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How To Make Your College Application Stand Out

Last updated November 1, 2022

Colleges review a variety of things when considering a student for admission, like test scores (SAT and ACT), GPA, grades, and letters of recommendation. While each of these materials are important to help schools understand your academic skills and experience, they may not paint the whole picture of who you really are! Whether you have a great story to tell in your essay or received an award for your dedication to community service, it’s important to include as much relevant supplemental information about your hobbies, interests, and experience as possible in your college applications to help schools really get to know you both in and outside of the classroom. College admissions officers look at a lot of applications - here are some tips to stand out and make a strong impression with yours!

Make your application essay personal and authentic 

The key to writing a good college essay is being specific, reflective, and transparent about your experiences and what events have shaped you into the unique person you are. Don't worry about what you think schools might want to hear, but rather, what you want them to know. College essays are a space for admissions officers to learn things about you that your GPA, resume, and test scores can’t tell them, so make sure yours is covering new ground. Maybe you’re passionate about social justice, a dedicated athlete, a caring sibling, a hard worker at your job, or have beliefs you’re passionate about. Any and all things like these are characteristics and interests that make you unique, and colleges love hearing about them!

Some questions that can guide you as you write your essay:

  • Does it show off my authentic self?
  • Does it reflect on my experiences and identity?
  • Is it a story worth sharing?
  • Is it unique?
  • Does it share my hopes and goals for the future?
  • Does it have a clear point of view?
  • Does it have a strong theme (thesis)?
  • Is it free of grammatical errors?
  • Does it follow a 5-paragraph structure?
  • Have I chosen a prompt that best tells my story?
  • Does my essay fully answer the prompt?
  • Am I proud to submit this essay to a college?

By keeping these questions at the front of your mind when you start writing your essay, you’ll be set up for success. We know that writing a college essay for the first time can be a bit intimidating, but we’re here to help you every step of the way! Send us as many drafts of your essay as you need for free review - we’ll have them back to you within a week with feedback and suggestions. Click the button below to submit.

Include your experience in extracurricular activities 

Grades are important - but they aren't everything. Yes, a college wants to see that you have succeeded academically in high school and can handle a college-level course load. But they're also interested in what you do outside of the classroom, too. Here are some relevant extracurriculars you can include on your college application to help schools get to know you a bit better:

In addition to these extracurriculars, there are some other types of experiences that you can include on your college applications. While these are less “traditional” than listing participation in a sport or club, they are just as important to include on your application! Each of the following activities can demonstrate valuable skills and qualities, like time-management, communication, leadership, creativity, teamwork, and more:

  • Taking care of your siblings
  • Helping your friends or classmates with homework
  • Translating documents for parents/family members
  • Helping take care of a sick relative
  • Helping at a family member’s business
  • Running errands for neighbors
  • Working on group projects
  • Social media
  • Civic engagement (going to a protest, social media organizing, fundraising)

Share your awards and accolades

A great way to demonstrate your passion for or commitment to these extracurriculars is by saving any relevant accolades related to them. Accolades are ways that you might have been honored or recognized for your work - like receiving an award, being made a captain on a team, or receiving a competitive scholarship or grant. These kinds of recognitions show colleges two things: you are hard-working, and your peers or the adults around you see and respect you for it. Be sure to write about these awards and accolades in your application and include any supplemental materials with them, such as newspaper clippings, web articles, etc.

A great place to share these awards and accolades is on your resume! Don't have a resume? Use our free template to create one, and when you're finished, send it to us for free review! We'll have it back to you within a week with feedback. Click the button below to submit.

If you need help working on your college applications or essays, text #Hello to 33-55-77! Our college advisors are here to answer all of your questions. 

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