Factors Influencing College Admissions Decisions

Parents always ask me:  What are the most important factors in college admissions? What do admissions officers look for?

To answer these questions, I will first start with what the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC) in a survey to admissions officers trend survey:

I.  NACAC factors:

  • Grades in All Courses
  • Grades in College Prep Courses
  • Admissions Test Scores (SAT, ACT)
  • Strength of Cirriculum
  • Essay or Writing Sample
  • Counselor Letters of Recommendations
  • Students Demonstrated Interest
  • Teacher Letters of Recommendations
  • Class Rank
  • Extracirricular Activities
  • Subject Test Scores (AP, IB)
  • Portfolio
  • Interview
  • Work Experience
  • SAT II Scores
  • State Gradation Exam Scores

II.  Intangibles

Based on my professional experience and continually visiting colleges, and discussions with directors of admissions, there are other factors which we know are just as important and/or more important than the NACAC Admissions Survey Factors.

  • College application
  • Personal Statement
  • Supplemental essays
  • Collective interrelationship of all essays
  • WOW Factor
  • Attitude
  • Likability
  • Etiquette
  • Character
  • Grit/Challenge
  • Confidence
  • Charisma
  • Sense of self
  • Sense of others
  • Engagement
  • Unsaid
  • Conversational Intelligence
  • Cadence
  • Transparency
  • Civic Engagement
  • Cultural Intelligence
  • Cultural Agility
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Originality
  • Uniqueness
  • Diversity/Inclusion
  • Family background
  • Comparative Student Profile Analysis

So you think that getting into your top-choice college is about having a high GPA, top SAT scores, high grades and a manufactured application and personal statement….THINK AGAIN!     If you think that’s all you need, then we are certain that your child will be among the students who will be REJECTED!

Year after year, I hear the horror stories from parents whose kids got in nowhere because they thought the college admissions race was just about grades, SAT scores, their perceived  ‘unique’ applications, generic essays and perfect connections.” 



Ivy League and highly selective colleges use a holistic approach and review process and a committee review approach process when evaluating applicants for admission.  That means admission to these colleges is not based on a simple formula of grades and test scores and what may parents may believe.  Instead, admissions officers/committees consider a variety of factors: the student’s academic record, extracurricular interests, intellectual achievements and personal background  and what I call “PERSONAL VIBE” to decide who will be rejected or accepted.



“Admissions is a competitive sport!  Why gamble with uncertainty?” – Dr. Paul Lowe

“We provide our clients access to our specialized knowledge!” – Dr. Paul Lowe

Dr. Paul Reginald Lowe, founder and managing director of Pinnacle Educational Center Admissions Advisors Group, provides comprehensive counseling advice, exclusively for admissions to top private schools; Ivy League and highly-selective colleges/universities; BS/MD programs; graduate and medical schools and top visual and performing arts programs.   The admissions affiliate: Ivy League Admissions Advisors specializes in admissions to Ivy League and highly selective colleges,  Dr. Lowe also specializes in helping students who have been wait-listed, deferred or rejected gain admission into their top-choice schools: College Application Rejected. and student who wish to transfer to another college:  College Transfer Admissions Advisors.