What colleges look for when reviewing applications

August 24, 2022

It’s the hectic time of year when students from all walks of life are trying to figure out how to submit a college application that’ll help them get accepted. Bottom line: you’ve got to stand out from the crowd.

LMO is shorthand that some admissions officers use when a kid looks great, there’s nothing wrong with this application, but LMO: Like Many Others. There’s nothing really that stands out.That’s really the challenge, is how do you stand out and not be an LMO?

Anna Ivey

Who’s reading the application?

A very small group.

A lot of your application process involves uploading forms and submitting standard school documents. But it’s important to keep in mind who reads and reviews college applications. The admissions officer (or enrollment officer) is responsible for sifting through the mountains of electronic files to identify which students might be a good fit for the school.

Your audience is a handful of people who are trying to figure out what makes you unique, and how you might make the most of a degree from this school

Take a few minutes to watch this really helpful video from an admissions officer at University of Washington. She walks through, step by step, how she reads through applications. 

For timelines of application review, check out this post by AdmissionSight

Do colleges care about my extracurriculars?


Remember, the admissions office is looking for ways to get to know you from a distance. Obviously they can’t meet every single applicant in person, so they’re doing the best they can using applications. Describe your out-of-school activities in such a way that demonstrates your skills and interests, your ability to interact well with others, and your desire to learn new things.

The folks at Prep Scholar recommend highlighting three key things: leadership, passion, and impact. Check out their blog for some specific examples of extracurricular write-ups. 

How important is my personal essay?


Your college essay should pack a punch, or you shouldn’t pack your bags.Before you get started writing, take some time to think through essay topics

There are a lot of factors that go into student selection: high school GPA, SAT or ACT, curriculum difficulty, recommendation letters, socio-economic background, and more. A lot of that is out of your control by now, but you can control one very important element: personal character. Some colleges put so much weight on this that their applications have supplemental essay sections!

Sometimes it’s best to listen to someone who’s been through this, rather than reading a list of essay tips. Watch the video below for some actionable ideas to use your essay to pop!

Don’t forget scholarships!

This isn’t exactly part of your application, but tons of students are leaving free money on the table. Most scholarship applications don’t cost any money. The spikeview Opportunity Hub has all sorts of financial aid listings, so be sure to check those out. Just log in to your account and tap the search bar.