June 18, 2024



By Carmen Greger

As a junior in high school, the future may seem daunting. College applications are just around the corner, and you might be wondering what you can do to stand out. It’s easy to believe that achieving high grades is the sole ticket to your dream school.

Craft a Unique & Magnetic Story

While grades are undeniably essential, top colleges and universities are not just hunting for academic achievers. They’re searching for well-rounded and inspired individuals who exhibit passion, leadership, and a dedication to their community. Clubs, Community & Service programs, among other endeavors such as professional experience, travel and shadowing can greatly boost your ability to stand out and be seen by the college admissions committees.

It’s More Than Just GPA

There’s a prevalent myth that students with pristine GPAs are guaranteed admission to their college of choice. Yet, every year, students with stellar grades are turned down from their dream institutions. The reality? Admissions officers evaluate more than just numbers. They look for students who can bring diverse experiences, interests, and perspectives to their campuses; It’s important to adopt a holistic approach to college preparation.

Community, Charity & Clubs

If you began participating in extracurriculars during your freshman year, or even in middle or elementary school, that’s wonderful. But if not, don’t fret. Junior year is not too late to dive deep into activities that resonate with your interests and values; Engaging proactively in the discovery process of your passion, purpose & potential is a crucial step in making the best of your four years of High School and in setting the stage for success with your college admissions and experience. Elevate your involvement, take on leadership roles, and seek out opportunities to demonstrate your commitment.

  • Community Involvement: Engaging in community service not only enriches your life but also shows colleges that you’re a committed and responsible citizen. Organizations like Build On offer opportunities for high school students to contribute to community transformation both locally and globally.
  • Clubs and Organizations: Ever considered starting a Ski club at your school or joining the debate team? Clubs are fantastic avenues to showcase leadership and teamwork. They also allow students to pursue passions outside of academics.
  • Volunteering: Offering your time to causes like making casseroles at your church or supporting local shelters reveals a character of compassion and responsibility. It’s not about the number of hours but the quality of commitment. If you have the time and can create the means, consider traveling abroad during winter or summer break for a Surf & Serve or Turtle Conservation project in Costa Rica or a Service & Safari program in Tanzania offered via TravelforTeens.com, or check out GoOverseas.com & GoAbroad.com for additional options and insights.

  • Writing & Journalism: Whether it’s writing for the school newspaper, submitting poems to contests, or getting a piece published, showcasing your voice is invaluable. It not only sharpens your skills but also establishes your distinct perspective.
  • Part-time Jobs: Holding down a job, be it babysitting or working at a local café, displays maturity, time-management skills, and a strong work ethic.

  • Leadership Roles: Serving on the principal’s advisory board or leading a club can be transformative. Leadership roles accentuate your ability to manage, inspire, and innovate.
  • Mentoring: Guiding younger students, be it in elementary or middle school, emphasizes your dedication to uplift others. It’s a testament to your character, patience, and mentorship qualities.

Sports, Arts & Other Endeavors

Involvement in sports can demonstrate teamwork, discipline, and resilience. Artistic pursuits like music, painting, or drama highlight creativity and passion. Even hobbies can be illuminating. From astronomy to robotics to cuisine arts, your unique interests and a showcased pursuit of their deeper exploration can make your application shine.

Words of Wisdom

The journey to college is more than just about academic milestones. It’s about personal growth, discovering passions, and making an impact. When colleges review applications, they’re looking for stories, for individuals who have shaped their communities and who have a vision for the future.

Don’t just strive for the perfect GPA; aim to be a well-rounded individual. Dive into activities, not for the sake of building a resume but to genuinely enrich your life. Let your passions guide you, and remember that every experience, every challenge, and every triumph contributes to your unique story.

In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Embrace your journey, believe in your potential, and take charge of your future with confidence and zeal.

Making the Most of Junior Year

Junior year is traditionally seen as the pinnacle of high school life, a critical time when you’re laying the foundation for your future. And while this might bring added pressure, it also presents numerous opportunities.

  • Academic Pursuits: While it’s crucial to maintain a steady academic trajectory, consider joining study groups, attending workshops, or enrolling in advanced courses or electives that align with your passion. It’s an opportunity to explore subjects that might be pivotal to your chosen field in college.
  • Internships & Shadowing: Use breaks and weekends to intern or shadow professionals in fields you’re considering. It’s a hands-on way to get a feel for a potential career while demonstrating initiative.
  • Networking: Attend college fairs, seminars, and workshops. Connect with college representatives, alumni, or even current students. These relationships can provide insight into college life, courses, and can even help when seeking recommendation letters.
  • Personal Projects: Launching a personal project, like a blog, YouTube channel, or even a small community event, showcases initiative, leadership, and dedication. These ventures offer a practical learning experience and help in developing a diverse skill set.
  • Test Preparations: While it’s not all about grades and test scores, they still matter. Dedicate some time to prepare for standardized tests. Whether it’s the SAT, ACT, or subject tests, a strong score can complement your holistic profile.

Seek Guidance & Reflect

Engage with your school’s guidance counselors. They can be invaluable in helping you navigate the college application process, providing resources, and offering personalized advice. Moreover, talking to seniors who have recently undergone the college application process can give you a fresher perspective and practical tips.

Amid all these endeavors, take time for introspection. Reflect on your experiences, what you’ve learned, and how you’ve grown. Your personal statement or college essay will require deep self-awareness, and this reflection will enable you to pen down an authentic narrative.

Your Unique Journey

Preparing for college is a multi-faceted journey. As you stand on the cusp of a significant transition, remember that each individual’s path is unique. Instead of conforming to a set mold, embrace your individuality.

In a sea of applications, what makes you stand out isn’t just your GPA but your experiences, your story, and most importantly, your authenticity. Be genuine in your pursuits, passionate in your endeavors, and committed in your responsibilities.

Colleges and universities aren’t just looking for students to admit; they’re searching for future leaders, innovators, and changemakers. So, as you gear up for the next step, remember it’s not just about getting into college, but about shaping a future where you can thrive, contribute, and inspire.