Despite what you might have heard, there’s no 100-percent guaranteed “secret” to getting your college application noticed.
Every school has different criteria when it comes to reviewing applications, and each will prioritize different components of those applications. Some schools favor GPA while others look closely at extracurricular activities.
There’s even research that suggests that a growing number of schools are putting less emphasis on SAT and ACT scores.
Diversify Your Application
In light of this, the best approach to standing out is by showing off your strengths in as many different areas as possible.
Some of the common things schools look for include:
- Grades that indicate high performance—or trends that show improvement over time
- Involvement in extracurricular activities, especially in positions that demonstrate leadership in clubs, sports, and organizations
- Application essays
- Recommendations from teachers and counselors
Look for ways to differentiate yourself.
Extracurricular activities—especially if you’ve worked your way up to a leadership role or stayed committed to same activities for years at a time—can help with this.
Tell Your Story
But perhaps the biggest opportunity to stand out comes from your own words: your application essay. This is your chance to introduce yourself and tell your story to admissions boards in your own words.
When writing your application essay, look for ways to catch your reader’s attention. Be unique! Be direct! Be true to who you are, and why you want to go to this particular school.
Talk about what you want to do once you get there, the classes you’re looking forward to taking, and some of the things you’re curious to discover during your time in college.
This will help the admissions team get a good sense of who you are and may make your application as a whole more memorable.
Remember—You’re Considering Them, Too
As noted elsewhere on our blog, diversify the schools you apply to. Send your application to top schools as well as “safety” schools. Casting a wider net improves your chances of getting noticed and may give you more options when the acceptances roll in.
It’s just as important for you to find the right fit as it is for any given school to notice your application.
If you need help determining if a school is a good fit for you, our free guide on the Top 20 Questions to Ask Before Applying to College can help you make sure you’re asking the right questions.