What qualities do colleges look for?

Knowing what qualities do colleges look for will help you/your son or daughter have a better chance of getting into a top school and will help boost their extracurricular profile to compensate for lackluster grades.

Students that are passionate about something and do what they’re passionate about | What qualities do colleges look for

Doing a sport or playing music just because you think it will make you look good to colleges is not going to help you out. Colleges want to see that you are passionate about something and that you are doing what you are passionate about (if that is sports or music, then do it, but do not do it if you do not care about it, because that will not help you in the admissions process). The reason that colleges look for passion in students is because colleges want to accept people who they think are likely to become famous successful alumni and having a passion for something will help a person persist when that person has obstacles. The reason colleges do this is because they want famous alumni who will bring prestige to their college. They also want famous alumni who will donate money to that college.


Being well-rounded is a myth | What qualities do colleges look for

Colleges also don’t care if you are well-rounded. They actually prefer that you have one or two subject areas that you are passionate about. If you do so many activities it can be difficult for admission officers to see what you are interested in and what you want to focus on. It can make you look scattered and confused about what you want to do. I know that you’re just a high school student and probably haven’t found your passion yet but it will be a great help to you and your admissions journey if you do find what you’re passionate about and stick with activities in that passion.


Getting perfect grades/SAT score is not that important | What qualities do colleges look for

Colleges use your grades and SAT score as a baseline to admitting you. As long as you are above a college’s 25 percentile grade/score range you’re basically not going to be denied for your grades/SAT score alone. Then colleges will look at your extracurriculars, rec letters, and essays to determine if you should get in. Also, if you are trying to get into top schools try to get at least a 1480 on the SAT. After watching many stats videos of students who got into Ivy Leagues and Stanford the minimum score was basically a 1480. Know that the people applying to these top schools all tend to have good grades and good SAT scores, so you need great extracurriculars to differentiate yourself and/or to compensate for lackluster grades.


What I gathered from watching countless videos of Ivy League students who discussed their stats, extracurriculars, and the classes they took 

  • Like I said above discussing what qualities do colleges look for, colleges want to see that you are doing activities in areas that you are passionate about. All of the students who I watched mentioned that it is important to do what you are passionate about.
  • They like students who do activities outside of school and who do not just do extracurriculars offered by your school. For example, many of these Ivy League students did internships in fields of their interests. If you are interested in finding an internship, you can read my guide on how to find an internship in high school!  Doing research for a professor was also something common in these Ivy League students’ extracurriculars.
  • They want to see you pursuing your activities for an extended amount of time. For example, participating in an activity/club throughout all four years of high school.
  • Colleges like to see students who start their own activity such as making their own community impact project or making their own club. A lot of these IvyLeague students did this.
  • Colleges like students with leadership positions in their activities
  • They want to see that you are challenging yourself in classes that interest you. For example, taking AP classes in classes that interest you. They want students who aren’t lazy and don’t just take all easy classes.

What you put as your intended major | What qualities do colleges look for

Keeping in mind what qualities do colleges look for, when you are filling out the Common App make sure that you put your intended major as an intended major that aligns up with your extracurriculars and the classes you took so that it makes you look more passionate about that subject and so that your whole application “makes sense.” For example, if you took a bunch of science classes and you have science research internships, you should put biology or chemistry as your intended major.


Quick note on AP Scores 

You also send your AP scores to colleges, and it’s another way they judge your intelligence, so it’s good to do well on them and get a 4 or a 5. Know that if you do bad on an AP test you can choose not to report that specific score to colleges.

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