Crafting an Application That Stands Out

unique, stand out, different

Concerned about the fast-approaching college application deadlines? 


We admit, filling out the applications, communicating honors and activities, writing the personal statement and supplemental essays- the enormity of it all can be overwhelming. Then, add in the impact of recent events on extracurriculars, schools going test-optional, and the fACT that admissions officers now spend an average of only 4-6 minutes per application- how can a student make their application stand out?

You have great achievements and accomplishments that showcase your academic abilities, as well as your positive participation and success in both in-class and out of class involvement.  You have significant honors and distinctions that are highly impressive.

The trick is to communicate these accolades clearly, so that admissions officers can’t possibly miss them.

You’ll want to ensure that your personal information, academic honors, and extra-curricular activities are highlighted positively and that they accurately reflect your experiences.  Most of the following recommendations are based on providing clarity for the readers of your application.  The goal is to be able to:

  • Provide information about yourself that identifies what makes you unique or special

  • Ensure that you can demonstrate that you have good written communication skills 

  • Provide information as to what has impacted your life

  • Demonstrate how you will fit into/contribute to the community at your target schools

You have been involved in meaningful activities, and your sustained commitment is important for all universities. In addition to giving an overview of what these activities entailed, be sure to make them relevant to your application and your aspirations. Remember that throughout your application, admissions officers are looking to understand what makes you unique and how you connect with the University’s values and goals.

In order to make these activities relevant and informative, make sure you focus on what duties you carried out, what experience you gained, any leadership/responsibilities that you held, and most importantly what you learned from your experience. You’ll have to get creative because on the Common App you’ve only got 50 characters for the position/leadership description and organization name and 150 characters for the description, so do your best to use the space you are allocated to your advantage by showing what you gained from each activity. 

One way you can improve your activity sections is by thinking for each one:

  • What tasks you did

  • The problems that you solved

  • The skills or lessons that you gained

  • What impact you had

  • How you applied what you learned

Now that your honors and activities are covered, let’s focus on the personal statement, Your essay should clearly stand out and provide readers with information on the major experience(s) that has shaped you into the person you are today.  It should paint a clear picture of your character development in a positive way. In this regard you want to ask yourself the following questions regarding the experience you plan to share:

  • How did this experience influence my character development?

  • What major life choices did I make as a result of this experience?

  • What life lesson did I learn?

  • What impact did this experience have on others?

  • How did this experience impact my career path or choice(s), aspirations or plans for the future?

  • What significant positive personal change or growth came about as a result of this experience?

Remember, this application is a reflection of you.  College Admissions officers review your application and essay to determine if you are a good fit and what you have to offer.  Your essay should showcase your best qualities. 

Once you apply these tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating an application that stands out. If you want to increase your certainty that it does, we’re here to help. Let our real admissions officers review your application today, and we’ll comb through it section-by-section to make sure you haven’t missed a single detail and that it’s the best it can possibly be. Best of luck, and we look forward to hearing from you soon! 


-The ApplyHereFirst Team