When applying for colleges, every detail counts. A big part of a college’s reputation is reliant on how many students they reject. Schools like Yale, Harvard, and Stanford — the three best schools in the country, and three of the best in the world — all accept six percent of students a year or less. Even with the less prestigious schools, there is so much competition that you need every single piece of your resume to be strong.
Ultimately, your college application is going to be like a Jenga tower. Every applicant’s tower will stand strong at first, but in order to choose, the college admissions officer will have to start pulling out blocks. Your extracurricular activities are less impressive than a comparable student? There goes a block. You spent less time volunteering than another student? There goes a block. You got a B your senior year while another student kept their foot on the pedal the whole way through? There goes another block.
Now Your Tower Begins to Wobble
But which blocks are the most important? At a certain point, Harvard is going to get down to seven percent of their applicants, and they will have to knock that last one or two percent off. Once you are down to such a small number of students, most of their towers probably look pretty similar. There will only be subtle differences in various qualifications across the board, so some of the qualifications will have to be prioritized over others.
Each School will be Different
The parts if your application that will be paid attention to most will be different depending on whether you’re applying for Norwich University’s mba degree online, or a degree in communications from Northwestern University. The recent trend in college applications though is a deprioritizing in test scores. Where the scores applicants received on the SAT or ACT used to be a huge indicator of potential college success, these test results have now fallen down the ranks of priority among college admissions departments. Here are a few reasons colleges have decided to take away some of the weight they put into test scores.
Not Expansive Enough
Most of your college application is about things you have accomplished over four years, or, ideally, even more. This is an accurate display of your education and character, and how you have improved or declined over the years. A test is a one time, three or four-hour affair that only shows how well you studied and how you were able to perform in that one moment.
Test-taking is a Skill
Test-taking is a skill that only has so much to do with how you will succeed in college. It may be valuable to know how can do on tests, but the SAT or ACT is not really similar to any of the tests you will be taking in college anyway. They cover too many topics and are more about speed than intelligence, where college tests aim to be the opposite.