admissions officer reading your application is a person — a person with a lot of power over where you attend college. Their personal circumstances are going to affect how they read an application because different individuals will read an application with different levels of context and experience. 


They are bringing their own politics, religion, and experiences to this process. They also will always actively consider how you align with the college’s mission and culture. Even other applicants can impact an admissions officer’s perception of you in addition to their state of mind and emotions at the moment they read your application.


This is the human factor — the idea that it’s not a robot ultimately reading your application but a real human being.


Target Recruitment Demographics in College Admissions


Demographics, too, are part of that human factor for admissions officers, and the target demographics will vary from college to college.


Underrepresented Minority Students


Probably the target demographic that is best known is underrepresented minority students, which includes Black, Hispanic, Native American, and Pacific Islander students at selective colleges. However, there are also other target recruitment demographics for different types of institutions.


Out-of-State Students


Another demographic to keep in mind for most large public universities is out-of-state students. Out-of-state students typically pay a higher tuition, and that makes them a very desirable recruitment demographic. For example, if you’re from North Dakota and applying to a public East Coast university you would be required to pay out-of-state tuition as opposed to someone applying from in-state. 


Other Factors


Need-aware institutions, which take into account financial need when they make their admissions decisions, will give full-paying students an advantage, as well. Additionally, if you are a student applying to a less popular major at a given college, that could give you a leg up, too. These other factors will vary from college to college and year to year, of course, but often, if, say, you’re applying as a Classic major to a STEM-heavy school, you could very well be that target recruitment demographic.


Why You Need a Balanced College List


The human factor is one reason why you need to create a balanced college list and write great essays for every college that you apply to. An admissions officer could just be having a bad day when they are reviewing your application, and you need to account for that.


As a result, you need to avoid putting all of your eggs into one college’s basket. Creating a list with at least 6-8 schools on it will increase your chances of getting accepted to at least one school that you would be happy attending.


You should never apply to a school you wouldn’t be happy attending just because you may be part of a target demographic. Nor should you attempt to present yourself inauthentically to account for the human factor. You simply want to remember that you’re trying to highlight yourself in an appealing way to an admissions committee member — human to human — and that that should always be at the top of your mind when crafting your list and application.