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Through our very own editors and guest writers, this blog will discuss the INSIDE scoop on the admissions process of various schools and programs. If you wish to ask a specific question, please write to us, and we will make every attempt to address your questions in our future blog discussions.
Monday, February 13, 2017
With College Admissions, There’s No Easy Formula
As someone who regularly blogs on the topic of college admissions, I'm always on the hunt for good insights. Though many people try, few can honestly tell students precisely what colleges are looking for, or what qualities they'll need in order to get admitted. The truth is almost always nuanced, and college admissions is no exception.

Of course, there is no shortage of data-collection on the topic. People who analyze these metrics consistently return the same "answers"; grades continue to matter most in an evaluation of a student's prospects. Test scores are a close second. The quality of a student's high school is also critical. Still, much of the buzz surrounding college admissions focuses on other areas: the essay, volunteer work, race, sex, nationality, legacy admissions, and so on.

All of those factors matter, of course, but they aren't as measurable. Because people can't put a finger on their persuasiveness, they become fertile topics for discussion. In social media parlance, they are "click bait".

Imagine you are in the driver's seat on an admissions board, deciding a student's fate. Would you pick the B-student who'd traveled to rural China to tutor impoverished children for a summer, or the straight-A student with two years of high school tennis? Is it an easy answer? Not likely.

The cautious evaluation simply makes more sense. A student who attends a challenging school and has earned solid grades over the course of four years has already shown a degree of commitment and consistency that would otherwise be difficult to appraise. It just doesn't make for an interesting sound byte.

As always, there will be exceptions. Grades do not define a student, and the social playing field is not level-which means that ongoing discourse about admission metrics is important. We just can't always expect it to be entertaining.

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