Evaluating Your Common App
As our Non-Binding Early Action application deadline approaches on November 15, we understand nerves may be building up and many of you are reviewing the many details on your Common Application. We think it may be helpful for you to know exactly what we look for when we review your application. It’s actually fairly simple and comes down to six basic things:
When students take a strong curriculum in high school, we find that they do well in their studies at Gonzaga. In your senior year schedule we like to see at least four challenging academic courses like English, math, science, social studies, or a foreign language. While there are many AP, IB, and Honors courses available to students, we realize that some of you have busy lives and can’t take a full load of these courses. We encourage you to take a few in the areas that interest you most. Recognize your limits and select a curriculum you believe you can successfully manage.
2. Grades and Grade Trends
As we look over your curriculum, we also look closely at your grades and grade trends. We will look at your unweighted GPA, but we don’t stop with just that number. We also pay attention to your grade trends and note improvement as you’ve progressed through high school. Our middle 50% GPA range for last year’s incoming class was 3.53-3.98. If you’ve had some C’s or lower during high school, or if your unweighted GPA is at or below 3.2, then we highly encourage you to do an admission interview with us as this can provide additional context for your academic performance. We also understand that there are extenuating circumstances that can affect your performance, and we genuinely want to understand that context as we review your applications.
3. Test Scores
We recognize that test scores are more of a single snapshot of your academic achievement than your grades and curriculum. But there’s an important reason we find test scores a necessary and useful part of your application. We get over 7,000 applications each year from students all over the U.S. and we can’t possibly know all of the high schools or academic environments in which you have been educated. Thus, the ACT and SAT scores provide us with a universal academic assessment. We often encourage students with an old SAT (CR+M) score at or below 1070 or new SAT score at or below 1150, or an ACT composite of 23 or lower to complete an admission interview.
4. Quality of Writing
Suffice it to say, your college essay and short answer helps us get beyond the academic statistics and itemized lists on your application to learn more about who you are as a person, in your own words. The “in your own words” part is key, too. We also want to see that you have the basics down - having intro, body, and conclusion paragraphs, choosing a specific topic, and proofing your essay before submitting. Your essay and short answer puts your writing skills on display. So make it your best writing, because it’s the chief tool we use to determine whether you can write well enough to succeed at Gonzaga.
5. Extracurricular Involvement
We have no hidden agenda for what types of activities we want to see from students – no special combination of things we’re hoping you’ve done. We look at your activities and honors for two main reasons. First, we’re interested in getting to know you more personally as a student and we’re genuinely excited to read about what talents and passions you’ll bring to our campus. Second, we know that your grades and test scores, while very important, aren’t necessarily the sum of your achievements. So whether you’ve received academic distinctions, won state athletic championships, earned recognition at music competitions, or show dependability as a part-time employee or volunteer, we want to recognize your accomplishments from outside the classroom.
This last category might seem kind of murky. How do we gauge something intangible like your “character”? A couple pretty simple ways, actually. The required Teacher Evaluation and School Report give both teachers and counselors from your school the chance to share their impressions of you. We want to know about what you’ve been like as a student in the classroom and as a citizen of your school community. Those two parts of your application help us get a glimpse of that.
Although not required, we welcome you to do an admission interview with your admission counselor. You can do one on a visit to campus, over the phone, or via Skype. Our interviews are pretty relaxed and are mainly designed to give those of us in the Office of Admission a chance to meet you and put a face to your application. They’re also a nice opportunity for you to ask us questions and learn more about Gonzaga.
To sum up, we always take a holistic look at your application, looking at six main parts: curriculum, grades and grade trends, test scores, quality of writing, extracurricular involvement, and character. We hope this demystifies the process a little for you as you work on applying to Gonzaga and gives you insight as you strive to make your application as strong as it can be.