GPA, SAT and ACT Most Important College Admission Criteria

on February 6, 2017

College admissions officers primarily base admissions decisions on student grades and test scores.

 

In this year’s State of College Admissions survey, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) asked admissions officers about what they believe are the most important parts of a college application.

 

The top 10 admissions criteria are:

  1. Grades in College Prep Courses: 79 percent
  2. Grades in All Courses: 60 percent
  3. Strength of High School Curriculum: 60 percent
  4. Admissions Test Scores (SAT, ACT): 56 percent
  5. Essay or Writing Sample: 22 percent
  6. Counselor Recommendation: 17 percent
  7. Student’s Demonstrated Interest: 17 percent
  8. Teacher Recommendation: 15 percent
  9. Class Rank: 14 percent
  10. Subject Test Scores (AP, IB): 7 percent

Strength of high school curriculum considers whether the student took challenging classes, as opposed to seeking an easy A.

 

As this list demonstrates, more than half of colleges placed considerable importance on the first four criteria. There is then a significant drop in the percentage of colleges placing considerable importance on the remaining criteria, with less than a quarter emphasizing application essays, counselor and teacher recommendations, demonstrated interest and class rank.

 

More than half of colleges placed no importance on SAT II scores, State Graduation Exam scores and portfolio.

 

Only 3.5 percent of colleges considered the college interview to have considerable importance, with 45 percent saying that it had no importance.

 

Note: The priority of admissions factors can differ for the most selective colleges and universities, where non-academic factors help distinguish between academically talented students.

 

Factor

Considerable

Importance

Moderate

Importance 

Limited

Importance 

No Importance

Grades in
College Prep Courses

79.2%

13.0%

6.9%

0.9%

Grades in
All Courses

60.3%

31.0%

8.7%

--

Strength of Curriculum

60.2%

26.8%

10.0%

3.0%

Admissions Test Scores
(SAT, ACT)

55.7%

32.5%

7.9%

3.9%

Essay or Writing Sample

22.1%

39.0%

21.6%

17.3%

Counselor Recommendation

17.3%

42.4%

27.3%

13.0%

Student’s Demonstrated Interest

16.9%

33.3%

26.8%

22.9%

Teacher Recommendation

15.2%

43.5%

27.8%

13.5%

Class Rank

14.0%

37.7%

32.0%

16.2%

Subject Test Scores (AP, IB)

7.0%

35.2%

32.6%

25.1%

Portfolio

6.6%

10.0%

30.6%

52.8%

Extracurricular Activities

5.6%

43.3%

34.6%

16.5%

SAT II Scores

5.3%

8.4%

23.0%

63.3%

Interview

3.5%

23.1%

28.4%

45.0%

State Graduation
Exam Scores

3.5%

11.0%

25.4%

60.1%

Work

0.9%

21.3%

44.8%

33.0%

Source: NACAC

Can I get Into...

We Know Your Chances. Do You?

What Are My Chances