Your teachers tell you all the time in high school to take up extracurricular activities to appease potential colleges. For decades, it’s been perceived that the extracurricular activities you take can make your college application stand out. But what do college admissions really care about when they’re reviewing hundreds or even thousands of college applications? If you’re planning to apply to Northeastern University, then make sure you know what it is they value you most.

Here’s a quick peek into the top factors most colleges want out of their accepted students.

What Colleges Consider to Be of High Importance

If you were in AP classes in high school and received good grades, then this will catch the eye of any college you apply to. These are college prep courses, so getting high grades in them shows you will likely do well in their school as well. It’s alright if you didn’t do well in the beginning, colleges shine light on students who take up the challenge and improve.

Your curriculum as a whole also plays a big role in your admission to college. If you’re taking a bunch of basic courses, no challenging ones, then this will look bad. Of course, they’ll consider how many college prep courses are available in your high school.

Overall grades in all of your courses are considered, so make sure you maintain a high GPA score. Colleges will look over your transcript to see which courses you’ve taken throughout your high school career.

What Colleges Consider to Be Moderately Important

Your commitment to extracurricular activities is looked at by most colleges because they’re interested in what you’re into outside of school. Character and interests are just as important as grades for some colleges. Make sure you take up extracurricular activities that showcase your strengths, whether that be leadership, special talents or showing compassion.

Letters of recommendation are also considered, so make sure to obtain letters from teachers, coaches and employers. You can also ask your high school guidance counselor if you have a good relationship with them. You want to choose people who know your strengths well and can vouch for them.

Many colleges require you to write an essay or a personal statement. This gives the colleges a first impression of who you are and what you represent. If your essay is poorly written or portrays characteristics or concepts they disagree with, then you’re less likely to get in. Take this time to showcase your personality before the interview.

Did you take time to go and visit the schools you’re interested in? This tells colleges that you are really interested in their campus. Take the time to tour the school and talk to admission officers. This shows you’re enthusiastic about your education and their college.

What matters most to a school varies from college to college, so it’s up to you to do some research. Liberal arts colleges, very large universities and highly selective colleges all have their own set of factors they find important. You can find advice from past and current students and even articles from admissions personnel that have been published online and in magazines.