Six Ways Teens Can Set Themselves Apart on College Applications

By Huntington Learning Center

Applying to college is more than just filling out an online form and sending off some transcripts. Your teen should consider it an opportunity to introduce themselves to colleges and make a compelling case for why they should extend an admission offer to your teen. With so many students applying to colleges, how can your teen stand out from the masses? Here are a few tips:

  1. Take challenging classes. Students who have the opportunity to take honors or advanced classes and succeed in them should absolutely do so. While grades and Grade Point Average (GPA) are at the top of the list of factors that colleges consider important, the strength of those classes matters almost as much. So, a B+ in Honors Chemistry is going to impress admission officers more than a B+ in a less challenging science class.
  2. Work hard and stay focused on grades. As much as you might like to tell your teen that grades are just one measurement of success, the reality is that colleges do care about your teen’s grades in high school – a lot. In fact, GPA and grades in college preparatory classes are at the very top of the list of factors that colleges weigh when looking at applicants.
  3. Show what your teen cares about in addition to school. Most students assume that a long list of extracurricular activities is going to excite colleges. Remind your teen: quality over quantity. Colleges want to get to know your teen as an individual with passions, drive, and interests. In other words, your teen should focus on showing colleges how they spent time outside of school and why those activities have been important and meaningful.
  4. Show commitment. Colleges are interested in students who are dedicated to school, their peers and families, their communities, and their passions. When it comes to activities, that means that your teen should be genuine about the things toward which they put time and effort (and not just do them halfheartedly to “look good” to colleges). Academically, your teen should always strive to do their best. High grades, improvement (e.g. raising a B freshman year to an A sophomore year), and balancing school with other things (e.g. a sport, a part-time job, and family responsibilities) all demonstrate commitment.
  5. Consider the SAT or ACT an opportunity to stand out even more. Many colleges are temporarily not requiring students to submit standardized test scores with their applications. But even if the college to which your teen applies doesn’t require SAT or ACT scores, it’s worth thinking about taking the exams if your teen has the time and drive to prepare well. A strong score can only bolster your teen’s overall application and qualify them for college scholarships. And if your teen wasn’t pleased with scores from the first SA or ACT attempt, consider registering them for an individualized test prep program with Huntington.
  6. Be thorough. If there’s a definite way for your teen to stand out in a bad way in the college application, it is to blow off directions, forget to fill out important information, or submit an essay with typos. Your teen’s application should be complete, informative, free of errors, and insightful (i.e. don’t let your teen submit an essay that just repeats the resume). Encourage your teen to put the best foot forward. Read our blog on guiding your teen through college admissions.

Applying to college is a big milestone in your teen’s life and something to take seriously. Remind your teen to give the process sufficient time and effort! If your teen wants that extra boost, contact Huntington. We can help your teen raise their GPA (and maintain it), earn strong SAT or ACT scores, improve those all-important test-taking and essay-writing skills, and much more.

Call us today at 1-800 CAN LEARN to discuss how we can help your teen succeed in high school and approach the college application process with confidence.


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