6. Engage in the right mix of extracurricular activities. Admissions officers are looking for commitment and impact in a student’s activities. It is better to be highly involved in one to three activities and-or sports over a number of years, than less involved in many activities. Anyone can join 10 clubs and be marginally involved in them all.

Schools are looking for a student to demonstrate the willingness to stick with something and make the most of it. Schools are not so interested in hearing about passions; they want to see them proven! Once a student finds the activities he or she wants to focus on, the next step is to work on becoming a leader or to demonstrate initiative.

7. Take the college application seriously. Students need to make sure they put time and effort into every part of the college application, from the essay to the resume. The college essay gives admissions officers the opportunity to know who a student is and how that student might contribute to the college campus. It also gives the admissions team a chance to learn something about a student that they won’t find elsewhere in the application.

Admissions teams tend to prefer thoughtful, authentic essays that show real interests and passions combined with complicated thinking and good writing. Extracurricular activities should be carefully written so a student can best highlight all of his or her accomplishments and experience. The best recommendations come from individuals who really know the student. They should offer detailed information and-or personal stories about the applicant that back up the information on the application.

8. Do the research. Know what the choices are when it comes to colleges. This way any coulda, shoulda, woulda regrets can be avoided later in life. Research could be as simple as visiting a school’s website. Students should also try to attend college fairs, meet with admissions experts when they visit, and go on college visits.

9. Maximize summer opportunities. High school students who want to stand out on their college applications should consider the summer an ideal time to add some resume gold. Good choices include attending a summer enrichment program, taking a summer job or internship, participating in volunteer work, taking virtual classes, attending a dual enrollment program, or taking classes at a local college.

10. Develop any special talents or abilities. Students who do something extraordinarily well do gain an edge in the college admissions process. A special talent or ability can be anything including performing or visual arts, athletics, science, math, speech & debate, or writing. Colleges will look for evidence of a student’s accomplishments through recognition from others (i.e. awards, scholarships). They may also look for significant contributions that show the student’s depth of commitment and follow-through. (i.e. newspaper articles).

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