Nail the Numbers...and Show Your Soft Side

College Counseling Co-Directors Alexandra Gonzalez and Cecilia Grano De Oro share key factors driving admission officers to look beyond the numbers in college applications.

How do colleges make admissions decisions? What do they look for in an application?   
There's no question that GPAs and standardized test scores are key. But when thousands of applicants meet these criteria, what helps a candidate rise to the top?  To explore these questions, this summer, Scheck Hillel Co-Directors of College Counseling Alexandra Gonzalez and Cecilia Grano De Oro attended the Harvard Summer Institute on College Admissions: a selective annual program organized jointly by Harvard University and The College Board.

One key takeaway: Today, admission officers are taking a holistic view of candidates, searching beyond the numbers for unique personal qualities. They used a bicycle metaphor to describe the process: Scores support the rear wheel, but it’s the “soft skills” -  all those characteristics that make a student human - that steer the front wheel. “The front wheel tips the balance,” the counselors explained. Some soft skills include the ability to be a valuable peer, someone who is an educator of others, is an advocate, and speaks (or writes) with an authentic voice. These skills may be conveyed through the personal essay and letters of recommendation, or may emerge in the story the total application tells. Soft skills are the result of living core values and developing life-skills that shape character - and underpin a Scheck Hillel education: Kavod, Chessed, Shalom, Emet and Ruach.