Things American universities consider when choosing candidates

Schools must consider each individual profile, considering academic ability, extracurricular activities and many other priority factors depending on the program of study.

The wait time from applying to receiving results from colleges can be stressful for students and families. In the US, this phase lasts 4-6 weeks for schools with continuous enrollment and can be longer for schools that only enroll once per year.

That's because schools have to specifically consider each application, from grade point averages and essays, to factors like geographic diversity. Some of these factors are beyond the student's ability to change, however, students should learn to be able to optimize their profile.

The most important elements in the profile

According to the 2019 report of the American Association of College Admission Counseling, the three factors that most influence a student's profile are: GPA in high school, grades in college preparatory classes (Advanced Placement). or AP), and the difficulty of the educational program the student attends.

Anna Ivey, founder of college and graduate admissions consulting firm Ivey Consulting, said that most schools look at three groups of criteria, including academics, extracurricular activities and personal qualities, when evaluating student records.

"Your college profile is counted from the first day of high school. So you need to develop yourself throughout high school. By the summer before entering senior year, you need to change. change the process from building a resume to presenting it in the most convincing way,” said Ms. Ivey.

And according to expert Mike Pichay of the consulting center IvyWise, former deputy director of admissions at Stanford University, admissions officers want to see students have optimized the learning conditions they are offered. If you cannot afford AP courses, students should challenge themselves with the most difficult programs possible.

This expert believes that this is a way for universities to see students have a high level of academic curiosity, a passion for majors, and the determination and discipline necessary to succeed academically. .

“The foundation for schools to make decisions is the academic preparation of students,” Mr. Pichay said. "Schools want students who are well prepared both in terms of abilities and attitudes to succeed. In addition, they want students with the virtues to make a personal contribution to the school's learning environment." .

While scores on standardized tests like the SAT or ACT are a factor to consider, some experts say it's no longer one of the most important factors. After Covid-19, many universities no longer required students to submit scores on these standardized tests.

The importance of extracurricular activities

Another way for colleges to gauge students' passions is through related extracurricular activities. For example, students who want to study journalism at the college level can improve their profile significantly if they already have extracurricular activities in journalism at school or in the locality. Schools will also give priority to those who contribute to the community.

Mr. Adam Sapp, Vice Chancellor and admissions director of Pomona University, said that after the pandemic, admissions departments of schools have a different perspective on extracurricular activities and how to demonstrate student leadership. born. Mr. Sapp said that students should use essays on school motivation to express their personality and explain why extracurricular activities are important to them.

When Hasana (from Smyrna, Delaware) applied to Pomona University, she emphasized acting and drama club activities as well as contributing to the yearbook program. In the letter of motivation, she talked about the community activities she participated in outside of school. Typically, she mentioned the student organization she co-founded called Teens Drive to fight for the voice of students of color in designing high school curriculum.

"I mention these because these are the experiences that I find the most fun and meaningful. These are the activities that I actively establish, build and manage at the same time," Hasana said.

A corner of Stanford University, a famous school in the US. Photo: Stanford University Website

Priority in American college admissions

Students and families need to understand that while college officials strive to keep the admissions process fair and transparent, admissions decisions are not completely objective. In particular, when admissions officers select students, there are a few personality and ability criteria that will be prioritized to suit the environment of each school.

In March 2019, US federal prosecutors discovered a conspiracy to affect the admissions process at eight universities, including prestigious schools like the University of Southern California, Yale or Georgetown. 33 parents paid a consulting company up to 25 million USD (588.1 billion VND) to falsify their child's profile in order to be recruited under the mechanism of talented athletes.

While scandals of this magnitude are relatively rare, there are many small factors that can be difficult for students to control in the admissions process. These are called back to the "systemic priorities" that schools must ensure each school year.

Basically, schools will reserve some space for special students, perhaps those who are talented in the arts or sports, or contribute to specific departmental regulations. For example, Basic Science and Engineering programs often lack female students, so schools will give priority to this audience.

Some other schools are interested in recruiting students from different economic and social backgrounds. Anthropological factors are emphasized by many schools, said Julie Park, a lecturer at the University of Maryland.

In addition, universities have policies that prioritize students with better economic backgrounds. For example, children will be given priority if their parents have attended and contributed to the school.

Most admissions decisions need to be balanced with the overall program of study. So, in many cases, students are rejected not because they are less capable. Sometimes, many other students are selected for more than just academic reasons.

However, students can show an interest in the school by participating in additional introductions, guest lectures from teachers, or visiting the school in person. This will help them score points in the eyes of the admissions officer.

The most important thing is that students need to show uniqueness, different from thousands of other profiles. If the profile has a strong correlation between the factors together, the probability of success will increase significantly.

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