By far, achievements in and out of the classroom are the priority. Colleges are looking for candidates who perform well consistently, or who show a record of steady improvement in courses.
Not all decisions are made based on an applicant’s record. When you apply—priority, early action, early decision 1, early decision 2, regular decision, or rolling admission—is one variable. Finances—“need-blind schools” versus those that consider a student’s need for financial aid in decisions—are another. Demographics and institutional priorities also play a role in outcomes.
Some of the above are beyond an applicant’s control. But a shrewd candidate will consider them all. In fact, a successful application strategy takes into account all the mitigating factors, and factors in which schools and application pools will have maximum odds of acceptance.
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