How to REALLY Stand Out to College Admissions Teams

It’s time to say it: Student resumés are starting to all look exactly the same.

In an attempt to stand out to colleges, students take on every extra activity that they can, in addition to their regular schoolwork and other college prep.

They’re volunteering for everything, and joining every sports team, and on the Yearbook committee and they’re the Student Body Treasurer.

They’re working at summer camps and fast food restaurants. They’re involved with the church youth group and they’re in Scouts.

Maybe they’re even Valedictorian!


And while these are all good activities to be involved in, none of them are going to make students stand out.

(No, not even being Valedictorian… there are 24000 high schools in America, and each one has a valedictorian. While an impressive feat, it’s not a unique accomplishment.)

So if being Valedictorian won’t even make a student stand out, you can imagine that volunteering at an animal shelter or lifeguarding at the pool won’t either.

Now I want to be clear: There's NOTHING WRONG with doing any of these extra-curriculars. If the student loves doing them, or is learning something from them, then this is all that matters.

But the bottom line is, just doing these things will not make you stand out to colleges.

When every student is doing these things in an attempt to stand out to college admissions teams, the opposite starts to happen - they start to blend in.

In addition to blending in, these students also start burning out. When their schedules are jam packed with every organization and activity possible, they end up being pushed too hard, trying to get everything done that they exhaust themselves.

In turn, their grades and test scores can suffer.

All because they’re worried about what they THINK Admissions Officers want to see, instead of working on MEANINGFUL projects and activities that they are passionate about, and that highlight their growth, perspectives and individuality.

Think about it: colleges don’t want every student to be clones of one another.

In fact, one of the most surefire ways to get into the college of your dreams (even without the highest test scores and GPA), is to bring some unique ideas, experiences and interests to the school.

I call this a ‘Stand-Out Factor’.

A Stand-Out Factor separates you from all the other students who will be applying for the same schools and scholarships as you.

It's a hook, which highlights you as a person who has unique and interesting thoughts, and leaves admissions committees thinking:

“We need to have this student at our school”.

Stand-Out Factors are different for every student, depending on their interests, past experiences, passions, and future goals.

There's no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to finding a students Stand Out Factor. It takes lots of brainstorming, throwing around ideas and collaboration with parents, counselors and other professionals to make it happen.

Some examples of Stand Out Factors that I’ve helped students come up with and execute include:

  • Starting a business

  • Starting a volunteer organization

  • Lobbying to the local government for a change in policy

  • Starting a social endeavour, such as organizing a community meal for the homeless people in the area

  • Organizing and running a fundraiser to raise money for a charity important to the student.

  • Being featured in major media

  • Speak at a conference about a personal past experience

There's a lot of work involved with having a TRUE Stand Out Factor, but the AMAZING, AUTHENTIC admissions essays and scholarship applications that come from the experience will make it all worth it.

(and get you into the school of your dreams and win you lots of scholarship money $$$).


I recently held a FREE LIVE training, where we covered: 

  •  The 4 things college admissions officers look at when reviewing college applications

    • The importance of QUALITY over QUANTITY when it comes to extra-curricular activities.

  • How to highlight your students GROWTH, PASSION and INDIVIDUALITY to stand out when applying for college (which is what the admissions teams REALLY care about!)

You missed it live, but you can catch the replay HERE.