Colleges look for well-rounded students. They want a diverse group and not in terms of ethnicity & background but interests and activities and passion. It’s a long journey to a college so having a roadmap definitely helps. The sooner one starts navigating and exploring the different paths one wants to tread on the more fun and less stressful the journey is.
The college application process can seem intimidating and scary- there are so many things one needs to do to be a “good” applicant! SATs, GPA, extra-curricular, community service, leadership … the list of boxes to check can seem endless!
In essence, though, colleges are just looking for students that are passionate about _something_ and can contribute to the campus community. The best way to prepare for college isn’t to cram AP exams and write essays at the last minute; it’s to find what drives you, pick up some activities you enjoy, help the people around you, and find a sense of personal purpose. This will breed a set of skills and values that won’t just prepare you for college applications, but for the rest of your life; The goal is not to focus just on being a great applicant, but on being a great person.
To do this, having a plan definitely helps. The sooner you start navigating and exploring the different paths you might want to tread, the more fun and less stressful the journey is. When the time comes to apply to college, you will already know exactly what you want from the college experience and have the experience and skills to show it.
Here’s a roadmap for how to get there. This is a recommendation, I will work with each student to build a personalized plan based on their unique situation.
If you are in Grade 8/9, the next 4 years will be a stepping stone for your future so plan well. Explore different school clubs which interest you like debate, drama, MUN, or whatever that interests you.
Be a member of the school council and take on leadership roles in Grade 10/11. Find a local place to volunteer or connect with a nonprofit. If you have a hobby or an interest pursue it. Have an idea? Work on it. If you enjoy writing, start your own blog, or write articles for your local magazine or school newspaper. If you are inclined towards computer science learn a language like Python or Java and make a game or a useful app.
Now is a good time to start exploring
different interests by either taking some classes, volunteer work, travel, or blogs. So by the time you are in Grade 10 you have an idea about your interests and hobbies. Continue working on them. Continue giving back to the community by volunteering your time and talent. Find an hour or two a week that you can devote to one activity and add it to your weekly schedule.
Colleges look for consistency and commitment.
During the summer join online classes or find an internship in your related field. If you want to study medicine spend time shadowing a doctor to see what it takes to be one.
By grade 11 take your interest to the next level and demonstrate leadership in clubs and programs you are part of. Spend your time with your passion.
When you get to grade 12 it is your final year before college applications begin, so make every minute count. Continue and build upon your current community service projects throughout the year. An internship, job, or writing blogs and articles on topics close to your heart can help too. Also, by now your college list and resume should be ready and if not make sure you get it done as the next 4-6 months are going to be very hectic with school, exams, college applications, and essays.
If you have some spare time, start working on the college essays.
Make sure you demonstrate leadership, commitment, and passion in whatever you do. Also, keep in mind it’s not what you do but what you learn from it that matters and if you impacted anyone’s life in a small or big way, it really, really counts.
To sum it up Select 1-3 activities and dedicate your time and energy to them. Be consistent in what you do. Colleges look for quality over quantity so make sure you are consistent with your activity and not jumping from painting to soccer to coding to cooking.