What is Your Student’s Spike in the College Application Essay?

By Huntington Learning Center

For high school students planning on college, everything comes down to the college application. It’s important that they make it as strong as possible by maintaining a high GPA, earning strong SAT/ACT test scores, and putting together a solid resume. But when it comes to those “extras” found on the resume and the application essay, are admissions officers looking for students who are well rounded or students with a few passions that they’ve pursued intensely?  

A student with a “spike” in their application can set themselves apart. A spike is a concentrated interest of a student’s that they display to an admissions team. Spikes can be beneficial to the college application, particularly when shared in a compelling essay. Colleges are looking for students who will add value to their institution.  Almost every student who applies to college has a wide array of extracurricular activities, but it’s what makes your student stand out that should be shared. 

Here are a few tips on how your student can identify a natural spike and articulate it in their college application essay: 

  • Start with areas of sincere interest. There’s no sense in forcing extracurricular activities as resume builders. Your student should invest their time in things they truly care about and want to do. These could be things like hobbies, such as photography or painting, or a specific job or volunteer work that shows your students’
  • Utilize strengths. Does your student have any natural talents, whether academic or other? These are ripe opportunities for spikes because your student is likely to enjoy doing them (and perhaps is already doing so) and excel in them. Those accomplishments will always strengthen a college application package. These could include things like athletics, fluency in multiple languages, and a musical prodigy.    
  • Brainstorm ways to tie interests to school. If your student loves math, activities like math club are great—but also something like participation in math competitions or becoming a peer tutor for math will show deep and sustained involvement. 
  • Think about ways to demonstrate leadership and commitment. Once your student has a few ideas about their natural talents and interests, they should evaluate how they are showing their dedication to these things. The student who loves and excels in music might pursue a leadership position in their school choir, or the Eagle Scout might have leadership experience in Boys Scouts. 
  • Get your student thinking about how to take initiative. Meaningful participation in things is important, but your student’s college application essay will be richer if they can show how they got more deeply involved and enthusiastic with If your student is part of the cybersecurity team, they could parlay that interest into a summer internship at a nearby business or volunteer position for a nonprofit that teaches younger students about cybersecurity and computers.   

The most competitive colleges and universities in the United States obviously have academic excellence at the top of their criteria list, but extraordinary extracurriculars are very important too. Colleges like to learn about students’ nonacademic interests and extracurriculars and how they are engaged and committed to those activities. We remind students that means quality over quantity. In other words, being a member of eight clubs is less impressive than demonstrated passion in one or two activities.

Discussing a spike in the college essay is one great way for your student to stand out, but it isn’t the only way. To learn how to give your student the best chance of acceptance at their dream college, call Huntington. We’ll discuss our programs for high school students who are preparing for college academics, including our popular SAT/ACT prep programs. Call 1-800 CAN LEARN today.