Given the plethora of options available to help students improve their marks on college entrance examinations like the ACT and SAT, as well as the popularity of the Common Application, it can be difficult for students to distinguish themselves to admissions committees.
Ranking students’ achievements involves more than just looking at strong test scores and high GPAs. If two applicants have identical averages and SAT scores and a university can only admit one, how is a decision made? The answer is simple: The school considers other achievements.
Colleges want to admit students who will contribute to the school academically and invest their time and energy in the university community. They seek well-rounded applicants who will delve deep into their course work, but also share their gifts and talents to enrich campus life.
As a high school student, you may be thinking, “Well, that’s all well and good, but how do I do that?” There are three ways you can go beyond test scores to showcase your achievements.
1. Share your passion: Does your heart sing when you play an instrument, compete in a sport, tutor children, volunteer or create a new club? When you are passionate about something, it shines through.
Whether it’s debate team, choir, Web design, student council or tennis, colleges like to see that you are a person with passions. Put these interests on your activity list for college applications and use them whenever possible in admissions and scholarship essays. If you genuinely care about an extracurricular, it will show through on paper and in person.
2. Go the extra mile: A number of high schools offer dual-credit courses, where students enroll in a class in high school and receive both high school and college credit. Some courses are taught by high school teachers while others may require you to either enroll in an online course or travel to a nearby college. If you are searching for a way to gain an edge, proving that you can handle college-level course work as a high school student is a step in the right direction.
[Find ways to incorporate out-of-school activities into college applications.]
In addition, seeking out after-school learning programs that interest you can cast you as a unique applicant. Investigate your local science or community center or check out nationally recognized organizations to determine whether they have chapters in your area offering workshops, projects or classes.
Compose a team to enter a mathematics challenge, Science Olympiad or robotics competition. Hands-on learning activates different portions of your brain than sitting in class does, and you can have fun while encountering something new.
3. Be creative: A bit of ingenuity can often go a long way to distinguish your college application. While turning in your application on pink or scented paper is not advisable, you should find a way to play to your strengths.
If you are a whiz at building websites, use that as a platform to showcase your accomplishments. If you’re a wonderful speaker, create a snappy video application. If you are a grammar aficionado, develop a stunning essay.
If you are at a loss, talk with friends and family. They understand you best and may highlight strengths you never realized you had. With your thinking cap on and a little elbow grease, you can brainstorm a way to creatively present yourself to colleges.
After you find your creativity, passion and a way to stand out, ensure you weave it into your application, interviews and social media profiles.