What colleges look for in High School students

By Rajkamal Rao  

According to The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the top admission decision factors for colleges are as below. As you enter high school, it makes a lot of sense to focus on the Top 5.

Source: NACAC

For the top colleges, other factors matter besides the table above.

In a provocative article in the Atlantic, "Private Schools Have Become Truly Obscene," writer Caitlin Flanagan describes all that is bad with private high schools (hyper-aggressive parents arguing about students' grades, uber-school buildings that cater to students' every need, and outrageous annual fees including some schools that charge more than $50,000/year).

But she notes the one advantage that sets private high schools apart: they send huge numbers of students to the most elite colleges - some may even say disproportionately.

"In the past five years, Dalton has sent about a third of its graduates to the Ivy League. Ditto the Spence School. Harvard-Westlake, in Los Angeles, sent 45 kids to Harvard alone. Noble and Greenough School, in Massachusetts, did even better: 50 kids went on to Harvard."

Flanagan sources her information from the "Best High Schools In America" website which ranks all high schools (public and private) on a single objective measure: the number of students a high school sends to top colleges. With over 12,600 records, PolarisList says it is the largest aggregator of Harvard, Princeton, and MIT matriculation data for US high schools.

Reviewing this list gives you a great (and uncomfortable) feeling for what is wrong with elite college admissions in America: For most public school students, it is nearly impossible to get into the top colleges.
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