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“If you cannot explain it simply, then you do not know it well enough.”                                                           

                                                                                    Albert Einstein


What are the most selective colleges looking for?


Your academic performance in a challenging, rigorous program of study is the most important factor in determining your admissibility to highly selective colleges. Admission committees value a consistent level of achievement over four years, but they also give strong consideration to “late-bloomers” students who demonstrate significant improvement over the course of their academic career. While your grades are the most obvious indication of potential future success, colleges also want to see that you have challenged yourself in a competitive, demanding academic program throughout your high school career. Every premier college and university, however, uses a holistic approach to admissions, not only looking at grades and test scores but at intellectual curiosity, love of learning for the sake of learning, strength of character, non-academic abilities and good judgement.


25 qualities that the Ivy League and other premier colleges look for in students:

  1. Academic Excellence (Intelligence)
  2. Intellectual Curiosity & a Love of Learning (interest in academic research & the creation of knowledge)
  3. Success Through Challenging & Rigorous Coursework
  4. Sustained Interest and Passion, demonstrated through growth and progression
  5. Genuine and Authentic Presentation, with resounding conviction (Confidence)
  6. Outstanding Moral and Ethical Character, substantiated by deeds and letters of recommendation
  7. Logical Thinker, Quantitative Problem-Solving Skills
  8. Good Judgement, Professionalism, Reliability and Selflessness, validated in the letters of recommendation
  9. Compelling Narrative (story) that shows with clarity what matters most to the student, how you think, not just what you did, but why you did what you did, & how you felt, all while clearly articulating your short-term and long-term goals
  10. Qualities consistent with the mission of the institution; Demonstrated Interest in the institution
  11. Social Intelligence: Ability to work well with others, and in teams and with an engaging personality
  12. SMART Goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable and Ambitious, Relevant and Time-Limited Career Goals
  13. Demonstrated history of being a calculated Risk Taker; and taking advantage of and creating opportunities; high likelihood of optimizing use of the expansive resources on and off campus
  14. Exceptional Personal Initiative through demonstrated high-impact leadership,  creativity, research, entrepreneurship and community service —  evidence for having left your footprints in your wake
  15. National and International Leadership Potential
  16. Global World View
  17. Foreign Language Proficiency
  18. Demonstrated Growth and Progression in regards to Skills and Responsibilities
  19. Meaningful, Consistent & Compassionate Service to Humanity
  20. Special Talents & Experiences that differentiate the student from the crowd
  21. Demonstrated, exceptional written and verbal communication skills
  22. Calm Under Pressure, tolerant of others views and ideals; fair and enlightened
  23. Students that will contribute greatly to and benefit immensely from the entering class, the institution and the profession
  24. Applicants that can convey Authenticity in their message and in their own voice 
  25. Compelling applicant so intriguing that the admissions committee member would go out of their way to meet the student on campus





“Far Reach” Most Competitive < 10%            

Chance of Acceptance


“Reach” Very Competitive 10 – 25%           Chance of Acceptance


“Possible” Highly Competitive 25 – 50%       

Chance of Acceptance


“Likely” Least Competitive 50-80%                Chance of Acceptance


“Highly Probable” Non-Competitive > 80%            


Chance of Acceptance