Colleges want students that have excellent grades and SAT scores, but these criteria are frequently not the make-or-break factors that influence acceptance, particularly at highly selective schools. Colleges have to work hard to keep or make their good reputations, just like students, and therefore need to choose the right students. Unfortunately, sometimes that means that qualified students don't get accepted to particular schools - but that does not mean that these students are any less qualified than before they got their thin envelope!
Colleges want specific and unique individuals to attend their schools, not walking transcripts! But since colleges probably won't come looking for you (you're probably not worried about being accepted to college if they are!), you need to find your special niche yourself.
Remember, even when you get accepted to the school of your dreams, no college acceptance letter guarantees a good education, a good job, or a happy life. Even if you make it to Harvard, there's no guarantee that your life will be perfect.
Today, more students than ever are applying for highly selective colleges; more students overall are planning on attending college after high school, and more successful students are seeking diplomas from big-name schools. This means that many highly-qualified candidates are rejected from the most selective schools. Can you believe...
Students with perfect SAT scores
Winners of famous, private scholarships
... all can get rejected from the most selective (and even less selective!) schools?
How can you increase your odds of acceptance into a school that is not only prestigious, but that will give you the best shot at an exemplary education? Research colleges thoroughly; sometimes colleges are just looking for someone very specific - an oboe player for the orchestra, a star quarterback for the football team, a speaker of Korean to help improve the language department, or a student council star to take over campus government.
Use your Interview to find out whether your specific skill set is particularly desired by a specific school. Your interview is not only a great way to make a good impression on the admissions officers, but also the easiest way to find out about the kind of students that each college needs. Come prepared, and don't be afraid to ask very frank questions about the student body. It will not harm your chances; in fact, your serious interest in finding the best match for you can only reflect positively on your application.