Colleges want to know that you are going to be a contributing member to their campus community. That means that they aren’t just evaluating the activities in which you participated; they're looking for students who made an impact during their involvement.
Sometimes the impact you make is big and noticeable. Other times, it’s more subtle. But big or small, impact is important. So make sure to communicate where you made yours.
- You didn’t hold a leadership position in the French Club, but it was your idea to host a school lunch as a fundraiser, which raised $800 for the club.
- You resurrected the then-defunct school newspaper, secured sponsorships and advertising to fund it, and served as Editor-in-Chief (big impact).
- You’ve always loved giving haircuts to your friends, and you’re pretty good at it. So, you did the hair and make-up for all the actors and actresses in the school play.
- You started a canned food collection program that eventually donated 1200 cans of food to local homeless shelters (big impact).
- You love to bake. So, when the junior class held its first “junior lock-in,” when the entire junior class stayed in the gym for an entire night doing team- and trust-building exercises with the youth minister at your school, you baked over 600 chocolate chip cookies – and none of them were left by the morning!
Colleges know that these students won't stop making their impact once they get to college. When you're applying, think about ways you might be able to make an impact once you get there. Then talk about how you see yourself doing it. Your ideas for contributions don’t have to be big, like starting a campus-wide community service group. They can be small things that make other peoples' college experiences even better.
- A Collegewise student who wrote his essay about his work at a hamburger stand mentioned in his last paragraph that, if a student in his dorm needed a double-cheeseburger deluxe to get through finals, he’d be right there with his spatula.
- One of our kids wrote her essay about working as an emergency medical technician and said that she would know exactly what to do if someone in her dorm slipped and hit her head in the shower.
- A student who loved to play guitar wrote about how much he enjoyed teaching his little brother to play, and that he was anxious to do the same with others in his dorm.
In your essays and applications, try to communicate at least one way in which you made an impact on your school, community, club, team, organization, etc. If you’re given the opportunity, talk a little bit about what you’ll give back once you get to college, too.
And remember that for your colleges to believe you when you describe how you will contribute, it’s best to be honest and not worry so much about being impressive. If you can more easily see yourself baking cookies for your dorm than you can starting a community outreach program, tell the truth about your baking prowess.