Make them notice

When a student (or that student’s parent) believes that their grades and test scores aren’t a true reflection of who they are, they often express their frustration that the college admissions process doesn’t measure or value the areas where they do excel. That’s when they’ll tell our counselors things like:

I wish they could see how much I love art.

I wish they appreciated how good she is to her younger siblings.

I wish they cared more about what a good friend I am.

Here’s an option to consider—make them notice.

Do you really love art? Enough to pursue it and learn about it and hone your skills? If you take classes after school, if you submit paintings to art competitions, if you teach art classes to kids or find other ways to (figuratively) put your art where your mouth is, the right colleges will notice.

What if you went beyond normal sibling support? I worked with a student once who began her essay, “I’m happiest when I’m in aisle four of the grocery store with two kids and 20 coupons.” To help her working parents, she did regular grocery store runs with her brother and sister, ages 7 and 9. She made an adventure out of it for them, turning the search for ingredients and the coupon-to-item match into a treasure hunt, something they did together that also helped her family. And today, she’s a happy graduate of SMU.

How good are you to your friends? What are you doing to enrich their lives beyond just being there to hang out and talk with? One former Collegewise student learned to cut and style hair. And once she did, none of her friends ever paid a hair salon again. Instead, her friends would make an appointment at her in-home salon (she’d pull a chair from the dining room into the kitchen). And she’d spend the entire day before every formal dance doing hair prep with 10-12 of her friends. She was an average student whose SAT score never cracked 1000. But her essay about her hair history was one of the best we had that year. And she was admitted to 9 out of 12 colleges she applied to.

I’m not suggesting that you have to take any interest, talent, or meaningful piece of your life to a noticeable extreme just to help you get into college. But if you wish colleges would appreciate where you really stand out, make them notice it. Put another way, be so good they can’t ignore you.