Building your college ‘resume’
With the end of the school year right around the corner, college preparation is probably the last thing on anyone’s mind. But there are a few simple steps to take at the end of the school year that can make moving forward into the next year more productive. When I am talking to “you,” I mean ALL high school students, including the current eighth-graders who are registering for classes for freshman year.
It cannot be stressed enough that early preparation is key for success in the college application process. Eighth-graders should meet with counselors to make sure that you are registering for the most rigorous schedule that you can personally handle. If you qualify for an honors or AP class, take it! If you think you have time for two or three, do it! But don’t knock yourself out by overstressing in your first year. Get your bearings, stay organized and get your schoolwork done. Starting on the right track in the first year will set you on the right course for your four years in high school. In the end, grades and rigor of curriculum are important factors in college admissions decisions.
But grades aside, how do you make yourself stand out in the crowd? College admissions teams have literally thousands of applications to review every cycle, and while GPA’s and test scores are important, there are other factors that can help you present yourself as the unique individual that you are.
The good news is that coming from Maui automatically makes you special! We are a small population in the middle of the ocean. The not-so-good news is that because we are small, we don’t always have the wide variety of extracurricular opportunities available that a large Mainland school has. So, you need to take advantage of what we have to offer and begin to create your “resume.”
Think about what you really love to do and try to build on that passion. If you love to surf, is there a way to make surfing into something that will interest colleges? Absolutely! Is there a surf team or club at your school? If yes, join it. If not, start one. Colleges love to see initiative and leadership in prospective students, so if you do join an existing team or club, make sure to try to work up to being captain or president by your junior or senior year. Another way to use your passion for good is to volunteer in your community to teach your passion. Are there opportunities to offer lessons to underprivileged kids how to surf? If yes, do it; if not, start a group that will. This same kind of pattern can be applied to any passion, whether it is athletic, academic (STEM programs, tutoring), artistic (drama and music) or social. Find what you love to do and share it with others.
Don’t limit yourself to just one extracurricular. First thing freshman year, join a club or team that is completely different from anything you have ever done. If you love it, great! Keep doing it. If you don’t, chalk it up to trying something new that did not work out and move on to something else the following year. Stretching your mind and your social connections in this way demonstrates to colleges that you will not limit yourself to what is safe. So, if you have never paddled, join that paddle club and give it a try! Never debated before? Try out the debate team. Want to play golf but you are not quite good enough for the team? Join the golf club, or start one.
Give back to your community. This is so important, and not just because colleges like it, but because it is great for you and for your ohana. Starting out volunteering at a young age will instill a lifelong sense of pride and value, and it becomes a part of who you are. There are so many opportunities available: environmental, working with senior citizens, working with kids or animals, and helping out at local events. Find a charity that you would like to work with and try to stick with it throughout your high school career.
Keep track of special projects that you do throughout high school. Whenever you feel that you have especially excelled at something, hold on to it. For example, maybe your robotics team when to states when you were a freshman, or you designed a swimsuit that a local company decided to buy, or a story you wrote won a prize keep a list of these accomplishments. Using the Coalition Application is a great way to do this, and this can be started in freshman year.
Whatever you choose to do, be authentic. Be your true self. Don’t just choose extracurriculars because you think they will “look good” on your college applications. Figure out what you love to do and then how to shine while you do it. Not only will this spotlight who you are to colleges, but you might actually find that you enjoy the process.
Maryanne Hogan is an independent college counselor working with students on Maui. For more information about her and her services, visit her website: Thecollegeauntie.com.