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Your Application Should Tell a Story

Written by Kelly DuBreuil


Posted on September 26 2020

Your Application Should Tell a Story Image

What does it take to get into college these days? When we were growing up, admission chances relied on GPA, standardized test scores, and at least a hint of extracurricular activities. Today, colleges are taking a more holistic approach to evaluate candidates. The focus has been moved from primarily quantitative data to academic trends and activities to reveal a student’s work ethic and character.

What sort of trends do colleges look for?

College admissions teams are not novices. They receive thousands upon thousands of applications a year. And they are looking for trends — good and bad. For example, consider a student who struggled academically during her Freshman year, and her GPA reflects this. Over the next few years, she continues to take challenging courses and works steadily to improve her grades. She also maintains active involvement in clubs and community service. What does this reveal about the student? Perhaps the student lacked organizational skills and maturity in their first year of high school, but, with time and grit, developed into an excellent student. Those traits — tenacity, a positive attitude towards school, and community service-oriented, now make this student an attractive candidate. 

Areas of Interest. 

When a student specifies a certain interest or area of passion, colleges like to see this supported in transcripts and activities. For instance, if your teen has a passion for science, enrolling in more than just the minimum number of science classes required to graduate indicates to the colleges that this is an authentic passion. Having activities that support this passion is also optimal. Furthermore, schools that are looking to recruit students for specific areas of study find this particularly appealing.

Extracurriculars do count.

Extracurriculars are a good way for your teen to demonstrate several qualities colleges like. A good example of this is a student that throughout high school, actively participated on the swim team and Eagle Scouts. Over those four years of participation, your teen most likely took on several different responsibilities and roles, developed and maintained positive relationships, and overcame various challenges. All experiences they can communicate in their college application.

Now more than ever, community service is important. Colleges want to feel your student will contribute to the greater good.  There are volunteer opportunities for almost every interest. If your teen loves video games and technology, encourage them to volunteer at local video game youth camps. A lot of teens love animals — shelters are happy for the help. If sports are their passion, have them inquire with your county recreational department and see what opportunities exist there.

 As your teen works through the process of applying to college, encourage them to view their application as the story of their high school education and experience. Feel confident knowing that colleges are now taking a more comprehensive look at our teens’ high school performance — it’s not all about final GPA and test scores anymore!



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