The Secret Kept Away from Valedictorians: The College Admissions “Business”

Valerie Questell, News Editor

   Over the years, a common misconception about the college admissions process—that simply getting good grades, good test scores, and having a personality that will blow the admissions officers away is enough—has persisted. Graduating as valedictorian just isn’t enough anymore, and neither is being a club president. However, those details alone have become increasingly insignificant as the years go by and the competition gets tougher. The perfect holistic application comes from not only statistics, but there’s also something else that will make or break applications. So, what is the secret formula? 


How to Stand Out 

   With thousands of applicants in one pile, elimination can be tough yet easily spotted from a mile away. Having a plain application with just statistics (grades, test scores, etc) is only the foundation of what it really takes to get into college. Valedictorians from all over the world are rejected yearly without regret, but this is because they were missing one thing: passion. With schools only accepting a limited number of applicants, passion is what distinguishes applicants from other applicants. On the other hand, college admissions is a business. They profit off of future business owners and philanthropic careers, leading to the following point of passion. 


Passion Projects

   The passion project shows colleges that an applicant is ready to take matters into their own hands and is serious about what they want to pursue. Common statistics such as grades aren’t sufficient to show colleges what the applicant is capable of, even though they are remarkable accomplishments. But passion projects can be made whether it’s a small business, a non-profit, or even writing a book. These options may sound like a headache, but the creativity can shine out brighter than the other applications. The activities listed are to show not only leadership, but also maturity to start such a detailed project. Topics can vary; from advocacy to robotics, anything can be a topic. As long as the applicant forms their application closely around this topic. 



   Besides the passion project, research is a commonly used tool to show intellectuality and a philosophical mind. This can be done by forming an email to a college professor of your choice (if the information is public) and asking them if they would be interested in someone to help research a subject of their professional interest. For example, if someone was curious about certain cancer research, reaching out to a local professor can provide a research position and be easily formed into a published research paper, or even a book or blog. 


The College Essay

   This is the first source that the admissions officer sees that is remotely close to who the applicant is. Not only does this make or break an application, but it is sent to all colleges when applying. The personal statement, or the Common App essay, dictates the level of interest that the applicant has in the given school and also provides a glimpse of what the applicant’s life entails. The infamous “intellectual curiosity” scheme has been used throughout years of graduating classes’ essays. Or, the detrimental event that occurred in someone’s life put into one paper, also known as the sob story. Given that colleges are a business, learning about these stories should have an ending that shows growth and connects to academic interests. A story about a loss of a loved one can be turned into an experience of growth and maturity, and be further connected to a field that this event has led one to be interested in. 


   It is essential to try one’s best and give the admissions committee all of what one can offer. Standing out can also come through originality and being a good person; someone who is dedicated but also friendly, and will be an asset to whichever institution’s student body.