January 2024

The Seminoles of Florida State University in Tallahassee have loyal fans who execute the Tomahawk Chop with pride. They have good reason to be proud.

Florida State holds up three pillars: Vires, Artes, and Mores. These stand for strength, skill, and character. It’s how they operate and also how they evaluate applicants to the very selective (25% admit rate) public school of over 30,000 full-time undergraduates. 

Like many colleges, Florida State reads applications holistically. Again, FSU goes back to those pillars of strength (academics), skill (activities and achievements), and character (essay and life experiences). Here are the guidelines provided the application readers:


Did the student “attempt rigorous coursework”?

Did they* succeed in courses that “align with their proposed major”?

Is the grade trend positive rather than negative?

*using “they” for the singular is now acceptable in MLA style


Was the student involved in community service, activism, or social justice?

Did they serve in leadership roles?

Did they demonstrate “long-term commitment”?

Did they show “authentic engagement” in activities that align with their major?

Did the student earn special awards or recognition?

Was the student employed during the school year or have family obligations?


Did the student demonstrate resilience?

Did they learn from a life experience?

Did they encounter hardships that affected school?

Did they articulate future goals for college or career? 

Does the essay show “exceptionally well-refined communication skills”?

Did the student “outperform their environment”?

As a writing teacher, I zeroed in on what they look for in the essay

Key questions the readers ask:

  • Did I learn something about the applicant?
  • Is the subject of the essay relevant?
  • Did the writer demonstrate resilience or the ability to learn from an experience?
  • How did the context shape the applicant’s academics or extracurriculars? 
  • Does the applicant demonstrate good writing skills?

Director of Admissions Hege Ferguson makes admissions to Florida State transparent. I appreciate her willingness to share with counselors like me.

Secrets of FSU admissions