How does a college admission work? Many people are unsure as to how colleges decide who gets admitted and who gets denied or waitlisted, etc. The process seems so nebulous to many. Well, in American colleges and universities, it is not actually. It is systematic and based on points. Almost all colleges follow a point based system.
What does that mean for me? How will I know if I have enough points to get into college?
Good questions. The method for assigning points is determined by each college. I am sure that if you asked specifically how the points are derived and the components that get points, a college officer would tell you, but most use a metric to do the calculations. Depending on the school, points are usually awarded for GPA, Standardized test scores, honors and AP/IB courses, and other key components of a transcript. Some schools have derived points for extracurricular activities that are done consistently or have leadership positions achieved. Not all schools award points for the same components of an applicant’s profile. Many simply distill the points to the components that are actually numeric in scale.
Let’s do a sample school to give you a taste of how a point system might work.
United States U has a 10,000 point requirement for admission. How US U gets the points for Jane Student are:
First, the standard, un-weighted, 5 core course cumulative GPA through first quarter for early decision is multiplied by a factor of 1000. Jane has a core cumulative GPA of 3.68. So Jane immediately has 3680 admission points.
Next, her SAT score is added as is or her ACT score multiplied by a factor of 70, whichever is higher is used. (This entire case is fiction and serves only as an example of how any college might create its point system) Jane has a 2180 SAT and a 30 ACT. So for Jane, her ACT by the factor is 2100, so her SAT gets her more admission points. So now Jane has an additional 2180 + 3680 =5860! Jane is more than halfway to gaining enough admission points to get accepted into US U.
Then we consider the course load Jane is taking. Jane is taking 5 AP courses, 3 of which are core courses. She has two B’s in two of the cores, one A- in a core and two A grades in her elective AP courses. US U awards an additional 500 points for every B in an AP core, 1000 points for every A in an AP core, and 750 for every A- in an AP Core. US U awards 500 additional points for any AP Elective with an A or B. So let’s see how Jane is doing now that she has AP courses to add. So for her two core B’s she gets 1000, and for her A- she gets another 1000, and then for her two electives, she gets another 1000. So for her AP courses, Jane has earned another 3000. This now puts her 5860+3000=8860! She has almost gained admission status in terms of points!
But Jane also has taken honor classes as well. In fact, all of Jane’s classes were either honors or AP for her last two years. She had a total of 5 AP courses between Junior year and Senior fall, but she also has 5 honors courses as well. Those get her an additional 500 points for each A and 100 points for each B. Jane has 3 A’s and 2 B’s in her honors courses. So Jane has another 1700 points for her honors courses! Now Jane has 8860+1700=10560!!! Jane has earned enough admission points from her transcript to gain admittance into US U!
Will she get accepted? Ah, there is another little wrinkle here…space. Jane might have the points, but are there enough open spots left for Jane to be one who is actually accepted. This is a very tough call for colleges. They have readers who go through their students and distill down to the ones that can capture those spots. Sometimes the personal side, leadership in clubs, legacy status, unusual talents, and such play a factor. It is a very difficult call for many colleges.
If you are waitlisted, you got those admission points, but there wasn’t any spaces left for you to attend. You can play the waiting game, and if you’d like some support, contact us! We can help figure out a strategy that might help you get off that list, if spots open up. How do the spots open up? Well some of those who got accepted will choose another school, and then a spot opens up. Or, some might actually decide to not go to college for a year or two. People do decline offers of acceptance. Then admissions will go to those on the waitlist.
If you are denied, you are rejected. You could apply as a transfer if you are determined that it was the best college for you. Again, if you need some assistance with this, contact us.
If you are the lucky one to make to be accepted, then you will be sending in all your information to get your housing and roommate selections underway!
So for those wondering how to improve their odds of acceptance, know that you can work to change those components of your transcript that get you those valuable admission points.