Out with the Old, In with the New

Years ago, college admissions were entirely based on the numbers. GPA, class rank, ACT and SAT scores. All these metrics led to a black and white admissions landscape where students who met certain thresholds were destined to attend to their corresponding colleges. Students with stellar scores attended prestigious institutions and often the next tier of students found a place in lower level universities.

Today, what colleges want in an applicant has changed. Not only is it exponentially more competitive to get into top universities, but schools are also shifting their criteria for what it means to be that “top notch student.” This year, Florida State University had 51,000 applicants for 6,600 spots in the freshman class. How can your application stand out in the thousands of others college admissions officers review? The answer: by being yourself.

As Executive Director of Quest For Success, I just returned from visiting eleven colleges in four different states, and the daunting nature of the college admissions process was evident on the faces of the parents and students on campus. What may have otherwise seemed a marathon whirlwind of academia, revealed a tremendous amount of information concerning recent changes to today’s competitive college application process.

Admissions officers repeatedly emphasized that acceptances are not simply based on numbers. Nowadays, colleges are looking to build a campus patchwork of diverse talents, abilities, and backgrounds. They want students who bring something unique to the campus and they especially do not want students that are carbon copies of the same resumes and applications. The word I kept hearing was “compelling.” “We want to read a ‘compelling’ application.” In other words, some of the pressure has been taken off the numbers and instead has been redirected to building dynamic student bodies.

Swarthmore College’s website details how each application is evaluated and the criteria they use in determining what kind of student they want to accept. The admissions page tells students, “we take into account what opportunities and resources you have had access to, your high school’s curricula, your geographic location, your family background, and your cultural identity. We are looking for intellectually curious, proactive, involved, and generous students to fill our campus”. There is no mention of ‘the numbers’ anywhere on the page for this nationally ranked college. This is not to say they don’t matter, but they are certainly not everything.

Quest begins working with students on day one of high school learning effective study skills, adopting mindful habits, and becoming a more informed person to help freshmen mature as they enter high school. We also pay close attention to our students’ personalities, outlooks, and ambitions to help them hone in on their interests and passions.

Throughout sophomore and junior year, we focus on building each student in the crucial process of becoming a “compelling” applicant. Alongside test preparation, interview practice, and resume building, we aid them in discerning their future goals and creating resumes that truly reflect them as a person, not just a number.

Senior year is wholly dedicated to ensuring the student is a strong applicant to the colleges that are a good fit for their goals, all while providing plentiful financial aid and scholarship advice throughout the process. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the thousands of colleges to choose from, but at Quest we comb through each of them to pinpoint the ones that will most contribute to our students’ future success and prosperity. Our senior students have been incredibly successful in gaining admission to top-ranked schools for a fraction of the price. In fact, this year’s class of 2018 earned over $27 million in scholarships and financial aid.

Students at Quest succeed because of their enthusiasm in embracing the new approach to college: one where numbers are not everything, hard work and dedication are practiced daily, and individuals are treated as they are, individuals. College admissions are getting more and more selective. Quest cultivates students who can be competitive “by the numbers,” and also bring to the table what no college has seen before, their unique self.