Colleges Look for Motivated, Involved Applicants; Legacies Less of a Consideration than Previously Thought

Colleges accept students for a variety of reasons; a stellar academic record, great athletic talent, and leadership in student organizations are only a few of the many. Although there were few visible trends in PA students’ college admissions this year, it is clear that colleges value the passionate, well-rounded student, while placing less importance than previously on legacies. “First of all, not all colleges are looking for the same thing,” said Director of College Counseling John Anderson. “Each school’s philosophy is different. They like to see who are serious about what they do, [who can] do them at a high level, and [who] are focused,” he said. This year there were not any significant trends with regard to areas of student strengths in admissions statistics. “There really was no uniform point of view this year, just that this year there was a high level on competition for [all] the best colleges,” said Mr. Anderson. “I think that this year was no different than most years, where colleges were just looking for kids who were extremely strong academically, but also bring some other talents to the table,” he said. This year athletic ability proved to be a big bonus for college applicants. Mr. Anderson said, “Extraordinary talent, specifically athletic recruitment, was normal this year and we saw many athletes get into great schools because of their talents.” Another trend this year was the decreasing acceptance rates of legacies. “We were surprised by how [being a legacy] became less of an influence this year,” added Mr. Anderson. “An increased number were either deferred or waitlisted, but we’re not sure whether this is a result of an increased number of legacies or a trend in the process.” Mr. Anderson also stressed that grades can only get a student into college, because once the student gets in there, he or she is surrounded by people just as strong academically. “With the exception of super talent, colleges look more favorably at someone who has done more, is committed to growth, and has a passion for what they do and has the ability to explain how this activity has affected their lives,” added Mr. Anderson. “It is important to earn good grades in a terrific program, but you have to do it joyfully and honestly,” Mr. Anderson continued. He concluded, “To use a baseball analogy, colleges are looking for that slick fielding shortstop that makes the hard plays still easy. They want the students to be able to do things with ease not tortuously.”