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Top Reasons Why Admissions Officers Reject Candidates

Colleges saw a record number of applications last admissions cycle. Which means, competition for admission was high—especially at top colleges.

Many experts predict that this admissions cycle will be no different. US News recently delve into some of the top reasons why college applicants get rejected. Among some of those reasons? Low GPA and lack of interest.


One of the main reasons why applicants get rejected is due to having low GPA or test scores—which can be especially important at more selective schools.

“The term ‘holistic review’ is one of the best marketing terms created in college admissions,” Nat Smitobol, a college admissions counselor at IvyWise, tells US News. “It gives students the sense that anyone has a chance, which is not true – especially at the most selective institutions. GPA and test scores are the most common reasons why someone would be eliminated quickly without a comprehensive review.”

It’s not enough to simply have a high GPA, however. Brian Galvin, chief academic officer at Varsity Tutors, says admissions officers will view a GPA in relation to academic rigor.

“Obviously schools will look at your GPA, but what they’re really looking at is your transcript, not just the average of your grades,” Galvin says. “If your school offers a wide array of AP and Honors courses and you didn’t take many of them, you can have a perfect GPA but you won’t get the credit for academic excellence you might expect.”


Among qualified students, admissions officers tend to hand out acceptance letters to those who can demonstrate high interest in their school and convey a good fit.

“Admitting great students who don’t enroll means that other great students on the waitlist start making other plans, and the fall’s entering class misses out on that quality it could have had,” Galvin says. “So schools really do look at how often you’ve visited campus or attended virtual tours and events; they want to see specifics in your essays about why you want to attend that school.”

That’s exactly why fit is so important in college admissions. Experts say colleges seek out students who can meet their institutional objectives.

“The mission of a public institution is to educate the people in their state first and foremost,” Eddie Pickett III, senior associate dean and director of recruitment at Pomona College in California, says. “For private universities, their mission and value statements should guide their priorities. The main goal on a residential college campus is to admit a student body who wants to contribute to the academic and social culture in your community.”

Sources: US News, Inside Higher Ed

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