It's Time to Apply to College, Here's How to Stand Out

College application season can be stressful. You have to balance your current priorities—grades, sports, theatric performances, etc.—with college applications. As a high school senior, I know it’s tough. You must prioritize, deciding which steps are necessary to place you at the best possible university. The challenge of completing applications does come with planning, but it also boils down to your individuality and what truly makes you unique. Most universities don’t require interviews, so your acceptance depends on what you're able to communicate through a computer screen. Can the admissions officer separate you from the thousands of other applicants? With the following tips, hopefully, you'll be able to answer that question with a confident and definite yes. Keep reading to find helpful ways to catch the attention of the admissions staff at every school you're applying to!

1. Diversity is Key

Diversity, in this instance, isn’t referring to skin color, race, or ethnicity. Colleges want different students who participate in different activities. They want well-rounded student bodies and well-rounded students. Normally on applications, students feel the need to include all the activities they have done that set them apart from other applicants. Though variation is good, too much of it can distract the reader. Instead of showing how you followed your passions, it’ll seem like a list of a variety of activities and accomplishments that’ll make you look good. Making you seem like you don’t really know yourself and what you want to do in the future. Only include activities that support what you want to accomplish in college. 

2. The Earlier You Start, the Better

Most applications open around the beginning of August, meaning you’ll have access to essays and supplemental writing questions, and other required materials and questions for your application. Regardless of your application round (Early Decision, Early Action, Rolling, or Regular Decision), completing and submitting your application quickly can relieve stress, especially if you have extracurriculars or scholarships to apply for. 

3. Become a Storyteller

Within your application, there are many ways to tell a story. Sure, essays writing, but there are plenty of other ways to be creative. On a platform where everyone must submit the same documents, how will the admissions counselor differentiate yours from other applicants? Your transcript will show the variety of classes you take. Your test scores will show gradual improvement by submitting multiple takes. And even though you don’t write the recommendation letters, allow your recommenders to reveal who you are both inside and outside of the classroom. 

4. Demonstrate Interest in the School

A school wouldn’t be on your prospective list if you didn’t envision yourself there. On your application, prove how that school compares to not only the thousands of others out there, but the others you're applying to. If you visited the campus, describe the unique qualities of that school that you can't wait to experience. Remember, the little things matter; therefore, show how attentive you are. Provide details and set the scene as if you belong in the student body, beacuse you do!

5. Be Consistent

All colleges require basic information about your past education and familial finances. Place that information in a safe place—a separate document—for consistent use with every application. It saves time! 

6. Be Careful

With all the information you have to provide, mistakes are bound to happen, which is why you should always double—and maybe even triple—check your application. Essays definitely need that extra pair of eyes, so it wouldn’t hurt to have someone else, whether that be your parents or a counselor, review your application before you press the submit button. 

7. Keep it Simple

To you and the person reviewing your application, the process is anything but simple. To make things a little easier, produce easy straightforward answers in response to complex questions. For college applications, making things simple doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy. It’ll take time to simplify your application while also making it original to you, but do try to be concise.

8. Choose Recommendations Wisely

Not all colleges require recommendations, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include one. Colleges already know how you perceive yourself as a student, so they ask teachers, coaches, and other mentors to give an honest account of their experiences with you. When selecting recommenders, chose teachers who know you are both in and out of the classroom setting. Choose a coach who has seen you perform on and off the athletic stage. The better the relationship with your recommender, the better the recommendation letter. 

9. Optional…Ehh is it Really?

Some schools have an optional selection for additional application materials, which can include additional test scores, recommendation letters, or personal essays. Even though having the option seems nice, colleges typically prefer that you send those items for consideration. It will definitely separate you from your competition if they elect to not send additional information.

10. Always Make Copies

You will typically submit your application through a platform, so it’s natural to believe that your information will be saved on that platform. However, malfunctions happen with technology, so it’s a good idea to start keeping your information in a separate document. If anything goes awry, you'll have a copy of your required information on hand and nothing to stress about.
Have any other tips that will positively set an admissions application apart from others? Share them with us in the comments below!
SOUL REPORTER | Shelby Wingate is a rising senior at Whitefield Academy in Mableton, Georgia. The extremely competitive athlete plays basketball and runs track for her school. While she does love sports, Shelby uses her competitive nature to excel in academics and will apply that same drive when she attends college to major in Journalism or Communications and minor in French.