Every college and university seeks to cultivate a class. Academically, it is not uncommon to hear that at top schools, more than 75% of admitted students have a GPA of 4.0 or higher. Or that more than 30% of admitted students have perfect SAT scores and that well over 75% of admitted students have 1400+ in Critical Reading and Math. If you belong to this elite group of students seeking admissions into the top 20 colleges and universities, beware you’re not alone. Stellar academic is not enough to make you stand out in a highly competitive admissions pool. With admit rates of a single digit, other personal qualities and demonstrated skillsets must prevail.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to go out and get super involved. You need to be thoughtful of how each activity that you’re engaged in represents you. As an applicant applying to be holistically evaluated, you need to present a comprehensive and clear impression of who you are and what matters to you. To effectively do this requires you to layer your involvement in a way in which your activities over the last three years become the building blocks that holistically shape your experiences and outlook.
Let’s say for example, in ninth grade you volunteered to mentor elementary school students in math for two hours a week to be followed by your weekly volunteer work at a senior citizen center during your sophomore year and in your Junior year; you became an aide at a hospital to work with children with disabilities. At first glance, these involvements may seem superficial, but the power of a personal statement can convey so much more. It can show a level of commitment to service that explains your motivation rooted in a personal experience of having family members who have dyslexia or battling cancer. Additionally, the subsequent summer research with faculty at nearby college or university is indicative of your determination. As a result your collective experiences, from home, volunteer work and/or research work, can influence you to consider a study in a variety of disciplines ranging from social work, occupational therapy to oncology.
Weaving a cohesive story is one significant way to go beyond the ordinary. It shows heart, a genuine human quality that will make you stand out among academically equally qualified candidates. As you consider future involvements, make sure they align with your academic and professional goals.