How can students stand out on their application?
The essay is important. Your recommendations need to be amazing. Be sure the application is complete. Read, re-read, and proof read; spelling errors will kill your chances (don’t rely on spell check—it doesn’t work on its own). But the most important thing you need to focus on is DEADLINES.
It doesn’t matter how great your essay or how perfect your application, missing the deadline will guarantee a rejection. Some schools have rolling admissions which means your “late” application will be put into the next group. But at most selective schools, meeting deadlines is your first college “test”. Don’t fail it.
Along with deadlines, be sure you CAREFULLY read the application requirements. Skimming is your worst enemy here. Understanding what is required is the second college “test”.