What Colleges are really looking for in your applications


Bruna Horvath, Staff Writer

During this stressful season of college applications that seem to never end, it’s easy to begin to wonder which parts of your applications will really catch the attention of college admissions. At our local university, Colorado State University, college admissions officer, Megan Miller, was kind enough to give some insight on college applications from a college’s perspective. 

Miller explains that at CSU, they do a holistic review of applications, considering everything they see on your application. 

“We look at several factors in the review process,” Miller said. “The first is going to be academics. So that will be your overall GPA. We also look at your transcript to determine the types of classes you’re taking and also the rigor of those classes. So like AP, IB, dual enrollment, anything that’s kind of challenging yourself and getting you ready for college. And then we also look at grade trends on your transcript. So an upward grade trend is obviously going to be more appealing to us than a downward grade trend. We also look at your involvement experiences and extracurricular activities. There isn’t an particular type of involvement that we need to see it’s just good to see that you can handle things outside of the school environment and something else because that shows us to be more successful in college.” 

Miller explains that the part of an application that stands out the most are personal essays. Personal essays that show growth and adaptability by overcoming past struggles seem to particularly catch the eye of admission officers. 

“The ones that are most memorable are when you can see that a student has really overcome something and explain how that has allowed them to grow and will make them a successful person in college. I read applications about all sorts of struggles and difficulties that students have faced with things like homelessness, and difficult family situations. It really shows resilience and grit,” said Miller. 

December 1st is CSU’s Early Action due date. Unlike Early Decision, Early Action is non-binding. Miller explains that since you receive your early action decision so much quicker, it’s good for students who want to take the stress out of college applications. Since CSU operates on a rolling admissions process, they are able to release admission results on an ongoing basis throughout the year. 

“I would say the biggest benefit to apply by December 1 is really just that you get your decision quicker… if you apply by December 1, we try to get your decision before the end of the year so before the New Year, so going into the spring semester of your senior year and knowing your decision and being able to start working on those next steps like financial aid, housing orientation, [and] making your decision.” Miller said.

Miller explains that another important element of an exceptional application is a good letter of recommendation. She says that letters of recommendations don’t always have to be from a teacher whose class you excel at, but maybe from a teacher that has seen you struggle, and see you overcome those struggles. 

“I read an application recently where the student really struggled in math, and you could see it,” Miller said. “They were doing really well in a lot of other classes, but some of their math grades were a little lower. And they actually had a letter of recommendation from their math teacher that said that they were seeking help and that they were good at advocating for themselves by asking questions. They had been in their classroom after class to ask questions and were really working hard and had improved a lot.” 

For incoming students, Miller encourages students to not worry about not having everything figured out right now. 

“I know it can be a lot of pressure that students are put under when they’re applying to school, like this is the rest of your life. But it’s gonna be alright, and we’ll help you through the process. It’s okay, if you don’t have it all figured out,” said Miller.