The college application process starts long before the senior year of high school. While many students stress about their grades, there’s more to a successful college application that acing exams. Here’s what you need to know to stand out from a crowded field of applicants.
Think Outside the School
If you’re a theater enthusiast, try getting involved in community productions. If you’re a star chemist, think about theories and experiments you’d like to explore. Your academic work is likely impressive, but colleges tend to favor qualified students who have talents and interests beyond the classroom. If you have the opportunity to do more with your strengths or hobbies, take it. If you don’t have the opportunity, find one by seeking out local groups and community events.
Learn to Show Off
Many colleges ask applicants to write a personal statement that describes not only their interest in the school but the unique strengths or potential contributions they can bring to the school community. Avoid the cliches and lead with interesting anecdotes or uncommon, personal experiences that illustrate who you are and what you hope to accomplish. Your personal statement is often the only chance you have to speak directly to the application committee and tell them about who you are in a way that transcripts and resumes often can’t communicate.
Lead the Pack
Many admissions officials love to see leadership experience on students’ applications. Leadership shows that students have taken initiative in an area they care about and are more likely to get involved in the college community. Consider running for a leadership position in an existing school club, starting your own or organizing events for your neighborhood. For example, ecology enthusiasts might want to lead beach cleanups and future English majors might consider starting a small newsletter to share recent work.
Highlight Work Experience
In the spirit of thinking outside the classroom walls, don’t forget that work experience counts in this setting. Part-time jobs, internships and job shadows all demonstrate skill in managing responsibilities, taking initiative and pursuing passions. Make sure to list this experience on the activities section of your application, and don’t forget to highlight any lessons learned or memorable experiences in your personal essays.
Applying to college can often feel intimidating, but you don’t have to worry too much. Think about what makes you stand out as a person in your everyday life, then emphasize those amazing qualities in your application so that colleges know just how lucky they’ll be to have you on campus.