How Can You Build the Most Versatile College Application? (2023)

How Can You Build the Most Versatile College Application? (1)

Looking at college admissions websites and requirements can be overwhelming. Many colleges have slightly different standardized test and letter of recommendation requirements. Furthermore, some colleges require just one personal statement, while others require multiple essays and short answer responses. It can be a lot to keep track of!

So how do you go about preparing your college applications, when colleges seem like they all want slightly different application materials? And how do you make sure you are competitive everywhere you apply? We will explain how to make the most versatile college application.

By versatile we mean an application that will allow you to apply competitively to the broadest range of colleges.

This guide is suitable for students aiming for the most competitive colleges, but you can also tailor it to your needs if you're applying to local state schools.

NOTE: Many Schools Temporarily Test-Optional Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic

As a result of the novel coronavirus, many students have had difficulty signing up for an SAT or ACT test date. Because of this, a large number of schools became test-optional for the 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 admissions cycles, and many have become test-optional for the next two or three years. Almost all these schools will still review ACT/SAT scores if you send them, so a strong score will still boost your application, but it's (temporarily) not a requirement for many colleges.

Maximize Your ACT/SAT Score, But Just Focus on One Test

The most efficient way, hour-for-hour, to improve your college admissions chances is to study for the ACT or SAT and get the highest score you can.

Your SAT/ACT score is a very important factor in admissions. Having a score above a school's average range greatly improves your odds of admission, but if you are below their admitted student range, your odds go down. So it's important to get the highest possible SAT/ACT score for you, as it will give you flexibility in terms of where you can apply.

As an example, here are the middle 50% SAT and ACT ranges for four popular colleges in the Boston area. Middle 50% means these are the ranges of scores in the middle of their accepted applicant pool. This means a score above the middle 50% range puts you in line with the top 25% of their applicants, and a score below it puts you in the bottom 25% and makes you a less likely admit.


SAT Math 750-800
SAT Evidence-Based Reading & Writing 730-780
ACT Composite 33-36
ACT English 35-36
ACT Math 32-35

Via Harvard's 2021-2022 Common Data Set

Harvard is one of the most competitive colleges in the country. As such, their SAT and ACT ranges can be intimidating. Notice that their middle 50% ranges for the SAT end at 780 or 800, meaning that the top 25% of admits have perfect scores on those sections. To be competitive at Harvard, you need SAT section scores at least in the 700s, but the closer to 800 you are, the better chances you have.

Boston College

SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing 700-750
SAT Math 720-800
ACT Composite 33-34

Via Boston College Factbook, 2021-22

Boston College is also a competitive college in the Boston area. While BC isn't quite as competitive as Harvard, you need SAT section scores in the low to mid 700s to be a competitive applicant, while any scores 650 or lower would make your admission less likely.

Boston University

SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing 660-740
SAT Math 700-780
ACT Composite 31-34
ACT English 32-35
ACT Math 28-34

Via Boston University's Common Data Set, 2021-2022

Boston University is a large, top-50 university. Like with BC, SAT section scores in the high 600s to low 700s would put you in line with their middle 50% of admits, while anything lower than 600 would make you less competitive, and anything higher than 760 would make you quite competitive. BU and BC's ACT scores ranges are very similar.

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University of Massachusetts Boston

SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing 530-640
SAT Math 530-640
ACT Composite 24-30
ACT English 24-34
ACT Math 22-28

Via University of Massachusetts Boston's Common Data Set, 2021-2022

The University of Massachusetts Boston is a public research university. Section scores in the 600s or higher would make you quite competitive, while anything lower than a 500 would put you towards the bottom half of their admitted students.

As you can see, the higher your SAT or ACT score is, the more colleges you can apply to competitively. For example, if you had a 1400 on the current SAT, with 700 on each section, Harvard would be a reach, but you would be in line with the admitted students at Boston College and Boston University and competitive at U Mass Boston. But if you had a 1000/1600, with about 500 on each section, you would be in line with admits at U Mass Boston, but the other schools would all be reaches.

In short, it's smart to maximize your ACT or SAT score to give yourself the most options when applying to college.

But just focus on studying for one test! The vast majority of colleges accept both tests equally, and they don't favor students who have taken both. In fact, if you do worse on one test, that could hurt your chances.

How Can You Build the Most Versatile College Application? (2)

Just pick one!

It's also much more efficient to focus your time on studying for one test. If you split your time between the two, you'll likely end up doing worse on both than you could have if you had just focused on one. (Wondering which one you should take? Read a detailed comparison of the ACT and SAT, and figure out which test you will do the best on.)

Extracurricular Activities

There is no magic set of extracurricular activities or sports that will make your college application the most impressive. But keep the following rule in mind as you pursue extracurricular activities and put together your college applications: depth over breadth.

It's more impressive to be deeply involved with two activities and have leadership roles in both than to be in eight clubs or sports but just participate without getting too involved.

How Can You Build the Most Versatile College Application? (3)

You should add to the trophy case, not just the club roster.

So if you're reading this as a junior or younger, try to get involved in a few clubs, sports, and extracurricular activities you're passionate about, and go for leadership positions. Also aim to get recognition or awards at the highest level you can—whether that's regional, state, or national.

Don't join anything and everything just to be able to say you were in 10 clubs. Focus on a few activities you are passionate about and can make a difference doing.

If you're a senior putting together your college applications, list everything you've been involved in, starting with the most important and working your way down. Make sure to highlight any leadership positions, awards, or other accomplishments. And again, emphasize depth over breadth. Don't feel pressured to fill out every available "activities" space. Again, depth matters more than breadth.

Make sure for every activity you add, you have something valuable to say about it—an award you won, a leadership position you held, or the effect it had on your academic or personal development.

Letters of Recommendation

Some colleges don't have very specific guidelines for letters of recommendation (sometimes called teacher evaluations), and some don't require them at all. As an example, the University of Washington really doesn't want any letters.

However, it's pretty typical for colleges to require two letters of recommendation. This is especially true at selective colleges. For example, Stanford requires two teacher evaluations.

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Some colleges have stricter guidelines, and say they want the letters to come from teachers who teach different subjects. MIT says the letters have to come from one math/science teacher and one humanities teacher.

So to maximize your application reach, get two letters from teachers in different subjects—a math teacher and an English teacher, for example. Obviously don't send the letters to colleges that don't want them, but if you have those letters ready to go, it will allow you to apply to nearly any college.

Also, to make your application most competitive, remember to follow basic letter of recommendation guidelines: choose teachers who taught you recently, ideally junior year, and can speak specifically to your academic strengths. Don't choose a teacher who won't have specific, positive things to say about you.

"Halle was a good student and always did her homework" won't cut it. Find a teacher who can say something closer to "Halle's essays were consistently insightful. Her work was of a higher quality than not just this year's students, but of many students I have taught over my career."

Should You Get A Third Letter?

It's rare for a college to require more than two teacher recommendations. However, some allow for a third letter, which can come from a person who knows you well, like a coach, boss, youth group leader, or instructor from a summer course.

For example, the University of Chicago and Brown both accept additional letters if they add extra detail to your application.

How Can You Build the Most Versatile College Application? (4)

Don't add a letter just to stuff your admissions file.

If you have someone like this in your life who you know will have very good things to say to you and will provide information that your teachers cannot, ask them to write you a third letter.

For example, if you took a summer college course and the professor can speak to how well you handled the material, they could write a great recommendation. Or if you have a boss who can talk about your busy schedule and work ethic the way a teacher can't, that provides important extra information to your application.

Don't get an extra letter just to have one. Make sure the extra letter is adding additional material to your application.

For colleges that allow a third letter of recommendation, getting one can help your chances by giving colleges another chance to get to know you.

Don't Blow Off Senior Year

A common theme on college admissions websites is that colleges want students who have challenged themselves in high school with rigorous schedules. This is especially true if you are going for top-tier schools. And senior year is no exception! For example, Yale says "senior year is not the time to take a light course load."

By the time you reach senior year, you can't go back in time and change your first three years of high school. However, you can make sure your senior year schedule is challenging. Colleges will be looking at your senior year schedule, and it won't look good if you're slacking off.

For example, if you take a full schedule with three AP classes junior year, and then have a senior schedule with free periods and no AP classes, that might raise questions, especially at selective colleges you might be applying to.

Of course, don't do the opposite and overload yourself—especially since you need time senior year for college apps!—but make sure your senior year schedule doesn't raise any red flags.

And if you're reading this as a younger high school student, make sure to take the most challenging schedule available to you at your high school. Challenge yourself with AP or IB classes if they are available. (Read more here about choosing between AP and IB and how many AP classes you should take.)

How Can You Build the Most Versatile College Application? (5)

Choose Your Essay Topic Carefully

One thing you'll notice as you begin looking at different colleges' applications is that many have extra questions or Common Application supplements that give you the chance to share lots of info about yourself—what you want to study, why you want to go to that particular college, or even things like your favorite movies and books.

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For example, the University of Chicago is famous for having unique, quirky additional essay questions, like "What advice would a wisdom tooth have?" or "If you could give any historical figure any piece of technology, who and what would it be, and why do you think they’d work so well together?"

Columbia University asks you to share your favorite required reading and books you read for pleasure in the past year, as well as publications you read and entertainment (like movies, concerts, exhibits) that you enjoyed the most in the past year.

To read any college's supplement, you can search for "[Name of College/University] Supplement" or "[Name of College/University] Essay Questions." If you're using the Common Application or Universal College Application, you can look up colleges you're interested in to see their supplements.

However, sometimes colleges don't have a supplement or additional questions, meaning the one part of your application you can let them get to know you is with your personal statement.

In other words, your main essay is very important, since in some cases it will be your only chance to show your personality. If there is something you want every college to know about—from an important personal experience to an intellectual passion of yours—that experience should be in your main essay.

Even if your main topic perfectly fits a prompt for one college's supplement, you should use it for your main essay instead. This way, even if a college doesn't have a supplement, you will get to present the information most important to you.

If colleges do have supplemental questions, you can use them to dive deeper into your essay topic or, even better, share other experiences or passions.

What's a Good Essay Topic?

There are as many potential personal essay topics as there are students applying. Every student has different experiences and passions that could make a great essay. The key is to write about something that is meaningful and specific to you.

Remember that a complete stranger will be reading your application. You want them to come away from your essay feeling like they know you, and what you can bring to their college.

For example, if you went through an incredibly challenging personal experience—a family member's illness, an instance of discrimination, an unexpected setback—that could be great material for you essay, especially if it has affected your future goals and interests.

Or if you are passionate about a certain topic or subject—from 18th century French history to making your own mobile phone apps—that could also be a great essay topic, as it will show your intellectual depth and give colleges an idea of what you might contribute to them.

The key is to write about something that will help tell your story, and help show what you will be pursue in college.

Don't choose a topic just because you think it's something colleges will like. For example, if you went on a service trip your junior year but it didn't resonate with you or affect your future goals, don't try and make up a story about how meaningful the trip was to you. It will be more effective to write about something you are actually passionate about.

Once you've chosen a topic, ask yourself the following questions to make sure it's a strong choice:

  • Will any other student applying to college this year have an essay like mine? (If you can see several students writing a very similar essay, you should choose a topic more specific to you)
  • If I gave this essay to a complete stranger, would they get a clear sense of my personality just by reading it?
  • Am I writing about something I care about, or did I choose this topic because I thought it would look good?

If your essay is specific to you, reveals your personality, and allows you to write about something you actually care about, chances are, it's going to be a great essay.

Bottom Line: How to Put Together a Winning College App

There is a lot that goes into a successful college application, and your chances of admission will vary by the schools you apply to and your set of strengths and weaknesses.

But chances of admission aside, these are the steps you can take to put together a college application that will allow you to apply to the broadest range of colleges, from the most selective to your local state schools.

#1: Take either the ACT or the SAT, and do as well as you can.

#2: Go for depth over breadth with your extracurriculars.

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#3: Get two letters of recommendation from teachers in different subjects. Consider getting a third letter if it will add more information to your application.

#4: Take a challenging senior year schedule.

#5: Choose a personal essay topic that is specific and meaningful to you.

What's Next?

Speaking of maximizing your ACT and SAT score, get tips from our full-scorer on getting a perfect score on the SAT or on the ACT. Even if you're not aiming for perfect, these principles can help you raise your score to whatever your target is.

Also consider our PrepScholar program to get prepared for the SAT or the ACT.

Learn to raise a low SAT/ACT math score with these tips.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

How Can You Build the Most Versatile College Application? (6)

How Can You Build the Most Versatile College Application? (7)

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How Can You Build the Most Versatile College Application? (8)

Halle Edwards

About the Author

Halle Edwards graduated from Stanford University with honors. In high school, she earned 99th percentile ACT scores as well as 99th percentile scores on SAT subject tests. She also took nine AP classes, earning a perfect score of 5 on seven AP tests. As a graduate of a large public high school who tackled the college admission process largely on her own, she is passionate about helping high school students from different backgrounds get the knowledge they need to be successful in the college admissions process.

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How Can You Build the Most Versatile College Application? ›

#1: Take either the ACT or the SAT, and do as well as you can. #2: Go for depth over breadth with your extracurriculars. #3: Get two letters of recommendation from teachers in different subjects. Consider getting a third letter if it will add more information to your application.

How can I make my college application impressive? ›

How to Stand Out in Your College Application: 15 Expert Tips
  1. Choose Your High School Classes Appropriately.
  2. Earn Good Grades. ...
  3. Use Your Personal Statement to Tell Your Story. ...
  4. Participate in Extracurricular Activities. ...
  5. Volunteer. ...
  6. Keep Accurate Records. ...
  7. Manage Your Social Media Presence. ...
  8. Learn as Much About Your School as You Can.
Apr 20, 2023

What makes a perfect college application? ›

In general, a great application will have most or all of the following elements: A high GPA (relative to what admitted students have) and a rigorous curriculum. Strong test scores (relative to what admitted students have) A specific, honest, and well-written personal statement and/or essays.

How can I make my application stronger? ›

Tips for a Stronger Application
  1. Don't Write How You Talk. When we talk casually, we interrupt ourselves, we repeat ourselves, and we use words and space fillers that make unclear points.
  2. Stick to the Question. ...
  3. Send to Someone to Proofread. ...
  4. Stick to a Deadline. ...
  5. Beware of Word Count.

What do colleges look for most in college application? ›

Good grades, a challenging high school curriculum, standardized test scores, extracurriculars, and a strong essay are a few key factors admissions officers assess. Each university may emphasize different elements of the application process.

What makes me stand out from other college applicants? ›

Stand-out applications showcase achievement, merit, and previous academic success. Taking honors classes or AP courses can give you a significant advantage. Most colleges generally prefer applicants with a B in an honors program over those with an A in standard courses because it shows initiative.

What is the top 10 rule when applying for college? ›

You may qualify if you meet the requirements by graduating in the Top 10% of your class at a recognized public or private high school in Texas or a high school operated by the U.S. Department of Defense, and be a Texas resident or eligible to pay resident tuition.

How do I make my college resume stand out? ›

Here are 7 ways to boost your resume (when you're not hitting the books):
  1. Complete an internship. ...
  2. Get a summer job. ...
  3. Take online classes and earn certifications. ...
  4. Become a Resident Assistant (RA). ...
  5. Volunteer. ...
  6. Join professional associations and clubs. ...
  7. Study abroad. ...
  8. Tap into your career center.

How can I make my application stand out? ›

How to make your job application stand out
  1. Be a recognisable name. ...
  2. Make your application easy to read. ...
  3. STAR technique. ...
  4. Take time to tailor it. ...
  5. Develop an online presence. ...
  6. Make good use of your hobbies and interests. ...
  7. Make sure you have perfect spelling and grammar.

What do you say to make your application stand out? ›

5 Ways to Make Your Job Application Truly Stand out
  1. Tailor your résumé to the job and research the company. This is crucial. ...
  2. Keep it brief. ...
  3. Highlight achievements and put your most recent experience first. ...
  4. Show the range of your experience. ...
  5. Demonstrate you've got people skills.

What makes a strong application essay? ›

The most competitive application essays showcase strong writing skills, providing evidence of a student's ability to tell a specific story artfully and well. Essays should also be error-free, grammatically precise, and stylistically on point.

What is the biggest factor on college application? ›

Courses and Grades

A student's grades in college-preparatory classes remain the most significant factor in college admission decisions. Highly selective colleges look for students who: Complete core academic requirements.

What grade do most colleges look at? ›

Your transcript from the end of your junior year is typically used during the application process, and many colleges ask to see a transcript with fall senior year courses and grades as well.

Do colleges like to see improvement? ›

Trends are important — grade trends, that is. Colleges notice if and how your grades improved (or didn't) over time. If your grades were lower at the beginning of high school and then improved, the upward trend may count in your favor.

What puts you over other applicants? ›

Pick a few of your strengths that relate to the job requirements, and use them as the core for your answer about what makes you stand out among other candidates. These can be professional skills, areas of expertise, personal qualities, or any relevant experience.

What extracurricular activities do Ivy Leagues look for? ›

The best extracurricular activities for the Ivies
  • Starting a club. Many students struggle to find an extracurricular activity that picks their interests. ...
  • Participate in a summer program. ...
  • Competing in academic events. ...
  • Writing for the school newspaper. ...
  • Joining the theater program. ...
  • Doing an internship.

What is a spike in college admissions? ›

A Clear Spike or Passion

Accepted students often have a "spike" on their application — a term that admissions committees use to refer to something that makes a student stand out.

What are the 3 things college admission officers are looking for in your college essay? ›

Colleges look for three things in your admission essay: a unique perspective, strong writing, and an authentic voice. People in admissions often say that a great essay is one where it feels like the student is right there in the room, talking authentically to the admissions committee!

How do I make my college essay stand out at least 6 tips? ›

Tips for a Stellar College Application Essay
  1. Write about something that's important to you. ...
  2. Don't just recount—reflect! ...
  3. Being funny is tough. ...
  4. Start early and write several drafts. ...
  5. No repeats. ...
  6. Answer the question being asked. ...
  7. Have at least one other person edit your essay. ...
  8. Test Your College Knowledge.

What are admissions officers looking for in a college essay? ›

What are colleges looking for in the essay? In your application essay, admissions officers are looking for particular features: they want to see context on your background, positive traits that you could bring to campus, and examples of you demonstrating those qualities.

What is the golden rule in college? ›

State Board of Education Rule 6A-10.030, the Gordon Rule, requires that students complete with grades of C or better 12 credits in designated courses in which the student is required to demonstrate college-level writing skills through multiple assignments and six credits of mathematics course work at the level of ...

How do colleges decide how many students to accept? ›

Offers of admission are based on each school's enrollment objectives. Making admissions decisions is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Large state schools may use a test score and GPA formula. Highly selective schools may have multiple reviewers with many voices weighing in on a decision.

Do colleges care how many colleges you apply to? ›

In general, it's a good idea to apply to a minimum of five schools. Submitting more applications increases the likelihood of an acceptance and the odds of receiving financial aid offers. Before putting colleges on your list, consider key factors like your budget, financial aid opportunities, and personal preferences.

What is the highest recognition in college? ›

Generally, the highest honor in college is the valedictorian, followed by the salutatorian. As a group, the highest honor is summa cum laude. The next highest is the magna cum laude, and the third is the cum laude.

Can I get into college without extracurriculars? ›

Extracurricular activities are not the most important factor in a college application. Coursework and GPA, for instance, bear more weight. However, this is not to say that extracurriculars have little or no impact on the admissions decision a student ultimately receives.

Do colleges look at senior year? ›

The important thing to know is that colleges do look at your senior year grades. So, a weaker performance in senior year than in previous grades can impact your application and college admissions decisions.

What makes a strong college resume? ›

Identify activities and accomplishments to include. Detail relevant academic accomplishments and work, internship or volunteer experience. Include high school or college information and contact details. Verify key dates and details for accuracy.

What does a good resume look like for a college student? ›

Here's what a resume for a college student should look like:

Cover your current academic accomplishments in detail, with honors and coursework. Document work history you have, if any, along with quantifiable achievements. List college resume skills relevant to the position by studying the job description.

What is good on college resume? ›

  • Grade Point Average (GPA) The most important step you can take to make yourself a competitive candidate is, of course, to work hard in school. ...
  • Test Scores. For schools that consider standardized test scores, those typically rank second in importance. ...
  • Clubs. ...
  • Sports. ...
  • Community Service. ...
  • Jobs/Internships.

What are four application tips? ›

How to complete a job application
  1. Read over the job application. ...
  2. Use a professional name and email address. ...
  3. Follow the instructions. ...
  4. Tailor your cover letter to the job. ...
  5. Include keywords in your resume. ...
  6. Check your responses for errors. ...
  7. Track your applications when applying for multiple jobs. ...
  8. Tidy your social media profiles.
Feb 27, 2023

What not to say in an application? ›

Things NOT to Say on a Job Application
  • Details, details, details…. “I have the desired skills, I learn fast, and this is the exact kind of job I'm perfect for!” ...
  • Me, me, me… ...
  • Teach me… ...
  • Don't know what to say? ...
  • Much better…

How do you follow up on an application without being annoying? ›

Write a follow-up email directly to the hiring manager

Use a clear subject line, for example: Following up on a job application for [position title]. Be polite and humble in the body of your message. Say you're still interested and reiterate why you're the perfect fit. Keep the resume follow-up email short.

What is a strong closing statement for an essay? ›

A good conclusion should do a few things: Restate your thesis. Synthesize or summarize your major points. Make the context of your argument clear.

What is a good hook for an application essay? ›

Academic Writing (such as college essays)

If you use a hook/grabber for academic writing, it should be something that would interest an expert: an intriguing question or an illuminating example from your research.

What makes colleges more likely to accept you? ›

ACT / SAT Test scores

No matter which you take (colleges don't actually prefer SAT or ACT scores over the other) higher test scores will increase your acceptance odds. Not only that, but ACT / SAT scores can also qualify you for scholarships and certain forms of financial aid.

What do admissions officers look for? ›

Basically, there are six main factors that college admissions officers consider: AP classes and challenging course loads, high school GPAs, SAT and ACT scores (unless they are test-optional), meaningful extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, and your personal statement.

What makes you more likely to get into college? ›

Most colleges consider grades and class rigor top factors in the admissions process. High SAT/ACT scores can impress admissions committees, even at test-optional schools. Students can demonstrate interest by applying early decision and visiting the campus.

What year of highschool is the hardest? ›

While junior year is often the hardest year of high school, the transition from middle school to 9th grade can also be tough. To make it easier, don't feel afraid to reach out to your teachers and counselors, and take advantage of the support resources that are available.

What semester do colleges look at? ›

Colleges consider your fall and final semester grades even if you've already received admission; that's how much your final year grades matter.

Does senior year GPA matter? ›

Your senior year grades impact your overall high school academic career. From affecting your GPA to potentially changing your position on college waitlists, senior year grades play a serious role in your college prospects. Furthermore, you may have your hopes set on being the valedictorian.

Do colleges look at work habits? ›

But “work ethic" won't go a long way toward taking the spotlight off of your transcript. In general, college admission officials expect all of their successful applicants to have a strong work ethic. Of course, it's hard for them to assess this truly accurately.

Will one C ruin my GPA? ›

Will one “C” ruin my GPA in high school? While receiving a “C” will impact your GPA, it will certainly not ruin it. That “C” won't ruin your chances of getting into college either. However, how leniently colleges view the “C” will largely depend on what grade you received it in.

Do colleges look at personality? ›

They take into account more than your GPA and test scores. Your character and the personal qualities you can bring to a college are important, too. That's why you need to think about your goals, accomplishments, and personal values. Then, you can figure out how you can best express those in your applications.

How do you get noticed by college admissions? ›

What is Demonstrated Interest in College Admissions?
  1. Complete an online information request form. ...
  2. Connect on Social Media. ...
  3. Email your admissions counselor. ...
  4. Attend admissions events in your area. ...
  5. Visit campus. ...
  6. Spend time on your “Why this College?” essay. ...
  7. Apply early.
Jun 27, 2022

How do you stand out academically? ›

6 Great Ways to Stand Out as a Student (So Teachers Will Give You Strong Recommendation Letters)
  1. Be reliable. Many of the best teachers admire students who don't necessarily follow the rules. ...
  2. Be a team player. ...
  3. Demonstrate curiosity. ...
  4. Visit office hours. ...
  5. Turn in an impressive assignment. ...
  6. Stay in touch.
Oct 7, 2020

How can I increase my acceptance chances in college? ›

Below, we introduce our top nine tips to help you increase your chances of getting accepted to your dream college.
  1. Earn Good Grades in Challenging Courses. ...
  2. Get a High SAT/ACT Score. ...
  3. Write a Compelling Personal Statement. ...
  4. Demonstrate Interest. ...
  5. Secure Strong Letters of Recommendation. ...
  6. Apply to a Diverse Selection of Colleges.

How do admissions officers look at applications? ›

In the US admissions process, colleges and universities take many factors into consideration. Admissions officers look at “hard factors” (GPA, grades, and test scores) and “soft factors” (essays, extracurricular activities, recommendations, and demonstrated interest) to gain a full picture of applicants.

What grades do colleges look at the most? ›

Your first year and sophomore year affect your cumulative GPA, which is important to most colleges. However, a solid academic record in your junior year is likely to carry more importance with an admissions committee.

What extracurriculars do Ivy Leagues look for? ›

The best extracurricular activities for the Ivies
  • Starting a club. Many students struggle to find an extracurricular activity that picks their interests. ...
  • Participate in a summer program. ...
  • Competing in academic events. ...
  • Writing for the school newspaper. ...
  • Joining the theater program. ...
  • Doing an internship.

What makes me stand out as a student? ›

Students can stand out in the application process by standing out in real life. If you challenge yourself academically, choose your activities thoughtfully, and pursue your passions authentically — you will stand out. Don't be lemming and don't follow others' leads blindly.

What are unique extracurricular activities? ›

Organize and run an online debate club, discussing and debating important social issues. Participate in online mentorship programs, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters or Girls Who Code. Create and run your own online tutoring service, providing academic support to students in need.

What is poor academic standing? ›

When a student's cumulative (overall) and current (most recent term) grade point averages are 2.0 or better, that student is in good academic standing. If either the cumulative or current G.P.A. falls below 2.0, the student is on academic probation.

Do colleges care about extracurriculars? ›

While grades and test scores are important, colleges also want to see the person you're becoming and the skills you've learned outside of class. They want to know what makes you unique, and the extracurricular activities you participate in will help you stand out.


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