Each year, the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) releases a member survey, “What Colleges Look for in High School Students,” and the news for 2020 is out! Topping the list of criteria (#1 for a few years) is taking a rigorous curriculum, followed by demonstrating achievement as reflected in grades and (#3) standardized test scores. Interestingly, two items moved up on the list: #4, involvement in a few meaningful activities and #6, demonstration of leadership either in or out of school.
This ranking should be evaluated on a college-by-college basis. Just as every college is different, so are the priorities that a college may place on each of these factors. At Ann Rossbach Consulting, we rely on our college-specific knowledge to interpret these criteria so that we can provide the best advice to students and families. We also believe in tailoring a curriculum to a student’s strengths and interests, addressing and applying rigor when it is appropriate and balanced.
A long laundry list of unrelated activities does not prove “involvement” to a college. Instead, purposeful and focused activities that speak to commitment and impact are not only more rewarding for a student, but they can also be a reflection of a student’s values. As a participating member of the Character Collaborative, we strive to impress this upon students and encourage them to seek activities that matter.
What about the essay? Coming in at #5 on the list, this criterion is often the source of some angst when it comes time to assemble an application. It is one of the few places where a student’s personality can be reflected and values can be expressed. And so our process for essay writing includes a process and time for reflection and introspection – as well as attention to writing technique.
Our role as educational consultants is to detangle the web of information – and disinformation – regarding college admissions. Interpreting the IECA survey is an example of this. More importantly, we strive to support self-discovery and promote accomplishment in teens as they venture into the college search and application process, helping them to understand what is being asked of them and why.