For Parents: How Do Colleges Decide Who Gets in and Who Doesn’t?

Five students walking in front of fountain

Choosing the right college is one of the biggest decisions families make. As you guide and support your student in deciding where to apply, you may have a lot of questions — particularly about how colleges decide who gets in and who doesn’t.

Is There a Formula for Admissions?

Some common questions I hear from parents and families are: Is there a formula? Does a single reader review my student’s application or will multiple people review an application? Or is the decision made by a committee?

The truth: All of these options are within the realm of possibility. Offers of admission are based on each school’s enrollment objectives. Making admissions decisions is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Large state schools may use a test score and GPA formula. Highly selective schools may have multiple reviewers with many voices weighing in on a decision. At other schools, the relationship your student has formed with an admission counselor may weigh heavily into a decision offered by a committee.

A Holistic Approach to Admissions

At Meredith, for instance, applications are reviewed from a holistic approach. Like many small schools, we have the privilege and luxury of getting to know your applicant as a student, a person, and as a potential member of the Meredith community. And while your student’s application can provide strong insight into who they are, there’s no question that visiting campus and meeting with an admissions counselor is the best way for us to get to know them on a more personal level.

All of your applicant’s achievements – academic and otherwise – are reviewed in context of the opportunities they’ve been afforded. Test scores and high school records show their potential for academic success. Service to the community attests to a depth of personal commitment to our common good. After-school work may demonstrate initiative and responsibility. Your student’s essay provides evidence of their writing ability and their understanding of the value of studying at Meredith. Finally, recommendations from guidance counselors and teachers are invaluable to the process and may serve to tip the scale.

So at Meredith, when we respond to an applicant with “yes” we’re predicting the likelihood for academic success, good fit within the community, and with anticipation of all your student will bring to this community.

Decoding the Decision-Making Process

As you can see, there are many different approaches to making admissions decisions. How do you tell which of these approaches the schools your student is applying to uses? You can glean a lot about what a school considers important by the kinds of questions that are asked on the application. Your student’s admissions counselor is also a great source of information as to what a particular school considers most important, so don’t hesitate to ask.

Most importantly, as you help your student through the application process and decisions start coming in, take comfort in knowing that there are a lot of factors that go into a college’s decision about who to admit — and everyone involved is striving to find the best fit between the student and the college.

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