How To Make Your College Application Stand Out
Last updated September 10, 2023
Colleges review a variety of things when considering a student for admission. While materials like test scores and transcripts help schools understand your academic experience, they don't tell the whole story of who you are! When completing your college applications, it’s important to include as much relevant supplemental information about your hobbies, interests, and experiences as possible to help schools get to know you beyond your academics. Here are some tips for standing out on your college applications!
Make your application essay personal and authentic
The key to writing a good college application essay is to be specific, reflective, and transparent about the experiences and events that 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. Maybe you’re passionate about social justice, are a dedicated athlete, or have a side hustle that's taught you about entrepreneurship. These things make you unique, and colleges love hearing about them!
Some questions that can guide you as you write your essay:
- Does it reflect on my experiences and identity?
- Does it share information about me that my test scores or transcripts can't?
- Does it share my hopes and goals for the future?
- Does it have a clear point of view?
- Does it have a strong thesis?
- Is it free of grammatical errors?
- Have I chosen a prompt that best helps me tell my story?
- Does it fully answer the prompt?
- Am I proud to submit it to colleges?
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 better:
- Sports you’ve played
- Involvement in student government
- Involvement in clubs
- Volunteer work, both virtually and for political organizations
- Part-time or summer jobs
- Side hustles you’ve started
- Internships you’ve held
- Instrument(s) you play
- Language(s) you speak
- Any hobbies you regularly participate in - e.g. gaming, knitting, running, etc.
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 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 or family members.
- Helping take care of a sick relative.
- Helping out at a family member’s business.
- Running errands for neighbors.
- Working on group projects.
- 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 sports team, or receiving a competitive scholarship or grant. 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.
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