What Do Colleges Look For In Students & How To Stand Out

30/05/202311 minute read
What Do Colleges Look For In Students & How To Stand Out

When reviewing countless college applications, admissions officers examine various factors to determine which candidates make the cut. So, what do colleges look for? Crafting an application that catches their eye might seem challenging, but it’s definitely achievable.

In this blog, we’ll discover what looks good on college applications and how to incorporate it into your submission to make a lasting impression.

What Do Colleges Look For in Students?

If you want to learn how to stand out to colleges, it’s important to know what colleges look for in students and what qualities to highlight.

1. Excellent Academics

Colleges look for students with strong grades, particularly in challenging courses, as this shows your intellectual capabilities and commitment to learning.

Admissions officers evaluate your transcripts to assess your academic preparedness and potential for success in college. Additionally, standardized test scores like the SAT or ACT provide a benchmark for comparing applicants from different educational backgrounds.

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2. Well-Rounded Character

Colleges look for students who possess qualities like resilience, adaptability, curiosity, and a commitment to personal growth. Admissions officers are interested in understanding your unique experiences, perspectives, and challenges you may have overcome.

This can be showcased through your personal statement, essays, or letters of recommendation, which provide insight into your personality and potential contributions to the college community.

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3. Genuine Passion for Learning

Colleges value students who demonstrate a genuine passion and engagement beyond the classroom.

Involvement in extracurricular activities such as sports, clubs, community service, or artistic endeavors reveals your interests, leadership abilities, and ability to manage time effectively. Your level of dedication and the impact you have made in these activities can leave a lasting impression on admissions officers.

What Looks Good on College Applications?

1. Applying Early

apply early to stand out to colleges

Applying early looks good on college applications because it shows your commitment to the college you’re applying for. Generally, students only apply early to their top-choice, and this is especially true for early decision applications.

Make sure you leave enough time to complete your application, ensuring it follows the guidelines that the university has published.

2. Volunteer Work

volunteer to stand out to colleges

With so many great applicants applying for universities, it is important to allow your character, personality, and personal interests to shine through your application.

Volunteering stands out because it not only helps you better understand the world, it shows that you are eager to support and help those around you. Many charities run volunteering programs around the country. Sign up for one of those programs. It’s a powerful addition to your application.

3. Course-Related Work Experience

work experience looks good on college applications

Undertaking work experience in your chosen major shows that you are not only dedicated and eager to learn more about your chosen field, but you also understand what’s involved in studying that subject at the university.

Adding a list of completed work experience and a summary of what you gained from these experiences is an excellent addition to your application.

4. Good Grades

Improving your grades looks good on your college application

To increase your chances of standing out in your college application, it’s important to improve your grades. Your grades are one of the first things admissions officers look at on your application and what will ultimately get you through the door.

If you struggle to improve your grades, consider looking at alternative revision techniques or hire a tutor to help coach you through your exams.

5. Standardized Test Scores

choose the right standardised test to look good on your college application

Your standardized test scores are also one of the first things admissions officers look at when reviewing your application. It’s essential to take these as soon as possible. Consider which test (ACT or SAT) is better for you.

While many colleges are test-optional, submitting your test scores could be a great addition to your college application, provided your scores are high enough.

6. Extracurricular Activities

extracurriculars make your college application look good

In addition to grades and test scores, college admissions officers look at your extracurricular activities.

Choose one or two activities and discuss them in-depth. Colleges look for quality over quantity. While many students will detail their time on sports clubs, you can actually include anything you do outside of school hours, such as campaigning for a political candidate, running a marathon, or writing a blog.

Extracurriculars show you can effectively handle your time and can increase your skill set in several areas.

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7. Recommendation Letters

recommendations look good on your college application

Most colleges will ask for recommendations from those who know you well to get further insight into what you are like as a person.

Carefully consider who you will ask to write these recommendations. Ideally, you want to select someone (a tutor or instructor) who has known you for several years. They can speak about your growth as a person and your achievements over many years.

8. Polished Social Media Presence

check your social media to stand out in your college applications

While social media profiles are generally not a part of the application, your college might look at your social media profiles after receiving your submission.

Colleges want to accept the highest standard of applicants, not only academically but also socially. One way that they find out more about you is by searching for your social media accounts.

A study by Inside Higher Ed found that about 36% of admissions officers looked at social media profiles, and this percentage was increasing each year. Additionally, admissions offers have been rescinded due to previously undiscovered content. Check what you are making public!

9. An Error-Free Application

proofreding your application to make sure it looks good to colleges

Although this may be an obvious piece of advice, it is no less important. Many mistakes are identified during the second or third review. You must proofread your materials and ask family members or friends to review it.

For example, writing several applications at once makes it easy to write the wrong college name. This would definitely create a negative impression, so keep an eye out for this.

10. Supplementary Materials

what looks good on college applications

Many colleges allow you to include supplemental materials in your application, allowing you to further stand out against your competition.

It’s important to check the entrance procedures, you wouldn’t want to submit materials if they are not allowed!

If a university accepts supplemental materials, send several materials related to what you want to study, including musical scores, portfolios, academic papers, or audio recordings.

Final Thoughts

There is no magic formula to the perfect college application, but researching your top colleges and determining what they value most will help get you closer to acceptance.

You now know what looks good on college applications, follow these tips and highlight the aspects of your profile that colleges look for. Sometimes, simply taking the time to proofread and double-check your work one more time will make all the difference.

Working with a Crimson expert is a great way to ensure you submit the perfect application. Crimson students are 7x more likely to gain admission to their dream university. Book a free consultation to start!

Need Help Making your College Application Stand Out?

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