What are the top characteristics that admissions counselors look for when looking at your application and college essaysAnswered
senior in high school applying to college currently and wanting to go into a psychology major on a pre-med track
First, I'm assuming you mean admissions officers that work for colleges not admissions counselors that your school might have or that your parents hire correct?
Besides looking for high and consistent grades (GPA) and course rigor (most challenging courses your school offers), great recommendations, solid essays that tell something about yourself that the stats and values on the admissions file do not disclose, a variety of meaningful and impactful ECs that you have had a high success rate at, all college admissions officers want to know if you are the following:
a.) Genuine -Meaning that you have represented yourself accurately and honestly, and are believable (no one wants to read a perfect essay edited 50 times by a professional writer than reads nothing like the rest of your file).
b.) A person of high character - Colleges do not want superficial ephemeral people who think more about trends, fashion, hype, and posting on social media more than their body of academic work, nor do they want applicants who are self-absorbed in a narrow subject area that alienates them from the rest of the world. Rather they want students that care about their family, their community, and their world and want to make (for lack of a better term) impactful improvements.
c.) Evidence of intellectual vitality or curiosity. - Transcripts and grades only reveal how well someone does in school and their performance relative to their peers in that specific environment. The admissions officer wants to know if you have other talents, eccentricities, skills, or academic pursuits outside of school. Perhaps you learned Chinese by yourself for the heck of it. Or are an ace baker or a write poetry and win creative writing contests. You are more than your transcript so you should communicate what you do that beyond the minimum requirement to attend HS.
d.) Lastly, admissions officers are looking for someone that fits their goals for filling their Freshman class according to their own idea of "what makes a successful class". You can't take that personally and sometimes it's very hard to figure out if you are a good fit for the college and vice versa. For example, if they are looking for a Water Polo goalie and you that's your spike, then want you more. However, if you are 1 of 500 people that stay they are pre-med, well then are only going to pick the ones that fit their school goals the best. It's very important that you compare and contrast your academic and extracurricular spikes to the college you are thinking of applying to and seeing how you fit in and how they fit for you. That is why most top colleges have the "Why US essay". They want you to spend some time to see if you are a good fit for them, not the other way around. If you answer that prompt by saying, "I'm applying here because your school is a Top school for this or that subject and Pre-med" they already know that. But if you figure out how you can enhance their campus with your presence and make an impact on their student body, now you are getting their attention.
Good luck with your college admissions process.