Maximizing Your High School Career and College Application

There are several activities that can be used to boost your college application: including sports, clubs, organizations, AP classes, and so much more. How do you find what is right for you to get into your dream school? In a recent BeyondDreams webinar, Columbia University student Mira Soni, Boston University student Andrew Kelbley, UCLA student Dhruv Khosla, and Notre Dame student Dave Mohan, shared their advice on what you can do to maximize your college application. The full webinar is posted on the BeyondDreams YouTube channel, but here are a few summarized tips and tricks!

Choosing Your High School Classes

Colleges want to see you challenge yourself and see how well you did in those classes. To do so, it is recommended to take the AP courses that your school offers. While the top schools and Ivy Leagues usually do not take AP credits, most other universities do. Look at the college you want to attend and find the classes that you want to get ahead in for your major and take AP credits accordingly. If it is not available, a great option is to dual enroll at your local community college. It is best to take challenging classes in the subjects that you are good at and care about, since those will show the best results.

Choosing Activities That Make You Stand Out

Think of your application as a story that you are telling about yourself. In this narrative, it helps to focus on a few activities that you are dedicated to and have leadership roles in. It may help to do activities that are vaguely related to the college you want to attend. For example, if you want to go to Harvard University, programs like the Harvard Model UN can help you interact with the university and prove your commitment. However, if you are going to be well-rounded, try to tie the different pieces together to create a cohesive narrative of who you are. The most important factor is to do something that you enjoy and can be successful in. It shows in your application if you are doing activities just to get into college, so make sure you are doing something you truly love!

Choosing the Right Amount of Extracurriculars: Quality Over Quantity

It is common to hear about colleges wanting a specific number of extracurriculars to be accepted. However, that is not the case. The number of extracurriculars will not be the sole factor towards your acceptance, and admissions counselors will not be counting quantity either. Rather, a deciding factor would be your commitment and excitement towards these activities. It is important to put the ones you are passionate about as a top priority. As a result, most people tend to focus on a few activities that they enjoy and have leadership positions in. You can do as many or as little extracurriculars as you want, as long as you are thoroughly enjoying them. Remember that quality is more important than quantity.

How to Stand Out in Your College Application Essay

The college application essay is one of the most integral factors in the college admissions process, so it must be done meticulously. The first step is to choose an essay prompt that you can answer best. “Remember that all questions are fundamentally asking who you are, what you have learned that has greatly formed who you are, and what you bring to the school,” stated Mira Soni from Columbia University. She recommends to free-write about all the activities and challenges that you have experienced within the past 2-3 years. Next, look at each of them and understand what it shows as an applicant. Then, see which of them feels most relevant and find a prompt to match it. When writing your essay, it is important to caterthe question to someone who doesn’t know you. Make sure to highlight what is important to you and why, and try to display your narrative in the process. It doesn’t need to be too artsy, but don’t be afraid to take risks to stand out! For example, Dave Mohan from Notre Dame said, “My personal statement was an extended metaphor between chess and drugs, so it is okay to do a little risk-taking!” Try to inject your personality into the essay, as it helps build a more complete view of who you are.

How to Manage Workload in High School

“People who have good sleep schedules and use proper wellness strategies, such as healthy eating, exercising, and relaxing, always do better at school,” according to Andrew Kelbley from Boston University. Everyone has experienced burnout throughout their high school career, which is when you overwork yourself to an unhealthy extent and then cannot do anymore. First, step back and reevaluate your current workload. Ask yourself,

  • Am I satisfied with my current quality of work?

  • Do I get time to do the activities I really love?

  • Do I always have the energy and motivation to get my work done?

  • Am I generally relaxed instead of stressed?

If you answered no to most of these, you may be experiencing symptoms of burnout. To prevent this, taking an easier class or having fewer activities may help. Saying no to unnecessary work and consistently checking in with yourself are great ways to balance your workload. Another great way to prevent burnout is a planning method by scheduling tasks and staying realistic when doing so. Also, thinking ahead by starting on your assignments weeks before it is due will help you lighten your workload in the future.

While college applications may seem daunting, there are many actions you can take today to ensure your application is the best it can be. Choose the classes and extracurriculars that you are truly passionate about, and create a cohesive story through your activities. These key tips will ensure the maximization of your college application, as well as your acceptance to your dream college!


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