Photo: Vasyl, YFS Magazine, Adobe Stock

Pulling Back the Curtain on College Admissions

Peter Tilles, co-founder and managing partner at Princeton College Consulting, helps students navigate the highly competitive college admissions process.

Something as nuanced as the college admission process requires a holistic approach to student evaluation. While academic excellence remains a critical element of the evaluation process, admissions officers increasingly look beyond the curriculum, grades, and test scores to discern the more elusive character-based qualities that make an exceptional candidate.

Photo: Peter Tilles, co-founder and Managing Partner at Princeton College Consulting, LLC | Courtesy
Photo: Peter Tilles, co-founder and Managing Partner at Princeton College Consulting, LLC | Courtesy

Getting a grasp on the mindset of individual admission officers is not practical as we have no control over the range of people who could be reviewing a single application at a particular college or university. Further, how one admissions officer will review an application versus another at the same school can differ based on background, life experiences, and personal views. And of course, different colleges and universities will have different institutional priorities that will be factored into the evaluation process.

Although it is difficult to address every admission officer individually, with 13+ years of experience, Peter Tilles and his team at Princeton College Consulting provide the expertise necessary to help students craft applications that will address institutional priorities and that will resonate with admissions committees while maximizing their probability of admission.

Demonstrating unique perspectives and character traits through the application process are central to what admissions officers look for. The ability to think critically, analyze complex issues, and authentically communicate different facets of one’s character is the key to success, and colleges seek to attract individuals who can demonstrate this.

Moreover, colleges value students who can demonstrate that they are making the most of the activities that they choose to pursue. Colleges care more about what a student does with an activity than how impressive it may look on a resume.

Admissions committees look for signs of potential beyond the classroom and the way you do that is by demonstrating immersion, depth, and overall quality of the experience. It is through the quality and depth of their experiences that a student will be able to demonstrate authenticity, not simply by listing an impressive-sounding activity on a resume.

For some students, they will demonstrate the above through commitment to community service or sports while for others it could be Model UN, research, reading, or any other activity you may be interested in pursuing. The key is that it should be something you are genuinely interested in because it is difficult to sustain the effort to build depth if you do not enjoy what you are doing.

PCC counselors help high school students pursue their activities of choice but building the right foundations for building depth starts long before that. For this reason, PCC offers a special program for parents of elementary and middle school students, “Counselor on Retainer.” PCC counselors will work directly with parents to provide the necessary guidance to aid with decision-making and to imbue them with the tools to help their students build the critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills along with the self-understanding that will give rise to the purpose that will be necessary for success in their future college admissions process.

These are also skills that will be necessary for success in life.

Ultimately, demonstrating potential, both in and out of the classroom, along with an authentic desire to maximize potential are qualities that admissions officers seek in prospective applicants and students should pursue interests that will best help them do this no matter how impressive it may or may not seem on a resume. The key is to block out what others are doing and simply focus on becoming the best version of yourself that you can become.

Additionally, colleges will also look at context. To this end, they will look at the applicant’s background, such as their high school, family circumstances, socioeconomic status, and personal experiences, in close consideration when reviewing the applications. These factors provide a clearer picture of one’s application and how they will fit into building a diverse class of students.

To navigate the college admissions process successfully, students may benefit from the guidance of experienced college consultants who can offer insights, strategies, and support throughout the application process. Princeton College Consulting is a trusted partner for students seeking to optimize their college applications and enhance their admission prospects to top-tier institutions. Their team of experienced consultants offers personalized guidance tailored to each student’s unique circumstances, helping them present their best selves to college admissions committees.


© YFS Magazine. All Rights Reserved. Copying prohibited. All material is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this material is prohibited. Sharing of this material under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International terms, listed here, is permitted.


In this article