Application Process

Unit 4: College Applications: What Do Colleges Consider?

January 5 - February 4

KEY CONCEPT: SYSTEMS: sets of interacting or interdependent components. Systems provide structure and order in human, natural and built environments. Systems can be static or dynamic, simple or complex.

RELATED CONCEPTS: PERSPECTIVE:1) PERSPECTIVE is the position from which we observe situations, objects, facts, ideas and opinions. Perspective may be associated with individuals, groups, cultures or disciplines. Different perspectives often lead to multiple representations and interpretations, 2) RESOURCES: Resources relate to the supply of a commodity or of information or knowledge about a topic.

SUBJECT-SPECIFIC CONCEPTS: Application types and examples, resources, organization, essays, letter of Recommendations, activity summary, resume

GLOBAL CONTEXT:GLOBALIZATION AND SUSTAINABILITY: This Global Context explores the interconnectedness of human-made systems and communities; the relationship between local and global processes; how local experiences mediate the global; the opportunities and tensions provided by world interconnectedness; the impact of decision-making on humankind and the environment. It asks students to ask themselves how everything is connected.

EXPLORATION: Students can state what the college applications require and start preparing ways to organize this information to make navigating applications easier.

STATEMENT OF INQUIRY: Systems provide structure and resources in how we understand and relate to each other giving perspective on each other.

INQUIRY QUESTIONS: What are the components of the college application process? How are the application platforms similar and different? How can I present myself as the best candidate that I can be?

See more detail at

Components of the Application Process

Main components of the college application process include ...

  • application form

  • fees or fee waivers

  • letters of recommendation

    • Recommendation letters from school counselors, teachers, or others can really help an admissions committee learn things about you that your test scores and grades do not reflect. Remember students should give teachers and counselors plenty of time to write a recommendation letter, at least two weeks. Students should select teachers with whom they have a good relationship and in whose classes they performed well.

  • deadlines

  • application essay (college essay)

  • college interview (only certain schools require)

    • Some colleges want to get an impression of you in an interview, so an admissions counselor or professor may interview you. The interview could be one-on-one or in a group.

    • Practice with role play before the interview.

      • Possible questions:

        • Why are you interested in this college?

        • How do you expect to be different from high school?

        • How would you describe yourself as a student? How would you describe yourself as a person?

        • What is your strongest subject in school? Weakest? Favorite?

        • How do you spend your summers?

        • What extracurricular activities are you involved in, and what have you gained from your involvement?

        • What are you interested in studying in college and why?

        • What books have you read recently, and what did you learn from them or enjoy about them?

        • Which of your high school accomplishments are you most proud of and why?

        • If there are weaknesses in your transcript or test scores, the interview is a way to explain them. Let the person know how you have improved in certain areas.

  • high school transcript

  • financial aid forms

  • scholarship opportunities

  • standardized tests (SAT, ACT) unless you have a NO-TEST OPTION

  • high school athletes

Mrs. MacFarland’s Top Ten Things Colleges Look for in Students

After some research especially from National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) as well as and National Society of High School Scholars, here is a top ten list of important aspects universities are looking for in their applicants.

#1 Grades in college prep courses indicate that students are ready and able to handle college.

Taking IB courses that are rigorous meets this requirement as well as community college courses or AP courses. College admissions value a difficult course load and grades that represent upward trending scores.

#2 Numbers show if you are ready for college.

The importance of SAT and ACT Scores are debatable. Since the Coronavirus pandemic, some universities are shifting to a no-test option (see article); however, the future is uncertain how much of this trend will continue. In the past, schools relied heavily on SAT and ACT scores although many students have other data to indicate they are ready for college such as AP scores and IB scores. All in all, colleges have traditionally valued solid scores on the SAT or ACT as well as consistent high school grades and your overall GPA. Overall, IB applicants tend to have a higher acceptance rate than non-IB students at universities.

#3 The college essay is your personal statement of who you are.

A well-written essay offers insight into your values, work ethic, and goals; therefore, it is important to make it engaging and thoughtful with a strong narrative voice.

#4 Colleges want to understand your learner traits.

Important learner traits may include curiosity, persistence, risk taking, collaboration, open-mindedness and creativity. Highlight key aspects of your personality and what learner profile traits you really have developed as a student at Meridian. Review the IB Learner Profile traits for ideas.

#5 Extracurriculars show your interests.

Colleges want students who are going to make a difference and who are passionate about a variety of subjects. Colleges look for more depth than breadth. You don’t have to feel like you have to do it all, but you do want to show colleges that you have focused passions with a sense of commitment and purpose. Your resume will record many of the activities to highlight key areas.

#6 Letters of recommendation provide another perspective.

Teachers, counselors, and administrators can reveal aspects of your intellectual curiosity, your approaches to learning, and your character.

#7 A demonstrated Interest in the college reveals your commitment.

Colleges like to see initiative and how much you really want to attend the college. Visiting colleges and talking to admission officers show an interest as well as an interview if required. Applying for early decision also shows your strong interest.

#8 Your impact in your community shows your caring nature.

Colleges like to see that their applicants are involved in their community. Engaging in meaningful community service that gives you joy and purpose will highlight your caring involvement.

#9 Writing samples can show your ability to communicate.

Some colleges will ask for writing samples of work you have done while in high school. You will want to include writing that shows a well focused response to an inquiry question, analytical thinking, coherent thought, and a solid command of language. Internal assessments or tasks are always good.

#10 Your class rank is one measure, but not the end all be all.

Less than half of colleges track class rank and many high schools such as Meridian are non-ranking. While some state schools look for the top 7% or 8%, each university is different in their approach to admission.