My friend Paul Kanarek at The Princeton Review speaks weekly at local high schools on the college admissions and testing process. Lately, he's been pointing out that admissions officers really just want to know three things about applicants.
1. Are you smart enough to succeed here?
2. Do we like you?
3. Do other people like you?
If you look at every element of your application that admissions officers evaluate, from the classes you take, to the impact you make in your activities, to the subject on which you choose to write your college essays, every one of them can be traced back to one of these questions.