The Odd Way To Stand Out Above The Crowd On College Applications

Grades, extracurriculars, and community service are great additions to a college application, but there's an odd way to stand out as well.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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For hopeful high school juniors and seniors looking to find that competitive edge that will get their college applications noticed and remembered in the fight for freshmen slots at higher ed institutes, there are many well-known ways to do this. Grades is an obvious, and extracurriculars always help too. But there are other ways, which may not be as familiar, or agreed upon, in which students can make sure their request for admittance stands out above the crowd. This is through the addition of quirky personality traits, especially shown in ways the student can basically make fun of themselves – so long as it is done in the proper manner. 

This pro tip comes from The Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews, a graduate from none other than possibly the most difficult school for high achieving students to prove their worth; Harvard University. Typically, experts tell college-seeking teens to speak highly of themselves and therefore strut their achievements so far in life on college applications. But considering the fact that the majority of top-tier schools in the United States receive hundreds of thousands of applicants each school year – many of which will all boast the same or familiar achievements – finding something that makes your application stick out can be a daunting task. But self-deprecation tactics just might be the answer. 

This isn’t to say that pointing out every single flaw is the sure-fire way to get admitted to the college of your dreams. But given the notion that college admission staff are going to read countless success stories, adding in a few mentions of your oddities, or failures to your college application can help make you memorable, and serve as a reminder that you aren’t a mindless robot. Mathews suggests that the best place for this is in college submission essays. 

Typically, the essay portion of a college application asks the student a general prompt to write about a time in their life that they can reflect upon. Choosing a story about a challenging time in your life is one thing, but adding in a section about something eccentric everyone knows you for will help you go the extra mile. While college applications should be taken seriously, it is important to have fun with this aspect of the task at hand.

This isn’t to say that this tip is the right choice for everyone when filling out a college application. If nothing comes to mind, adding in that one time you ate 50 tacos without vomiting at a school event is likely not the best approach to get your dream college to want to covet you above other applicants. Instead, think of a desirable additive you would like to add to your resume and add in a buoyant touch.

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Many colleges have been losing students over the last decade, but experts expect a college boom this coming fall despite this notion, as more students head back to campuses as the COVID pandemic wanes. Because of this, chances to get into certain schools will be more competitive than ever, so it’s important for college applications to be as unique as possible. Historically, Ivy League schools accept only about 9% of their pool of applicants. For the coming fall school year, these schools took in even less, with only about 6.78% of those who applied being accepted.