Regular readers of this blog know that good grades and standardized test scores aren’t enough for success in the college admissions process – you need to be likable, compelling and differentiated from other applicants.
But how do you stand out from the thousands of other applicants who want to study the same thing as you? Simple, really. By getting involved in activities that show you have initiative, drive and a clear understanding not just of what you want to study – but why.
Here, we break down five popular academic areas of study and what you should do now to more fully explore these interests, differentiate yourself and improve your chances of getting admitted.
If you want to study … International Relations/Comparative Literature
You should … Study another language. Take another at your school, if it’s offered. Otherwise, consider taking a class through a local community college, look for a Berlitz class or try connecting with a foreign speaker through Livemocha. You could go to your local library (some offer Rosetta Stone) or just pick up a few books and do it on your own!
If you want to study … Business
You should … Try starting your own business! It doesn’t need to be the next Google. Mow lawns, walk dogs, babysit kids. Go through your attic and sell your Mom’s old crock pot on eBay, and make a business venture out of it. Aren’t up for the entrepreneurial thing? Get a job – paid, unpaid, volunteer or internship. See if your parents (or parents’ friends) might be able to help.
If you want to study … Art/Architecture
You should … Take art classes at school or take external art classes and start creating a portfolio. Take art history at a local community college. Volunteer at the local art museum. Spread your love of art by teaching younger students. Interested in architecture? Volunteer at the local historical preservation society.
If you want to study … Education
You should … Decide if you want to study in a school of education or major in a liberal arts field. Either way, try to gain experience with children. Work as a camp counselor. Volunteer in your town’s middle or elementary school. Offer to tutor students to gain teaching experience. Also, if your high school offers a Psych (or AP Psych) class, consider taking it.
If you want to study … Medicine
You should … If you’re considering pre-med, note that you don’t have to major in a science (you just need to take biology, chemistry, physics and math). But you can confirm your interest in medicine by shadowing your pediatrician, volunteering at the local hospital or performing research in a science lab.
Get out and start exploring your interests today – confirm that you’re right on the track. Or learn you’re interested in something different. Either way, the experience will help you stand out in the admissions process and get you one step closer to your dream college.