If you're like a lot of people, you probably believe that getting into a good college requires you to be the "model" candidate. Maybe you wrote it all down and somewhere, amongst all your college brochures, applications, and financial aid forms, you've got a checklist for college acceptance that looks something like this:
- Grades: Take all the hard classes you can and get on the honor roll — every semester!
- Standardized Test Scores: Study hard and get a perfect score on the SAT/ACT and any other tests you need to take.
- Recommendations: Get strong references from teachers, guidance counselors, bosses, or coaches.
- Application Essay: Be interesting and witty, but try to stay humble so the admission committee isn't put off.
- College Interview: Dress sharp and sound intelligent. (Practice in front of a mirror if needed). Perfect a good sense of humor and act mature!
How standing out can help with college acceptance
Good grades and high test scores are definitely important, but if everyone that applies meets all the same criteria that you do, then finding a way to set yourself apart from the pack is just as important.
When colleges make the admissions decision, they want a diverse student body of people with real interests and personalities, so as you get your applications together, don't just highlight the obvious. Show those college admission officers something unique about you because one thing they'll be looking for isn't specified in any of their paperwork: the hook.
Unique attributes and the admission decision
Your hook is a unique characteristic that sets you apart and makes your application jump off the pile. It could be a personal attribute, like your ethnic heritage, or it might be an unusual hobby or job. The key is that it's a little different, something that makes the admission committee remember your application and increases your chances of receiving a college admission letter. Some examples of possible hooks include:
- Personal Achievements: Perhaps you started a radio station at your school or served as editor for the yearbook.
- Special Talents: If you're an accomplished cook or a champion chess player, let them know.
- Geographical Diversity: Did you grow up in Alaska or spend a few months living in an exotic locale?
- Extracurricular Activities: Do you play the bassoon or belong to a square dance club?
- Ethnic Heritage and Socioeconomic Background: Are you a Pacific Islander, or the first person in your family to go to college?
- Leadership Qualities: All those Thursday nights spent running your school's chapter of Amnesty International look great on an application!
- Athletic Talent: Whether it's Tae Kwon Do or speed skating, athletic prowess demonstrates your commitment and discipline.
- Legacy: If your parents or grandparents attended the school, let the admission committee know about it.
A good hook is either something unusual or something to which you devoted a lot of energy. So, unless you were captain of the football team, playing football won't necessarily set you apart. However, competitive kayaking probably would!
How to decide on your hook
Remember, being focused is the key to success in the college admission process and receiving college admission letters. Instead of signing up for yet one more club or sport, or throwing up your hands because you don't think you've done enough, think about the things you do that you get the most excited about and of which you're most proud. Think about what makes you different from everyone you know. Then make sure to tell the admission committee about it in your application.