The Ultimate College Application Workbook

Are You Stressed About Your Child's College Applications?

If so, now's the time to learn how to:

  • Understand What Admissions Committees Want
  • Help Your Child Highlight Their Strengths
  • Figure Out the True Costs Before Applying

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For all colleges and universities, your academic record tends to carry the greatest weight in the admissions process. In particular, student grades, difficulty of courses, and SAT scores factor most heavily in college admissions.

College Admissions Statistics 2011: An Inside Look

But strong academic record is no guarantee that you will be accepted to the school of your choice. Why not? Well, most admissions committees practice what is known as “holistic” review (also known as comprehensive review).

What this means is that, while your academic record carried the most weight, admissions folks are also interested in who you are as a person and what you can bring to their college. They determine who you are by looking at your activities, references, and essay responses.

This emphasis on a holistic review can make admissions process very complex. If all college just used a mathematical equation of student grades and SAT scores to determine admission, it would be very easy to see if you could get into a specific school or not. Holistic review, by contrast, is inherently messy.

By taking a holistic review, admission committees often rely heavily on knowing who you are as a person by reviewing your entire application and not just focusing on academic credentials. Private colleges have long relied on holistic review to help build a vibrant and diverse freshman class. In recent years, however, more and more public universities—UC Berkeley and the University of Washington—have adopted a holistic admissions policy as well.

Now the point I am about to make is very important, so pay attention.

There is no mathematical formula that will determine if you will get in to a certain school or not. The problem is that everyone thinks that there is a secret calculation that will determine their admission fate.

Get over it. It doesn’t exist.

All you can do is try to stack the odds in your favor. To do that, make sure that you are applying to schools that tend to accept students with similar academic credentials. And make sure that your personal statement clearly reflects something unique about you. Also, choose your letter writers carefully.

By doing this, you will give yourself the best odds at admissions. But remember, there are no guarantees in college applications. There is fair amount of luck involved in admission decisions. You cannot control everything and it is crazy making if you try.

Question: What do you think of holistic review?

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