Putting together an impressive college application can be a daunting task. Academic achievement should, without a doubt, be your priority as it shows that you can cope with the demands of further education. But there are other things that look good on college applications besides good grades.
Even still, it can be difficult to second-guess exactly what college admissions officers value most. Enthusiasm and dedication to extracurricular activities will always help. But what are the sports that look good on college applications? And should you focus on gaining volunteer experience or writing a killer college essay?
Keep reading to learn the things that will look good on a college application!
1. High Grade Point Average (GPA)
By far the most important step you can take to make yourself a competitive college candidate is to work hard in school. As a measure of your academic performance over almost four years of your life, your GPA is the best reflection of what kind of college student you will be. As such, it should come as no surprise to learn that it’s the single most influential factor that any college will consider.
One way to improve your GPA is to enroll in honors classes during your freshman and sophomore years. You can take then take advanced placement (AP) classes during your junior and senior years. An A in an AP class is often worth 5.0 points instead of the usual 4.0 for a regular class. As such, this will help boost your weighted GPA. What’s more, taking AP classes speaks to your interest in the subject as well as your ability to take on more challenging work.
In particular, try to take AP classes in the subjects that you’d like to study in college, or those that are relevant to your preferred field. For example, if you want to study translation, you might aim to take one or two AP Language and Culture courses, such as Chinese, French, or Spanish.
2. Excellent Test Scores
For colleges that consider standardized test scores, these tend to rank second after your GPA. That said, even test-optional college admissions processes use your test scores to determine your eligibility for merit-based financial aid. In short, your test scores always matter!
Test scores are important because they’re what set you apart. It’s often useful to check out the school profile of the colleges you’re considering to see their range of typical scores. You can then find out where you stand within this range by taking a practice SAT or practice ACT.
You may also need to take at least one or two SAT Subject Tests. You can find out if the schools you’re considering include this in their admissions requirements to make sure you’re prepared. Even if your chosen college doesn’t request SAT Subject Tests, taking these tests can be a smart move on your part. Achieving a solid score on a subject-specific test demonstrates that you’ve mastered the material. Plus, it can even earn you college credit or get you on higher-level college courses.
3. Academic Honors
While an excellent GPA and great test scores are more obvious examples of academic honors, view here for academic achievements that will boost your application but can be easy to miss.
Among them are awards for subjects and contests, perfect attendance, and foreign languages. All these achievements are proof of your commitment and dedication to improving your academic profile, making them of great value to college admissions officers.
4. Involvement in Extracurricular Clubs and Societies
Wondering what looks good on college applications besides good grades and other academic honors? Involvement in extracurricular clubs and societies can be a real draw for college admissions officers. Early on in your high school career, join two or three clubs that interest you and then try to find a way to take on more responsibility at least one of them.
Some of the best extracurricular activities for college applications include student government, the debate team, and the school newspaper. But, your main concern should be to ascend to a leadership position in one of your chosen clubs. Leadership shows maturity and character, plus you’ll appeal to colleges looking to recruit future leaders for their student organizations.
5. Sporting Abilities
Joining a sports team is another popular option to improve your college application profile. Colleges know that playing high school sports entails a major time commitment so don’t feel that you have to join a bunch of clubs and play sports. Striking the balance that fits your schedule and abilities should be your main aim. That said, if you’re able to rise to a leadership position in one or more sports teams, this will be a huge draw for colleges.
As for the specific sports that look good on college applications, football, basketball, and baseball all show discipline and team-building skills, both of which are important for succeeding in college. But above all, you should choose a sport you love as this passion will shine through in your application and make you stand out as a potential candidate.
6. Volunteering Experience
Although there’s no volunteering requirement to gain admittance to college, it seems to be one of those unwritten rules that those who support others will become key contributors on campus.
Many high schools offer local volunteering options to help students give back to the community. Or, you could check out local non-profits that interest you, such as animal shelters, as well as larger organizations and online virtual volunteer opportunities.
Remember, when asking yourself, “what do colleges look for besides grades?”, showing your passion for helping others comes pretty high on the list.
7. Work and Internships
Many high school students rely on paid work to cover their expenses and save for college. If juggling work and high school prevents you from participating in as many sports or clubs as some of your classmates, don’t worry – colleges love to see a strong work ethic. And, they’ll take the fact that your part-time job required a big investment of time when considering your application.
That said, it always looks even better if you’ve been able to land a job or internship in the field you’d like to pursue a career. Or, failing that, college admissions officers love self-starters as it shows a strong entrepreneurial spirit. So, if your work experience involves setting up your own lawn-mowing enterprise or pet-sitting business, this will make for a great story on your application.
8. Insightful College Essay
Your grades and test scores prove that you’d be a strong college student. Your extracurricular pursuits show your wide range of interests and talents. Your essay, however, is your opportunity to let the college admissions officers hear your unique voice. Here, you’ll be able to share information relevant to your personal experiences that didn’t make it onto your application.
Not all colleges request an essay as part of the admission application. But if your chosen college does, your essay should be insightful, polished, and proofread to perfection. But beyond all that, it must be an authentic representation of you, your life, your values, your perspective, and your personal growth. In short, make sure it’s an essay only you could have written.
9. Recommendation Letters
Academic and professional recommendation letters and references can often play a key role in your college application.
The best tactic is to ask the teachers that know and appreciate the quality of your work and your academic abilities best. But, they should also be able to talk about some of your positive personal qualities too. Alternatively, you may want to ask your school guidance counselor, a teacher you’ve worked with on a school committee or club, or the coach from your high school sports team.
Another nice touch is to ask a professional member of the community to write a letter of recommendation for you. This would need to be someone who knows you in a professional capacity, such as your current or former boss, or a supervisor from a volunteering project. And, if this person has some kind of tie to the college you’re applying to, as a donor or alumnus for example, even better!
Or, if you’ve established your own small business, you could even ask a loyal customer to write a letter praising your strong work ethic and unfailing professionalism.
Things That Look Good on College Applications
As these things that look good on college applications show, there’s a lot more to a winning college application than good grades.
Remember, colleges look for balance when reviewing college applications. And an outstanding academic record, to the exclusion of everything else, does not make for a well-rounded applicant.
Your GPA, test scores, and academic honors show that you’re more than ready to study hard. But, it’s your extracurricular activities, college essay, and recommendations that are a true measure of your unique abilities and personality.
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