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When applying to college, what qualities do admission officers like to see. How can I list my accomplishments without sounding like a "show off"

Hi im bel and I am a junior in highschool. #college #university #medical #quality #highschool

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Subject: Career question for you

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Doc’s Answer

Hi Bel,

Simply pursuing 10+ extracurricular activities and throwing them onto your college application won’t accomplish much (it might even hurt you). It’s crucial that you follow some basic guidelines when assessing which extracurricular activities are worth getting into, because QUALITY certainly matters more than QUANTITY. Nowadays, college application reviewers want to gain insight into character – who are you outside of school, and what do you do that shows your strengths?

LONGEVITY
One key component of a good extracurricular activity is the commitment you show in it (which is usually expressed in how long you’ve been involved, or how many hours you’ve put into it). Why does this matter? Because anybody can join an extracurricular activity for a few months and then drop it! Staying shows that you actually care about that activity, and aren’t just involved to pad up your college application. Try to stay involved for as long as it’s feasible to do so, and when it’s time to document that activity on your college application, do your best to note how many hours/years you committed to give a true sense of your dedication.

DEPTH
Colleges don’t just count off how many extracurricular activities you had and assign you a score. In other words, they don’t really care that you did a given activity, they care about what you got from it. If you simply write down “Volunteered at a Senior Center” and don’t provide an explanation, all those hours as a volunteer may be nearly useless if your college application reviewer can’t determine what volunteering at a senior center actually reveals about you. It’s important to come up with some sort of takeaway – ask yourself what you learned from any given experience. If you don’t feel like you learned anything (and this should be rare), think about what you at least developed or improved in.

COMMITMENT
It’s important that if you stay in a given activity for a while, you want to show that your commitment and abilities were rewarded via promotions and the like. Showing progression lets colleges know that you actually gave a commendable effort in a given activity, and that you were worthy of moving forward in whatever hierarchy was available to you. For example, being a general member of a volunteering club at your school for 4 years isn’t particularly impressive because anyone can do that; on the other hand, starting as a general member and then becoming vice-president and eventually president shows remarkable dedication and potential. This is the kind of thing colleges want to see in activities in which you were involved for considerable time. Likewise, if you were on a high school sports teams for 3-4 years, starting off at the junior varsity level and working your way up to varsity or even captain/assistant coach shows great ability; on the other hand, being a lower-level player for 4 years shows that all that time didn’t go to good use (unless, of course, you had other commitments, in which case it’s fine to occasionally have a few activities in which you weren't able to progress much).

Admission to your dream college is not only contingent on academic success, but also your extracurricular work. College admission officers want to know you as more than just a number – they want to know what makes you tick – what are you passionate about, what drives you?

Good Luck Bel

Doc recommends the following next steps:

Quality Over Quantity – No need to try and join every club or sport that fits into your schedule – in fact, it's the quality of the commitment that matters more. "Students need to be engaged community members to have a shot of admission at a highly selective college. In fact, the more engaged the student is, the better."
Be Consistent – The more consistent you are with an activity, the more impact that will have on your application. "It is better to stick with a handful of activities over time to gain leadership roles or have more of an impact than to join new clubs every year."
Do What You Love – That's ultimately what colleges want. Even though colleges are looking for students who will join their clubs and sports teams, they are also looking for students who will bring something unusual to their community, too. So instead of trying to predict what a college or admission officer wants, go after what is meaningful to you and pursue it with gusto."
Thank you comment icon Thanks for your feedback! Bel
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Sahar’s Answer

Hi Bel,

Good grades, scores, & volunteer work are all essential of course, but one of the most important things during this process is noting something about yourself that stands out than others. Most schools require an essay to be submitted, but each will have a different objective or topic to write about. This is one of the most important items for admission officers that stands out. They receive thousands of applications and resumes everyday that are beyond similar so naturally they want to see some variations. The written essay is your best time to shine. Really spend some time on writing this and having it proof-read by your teacher, mentor, etc. Letters of recommendation are also important because it's a bit personal and shows someone genuinely enjoyed having you as a presence in their class, office, or wherever. If you're planning on needing multiple recommendations, feel free to reach out to people you have made an impact on. This can be your favorite teacher, your boss, coach, etc. Always make sure to give someone at LEAST 2 weeks to write the recommendation.

For qualities, note the ones that are truest to your self, your work, and grades. You might be thinking you're "showing off", but in reality you're just representing who you are and all the hard work you've accomplished. When it comes to school & grades also list out any honorable mentions, awards, prizes, scholarships, and whatever else.

Some sample qualities that indicate a good candidate are:
Problem-solver/Critical thinking
Open-mindedness
Innovative
Resilient
Visionary
Collaborative
Adaptable
Leadership
Teamwork

Hope this helps & best of luck to you!
Thank you comment icon Hi, Thank you so much for the feedback. When it comes to representing myself, I find it quite difficult to do so without sounding lie sort of a snob, but you explained it wonderfully! Thank you again. Bel
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Darren’s Answer

Hi Bel,

It's good that you are mindful of what makes you a stronger applicant. Similar to what other responders said, show in your application not only what you have done for extracurricular activities, but make it clear:

1) Why what you did is important to you (what it means to you)
2) Your contribution and results from those contributions
3) If you have greater ambitions in these areas as you progress through college and post college

What makes you stand out is showing you are able to make change in this world for what you believe in. Sometimes those changes are small and that's okay. What's important is you are willing to do something to make the change happen.
Thank you comment icon Thanks for your feedback. Those are great questions to ask myself. Bel
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Brad’s Answer

John and Sahar have provided a great list of qualities. What I would add is to try and support the qualities and accomplishments with data. If you can quantify your accomplishments, that will allow someone to measure you and this will not come off as showing off. It is factual data so should not be misinterpreted. Just making a vague reference that you were in a Computer Club for example does not say much. But if you were to back that up with data/facts that stated you were an officer in the Computer Club, you organized X events with local companies, you negotiated donation of Y computers to the club from local businesses, etc..... those are the things that may set you apart from another applicant.
Thank you comment icon Thanks for the feedback! I def agree with you. Bel
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