How to improve your college application

There you are. Sitting at your desk listening to your teacher go on and on about the Pythagorean Theorem and why it is important to master so that you test well and can get into college. Per usual, you struggle to focus and your mind starts to wander. In that exact moment, you begin to wonder, what things actually look good on a college application? You know the stereotypical importance of getting good grades and scoring well on your ACT or SAT but you really haven’t thought much about your college application holistically. Does HOSA look good? Does JROTC look good? Does AVID? Thankfully, this blog should help you understand what things colleges will be impressed by so that you can continue to work on maintaining your focus in math class, and get those good grades too.

How to improve your college application | Image

Clubs and Organizations Let’s first start by talking about clubs and organizations. Clubs and organizations are certainly activities that you can include on your college application that will strengthen your application. There are likely going to be many clubs and organizations to choose from at your school, so you should focus on those clubs that you are truly interested in, that have leadership opportunities, that are unique, and that are well known. Participating in clubs and activities that you are interested in will likely align with the majors or course of study you are planning to pursue. Colleges love this – as it shows that you are a passionate and dedicated student who is invested in their learning. After finding clubs that you are interested in, it could be beneficial to focus on participating in clubs that would provide leadership opportunities. Typically, colleges would prefer that you have some type of leadership position such as President, Treasurer, etc. than just a general member to further show your dedication. Next, colleges prefer to see clubs and activities on an application that are both unique and well-known.

Simply put – stand out from the others that will also be applying to the school. Clubs like HOSA, National Honor Society, and JROTC are generally favorable when coupled with leadership and longevity. However, the more unique the club or organization, the better. Are there clubs that you can join that are selective in nature? Are there organizations that you can apply to be part of outside of school? Are there clubs and organizations that aren’t offered at your school that you could start?

Here is a list of some common clubs and organizations that may be offered at your school:

  • FFA (Future Farmers of America)
  • HOSA (Health Occupation Students of America)
  • NHS (National Honor Society)
  • FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes)


So you’ve identified some clubs and organizations that you can be a part of, but what else would look good on a college application? Have you ever thought about volunteering? Volunteering is another excellent activity that you can participate in that will impress college admissions committees. Sometimes there might be volunteer opportunities in your school such as food drives, mentoring programs, or recycling programs. Other times you may feel more aligned with other opportunities in the community. Check out your local animal shelters, food pantries, and other community-based organizations that may be accepting volunteers to help carry out their mission and goals.

Why is volunteering such a great “thing” to include in your application? This activity shows colleges that you are involved in your community and proves that you would engage in their campus community if chosen for admission. If you aren’t sure where to start, identify some areas of your community that are in need or areas that you have a particular interest in. This should help you find someplace to start searching for volunteer opportunities. If you’re really a go-getter you could lead a school supply or food drive with a teacher as a sponsor!

Here are some common volunteer opportunities that may be available in your area:

  • Food Banks
  • Animal Shelters
  • Nursing Homes
  • Homeless Shelters
  • Hospitals
  • Children’s Camps
  • After School Programs
  • Elementary Schools
  • Libraries


You’re probably thinking about going to college in order to get a good-paying job that you are passionate about and excited about! Internships are a great way to get work experience and continue showing college’s that you are passionate about your course of study and dedicated to your growth as a student. In case you are not sure what internships are – Internships are selective positions with companies that give you shadowing and work experience purely for learning purposes. Some internships are paid and others are not, however, as a high schooler you can anticipate that these will be unpaid. Your high school counselor may know of some opportunities, but a good way to get started in your search is to identify an area of work you would like to grow in and start reaching out to the organizations that do that type of work. Keep in mind that if you land an internship, these folks could be great individuals to get recommendation letters from when it comes time to apply for college as they can give a unique perspective that isn’t academic!

Here are some common spaces where internships may be offered for high schoolers:

  • Political campaigns
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Local radio stations/newspapers/news
  • Local small businesses
  • Healthcare


Similarly to internships, part-time jobs can be another great “thing” to add to your college applications. Just like internships, these are a great way to help you gain skills in the industry you may be planning to pursue. Can’t get a job in the industry, that’s totally okay! Any part-time job is bound to help you gain skills that will be valuable on any college campus. What types of skills? Skills such as community service, time management, task management, and teamwork are all skills that can likely be developed in part-time jobs likely available to high schoolers. Not sure where to start? Just do a simple Google search! You’ll want to make sure that the jobs you find can employ people of your age and then further that they will work around your student schedule! After you apply – it wouldn’t hurt to give them a call and express your interest so that you stand out!

Some places to consider applying to for part-time jobs:

  • Fast Food Restaurants
  • After school programs
  • Supermarkets
  • Grocery Stores
  • Pet Stores
  • Babysitting

Summer Programs

Ahh, it’s summer break and all you want to do is play video games, binge-watch your favorite TV shows, and relax. However, these things won’t necessarily help your college applications! Another “thing” that may look good to admissions is participation in summer activities. Summer activities are common for many high school students! They may take place in their local community, or they may be slightly more competitive and take place in other areas around the United States or the world. It is important to start your research for these early. Some may even be hosted on the campuses of colleges and universities near you! Ask your college counselor for recommendations of programs they may know about as these vary widely across schools! Having a productive summer shows that you are dedicated to learning and are willing to take that learning into your own hands.

Some ideas for Summer Programs:

  • Academic camps
  • On-campus college events
  • Selective programs in major cities
  • Advocacy programs
  • Upward Bound or other scholar programs

Hopefully, you now have a good idea of the things that will look good on college applications besides good grades and strong testing scores. As you can see there are a ton of other beneficial and important activities to include in your college application besides that Pythagorean Theorem that your teacher won’t stop talking about. So while it is super important to make sure that you get those good grades your parents have always been talking about, and to study for those big scary standardized tests – make sure to explore clubs/organizations, volunteering, internships, part-time jobs, and summer programs to help you stand out and develop the skills needed to be successful in your college search!

All of our blog posts are written by Former College Admission Officers who serve as members of our admission consultant team.

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