teaching tips blog


Feb 12, 2014

What Factors Do Colleges Use for Admission? - Answering Your Questions About the College Application Process

Diane Kummer

Colleges use a variety of factors when making admission decisions. But which ones are most important for the schools your teen is applying to? There’s a way to find out!

The Common Data Set is helpful when trying to determine how important factors (such as interviews, grade point average, high school course load, and extracurriculars) are to specific colleges. Simply do an internet search by typing in the name of the college and the words “common data set.” This usually brings up the college’s input to the Common Data Set. 

For example, here’s a link to the Common Data Set for The Pennsylvania State University. From the info displayed on the link, you’ll see the percentage of men and women who applied and also the percentage of those who were accepted. These figures give you an idea of the selectivity of the school. The information also lets you know the importance that Penn State places on these factors:

         - Rigor of High School Academic Record (important)

         - Class Rank (considered)

         - GPA (very important)

         - SAT/ACT scores (very important)

         - Essay (considered)

         - Recommendation (not considered) 

Likewise, the Common Data Set provides information regarding how a particular college views non-academic areas. Here’s how Penn State rates various factors:

         - Interview (not considered)

         - Extracurricular activities (considered)

         - Talent/ability (considered)

         - Character/personal qualities (considered)

         - First generation (not considered)

         - Alumni relation (considered)

         - Geographical residence (not considered)

         - State of residency (not considered)

         - Religious affiliation (not considered)

         - Race/ethnicity (not considered)

         - Volunteer work (considered)

         - Work experience (considered)

         - Level of applicant’s interest (not considered)

Would you like to know if a specific college takes the SAT or ACT essay into account for admissions? The Common Data Set provides this detail, as well as average SAT and ACT test scores of admitted students.

Information from the Common Data Set is helpful when narrowing down your list of colleges and when applying to colleges. It’s like having an inside scoop on admissions!