Take a holistic approach when completing your application. There are so many factors that will contribute to your acceptance and you need to organize your four years of high school in an effective manner. You, along with your parents, teachers, and counselors will be instrumental in helping the college rep understand your personal values, academic accolades, work ethic, and individual characteristics.
Coach your recommenders. As a college counselor, I write over fifty recommendation letters a year. I require that each student complete a personal questionnaire if they request a recommendation letter. They also must complete a teacher questionnaire as well if they request a teacher recommendation. I always ask my students if there is something specific that they want me to highlight in their recommendation letter that they were unable to capture in their essay or application. Use each part of the application to your advantage. Ask your recommenders to add specific information to your letter if you and he/she feels it is important to mention.
Prioritize your accomplishments. Most applications give you a limited number of opportunities or characters to explain your achievements; there is no room to be long-winded, so get to the point. Make a list of your activities/athletics, leadership roles, prestigious awards, and volunteer or work experiences and rank them. List your most important endeavors first and so on. You may not have room to add all your accomplishments, and that is okay. These may be mentioned in a rec letter by a counselor or teacher. Some college reps may spend 15 minutes reviewing your application. You want to explain your best self to catch their attention immediately.
Create a resume. Too many times I have seen students create a resume with no substance. He/She states their job title, where they work(ed), and dates of employment. Usually, the student does not go into detail about their work experience. If you want your resume to stand out, explain your daily job responsibilities and other projects you led or helped facilitate. This will give the college rep a better understanding of your capabilities and work ethic. This also includes volunteer experiences. One student told me he worked at a soup kitchen every week. I think anyone would assume that he helped prepare the meal and served the patrons; he did neither. Rather, he sat down with those being served and talked to them. He asked them about their lives and listened to their stories. This simple act highlights the student’s empathetic and upstanding character and so much more.
BRAG! Bragging about oneself is difficult for most students. Remember, the college rep does not know you on a personal level. You need to mold your one-dimensional application into a three-dimensional one, so the college rep can envision you on his/her college campus. I had another student tell me he shoveled snow for his elderly neighbors in the winter. His mom did not understand why he would put this on his resume, because it was something he always did and did not need to be praised for it. But how would the college rep know this if it was not added to his resume? This speaks to the student’s sense of community and kindness. No act of kindness is too small, add it!
When reading your application college reps think: Will this student make a good roommate? Will this student be successful in taking a rigorous course load? Is this student genuine? What will this student add to the campus? And so on. Create an application where the college rep can easily answer these questions as he/she reads through your application.