The College Admission Process


-What are the first steps in the College Admission Process?

Step 1: Be intentional with your own growth in your academics, extracurriculars, and character.

Step 2: Determine your college fit.

-Being intentional with Step 1 will help you with Step 2!

What is College Fit?

College fit is whether a college is a “good match for you based on your interests, abilities, values, aspirations, and preferences, social and academic. The more you know about yourself and the more you know about colleges, the better that fit can be. Although no perfect college exists, you can find many where you will be happy.” ​

Admission Matters: What Students and Parents Need to Know About Getting into College by Sally P. Springer, Jon Reider & Joyce Vining Morgan © 2017 4 edition ISBN 978-1119328391Chpt. 4 How Colleges (and Students) Differ p.63​

Questions to help you determine if a school is a “College Fit“:

  • What are your academic interests and does the school meet those? 
  • Can this school prepare you for a diversity of potential career interests of yours? 
  • What kind of student are you and will the school’s community support this? How do you learn best, and will the school provide this learning format and environment? 
    • Are you highly motivated and do you do well with peers who are also highly motivated; do you enjoy the dynamic of friendly competition?
    • Do you do better with a lot of structure, encouragement, and personalized attention as a student?
    • Do you absorb information easily or are you someone who would benefit from having extra study resources and support?
    • Are you a mix of the above? Does the school have ways to serve each of these areas?
  • What activities outside class would you like to be a part of and does this school offer those? 
  • What support and community do you want and / or need? Does the school provide this?
  • What are your values and does the school hold the same values? Or is there a community within or nearby that hold these same values that can support you? If not, will this help you to grow or may this be a hinderance to you at this time? 
  • Is the school in a location where you would enjoy living?  
    • Consider distance from home, weather, city or rural (benefits and downsides to each), whether the location provides opportunities to visit places that are important to you (church / volunteer organizations / part-time work, or internship opportunities).  
  • What financial investment are you willing and able to make for your post-secondary education? Does the school align with this?
    • Are you willing to pay loans after you graduate? If yes, how much?
    • Does this school offer accessible scholarship aid or work study opportunities to help pay for school? 

What helps you find out whether a school is a College Fit?

  • Self-reflection with the above considerations.
  • Researching and evaluating schools: learning about their programs & courses, faculty (who is teaching & what are their credentials), school culture & values, and what they offer for your academic and character growth.
  • Reading information about the school online and in printed media. 
  • Visiting schools. 
  • Attending Admission Counselor Visits, hosted by your school, to hear a presentation on the school and dialogue with this representative.

-The key players in the College Admission Process

  • You (the applicant)
  • Letter of Recommendation Writers (teachers and other community members)
  • College Counselor (who will upload your transcript and provide a student evaluation)
  • Admission Counselors
  • Possibly anyone else you meet from the college / university to which you are applying

Who are Admission Counselors and what do they do?

Admission Representatives, Admission Officers, and Admission Counselors are all interchangeable terms for essentially the same role.

These are the individuals who:

  • travel (to high schools and college fairs)
  • present (information about their school to prospective applicants)
  • help (you, the applicant with their institution’s specific admission process and any questions you may have about their school)
  • read (your applications)

Admission Counselors often make up an Admission Committee or Panel who collectively review your application and make an admissions decision of either accept, defer, or deny.

Is it good to be in touch with Admission Counselors?

Yes! Not only are they excellent resources to help you through the College Admission Process but your communication with them may be tracked by a school as demonstrated interest.

Demonstrated Interest is sometimes a part of the College Admission Process and is sometimes utilized in an applicant’s consideration. 

Have you ever… 

  • Called an Admissions Rep with questions? 
  •  Met with an Admissions Rep at a College Fair? 
  • Communicated with an Admissions Rep on their college visit to your high school? 
  • Attended any courses, summer programs, events, or programs at the college / university to which you are applying?

…this is all considered demonstrated interest.


-The Application

When it comes time to fill out applications the sooner you start the better, but knowing how to best fill them out is key! This is where the Detailed College Planning Timelines and HLS’s College Planning Workshops and College Planning Class comes into play.

You will be able to find an application for a school either on the school’s website where they will have their own application portal or they may be on the Common App (an online college admission application portal that applicants may fill out once and use to apply to the schools on their college list; over 1,000 colleges and universities utilize the Common App).

You can find most schools on the Common App. The Common App is designed to make the application process easier. The student will fill out one general application and this will be sent to all schools you add to your Common App list when you are ready to submit each one. Schools can be added or removed at anytime and the application may be sent one by one on your timeline. Recommenders will upload their letters at your invitation and your counselor will upload your required transcript and school profile also at your invitation.

The Common App enables an applicant to have everything (more or less) in one place and this can help with the organization of the College Admissions Process, it also allows for an extra set of eyes to review your application before submitting it if desired.

What kind of information does the application collect?

  • Basic profile information 
  • Grades and GPA (often they only accept unweighted GPA which is recalculated on their own scale)* 
  • Rigor of your academic program (via your transcript and school profile)* 
  • Test scores 
  • Recommendations 
  • Extracurricular activities (sports, clubs, community service, work, family responsibilities) 
  • Honors / Awards 
  • Essays and other written responses (short answer college specific questions)
  • Sometimes applications will also seek submittal/completion of: resumes, portfolios, interviews, or auditions

The information that the application collects provides the Admission Officers reviewing the applicant: 

  • Context about who the applicant is & where they are coming from  
  • Information about the kind of characteristics the applicant possesses; the character they have and the gifts they will bring and continue to grow in at their campus 

This information will help Admission Officers evaluate if the applicant would be a good fit as a student at their school and whether the applicant will help to fulfill their mission- in other words seeing if this applicant can do well at their school and will add to their college and larger community. 


-What should my goal be in the College Admission Process?

While journeying through the College Admission Process you want to be able to know yourself as a student & person and know what post-secondary options best fit you. What places (consider the school and its community) will enable you to continue to grow in knowledge, wisdom, and the love of our Lord; what places will help you discover, develop, and use your gifts in the service of others and for God’s glory?

Find 5-6 institutions (at most) that are strong “College Fits”. If you were accepted to this program / branch / school would you actually attend it?

Next you will want to identify what your strongest qualities and values are and be able to reflect those in Campus Visits, Admission Counselor one-on-ones, throughout your application (including your college essays), and in any interviews you might have.