It’s no surprise that colleges these days seem to be more competitive than ever. Good grades, top SAT scores, extracurricular activities. What does it take to stand out from the crowd? When you start to plan your college application process, you may find yourself wondering exactly what colleges are looking for in their potential students. As a top Bay Area college planner, I’ve discovered firsthand just what colleges seek in their incoming classes, and I’m going to share that with you today.
Students Who Challenge Themselves
Colleges love to see that students have challenged themselves academically. If you’ve maintained a rigorous course load in high school, this looks favorable to admission officers. Schools want to know that students will be able to handle the academic challenges of their institution.
Leadership Qualities and Integrity
Universities want students of character who display strength, leadership, and a good sense of values. These insights can be gleaned from your personal essay but especially from your recommendation letters. With these, admissions counselors learn how others view you, and what their assessments may be. The best recommendations come from teachers or guidance counselors who know you well and have observed you at your best.
Consistent Academic Success
Admissions committees understand that not all students will achieve stellar marks throughout all four years of high school. However, your grades should display that you’ve given a solid effort and earned the best grades possible in the vast majority of your classes. It’s okay to start out a little weaker academically, as long as your transcript displays an upward trend.
Community & School Involvement
Most schools want you to be more than just a terrific student. They want to know you’ve made your mark in your high school and your community. Being involved in sports, clubs, and extracurricular activities, particularly if you’ve played a leadership role, adds a great deal to your application. While in high school, you should also strive to make community service and volunteering a part of your routine. This looks good on applications, of course, but more importantly, helps you to grow and become a better, more mature individual.
Your chance to shine may come in the guise of your admissions essay. This unique and revealing glimpse into your life shows more than just what’s on the page. Go beyond your resume and academic achievements. Select a topic that isn’t overdone and share your personal story. Show what makes you different than other students; what makes you an individual. Something that the admissions committee can relate to and/or find memorable goes a long way. Your essay provides a look at who you really are and what you’ll bring to the campus community.
A Good Fit
What universities look for depends a great deal on the institution itself. Some place higher importance on academics while others seek to build a well-rounded, diverse student body. It’s important, therefore, to tailor your application for each college, while still staying true to who you are and what you offer.
With some hard work and smart approaches (as well as working with a knowledgeable and experienced college consultant), you will find the application process to be a breeze. And if you’ve got what it takes, you’re sure to shine as an outstanding potential student.