“Stand-out students” begin the admissions process way before they actually complete their applications. What this means is thinking ahead to make sure you take a rigorous academic program and get the best grades, without overwhelming yourself in the process. It also means getting the most out of the standardized tests you can, usually accomplished through some kind of test prep. An important third ingredient is well-written essays that reflect who you are as a student and person.
In addition to grades, test scores, and essays, admissions people are very interested in what you do with your time when you are not in school. They look for students who show long-term involvements in something they love. Among the “stand-out” activities a few successful applicants have identified in their applications are:
* A teen who saw that his school was littered with all kinds of paper lunch bags, water bottles and trash. He was so upset by the mess that he decided to do something about it. On his own, he designed, got manufactured and then sold recyclable lunch bags to students, with the profits going back to his school.
* At five years old, a student began playing chess. Because he didn’t yet read, he asked his mother to read chess moves to him at night instead of bedtime stories. He became better and better at chess, received chess tutoring and entered competitions through the years. One day he won a national chess championship. In high school, he developed a chess program for his town’s school for homeless children.
* Born with a profound hearing impairment at birth, a girl used her strengths to overcome the disability, specifically choosing to take on activities that were hearing neutral, as in computers and working with animals and cooking. To help other hearing impaired students, she began a newsletter that focused on what hearing impaired students could do with their time and lives, and also emphasized how few things they couldn’t do.
• A lover of animals and science, a girl became a teen volunteer for a city zoo. She was then accepted to a special program in which she taught classes to the public about endangered species and animal conservation. This then led her to being selected as an Arctic Ambassador to Polar Bears International, where she spent time with students from around the world in the Canadian tundra, studying polar bears, the effect of global climate change and ways of preserving natural resources.
Each one of the above stories were used by students as part of their successful applications.