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College Admissions: 3 Ways to Build Application Credentials

Monday, November 10, 2014


Every year, students and parents ask me how to stand out in the admissions process. While there are many answers, and they differ from one student to the next, most students miss out on a wealth of opportunities to distinguish themselves with awards or publishing credentials.  And this area is an important differentiator in the realm of elite college admissions. Students aiming for highly competitive colleges need to think about how to build their resume of awards, honors and publications early in high school. Here

are some of the most accessible and impressive venues to showcase student skills and win acclaim.

School Club Awards

The closest opportunities for awards exist in school clubs, and students often fail to leverage these resources. Debate Club, Mock Trial, DECA, Math Club, Science Olympiad, Model UN and other organizations provide a wealth of occasions for students to compete for titles. Top colleges love a student who is passionate about an interest and willing to compete locally and nationally. One downside - many athletes tell me that they have to choose between school clubs and sports because the meeting times conflict. For those students, they need to find opportunities outside of school, which we explore below.

Academic Competitions

The Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology is a nationwide program which allows individuals and teams to showcase research projects and receive awards and scholarships of up to $100,000. The National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium is another venue for talented students to submit their research in medicine, engineering, the environment and a variety of other scientific disciplines. Regional winners progress to a national competition, and finalists receive awards of $12,000.

If science and math aren’t your fortes, then perhaps the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are more your style. Students can enter work in 30 categories, including Drawing, Painting, Photography, Film & Animation, Fashion, Video Games, Poetry, Short Story and Humor. Regional and national awards result in scholarships that range from $500 to $10,000.

Get Published!

Another overlooked area that provides impressive recognition for college applications is the world of student-centered publications. Teens produce dozens of papers for English and history classes, only to then bury them in a hard disk somewhere on their PC. Why not submit your work to acclaimed publications that focus on student writing?

For more than 30 years, the Concord Review has been the gold standard for recognition of history research and essays. They boast an impressive resume of where their writers have matriculated, including many Ivy League universities. Top writers each year receive the prestigious Ralph Waldo Emerson Award. If you are a poet, fiction or non-fiction writer, there are dozens of publications and contests to take advantage of. The Newport Review, Louisville Review and Teen Ink are just a few that focus on student writing.

Remember, junior year is often too late to start building your resume for college apps. Students need to start participating in clubs, competitions and other opportunities to showcase their interests and talents in 9th and 10th grades. So, wherever your strengths and passions lie, investigate opportunities and get noticed!

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC, a private college admissions counseling company based in Providence, Rhode Island. www.collegeadvisorsonline.com

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 14, 2011.


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