Behind the Scenes: College Admission Secrets

College Admission Secrets

So many have gone before us, laboring over that college application and essay only to be relegated to the rejected pile on a cluttered desk in the back office. The testimony of many admission counselors is vastly different than what most of us believe the process to be. From getting food  poisoning in one town and rejecting all applicants that day, to being put out that their favorite football team lost to another state and therefor rejecting all applicants from that state… shows that the college admissions process is subjective indeed! However, even the most whimsical of admissions counselors will tell us that grabbing their attention and making them “like” you is what really makes the difference between you and the superior intellect of the next candidate. So, let’s break it down… how do we go about getting noticed and making the admissions counselor want to argue for you?

  • Details
    • Don’t have a goofy email
    • Make sure that you have a clean social media profile or just delete it! (They will check on your social presence)
    • Be polite and leave evidence of it!
    • Stick with activities, jobs, and hobbies through high school or don’t include it!
  • Inflated grades?
    • The National Association of College Admissions Counseling says that grades determine 75% of admissions decisions. However, many colleges are realizing that grades can often be inflated. Colleges are now looking at the reputation of the high school,  and what type of courses were taken such as college prep and AP courses.  Inflated grades hurt students. The College Board reports that only 43% of SAT takers were prepared for college.
  • Essay Distrust?
    • Almost every student has the ability to purchase a ghost-written essay. Not to mention those who have even had their parents or siblings write their essays for them. Colleges are beginning to realize that this is a problem and are now requiring an additional writing sample from a high school course. Even with all of this concern, college admission does rely on the essay as a way to “get to know” the prospective student. This is where to get the admission officer to “like” you!
  • SAT Doubts?
    • More students than ever are taking the SAT, but more colleges are doubting it. In many situations, wealthy students will pay for SAT prep giving them an advantage over those that cannot afford it. Colleges believe that this skews the outcomes. Many colleges are creating their own entrance tests or looking more at AP courses to get a clearer picture of student ability.
  • They need you!
    • Most people believe that it’s hard to get into college. Yet, the reality is colleges are wanting freshman. The problem is that many have only a certain numbers of places available, and on occasion the admission officers might a bit whimsical in their decision making process!
  • Watch out!
    • Colleges can revoke admission. It’s true. They do check out your social profiles and if they see things they don’t appreciate your admission may be revoked.  They may also revoke admissions for a drop in your senior grades, discipline issues in high school, or falsification of information on your application.
  • Clear as mud?
    • When creating your application, transcript, essay, and overall profile be as clear as possible. Don’t just make a grocery list of facts, but in a clear and concise manner describe the course or activity and how or why you enjoyed it and give evidence of a passion for the field you’ve chosen. Get recommendations that support your ability in the field you’ve chosen as proof of your interest. Some admissions officers have mentioned that photography, illustrations, or even recordings can make a difference.

Don’t let the fickleness of the admissions process discourage you. Sometimes, the rejection letter from one school is the impetus that gets an acceptance letter from another school. I’ve heard a plethora of stories about how students had been rejected by their school of choice, but ended up loving the college that did accept them. Wherever you end up, remember to follow your passion and stay committed – your future will be great!


Jamie Gaddy, B.S., M.Ed., Ed.D. has been a college education professor for over 17 years. Education has been an integral part of her life in both the classroom and as a principal. Six children later found her dissatisfied with traditional schooling and homeschooling became the better fit. She is also a pastor’s wife, remote project manager, and entrepreneur who now homeschools four of her six children (ages 11-17) in southern Georgia. Jamie loves to share about her homeschool experience and help other homeschoolers find success. Connect with her at [email protected]

March 20, 2017


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