Six Unusual Ways to Build Your Application for College
If you’re worried about getting into college, you’re not alone. High school students are under more pressure than ever to stand out from the crowd of college applicants. Unless you’re at the pinnacle of your class, chances are your grades and test scores are similar to those of hundreds or even thousands of other applicants—even if you get good grades. If this is the case—and for most students, it is—you can make yourself stand out with your extracurriculars. Of course, some extracurricular achievements stand out more than others. Here are a few nontraditional extracurricular activities that will set you apart.
Start a business
Most new businesses fail—and those are the businesses started by adults and professionals in their industries. You’ll look incredibly impressive if you start a business in high school and keep it running—even if you don’t make that much money. With the Internet, these days it doesn’t take a lot of capital to start an online business. Possibilities include selling your web design, SEO or technical skills, selling your fashions and jewelry on Etsy, or self-publishing and selling your own book online.
Start a nonprofit
Do you have a passion for a cause? If so, don’t just volunteer—start an organization that will help. A nonprofit is an organization dedicated to supporting an issue or matter of public or private concern or interest—such as the arts, religion, research, politics, education, or homeless relief. Nonprofits aren’t in existence to make money, so they aren’t subject to income taxes. Lots of people have successfully opened nonprofits on their own—and a dedicated high school student could be able to start a nonprofit organization in the summertime and, with some dedicated volunteers, keep it running during the school year.
Travel for research
Want to know about your cultural heritage? Fascinated with Andean folk music, Aboriginal rock art, or British football hooligan culture? Take a summer trip to immerse yourself in your obsession. Make sure the trip has some sort of cultural or academic purpose beyond having fun. This experience could translate into an interesting Senior Project—or it could become an important part of a stand-out college essay.
Write and publish a book
Self-publishing is easier than ever these days. If you always wanted to write, what are you waiting for? Write your own book. Submit it to publishers, but don’t stop there—look into self-publishing and submitting your book to local libraries and independent book stores. You could even promote and sell your book online. If you’ve written a strong book of poems, piece of fiction, or even a nonfiction account of your life that reads well—and have had some success persuading local bookstores and libraries to carry it—you’ll have done more than most high school students do in four years.
Work a political campaign
If you have strong political passions, don’t just talk about them. Do something about it. Volunteer to campaign for a political candidate you believe in. Organize marches and protests. Start a political mailing list. Demonstrate your commitment to important public causes. Colleges will appreciate your passion and commitment—and you’ll have material to write an essay more interesting than most applicants’.
Volunteer in an underdeveloped country
Some students write application essays about their summer job or their relationship with their grandparents. Your essay will be about your experience working on a fair-trade farm in Peru or helping disaster recovery efforts in Haiti. There are plenty of volunteer organizations that will allow you to go for a short period to help with volunteer efforts overseas or in the US. This will provide you with a valuable experience—and a qualification that colleges will find fascinating.
Getting into college isn’t easy. More and more, it’s necessary to be sure your college application stands out—in terms of your personal history and passion as well as the quality of your grades and test scores. Spend a summer or two during your high school years doing something extraordinary. Start a business or nonprofit, volunteer in an underdeveloped country or disaster area, or get involved in your community in a meaningful way. With one of these activities under your belt, your application will definitely stand out.
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