Lose weight? Stop biting your nails? Quit selling your little brother’s possessions on Ebay? Sure, you can make those resolutions (and your little brother will probably thank you). But they won’t help you get into college. Here are five resolutions that colleges would love to see all future applicants make.
1. Learn what you love.
What’s your favorite subject? Who’s your favorite teacher? What subject would you like to know more about? Students who have answers to those questions are engaged learners. That’s why colleges love high school students who enjoy learning new things both in and out of school. They know it is those students who will ultimately thrive in the college community of learning. So if you have a favorite class, make an effort to participate. If you have a favorite teacher, make the most of that experience. And if you want to learn more about anything from calculus to cooking, take a summer school course. Always be on the lookout for what you would love to learn.
2. Participate in class.
Students who participate in class are demonstrating that they are engaged and interested. They make the class more productive for everyone by participating and asking intelligent questions. These are the kinds of studends colleges want in their classrooms. So if you are a regular class participator, keep it up. And if you’re the shy type, set a goal for yourself to put your hand up at least once in every class. Your teacher will see that you are doing more than just taking up a seat, and you’ll show the colleges that you’re ready for the college classroom.
3. Show initiative.
Students with initiative actively think about what interests them and ask themselves, “How can I get even more involved?” “What else could I do to pursue this?” “What can I do that would make my current activities even more interesting and fun?” The surfer who calls the local community college to find out if they’d like someone to teach a surfing class has initiative. The student who walks into the public library and asks if she can get involved in the literacy program, the athlete who calls the sports camp and asks if there’s a summer job available, and the mathematician who emails a college professor and ends up doing summer research all have initiative. And most importantly, initiative means that you don’t let your parents organize these involvements for you. Colleges know that students with initiative are the ones who will ultimately make big impacts on their campus communities once they get to college.
4. Think about what you want your college experience to be like.
It’s never a good idea to tell a college you want to attend their school because, "It’s a good school." Students who say that look like they’re just applying to names, not colleges. The most successful college applicants do a lot of college soul searching about what they hope and expect their college experiences will be like. So start asking yourself what part of college academics you are most excited about. In what kind of college environment do you think you would flourish socially and academically? What are you hoping to gain from your college experience (in addition to a degree)? You don’t need answers to all of these questions right away. But thinking about them will show the colleges that you are a mature college seeker.
5. Just be yourself.
In a lot of ways, an admissions officer selecting a freshman class is a lot like a casting director choosing a cast for a movie. Everybody can’t look, act, and talk exactly the same; you need different characters to fulfill the variety of roles in the film. So don’t try to be what you think colleges want you to be–just be yourself. If you really like math, embrace it. Pursue your interest and take additional math classes. Join the math club and become its fearless leader. Openly admit that you have a relationship with math that borders on the romantic. Colleges like students who are comfortable with who they are and what they stand for, not those who spend four years trying to become something they’re not. So just be who you are and be proud of it. You’ll make the colleges, and yourself, a lot happier.