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What's most important to colleges?

QUESTION: How important are grades, test scores, and extra-curricular activities to colleges? I want the breakdown in percentages. -College Admissions by the Numbers

Dear College Admissions by the Numbers: If only college admissions were like a beauty pageant: 20% for personality, 30% for 10-second answer about dream to end world hunger, and 50% for how you fill out a swimsuit. It would make your life as a high school student easier because you would know exactly how you would be evaluated. Unfortunately, there is no magical formula that colleges use. We do know that academic ability as measured by grades is the most important factor in admissions. But many other factors carry weight too: test scores, honors and awards, recommendations, leadership, and extra-curricular activities to name a few. Our advice is to make grades your highest priority. Prepare for the standardized tests as much as possible. Get involved in activities that you enjoy. Spend time investigating which colleges match you and on your applications. This is not a magical formula, but it is a combination that colleges value.

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Gen & Kelly Tanabe

Gen and Kelly Tanabe are the founders of SuperCollege and the award-winning authors of 11 books on college admission, financial aid and scholarships. Together they were accepted to all of the Ivy League colleges and won more than $100,000 in merit-based scholarships to graduate from Harvard debt-free.