College Admissions: What Do Admissions Officers Look For?


Parents always ask me: What do admissions officers look for?

We tend to think that college admissions officer/committees focus primarily on the tangible factors that are measurable and quantifiable: grades, standardized test scores, (SAT and ACT) and subject tests (AP and IB) and extracurricular activities: “saving the world”, tutoring and volunteering to help the underprivileged.

The reality is that their emotions, feelings (and biases) and value judgement play a significant role in admissions decision.

Based on my professional experience and continually visiting colleges, and discussions with directors of admissions, there are other factors (and their interrelationships) which we have identified and understand that are just as important to help our clients gain admissions to Ivy League and highly selective colleges and universities and direct BS/MD programs:

  • College application presentation
  • 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
  • Sense of surroundings
  • Interactions
  • Engagement
  • Unsaid
  • Conversational Intelligence
  • Cadence
  • Transparency
  • Civic Engagement
  • Cultural Intelligence
  • Cultural Agility
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Originality
  • Uniqueness
  • Diversity/Inclusion
  • Family background
  • Comparative Student Profile Analysis

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 (with diverse backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities and perceptions) 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.


“Being different and understanding differences allow me to help our clients stand out and be accepted!” – Dr. Paul Lowe

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

“Parents hire us because they chose to pay an admissions expert who will help them avoid making mistakes.” – 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.