Ever notice how your name jumps out at you in a list of hundreds of names? (Or, if you’re Kim and Kanye’s daughter, on a compass.) Or how — when you're really hungry — phrases like “melted cheese” or “barbeque sauce” or “peanut butter and pickles” make your stomach growl?
The same phenomenon occurs when college admissions officers review applications. Fact is, there are some qualifications and experiences that will go a long way to helping ensure that your application is placed in the “admit” pile and not in the shredder.
Grades and Transcript. Yawn. Snore. OK, boring, we know. The reality is that your cumulative GPA and the rigor of your courses are huge determinants of how strong of an applicant you are (and choosing to take weightlifting over AP calculus will make you a different kind of strong applicant). Be sure you know how to Beef Up Your Transcript, and learn about gold nuggets like AP, Honors, and IB courses.
Extracurricular Activities. Colleges want to admit interesting, engaged students who will shine at cocktail parties and potentially donate millions of dollars to their alma mater someday. Your application should list a variety of activities that show you took initiative, developed leadership, or were passionate about something, be it jai-alai or anime.
Volunteer Work. Engaged citizens in high school often translate to engaged college students. Help out regularly with Habitat for Humanity or at your local SPCA, and a college is gonna want to put a ring on it.
Multicultural Experience. This is more than vacationing in Cabot for a week or watching marathons on the National Geographic channel. A multicultural experience means you have developed cultural and language connections through meaningful interactions and travel, so you're super prepared to function successfully in today’s global society. If you're an international student, make sure to highlight the unique perspective you'll bring to a school.
Part-Time Work. Success in college is all about being able to keep a dozen different plates spinning at the same time. Did you wait tables in high school? Then not only do you have a head start on how to manage your priorities, but also you know how to spit in someone's food without them ever finding out.