The Mystery of College Admissions: Insider Tips

By Dr. Gina La Monica

What is the secret to successfully being admitted to a highly selective private college? In reviewing many senior college admissions decisions, I found that college admission decisions varied greatly among the applicants even though students had similar attributes. At a meeting with a college admissions team from a prestigious institution, tips for success were revealed.

Demonstrated interest was repeatedly mentioned among the admissions folks. Colleges want students who express curiosity about their institution. This might involve attending an admissions forum online or submitting questions to the assigned regional admissions staff member. Navigating through their college website and signing up for email notifications are other outstanding ways to show your interest. However, going on a tour of the campus and meeting with your respective admissions person is probably the best way to illustrate how enthusiastic you are about the university. If the college allows interviews, this is also beneficial not only in the admissions process but to obtain a better understanding of the school. Not only do all these actions strengthen your chances of being admitted, but simultaneously educate students on the college community and culture assisting in better ascertaining if they are a “good fit” for this campus.

Slate is the software that admissions and enrollment management staff use to track web activity for every prospective student such as when a college email is opened or not, how many times a college website is visited, and whether a form is submitted for an admissions event to name a few of the items tracked. Collectively, a dashboard is created for each applicant populated with all these data points ranking each student on perceived interest. This assists admissions and enrollment management staff with an algorithm that can predict if a student will enroll if admitted. Therefore, a student can generate a dashboard of considerable interest by exhausting these actions and many more increasing their score in this area. Up to 75% of college applicants are admissible. Almost all students nowadays have extremely elevated grade point averages of over 4.0 weighted. As a result, colleges must add additional factors, such as demonstrated interest, to identify who to admit for their next freshmen class.

Additionally, colleges are looking for students who can bring unique qualities to their campuses. Each year, in search of diversity and inclusion, admissions staff seek to create a cohort comprised of students who have intriguing passions and interests that complement the college community. Hence, the activities section of the college application is an influential aspect of the admissions decision-making process. What activities has the student been a part of and will they want to continue this interest in their college years? Institutions want active students who will unquestionably contribute to their new college environment.

Other important factors the admissions staff look for in college applications are strong letters of recommendation from teachers within their proposed major that detail a student’s interest in learning and essays that are well written and tell a story about the applicant giving them further insight about the person.   


Dr. Gina La Monica has a Doctorate in Education and has worked as a high school counselor, college administrator, and professor at many universities and colleges including the University of California, Los Angeles, California Lutheran University, California State University, Northridge, San Diego State University, etc. She was a tenured professor and an expert in career technical education and adult learning. She currently teaches at a local college and helps students of all ages from kindergarten to the university level with career exploration, college admissions, learning assessment, tutoring, and education plans. 

College and Career Advisement
Dr. Gina La Monica
(818) 359-0859


Written by Gina La Monica

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  1. So much of this is nonsense. Here are the stories of our family members from a bi-coastal perspective. One niece with a mother a graduate of Harvard/Stanford did not get into any highly ranked schools. All AP classes (tutors throughout, etc). She is going to Bucknell. One nephew from Ca. in regular classes in Hermosa Beach got into every UC he applied to but will go to university in Canada (dual citizenship via his father). Another niece from NH will pay full tuition at U. of Arizona….she got rejected from every UC school she applied to. Another nephew will go to Clemson….he applied to many East Coast universities and got rejected or wait listed from most…..To put it in perspective, one local Allan Hancock graduate got into all UCs he applied to. will go to UCLA and get a full ride. I think all this ‘coaching’/tutoring is a lot of BS.

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