5 Tips to Make Your Student Stand Out to College Admissions Counselors

Junior year of high school is an exciting time in a young adult’s life since many students that age are preparing for the college selection process. If your child is serious about gaining acceptance to the college of their choice, organization is key: developing a clear plan should begin months before the actual college application appears online.  

Here are five pieces of advice parents can give their teen to help them stand out to college admissions counselors:

Be more than just test-scores.

Colleges like applicants with high scores, but they are more interested in a holistic approach to higher education. This means that the whole person they are considering, from top to bottom, is a well-rounded individual and is engaged in meaningful community involvement. This goes beyond blindly volunteering at a soup kitchen because it looks good; the applicant should demonstrate how they are making a global and social impact and that they are doing so in a field of interest that they wish to pursue as a college student. For example, if your child wants to be a doctor, they can volunteer in hospitals, nursing homes or assisted-living facilities. An applicant interested in law can volunteer for an attorney or intern in a legal department of a corporation to understand how legal issues impact that industry. 

Be major-minded in high school.  

Contrary to popular belief, students should not view college as the time to begin exploring their career options; delaying major selection can be a waste of precious time and money that should be spent getting career-ready. Your child should choose a major by the 10th grade of high school and immediately begin participating in opportunities that advance their area of study, such as internships, on-subject classes and summer programs before they even attend their first college course. Some examples include working at a lab, joining a theater group or taking a robotics class to boost their knowledge and expertise in the field of interest. This type of early education and serious focus may even help them to land that job after college over an applicant with little or no experience. Choosing a major early on will also help them focus and take specific Advanced Placement classes in the major of their choosing. Colleges like to see a student with demonstrated interests years before submitting the actual application. 

Study a foreign language.

Colleges like to see students take a foreign language through the 12th grade. Many competitive colleges encourage students to concentrate in a foreign language, and no matter where they apply, having a demonstrated proficiency in a second language will increase their chances of being admitted. Life before college and after is becoming increasingly globalized. Therefore, strength in a second language carries a lot of weight with admissions counselors. It’s always a plus if the applicant studies a foreign language that aligns with and strengthens their career goals, and even more of a plus if your child has visited the country where their language of choice is spoken. Being able to demonstrate beyond the language to cultural immersion will go a long way with a college admissions officer. 

Be “the one” to take the most challenging classes at your high school.

Colleges want to see that prospects have taken the most demanding classes offered at their school, so don’t shy away from Advanced Placement Calculus or Physics by senior year. Students who want to get ahead should complete their high school elective classes early on. Students should consider taking a minimum of two Advanced Placement classes per year and two Advanced Placement exams in different subject areas. Top colleges want to see that students are always taking harder-than-average courses as electives in high school. Even if the applicant has all A’s on a transcript, top schools will overlook that application when the grades are derived from a curriculum of easy classes. 

Be the early applicant.

Students who apply for Early Action (non-binding) or Early Decision (binding) are revealing a demonstrated interest in the college of their choice – simply because they submitted their application ahead of the masses. Colleges are more likely to accept the Early Action applicant because this demonstrates a commitment to their education and love for the school from the start of their senior year. There is nothing an admissions officer likes more than eager applicants who are fans of the college or university. A rolling decision application can start as early as September 1, which means that students should be developing their college essay and securing recommendations over the summer prior to the start of senior year, and have the application in at least one to two months prior to the actual “early” deadline.

See How to Pay for College Without Taking Out Loans for more helpful college tips.