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You've applied to college and are now waiting for the letter in the mail that notifies you if you have been accepted. Before you even apply to the college(s) of your choice, it's helpful to understand just how admissions decisions are made.

Unfortunately, there is no universal admissions process. Every school has their own criteria, timeline and process to determine who will be admitted. While there is no one formula, admission committees may consider the following when looking at student candidates:

State of Residence

Schools look for geographic diversity. If a majority of students attend from a particular state and you reside in a different state, your student's chances of admittance may increase.


If you or other family members graduated from the school your child is applying to, this can be looked upon favorably in the admissions process.

Special Talents and Extracurricular Activities

Schools don't just look at a student's grades or test scores. If your student excels in sports, music or another area, or has participated in outside activities, your child may have a competitive edge in the admissions process.

Special Cases

A recommendation from a college president or a person within an influential position may play a role in how an application is reviewed.

Financial Need

Depending on the school, admissions decisions are separate from financial aid decisions. However, that is not the case with all schools. Financial need can influence an admission decision, especially if the student is not academically strong. Strong academics and special talents may help position a child for financial aid.

Most admissions committees look for well-rounded students who do well academically and participate in extracurricular activities. Even if your child's academic scores are not strong, the personal essay is a way to highlight their other strengths and help differentiate themselves from other applicants.

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