Michael Milone, PhD
Educational Consultant, Research Psychologist, and Writer
You should try to get good grades, of course, but you should also show that you can do things beyond studying. Participate in activities that interest you. Be a leader if you are comfortable with that position, but if not, be a dedicated participant. All college admission committees, even at the most exclusive schools, consider the personal qualities of applicants.
Among the most important qualities that they look for is service to your school and the community. If you high school has a fundraising event for homeless families, participate. The same is true for countless other activities, from rehabilitating a stream in a rural area to cleaning up a city park. Be part of school government, a manager of a sports team, or a member of the stage crew for the school play. A few students will be recognized for their athletic ability, and others will play the lead in the school play. Hundreds will make their mark in other ways that are less obvious but no less important. Admission committees pay close attention to those who contribute much but get little of the glory.
Developing the habit of contributing to the school or community has two other benefits. First, you are learning one of the most important life skills, contributing to the common good. Second, you are preparing yourself to participate in a meaningful way in campus life and in the surrounding community. Your efforts will be recognized by your peers and the teachers and staff of the college. They, in turn, will support you in college and in life afterward. Best of all, you will feel great about yourself for putting the interests of others first.
Laurie Kopp Weingarten
Certified Educational Planner
Co-founder, One-Stop College Counseling
There’s no way to predict that a specific college will need a gymnast, a tenor, a diver, or a table tennis player when you start the college search. Therefore, you should pursue your passions and share those passions to admission counselors. Whether you’ve visited every baseball stadium in America, rode every roller coaster on the East Coast, sampled every cupcake bakery in the Midwest, attend auto shows throughout the county, or perform magic at children’s birthday parties—admission officers want to know about it! These are interesting and important details about you, and such atypical extracurricular activities will showcase a unique aspect of your personality. When students choose something they really and truly love, they come up with creative ideas and often excel to a degree they wouldn’t have if pursuing an activity just to beef up their application.
For more comprehensive advice to help you through your college search, check out our College Admission section!