You may have seen or heard the term “holistic” while exploring the admissions policies for many colleges and universities. And you may know institutions that practice a holistic review consider not only your grade point average and standardized test scores, but the entirety of who you are, the broader context of where you’ve come from and the opportunities you’ve been presented with, and the ways you’ve contributed to your family and community. As admissions counselors, we want to learn more from your application about the passions and interests that inspire you and the stories and experiences you’d bring to our institution. Each and every applicant has a unique background and perspective to share, and each has the opportunity to highlight their diverse talents and involvements in a distinct and meaningful way.
It may feel awkward to be boastful as you approach the college admissions process, but if there was ever a time to boast, this is it. Sharing who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and what matters most to you can help distinguish you from many other students and can provide admissions counselors with invaluable information as they consider your application.
Leadership and Involvements: No One-Size-Fits-All Approach
Not every applicant can be the president of student council, captain of a sports team, or the lead in the school play, and there are many other ways to make an impact and highlight your leadership potential beyond holding one of those roles. Have you participated in a summer academic program? Did you start a new club at your school, or do you volunteer with a local church, mosque, or synagogue? Perhaps you founded a local music group or taught yourself computer programming in your spare time. Or maybe you have family responsibilities or a part-time job to help cover your expenses. What may seem like a trivial or everyday task to you is often the very thing that would help us learn more about who you are and how you would contribute to our campus community, so don’t hold back.
If you weren’t involved in extracurricular activities until later in your high school years, or if you have limited involvements, you may want to share the reasons in your application. If transferring schools or experiencing a long commute each day kept you from fully engaging in school or other involvements, or if your skills and interests developed throughout your high school years, you can tell us this information in the additional information or comments section of your application. You may also want to share how you’d like to get involved in college if there are certain clubs or organizations that pique your interest.
Sharing Your Involvements with Confidence
As you get ready to start your college applications, create a “brag sheet.” This could be a page in your notebook or a memo in your phone where you keep a running list of all your involvements throughout your high school years, as well as any awards and honors you’ve received. Take some time to reflect upon the passions you’ve developed, involvements you’ve pursued, hard work you’ve put forth, or accolades you’ve earned. The last thing you want is to forget something that might showcase your interests or achievements.
You can further expand upon your involvements by writing about your specific roles and accomplishments. If you help to care for younger siblings or have other family commitments throughout the school year, tell us what those responsibilities involve. If you work or have an internship, list how many hours you dedicate to these efforts each week and what your duties are. If your club raised money for charity, tell us how much. And if you play a sport or musical instrument, let us know more about your involvements and any recognition you’ve received. We will only know the depth and meaning of your contributions if you inform us of all the ways you impact your home, school, or local community.
As you explore the institutions of interest to you, you will likely be drawn not just to the rigorous academic programs and offerings available, but also to how you can get involved in clubs, organizations, and student groups. Honing your passions, interests, and involvements throughout your high school career and fully expressing them on your college application not only allows the college to get to know you, but helps ensure you both find a wonderful fit.
Now is the time to brag.
– by Meghan Grandolfo, Colby College, Senior Assistant Director of Admissions for Access and Inclusion