What Qualities Do Colleges Look For When Looking Through Applications

What Qualities Do Colleges Look For When Looking Through Applications

What Qualities Do Colleges Look For When Looking Through Applications

Getting into college is one of the most important rites of passage in life. It is so important that it can determine the further course of anyone’s career and many more. This is why students dedicate years of their life preparing for college applications. Here are some of the qualities colleges look for in their applicants.

Independent thinking

One of the most important qualities colleges look for when going through applications is independent thinking. This is also a quintessential trait college look for. Admissions officers know that high school is mostly based on a prescribed curriculum, making it easy for students to follow the herd and come out looking pretty uniform. Colleges want students that escape herd mentality and pursue more independent passions, opportunities, and talents that their peers do not. Having separate extracurricular programs is a great opportunity to demonstrate independent thinking. In addition to this, programs like these encourage viewpoints, which is highly beneficial because admission officers want to see how students are developing their critical thinking skills in the years leading up to university. This is where participating in various other activities such as debate teams, consulting for local businesses can set candidates apart from the rest of the group. Colleges like to see that the candidate has dealt with real-world challenges and has relied on their critical thinking and skills to come to solutions.


It is probably clear that universities don’t just look at your grades, but they want to get to know each applicant on a much deeper level. This is exactly why almost half of university admissions officers note that they are interested in applicant’s backgrounds. The ability to overcome certain hardships in life and to get through a difficult start can be great evidence of the strength of character. Many applicants feel shy about telling their personal stories, but as the officers from USC admission note, having a supplemental letter can showcase this quality that can help a candidate stand out. Furthermore, a supplemental letter usually has a strict form and questions that need to be answered, so having a short guide to help you is a good idea since messing it up can diminish your qualities. 

True enthusiasm

If a student is only applying to a university for sports teams, social life, or other reasons - that will be obvious across their application pages. However, if they have a real passion for the subject that they are applying to study - that will be obvious too. Being enrolled in a university is hard work (it’s called higher education for a reason) - it requires students to step up. This being said, students must be able to showcase their commitment to their chosen course. The main reason behind this is that if a student lacks true enthusiasm, they are in it for the wrong reason, but they are more likely to quit and be generally unmotivated. Not only this, but they will also have a hard chance of getting in because admissions officers go through piles and piles of applications, and they are trained to dismiss student applications who lack this particular quality. Clear ambition and true enthusiasm will convince any admissions team that a student is a serious contender.

Commitment to extracurricular activities

Another quality colleges look for when going through applications is a commitment to extracurricular activities. Even though this is a very obvious activity to have, it’s a very important one nonetheless. Having an extensive list of activities is not quite as impressive as a deep, long-term commitment to a few activities of high interest to the candidate. Furthermore, if all of the candidates’ extracurricular activities fall under a single category, such as music or science, this is also fine. College admission officers do like to see that a candidate has specialized interests and passions and that they are willing to make a solid commitment; this is why it’s always a good idea for a college candidate to take a few extracurricular activities for a longer period and to spend a few hours each week on these activities. In addition to this, colleges also like to see that they have special achievements, accomplishments, awards, and other accolades in the given extracurricular activity. 


These are some of the main qualities colleges look for in their applicants. Furthermore, it’s also important how these qualities are delivered. Many colleges require supplemental letters, which makes it a great opportunity to showcase your qualities. However, these letters need to be written very carefully and with proper guidance.