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How to Make A College Application Stand Out

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

College admissions season has begun, and with deadlines arriving in early 2024, graduating seniors are in the midst of one of the most challenging parts of the journey to a college degree: the application process.

From test scores to personal essays, applying to college can be daunting, so it's important to create a plan of action early. Know what schools students want to apply for, put their application deadlines in a calendar, and start gathering the necessary materials as soon as possible. Though it’s wise to tailor each application to the program and school’s specific focus, most applications will request many of the same documents: transcripts, letters of recommendation, a list of extracurricular activities, awards and accomplishments, test scores, and a personal statement.

One of the most intimidating aspects of the application is the personal statement. It’s meant to demonstrate a student’s reflection on their life experiences, interests, vision for their future, and how a college degree will support their dreams. To help students confidently complete their personal statement and submit a winning application, we’ve put together a few tips.

Stand Out in the Crowd: Strategies for a Stellar College Application

College admissions counselors read thousands of applications every year. The goal is to be unique and memorable, which is best accomplished through authenticity. Here are a few tips to help make an application stand out from the stack of transcripts:

Be Yourself

Highlight genuine interests and extracurricular activities. Colleges appreciate applicants who are deeply engaged and passionate about their pursuits. If interests extend beyond school activities, that’s great. Students can write about the music they make or the new recipes they’ve been experimenting with. Don’t be afraid to show a full picture of who they are and what they do.

Craft a Compelling Personal Statement

Use the personal statement as an opportunity to share a student’s story, values, and aspirations. Be authentic and let personality shine through. Take some time to reflect on how personal goals were developed and what pursuing a college degree would do to help realize them.

Demonstrate Leadership

Whether in school clubs, community service, or sports, showcasing leadership skills can set a student apart. Describe instances where they took initiative and made a positive impact.

Highlight Unique Achievements

Draw attention to any unique achievements, awards, or projects they’ve undertaken. This is the chance to demonstrate individuality and dedication. Think outside the box! If your student doesn’t have an academic award or music achievement, but they were named Employee of the Month at work, share that accolade as an example of dependability, trustworthiness, and work ethic.

Get Strong Letters of Recommendation:

Request letters from educators, mentors, or supervisors who know your student well and can speak to their strengths and character. Offer to meet with anyone asked for a recommendation and have your student share with them their passions and goals, so they can write a strong, clear letter of support.

Get Support

Have school leaders, counselors, or Level Up program staff review your student’s application materials. Listen to their feedback and ask them questions. They’re here to help!

Leveling Up and Unlocking Potential

The Mission Society works with parents, educators, and students to provide comprehensive resources for students as they navigate college admissions. Level Up provides hands-on support, demystifying the process and helping students to submit compelling applications.

Once admitted to college, funding is the primary concern for most families. Level Up equips students with knowledge about financial aid options and scholarships, ensuring they make informed decisions about their educational investment. As a result, our students leave high school feeling prepared and confident for their next chapter in their educational journey.

As we embark on another year of empowering dreams, we invite you to join us in shaping a brighter future for the young people we serve. Together, we can make a lasting impact on the lives of these aspiring college graduates.

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