Are you looking for college application help? Perhaps wondering exactly what you can add to give your application an advantage? What are colleges looking for in an application? And, why are excellent grades not enough to ensure your admission to the school of your choice? Our former admissions officers have served at some of the most prestigious universities. They’ve spent countless hours reviewing applications from students hailing from all over the world. In this article we’ll share some our top college application tips with you.
Colleges Want More Than Academics
Imagine that you have been invited to a college open house. The other guests at the gathering share many similarities with you. All of them performed well in school, took challenging classes, and scored high on standardized tests. As you are chatting with individuals, the first person you meet can’t get over the relationship between the S&P 500 and the northern, hairy-nosed wombat’s mating patterns. The next person you meet has been helping migrant farmers educate their children. The third person says nothing at all.
Who would you avoid sitting next to during the breakout sessions and why? Who do you hope you’ll see on the commons in the fall?
Every elite college delivers a high quality education to those chosen to attend. But these schools also deliver access to a four-year networking experience. Your future and the future of your chosen school’s reputation depend on how well your network performs long after you graduate. Yes, grades and standardized test scores will help guide your choice of the schools to which you will apply. But what else are admissions officers looking for? College admissions staff seek students who will enhance the college experience for their classmates.
Show You’re Interesting by Sharing Your Interests
So what should you include in your application? When a college looks at your application, they want to know who you are and how you will contribute to the student body if admitted.
Your college application should indicate that you enrolled in challenging classes through all four years of high school. If you are planning your high school curricula now, aim for three to four years (preferably) each of math, language arts, foreign language, social studies, and science. You’ll also include one or more well-crafted essays. These essays are a great vehicle for you to share insights about your personality and interests. When you prepare your application and essays, explain your extracurricular activities.
Additionally, demonstrate your interest in the college to which you are applying. Why do you want to attend a particular school? How do you think that school will impact your life and what do you hope to contribute as a student?
Discovering What Makes You Unique
As you prepare your college application, consider what you might say at our imaginary open house. What have you done in high school that you would eagerly tell others about? During your time at college, what will you teach other students? These are the types of questions that your essays and admissions application should answer.
If you need help deciding what to include in your application, ask yourself the following questions:
- What are the special qualities your friends or parents notice about you?
- Is there a topic you tend to bring up in the first fifteen minutes of a conversation with someone you have just met?
- Which concepts and ideas do you most enjoy talking about?
- Do you offer advice or instruct others about any of your hobbies or interests?
- Do your friends consider you the “expert” on any particular topics?
To be clear, showcasing your individuality as an applicant does not mean that you should create a fictitious personality. Don’t rush out to join eight clubs you hate or play two sports you despise. You should never select an activity or hobby just because it will “look good on your college application.” Seek out clubs, sports, and activities that you enjoy. The activities you are passionate about are also the activities in which you are most likely to excel.
When you are genuinely interested in an extracurricular activity or hobby, it is more likely that you will take on roles that demonstrate leadership, initiative, team, and interpersonal skills. Remember, your success after you graduate is a measure of your university’s success. These soft skills are just the qualities colleges want to see in an applicant (and future alumni).
Prepare for a Lifetime of Experiences
Being exposed to a diverse and intellectually stimulating group of classmates is one of the hallmarks of a quality education. During your time in attendance at college, you will meet and learn from a diverse group of individuals who can help you grow as an individual. The people you bond with during your university years will become a lifetime source of friendship, advice, and introductions. Before you choose where to apply, make sure that you’ve created an application that demonstrates why and how you’ll contribute to your fellow students’ college experience. For more application help, read our other tips.