5 Things That Look Good on College Applications

St. Agnes Academy
Curious about things that look good on college applications? Keep reading for five concrete suggestions on how to make your application stand out.
The college application process is a pivotal milestone in the journey of every high school student. It's when years of hard work, dedication, and extracurricular activities come together to create a snapshot of who you are as a student and individual.

As you begin high school, starting a log with any activities, awards, or special memories you experience is a good idea. This document will prove invaluable when it comes time to apply to colleges years later.

As colleges become increasingly selective, making your application stand out is essential. While academic performance is undoubtedly crucial, there are other aspects that admissions committees consider. Today, we'll explore five things that look good on college applications. 

How to Craft a Well-Rounded College Application

The following five elements can help you shine amidst a sea of applicants, showcasing your unique qualities and increasing your chances of acceptance to the perfect college on your list.

1. Strong Academic Performance

Let's start with the foundation of your college application: your academic record. Your high school grades and test scores (such as your SAT or ACT score) are the primary indicators of your academic ability. Admissions committees closely examine these aspects to gauge how well you'll perform academically in their institution.

If you graduate from a large public high school, your grades will be among the first data points to help you stand out. While college preparatory schools like St. Agnes do not rank students upon graduation, they have solid reputations for their academic rigor and quality of alumnae.  

A high GPA and competitive standardized test scores demonstrate your commitment to your studies and ability to excel in a challenging academic environment. Consistency is critical here; it's not just about acing one or two classes but consistently performing well across various subjects.

While strong grades are essential, taking rigorous courses such as Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) can further enhance your application. While advanced courses are impressive, note that the consistency of high grades might be more important. A low grade in an advanced class might not help you as much as a consistently high grade in a regular-level course. 

Additionally, colleges often consider the trend in your academic performance. Suppose you've shown improvement over time or faced challenges but overcame them. In that case, that can reflect positively on your application.

In your personal statement or interviews, you can also discuss your academic interests and goals to give a more comprehensive picture of your passion for learning. There is always time for improvement in your high school career.

If you find yourself struggling, reach out to your counselor or academic services center to see what resources might be available to you. You never know what skills you might take away!

2. Extracurricular Involvement and Leadership Abilities

Beyond academics, colleges are interested in various kinds of extracurricular activities that display leadership skills. A sample of items to include on your application include the following:

  • Clubs
  • Volunteer work
  • Internships
  • Work experience (including part-time jobs)
  • Other activities you've pursued outside the classroom

College admissions officers and committees value students who are academically accomplished and well-rounded individuals who contribute to their communities and play an important part in building up others.

Active participation in clubs and organizations demonstrates your commitment to personal growth and community engagement. However, it's not just about being a member; leadership roles within these groups can significantly enhance your application. Holding positions such as club president, team captain, or committee chairperson showcases your ability to take initiative, lead others, and make a positive impact.

Volunteer work is another avenue for demonstrating your commitment to service and community. Whether you've volunteered at a local charity, participated in environmental cleanup efforts, or engaged in outreach programs, these experiences highlight your dedication to making a difference in the world.

Schools like St. Agnes Academy instill the values of community service in their students all four years of high school. A required service project is completed by every student upon graduation. These service projects prove to be incredibly fulfilling but also stand out on resumes and applications for years to come. 

3. Unique Achievements and Awards

While strong academics and extracurricular involvement are vital, unique achievements and awards truly make your college application stand out. These can be in any area, from academics to the arts, sports, or even personal projects. Admissions committees appreciate applicants who have demonstrated exceptional skills, passion, and dedication in a particular domain.

For instance, if you've won a national science competition, received recognition for your artistic talents, or achieved excellence in a niche field, highlight these achievements in your application. Such accomplishments showcase your talent and ability to set goals, work tirelessly toward them, and succeed in a competitive environment.

Consider any publications, research projects, or entrepreneurial ventures you've undertaken. These can be powerful indicators of your intellectual curiosity and innovation. Any awards or accolades received for these endeavors can significantly boost your application's appeal.

Take time to research competitions or scholarships in areas that interest you. Financial and recognition-only awards are available in hundreds of genres; all it takes is the proper search to find them. Talk to your high school teachers, counselors, or the Office of Alumnae Relations to see what insights they may have to guide you to the right person.

4. Strong Letters of Recommendation

Your college application isn't just about how you present yourself; it's also about what others say about you. Letters of recommendation provide valuable insights into your character, work ethic, and potential as a college student. These letters are typically written by teachers, mentors, or supervisors who have worked closely with you and can vouch for your qualities.

Selecting the right individuals to write your recommendations is crucial. Ideally, choosing individuals who can speak to different aspects of your character and abilities would be best; for example, a teacher who can highlight your academic prowess, a coach who can discuss your leadership on the field, or a community leader who attests to your commitment to service.

Building solid relationships with your recommenders is essential to ensure strong letters of recommendation. This means actively participating in class, seeking help when needed, and demonstrating passion and dedication in extracurricular activities.

When you request recommendations, give your recommenders ample time to write them and include any specific information or anecdotes to help them craft compelling letters. 

As important as a well-written letter is, so is the thank you note that follows. Likely, those writing letters for you are also writing other letters. A simple note of gratitude will go a long way in showing your appreciation for the letter writer.

5. Well-Crafted Personal Statement

Your personal statement, often called a college essay, is your chance to bring your application to life. It's an opportunity to showcase your personality, experiences, and aspirations in a more personal and narrative manner. A well-crafted personal statement can make a significant difference in the admissions process.

In your personal statement, focus on telling a compelling story that reveals your character and values. Avoid reiterating your academic achievements or extracurricular activities; instead, dive deeper into your motivations, challenges you've faced, and lessons you've learned.

Discussing personal growth, moments of resilience, or transformative experiences can make your essay more memorable. Refrain from thinking of other applicants' personal statements. Your story is unique to you; everyone grows up with different life experiences. 

Moreover, your personal statement should connect your past experiences to your future goals. Explain why you're interested in the specific college and how their programs align with your aspirations. Demonstrating that you've thoroughly researched the institution and can articulate why it's the right fit for you can set you apart from other applicants.

Consider working with your college counselors or members of the English department to flesh out ideas, check your syntax, or even offer an opinion on your personal statements. The St. Agnes College Counseling Department has countless resources and knowledge to help you get "unstuck" when writing an essay.

Things That Look Good on College Applications: Stand Out As Yourself

Authenticity is crucial when crafting your college application. While you may feel tempted to embellish here and there, it will only hurt you in the long run. The more authentic your application is, the more likely you will find a perfect fit for a college acceptance. 

When crafting your college application, it's important to remember that it's not just about showcasing your academic achievements. Admissions committees seek well-rounded individuals who will contribute to their campus communities.

Therefore, a robust application includes a combination of academic excellence, extracurricular involvement and leadership, unique achievements and awards, compelling letters of recommendation, and a well-crafted personal statement.

By carefully curating these elements, you can create an application that looks good on college applications and increases your chances of gaining admission to the institution of your dreams.

Whether you are still at the beginning of your high school career or are in the throws of college applications, know that you are not alone. Tap into your friends, family, and school resources to help you put your best efforts forward. Start early, plan accordingly, and take your time.

Still unsettled about things that look good on college applications? Reach out to the College Counseling Department at St. Agnes today to learn ways we can assist you in achieving your college application goals.

Feeling overwhelmed by the different things to include on your college application? Talk to a St. Agnes Wellness Counselor about coping mechanisms to help you maintain a healthy outlook during this somewhat daunting process.