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“If you cannot explain it simply, then you do not know it well enough.”

   -Albert Einstein

What are the most selective colleges looking for?


Your academic performance in a challenging, rigorous program of study is the most important factor in determining your competitiveness to highly selective colleges. Admission committees value a consistent level of achievement over four years, but they also give strong consideration to “late-bloomers” students who demonstrate significant improvement over the course of their academic career. Every premier college and university, however, uses a holistic approach to admissions, not only looking at grades and test scores but at intellectual vitality and strength of character and good judgement.


25 qualities that Ivy League and premier colleges look for in students:


  • Academic and other Intelligences
  • Intellectual Curiosity and a Love of Learning for the sake of learning
  • Success through Challenging and Rigorous Coursework
  • Sustained Interest, demonstrated through Growth and Progression
  • Taking advantage of all opportunities & Reaching Your Fullest Potential
  • Genuine and Authentic Presentation, Speaking through your own Voice
  • Fine Character and Good Judgement, confirmed by letters of recommendation
  • Logical-Thinker, quantitative Problem-Solver
  • Professional, Reliable and Unselfish
  • Compelling & Interesting Story
  • Qualities consistent with the Mission and Vision of the institution
  • Emotional & Social Intelligence
  • SMART Goals: Specific, Meaningful, Ambitious, Relevant + Time-Limited
  • Calculated Risk-Taker
  • Personal Initiative & Entrepreneurial Spirit
  • National and International Leadership Potential
  • Global Perspective
  • Multiple Language Proficiency
  • Development & Maturity, demonstrated in Skills and Responsibilities
  • Meaningful, Consistent and Compassionate Service to the Community & Humanity
  • Special Talent, Experiences and Perspectives
  • Calm under Pressure
  • Will contribute greatly to their roommate, classes, department, university and the community
  • Compelling applicant that the admissions committee would like to meet & get to know


“Far Reach” Most Competitive < 10%
Chance of Acceptance


“Reach” Very Competitive 10 – 25%
Chance of Acceptance


“Possible” Highly Competitive 25 – 50%
Chance of Acceptance


“Likely” Least Competitive 50-80%
Chance of Acceptance


“Highly Probable” Non-Competitive > 80%
Chance of Acceptance