Many colleges look for students whose characteristics or accomplishments match their “institutional priorities.” For example, being an unusually talented athlete won’t guarantee admission, but can be the “hook” to help admissions officers distinguish among several equally qualified applicants. The accomplished oboist or trumpet player could also be an example of a performing arts “hook.”
Other students, not Olympic swimmers or oboe players, also match a college’s admissions priorities. Almost every college is interested in its cultural and ethnic diversity. If you have a passport from a country not already represented in a student body, your chances of admission may be increased. If you have a common passport (American, Chinese, Indian, Korean), colleges are still interested because they’re trying to increase their overall percentage of international students. American students who have experienced life in another country are also thought to bring a helpful perspective to the life of the college.
It sometimes seems most seniors plan to major in business, engineering, or pre-med. These hot majors mean colleges may have difficulty keeping their humanities programs viable. Since they need students in these areas as well, at some colleges, applicants, who list humanities as an intended major, may be more appealing. Before playing this “game,” find out what a humanities major is. Also, understand some universities make it difficult to transfer between a major in one college (College of Liberal Arts) and another (College of Engineering). Entering as “undecided” is perfectly acceptable if the college doesn’t require you to declare a specific major upon application. It’s especially good if you think you may declare a pre-med or pre-law major.
You won’t be lying. Instead, you’ll decide later based upon your college GPA. Some colleges prefer applicants who haven’t made up their minds on their majors or careers.
Keeping Alumni Happy
When it’s time to build a new building, alums are the ones to receive letters asking for donations. Most schools ask if you have relatives who attended the same school. Children of alumni and other “legacies” usually have an admission advantage. Parents and siblings are the important ones to mention, but when completing the application, don’t leave anybody out. At schools such as the University of Pennsylvania, legacies are given an advantage only as early decision applicants. Ask your counselor or the admission officer if a particular college gives an advantage to legacies.
Full Paying Students
As college expenses go up each year, many institutions are having difficulty staying within their budgets. Most US colleges and universities have a high percentage of students who require some amount of financial aid. More US colleges are becoming “need-aware,” which means that financial need is a factor in whether or not you will be admitted.
Need aware schools should openly state their policy. Financial need awareness plays an admissions-decision role for those students just barely admissible. In the case of a tie, the admission decision will often go to the student who can pay.
For non-US citizens, many colleges clearly state, if the applicant can’t fund college expenses, don’t apply. Colleges are not trying to discriminate, but, because the majority of financial aid funds come from the US government, US taxpayers would not be happy spending tax dollars on international students when many US students do not get their needed financial aid. International RAS students do not request financial aid until you discuss it with your counselor first.
Because colleges want to admit students who are likely to enroll, many admissions offices take into account how well-informed and serious a candidate is. When a choice has to be made between two equally-qualified applicants, demonstrated interest can provide the necessary edge.
How can you show your interest? Admissions officers won’t welcome a flood of pointless emails, but they might keep track of thoughtful questions about academics, housing options, extra-curricular activities, and campus life which isn’t easily found on the college’s website. Be sure you make an effort to talk with an admission officer who visits RAS – it’s a wonderful opportunity for you to essentially have these schools right at your doorstep.