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The different types of college admissions requirements vary widely depending on the country as well the specific school. In general, the college acceptance criteria can be categorized into tests, grades, essays, extracurricular participation and interviews. Many colleges use a combination of these different admissions requirements to choose students who will be the best fit for the particular school.
The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is used in about 130 countries. Passing the TOEFL is one of the most common college admissions requirements for students who want to study at English speaking schools, but don't have this language as their native one. Depending on the choices given by each college, students may take the TOEFL either online or on paper. While some countries place a great emphasis on academic tests given to senior high school students as strong college admissions requirements, others focus more on grades. For example, a student's grade point average (GPA) throughout four years of high school is the main admissions requirement in many Canadian colleges, whereas in the United States, scores on the SAT and ACT tests are a major acceptance factor.
The SAT, which once stood for Scholastic Aptitude Test, measures math skills, reading comprehension and writing ability. The test is about 3 1/2 hours long with questions in a variety of formats such as multiple choice and essay. The ACT entrance exam is named for American College Testing. It tests math, science, writing and literature skills in a multiple choice format. The ACT test takes approximately 3 1/2 hours and students are permitted to take it several times in high school in order to use their best score toward college admissions requirements.
College tests are greatly varied in other countries as is the importance placed on them for admissions. Many countries have versions of "leaving exams" which are given as high school final examinations. In some countries just passing the leaving exam is enough to meet college admissions requirements, while in others grades are also be considered. Grade requirements for college entry may depend on the competition for enrollment space. This may mean that in colleges in which there are many applicants, only those with the highest GPA may be accepted.
In colleges that combine testing, grades and other factors in determining which students they admit, essays, extracurricular activities and interviews are also often considered in the acceptance process. A college application essay way be on the subject of why the student wants to attend that particular school as well as his or her reasons for choosing a specific course of study at that institution. Oftentimes, essays that show passion and a unique connection with certain academic subjects are successful.
Many colleges prefer to choose not only academically suitable students, but those who are outgoing and will participate in school activities. Extracurricular participation in academic clubs, sports teams, committees and other on-campus organizations are seen as desirable college admission requirements by many schools, so student involvement in similar high school groups can be an entry advantage. Face-to-face interviews with a representative from the college may also be a consideration for acceptance into a particular college. Interviewers look for articulate, sincere students who are genuinely interested in attending their specific school.
I am a former college admissions official and a current college admissions consultant. This post does a nice job of summing up requirements. As mentioned, colleges have the freedom to set their own requirements, but there is a general recipe that most follow. Here, I will go into a little more detail:
Test scores: The ACT OR SAT (generally interchangeable). Within this category, the kinds of testing, frequency of testing, and additional testing will vary from school to school, program to program, major to major, and by admissions acceptance rate and individual applicant profile. To this end, some students will need to take additional SAT testing in specific subject matter, called the SAT 2s. Students may or may not
take exams more than once.
Academic Record: This is, by far, the most important piece of the equation. This is the high school transcript, having at least met basic college prep criteria. For more competitive programs/schools, there will be additional requirements.
Recommendations: Letters of recommendation from teachers, mentors, bosses or others who can speak to your talents and abilities. Schools will have varying parameters around who is acceptable.
Extracurricular Profile: This means what activities a student engages in outside of required academic school hours. Again, will vary from school to school, program to program, major to major, and by admissions acceptance rate and individual applicant profile.
Admission Essay(s): Some schools actually do not require an essay. Usually these schools are not selective and/or simply have a MASSIVE number of applicants. But many, many schools do require essay(s) and this is a critical piece of the application.
Admission Interviews: Some schools do not offer interviews, some require them, and some offer them on request. Like the essay, it’s a change for the student’s personality to shine through and voice to be heard.
The college admissions process is a highly detailed and sometimes stressful process, but stay organized and try to remember that all of these materials are required because people (the school’s admissions committee) want to get to know you.