Achieving the right grades is no longer enough to impress universities, as students also need passion - and good written English, a survey suggests.
A poll of university admissions officers reveals that with competition for places tighter than ever, many are looking for the extra qualities that make an applicant stand out.
It found that more than nine in ten (93%) are looking for evidence of a passion for a chosen subject, in addition to academic qualifications, while the same proportion want candidates with good written English.
Some 88% say they are looking for evidence of a positive attitude towards study, the poll, conducted by ACS International Schools, found.
At the same time, more than half (53%) of those questioned said they are increasing the academic standards required for entry.
The findings reflect the tough conditions students are facing when applying to higher education. Six in ten admissions officers are looking for students with work experience, the survey found, but just half (53%) said they value a gap year.
University applicants are asked to write a personal statement, and get a reference from a teacher.
The poll found that half (48%) of admissions officers treat these both the same, but 23% favour the personal statement and 13% favour the reference.
A love of learning and the ability to work independently were cited as the most important qualities which will help a student to thrive at university (chosen by 43% and 40% respectively).
The survey concludes: "University admissions officers are seeking rounded candidates who can demonstrate a passion for their chosen subject and their ability to pursue their study in an independent and self-motivated manner."