By Blake TaylorGetting into college is more competitive than ever. Schools are receiving more applications, which means their acceptance rates are getting lower. Your high school grades and performance on the SAT and/or ACT are often important factors for college admissions officers, but they won’t make you stand out from a crowd of other good students. To truly impress admissions officers, start with these tips.1. Demonstrate the ability to complete college-level coursesColleges want to accept students they know will perform well, and have a high chance of graduating. Take college-level courses in high school to prove to them you have what it takes to succeed.Colleges want to accept students they know will perform well, and have a high chance of graduating. Take college-level courses in high school to prove to them you have what it takes to succeed. Here are a few options:AP, or Advanced Placement, courses. Many high schools offer these college-level classes in several subjects that fit into most college’s general education curriculum. These classes will give you an idea of what a typical college workload is like, and will show that you’re capable of handling it. Concurrent enrollment. Through this program, you can take classes at your local community college while still in high school, which can help you graduate from college early and save lots of money.MOOCs. The MOOC, or Massive Open Online Course, is an online platform that allows anyone with Internet access to watch college lectures on a variety of topics. You can watch videos of actual lectures that take place at schools like Harvard and Yale, completely for free. With experience in college-level courses under your belt, you’ll be well on your way to impressing those college admissions officers and standing out from many other applicants.2. Demonstrate dedication to the communityCounselors also look for philanthropic values … Long-term volunteering for one organization holds more meaning than multiple short-term stretches.Counselors also look for philanthropic values students have picked up while helping the community outside of the classroom. Not only will volunteering demonstrate compassion, but it will also give you great experiences to talk about on your college application essays.Long-term volunteering for one organization holds more meaning than multiple short-term stretches, so take some time to find an organization that means something to you, and that you’ll want to dedicate some serious time and energy to.3. Demonstrate a passion and your uniquenessContrary to popular belief, colleges are not looking for well-rounded students; they are looking to build a well-rounded class from students who excel in certain areas.Contrary to popular belief, colleges are not looking for well-rounded students; they are looking to build a well-rounded class from students who excel in certain areas.Being a part of an athletic team is an excellent indicator of leadership and teamwork. Playing a musical instrument shows you have drive and focus. Whatever you’re passionate about, the things you commit your time to outside of school send a message to admissions officers and distinguish you from the other candidates. Colleges want to build a graduating class of students with a variety of interests, passions, and backgrounds. Just like with community service, long-term commitment is seen as more impressive than dabbling in several different activities.This is your chance to find and develop your passions, the things that drive you to be independent and unique. Spending your high school years learning commitment, dedication, leadership, focus, and creativity will do more for a college application than most people realize.A lot of students will begin focusing on college applications during their senior year. Dramatically improve your chances by planning ahead. Help yourself and others by committing to your community and your passions. With time, dedication, and patience in high school, you will become and interesting, qualified, and highly desirable applicant.About the authorBlake Taylor is a lead college counselor at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. With experience in financial aid and academics, Blake provides a plethora of expertise on the modern college experience.