It may be easier to get in than you realize. Alamy

How to Wow College Admissions Officers

Sep 08, 2016

Want to get into the college of your dreams? A just-released survey of college admissions officers offers some encouraging news: Your odds are probably better than you think.

In its annual survey of college counselors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling reports that colleges accepted 65.8% of freshman applicants for the fall 2014 semester (the most recent data available). That’s up from 64% in 2012. In fact, the survey noted, the typical high school senior's odds of winning admission to the typical college are better than even: 80% of all colleges accept at least 50% of applicants. (Here's MONEY's list of the best colleges with great admissions odds.)

Other kinds of students face less favorable odds, however. The acceptance rate for international applicants, for example, is only 34%.

The factors that admissions officers are using to decide which students to accept and which to turn away are evolving as well. Here are their top 10 criteria and the percentage of counselors who say they are of "considerable importance."

1. Grades in college prep courses: 79%

2. Grades in all courses: 60%

3. Strength of high school curriculum: 60%

4. SAT or ACT scores: 56% (Increasing numbers of colleges are becoming "test optional." Here's a list.)

5. Essay or writing sample: 22%

6. Counselor recommendation: 17%

7. Student's demonstrated interest: 17%

8. Teacher recommendation: 15%

9. Class rank: 14%

10. AP or IB test scores: 7%

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