Chapter 3: Factors in the Admission Decision

The factors that admission officers use to evaluate applications from first-time freshmen have remained largely consistent over the past 20 years. Students’ academic achievements—which include grades, strength of curriculum, and admission test scores—constitute the most important factors in the admission decision. Admission decision factors for first-time international students are similar to those for domestic students, but the transfer admission decision process differs in significant ways.

Admission Offices Identify Grades, High School Curriculum, and Test Scores as Top Factors for First-Time Freshmen: The top factors in the admission decision for the Fall 2016 admission cycle were: grades in college preparatory courses, overall high school GPA, admission test scores, and strength of curriculum. Among the next most important factors were the essay, a student’s demonstrated interest, counselor and teacher recommendations, extracurricular activities, and class rank.

Top Factor for International Students is English Proficiency Exam Scores: After English proficiency, the factors for admission decisions with international applicants are remarkably similar to those for domestic students, with one notable exception. A greater proportion of colleges rated the essay/writing sample as considerably important for international applicants, likely because of the additional confirmation of English skills that the essay provides.

For Transfer Admission Decisions, College Grades Matter Most: The only transfer admission decision factors that were rated considerably important by a substantial proportion of colleges were overall GPA at prior postsecondary institution(s) and average grades in transferrable courses.

Read Chapter 3  or download the State of College Admission report for more information. 

Explore the 2017 State of College Admission

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NACAC Research

College Counseling for Latino and Underrepresented Students

In order to understand the role of the school counselor in preparing Latino and other underrepresented students for the transition to college, Excelencia in Education and NACAC conducted a national survey and observed counseling practices at six US high schools that were successfully supporting underrepresented populations during the college application process.

Career Paths for Admission Officers: A Survey Report

This report presents the results of a survey of NACAC admission professionals, offering insightful observations on their career experiences and advice to others to advance in the profession.

Use of Predictive Validity Studies to Inform Admission Practices

This report sheds new light on the important role predictive validity research can play in informing admission practices.