Do Colleges Look at High School Attendance?

Empty chairs and desks in classroom
November 14, 2023
3 min read


Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 11/14/23

Do colleges look at attendance? Keep reading to find your answers. 

The college admissions process is a comprehensive evaluation of everything about the student, which includes academics, personal qualities, and extracurricular activities. The admissions committee closely considers your high school grades, standardized test scores, and personal statements,  but what about your high school attendance? 

In this article, you will learn whether colleges consider high school attendance when making admission decisions. Also, we will explore the significance of attendance and its importance in the admission process.

Do Colleges Look at Attendance When You Apply?

Does attendance in high school matter for college? Yes, your attendance can matter for college admissions. While it is not typically a formal component of the admissions process, many colleges consider various aspects of a student's academic record, and consistent attendance is often part of that evaluation.

High attendance is generally seen as a positive indicator of commitment, responsibility, and engagement in one's education. Some colleges may even have specific attendance requirements, and excessive unexcused absences could potentially raise concerns during the admissions process. 

However, the weight given to attendance can vary among colleges, and some may adopt a more holistic approach that considers a range of factors in the admission decision.

High school Students sitting at desk in classroom

What Will Happen If You Have Many Unexcused Absences?

You might be wondering, do colleges look at absences? Having many unexcused absences can lead to various consequences, impacting both your academic and overall school experience. Here are some potential outcomes you should be aware of:

Academic Consequences

Frequent unexcused absences can significantly harm academic performance by causing students to miss important lessons and fall behind on assignments. This can lead to lower grades, a weaker understanding of the material, and increased stress when trying to catch up.

Developing a habit of unexcused absences signals a lack of commitment to education, which could influence college admissions decisions and future academic opportunities.  Regular attendance is essential for a successful academic journey, providing a conducive environment for learning and personal growth.

Negative Impact on Graduation

A high number of unexcused absences can significantly jeopardize a student's ability to graduate. Regular attendance is crucial for meeting academic requirements, and excessive absences can result in missed coursework, incomplete assignments, and a weakened understanding of crucial concepts. 

Limited Extracurricular Participation

Depending on your high school, you may be required to participate in various extracurricular activities, including sports, events, and clubs. Many absences from school can make a student ineligible for these activities.

Missed Connections

Frequent absences can strain relationships with teachers and peers, leading to feelings of disconnection and exclusion. Regular attendance not only fosters positive connections but also ensures active participation in both academic and social aspects of school life, strengthening your overall educational experience. 

Additionally, maintaining consistent attendance is vital for securing strong recommendation letters, crucial for future opportunities and college applications.

Teenage Girl in Blue Sweater and Black Skirt Leaning on the Wall

Why Regularly Attending Classes Is Important

Attending your classes regularly is essential for academic success, personal development, and future opportunities. Some of the importance of attending classes are listed below:

Good Participation and Engagement

In the classroom, diverse discussions, collaborative group activities, and dynamic interactions among students and teachers foster active learning and cultivate critical thinking skills. Also, attending classes allows students to develop essential communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills. In addition, students who attend classes more often typically earn better grades and higher GPAs overall. 

Support from Teachers

Students who are present in class enjoy interaction with their teachers and seek clarification on difficult areas. They can also establish a stronger connection with the teachers, leading to better support, collaboration, and mentorship.

Meeting Graduation Requirements

Going to classes regularly will enable students to meet the attendance requirements necessary for graduation. 

Increased Sense of Accountability

Students who attend classes have an increased sense of personal accountability because the act instills responsibility and commitment.

What Colleges Actually Look at in Applicants

Colleges often consider a wide range of factors when evaluating applicants for admission. The importance of each element varies depending on your institution and program of choice.

Two teen girls lying on floor looking at laptop

Here are some key factors that colleges look at during the application process:

Academic Performance

Your high school GPA is a strong indicator of your academic prowess. It serves as a standardized measure of your achievements throughout your educational journey. Similarly, colleges review your academic transcript to assess your high school coursework and performance in each subject. 

Standardized Test Scores

While some colleges have adopted test-optional policies in the last few years, students with strong test scores can and should submit theirs to strengthen their application. 

Extracurricular Activities

Colleges emphasize extracurricular activities because they want to know who you are beyond your grades and test scores. These activities include participation in clubs, sports, leadership roles, and volunteer work. Accomplishments, which include winning competitions, can also set your application apart and increase your chances of admission.

Letters of Recommendation

Strong letters of recommendation from professors who know you well and can attest to your character and work ethic can give you an edge over other applicants. You can ask for letters of recommendation from employers, mentors, and community leaders to increase your chances of admission.

Personal Statements or Essay

A college essay allows you to show the admission committee your personal experience and explain your motivation and goals. On the other hand, a personal statement is an essay that shows who you are by highlighting some of the qualities, values, and skills that you bring to college. You can also showcase your writing skills through a personal statement to colleges.


The interview is a medium through which the admission committee can better understand the applicant's character and suitability for the program chosen. Therefore, if you are called, ensure you prepare well for the interview to increase your chances of admission. 


Some schools are always enthusiastic about taking students from different backgrounds. A diverse student will help reduce prejudice and discrimination and make students respect their differences. Hence, during the admission process, they prioritize diversity, experiences, and perspectives different from theirs.

Special Talent or Skills

Applicants with unique talents and exceptional abilities, such as musical proficiency, can have an edge over others since some colleges consider that during their admission process.

How to Increase Your Chances of Getting Accepted into College

Increasing your chances of getting accepted into college is a combination of academic excellence, effective planning, and strong application materials. Here are some tips that can improve your chances of getting accepted:

Maintain a High GPA

Maintaining a high GPA throughout high school is crucial for increasing your chances of college acceptance. Three out of four colleges place significant importance on grades during the admissions process. 

Excelling in challenging courses not only demonstrates your commitment to academic excellence but also sets your application apart from others, giving you a competitive edge in the selection process.

Secure a Competitive SAT/ACT Score

Although more schools have adopted a test-optional policy, the SAT/ACT remains one of the major indicators that can increase an applicant's chance of getting accepted. 

If your prospective college requires standardized test scores, you should prepare thoroughly for the exam by dedicating ample time to study, using reliable study materials, and taking practice tests to familiarize yourself with the format and content.

Write a Compelling Personal Statement

A well-written personal statement plays a critical role in college admissions, especially for those who are test-optional. A personal statement allows you to tell the admissions officers the story of who you are outside of the classroom. 

Your goal is to convey your unique experiences, passions, and aspirations, providing a compelling narrative that highlights your character and aligns with the values of the institution you are applying to.

Have Strong Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are highly significant in your admission process. They are written by former employers and people who can attest to your skills, accomplishments, character, and attitude. Colleges often require an applicant to submit about one to three recommendation letters.

Show Interest

Demonstrated interest by an applicant can increase their chances of admission into the colleges since they consider a show of interest an essential factor in the admission process. If you want to attend a college, you should show interest by going to the campus or going for a campus tour, attending information sessions, and following the school's social media.

Participate in Meaningful Extracurricular Activities

Engaging in various extracurricular activities such as clubs, sports, volunteering work, or leadership can increase your chances of college admission. However, it is important to note that quality matters more than quantity when engaging in extracurricular activities. In a similar tone, if you possess unique talents or skills, you can highlight them in your application.

Three teen girls talking in classroom


Do colleges care about attendance? Should you discuss poor attendance in your application? We’ll answer these frequently asked questions below. 

1. How Important Is Attendance for Admission to College?

While it’s not a significant factor for college admissions, maintaining a strong attendance record can demonstrate your responsibility and dedication to the admissions committee. 

2. Can a History of Poor Attendance in High School Negatively Affect College Admissions?

Although the effect is not direct, a history of poor attendance can impact your grades and final GPA. Your academic profile is essential to your application, and low grades can significantly reduce your chances of admission.

3. Is Perfect Attendance a Significant Factor in College Admissions Decisions?

Perfect attendance can demonstrate your commitment to academic excellence but is not a significant factor in admission decisions. Colleges consider other parts of your application, such as your GPA and standardized test scores. 

4. Should I Address Poor Attendance in My College Application?

If you have a history of poor attendance in high school due to some unavoidable circumstances, consider addressing them in your application. This is to prove the context of the problem and show that you will be committed when admitted into the college.

5. Are There Exceptions Where High School Attendance is Considered?

Though rare, some high schools consider attendance when dealing with disciplinary issues, a significant red flag in an applicant’s academic record, or other exceptional cases.

6. Are There Colleges That Prioritize High School Attendance in Their Admission Criteria

No, we do not have colleges that prioritize high school attendance in their admission criteria. However, most colleges look at attendance records as part of their evaluation process.

Final Thoughts

So, do colleges look at attendance? High school attendance can indirectly influence the admission process. Colleges prioritize academic performance, extracurricular activities, and other application components over attendance. While perfect attendance is commendable, it is not a determining factor in the admission process.

Good luck!

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