It should not be a surprise that colleges like winners. In fact, on the college application form, there is a section for listing all your awards and honors. These include both academic awards like the county-wide spelling bee and non-academic honors like grand prize in a ukulele playoff. So find competitions or contests you have a chance at winning and compete in them!
Luckily, there is an abundance of competitions out there for you to win. These include speech, writing, artistic, musical, scientific, debate, athletic events and more. Keep in mind that winning does not necessarily mean taking first place. Being a runner-up in a state or national competition is just as impressive as winning a local award. Sometimes just being chosen to compete is an honor.
You're too young for Alzheimer's, but you'd be surprised at how much you can forget in four years. In your senior year, you will need to recall exactly what you have done since the first day of your freshman year. It might be easy to remember now; but in a few years, it won't be.
Keep a record of everything you do. Include brief descriptions of your activities (especially if you made a significant contribution or were a leader of a project) and write down when you received a specific award or honor, what years you participated in each activity, and approximately how many hours you volunteered. This list will help you immensely when completing the applications and will insure that you don't leave anything out. Don't forget to store this list in a safe place where you can find it easily.
Now is the time to set your pride aside, dish out all the compliments you are capable of giving without gagging and hone your skills of flattery. Because you will need two or more evaluations from teachers, one from your counselor or principal and possibly one from an employer or advisor, start early to foster your relationships with these key people in your life. By the time you are ready to apply, your goal is to have them adore you as if you were their own child.
Participate actively in class. Yes, this means raising your hand and answering questions, volunteering to erase the board and other such related sycophantic ("sycophantic" means "obsequious" and these words could both be on the ACT or SAT, so look them up!) activity. Put your best effort into all your work. Stay after class or go early to ask questions. Volunteer to help your teachers with projects or try to give them extra help in other areas where they might need it. In short, you are trying to develop a strong, personal relationship with your teachers and advisors. By doing this, they will write the strongest recommendations possible.
At first glance, college applications appear to be a maze of lists, questions and blanks. No doubt they can be intimidating. However, by following these steps you will be more than ready to answer each question and complete each blank. If you start your preparation early on, the college application and the entire process as a whole will seem much less daunting. More important however is that you will have laid the foundation for the creation of a powerful application that will dramatically improve your chances of getting accepted into your first-choice college.
Gen and Kelly Tanabe
Founders of SuperCollege and authors of 13 books on college planning.
By: Gen & Kelly Tanabe
The only how-to book which shows all students how to get into the school of their dreams. Based on the experiences of dozens of successful students and authored by two graduates of Harvard, this book shows you how to ace the application, essay, interview, and standardized tests.