What's Important for Getting Into the Right College or University — And What's Not

Getting into a college or university in Canada The college admissions process can be a daunting experience for any student. The thought of leaving home, having more responsibilities and preparing yourself for a meaningful transition into adulthood is overwhelming in itself.

According to the Ontario University Application Centre (OUAC) in Guelph, 701,853 college applications were submitted to Ontario schools between April 2020 and April 2021. In comparison, the top ten universities in the United States had an average of 84,865 applicants for the fall 2020 semester.

Whether you’re a first-time college applicant, an international applicant or heading back to school to finish a degree, you’re going to want to know what’s most important for getting into a college or university and how to submit a standout application.

Things to Consider: What Not to Include

Before you begin filling out your applications and collecting the supporting documents, you should be aware of what doesn’t matter when you’re applying for colleges. For example, you may want to leave out the following information:

  • Anything that happened—awards, activities and other accomplishments—before high school
  • Irrelevant activities that you were involved in for only a short period
  • Big words that sound unnatural and inauthentic in your college essays
  • Personal information that has little relevance to your educational and professional goals

Keep in mind that while your essays should be well-written, college admissions officers are looking for insight into your personality, interests, academic achievements and most importantly, your potential for success.

5 Important Factors for Getting Into College

While there’s a lot to think about when making an informed decision about where to attend school, admissions officers have a lot to consider about who they accept, as well. When embarking on your higher education journey, you should consider these five important factors that can influence your acceptance into the right school or program.

1. Challenging High School Coursework

Hopefully, you filled your curriculum with a wide range of challenging classes from early on in your high school career. Colleges and universities consider the types of courses students took advantage of and the grades they were able to maintain.

If you’re applying to highly-selective schools, admissions officers may also look at whether you took advanced classes or if you participated in learning activities beyond the high school experience to meet your educational goals.

2. High Grades and Test Scores

Colleges are best intended for students seeking an applied career, while universities prepare students for an academic career. Applying to college is relatively straightforward, with high school grades and language proficiencies in English or French as significant determining factors for admission decisions. While there isn’t a standardized test for postsecondary acceptance, most colleges typically require grades that are 70% above the average. Likewise, university admissions requirements may require grades that are 85% above the norm.

3. Letters of Recommendation

Admissions requirements vary by school, so it’s essential to check with each college to determine what you need to include in your application.

If you have a great rapport with your high school teachers and guidance counselors, asking them to write a recommendation for you to submit can give admissions officers better insight into your capabilities as a student.

Teachers possess first-hand knowledge of their students’ skills and character traits in the classroom. Strong recommendation letters may therefore influence your acceptance.

4. Show a Genuine Interest in the College

Students should visit their intended schools, take virtual tours, inquire with admissions counselors and schedule interviews to further demonstrate their interest in attending.

College and university admissions are generally competitive, so asking questions about a particular program and introducing yourself to advisors can go a long way throughout the process. It also allows students to learn more about a specific school and determine if it’s a good fit for them.

5. Proof That the Student and College are a Good Match

Taking the time and effort to put together an excellent college or university application should prove that the student and school are a great match. Studies have shown that 8% of students transfer to another school within two years in Ontario. However, by transferring, you may risk losing credits and needing to take or retake additional courses.

Narrowing down the list of schools you’re interested in attending, getting a good feel for the campus and intended program, scheduling additional interviews and striving for academic success in high school can boost your chances of getting into the right college.

Don’t Sweat the Application Process

Attending a college or university is the next exciting chapter of your educational career. It would be best to try not to get hung up on the college admissions process. Seek assistance and guidance from your guidance counselor or other admissions experts to help you get accepted to the right school and program for you.

About the Author

Ginger Abbot is a freelance writer and the Editor-in-Chief of Classrooms, an online learning magazine for students, graduates and educators.