The National Society of High School ScholarsNSHSS

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Five Steps to Becoming a Standout College Applicant 12-09-2016

Elizabeth Blanchette
NSHSS Fellows Executive Board
Vice President of Alumni Relations

May 1st is national decision day--the day high school seniors make their university deposit and secure their place for the fall college semester. For current high school students, especially sophomores and juniors, the preparation for an outstanding college application begins now.

Ideally, you are thinking about your college choices throughout your entire high school career. It is never too soon to set success in motion, and increase the probability of acceptance into the college of your choice. If you are starting the process late, step up, and get going; you can improve your chances of success through these following five steps to becoming a standout college applicant.

1. Work hard in high school to maintain a good grade point average.

Only be satisfied with high quality work. Read your textbooks. It is remarkable how many students struggle because they do not use the resources readily available. If you are having trouble in a class, ask for help before you lose too much ground. Completing all coursework to the best of your ability means giving yourself time to check your work. Look at your work and say to yourself, “Is this the best I can do? Am I proud to put my name on this assignment?”

Take courses that challenge you; utilize the AP courses or dual enrollment offered through your high school or local college. Prepare for the SAT or ACT well before taking the exams. Gradually studying for one to two hours a day for the SAT is far more beneficial than cramming endless hours the week before the exam. In fact, half-hour blocks of studying one specific subject at a time can greatly improve retention and recall, while reducing stress over areas in which you may consider yourself lacking.

2. Attend a College Prep Program.

There is nothing better than experiencing college life before you decide which college you would like to attend. Summer programs offer students the ability to live in a dormitory, take classes with college professors, learn how to navigate a new city, and make new friends. Through NSHSS, I was able to attend the CCP College Prep Programme in London and Paris. My time with this program changed both my college admission process and my personal life. My experience changed the way I view myself, others, and the world around me. I developed many social and executive skills, which prepared me for my college experience.

3. Find something that makes you stand out above the crowd.

Joining The National Society of High School Scholars made a tremendous difference in my life. NSHSS afforded me the opportunity to expand my horizons to a global platform. I loved my time as an NSHSS Ambassador, and now I am proud to serve as an NSHSS Student Council member. Find something you are passionate about and develop your skills to the highest level. Invest in excellence. Beyond the necessity of good grades and high SAT scores, it is the time outside of your high school classes that can help determine your acceptance to your dream school.  A resume a mile long typically speaks of loose involvement in many clubs for the sake of appearing well-rounded. The most impressive students have devoted themselves wholeheartedly to a true passion and have exceeded expectations in that field.

4. Go beyond yourself—serve others.

Community service demonstrates your love for humankind to the admissions committee. The fastest way to display your appreciation for the opportunities you have been given is to serve those less fortunate. Serve because you want to improve society, not because you need to fill a community service requirement. Explore things that ignite your passion. Do you love animals? Fulfill your passion by volunteering in a pet rescue center or equine training center for special needs students. Do you melt at the sight of a child? Dive into your passion by working with pre-school children. Maybe you love the outdoors, so why not organize an annual community clean up in your city? Do your heartstrings pull when you see a homeless person? Reach into your heart and serve at a local homeless ministry. Beyond the benefit to others, your community service time will enable you to develop your verbal communication skills, and thereby enhance your college interview skills. Serve with a positive spirit; seek to bring joy to others, and you will find joy yourself.

5. Write, write, write.

Work on developing your writing skills. Write about everything. Write about things you love, but just keep writing. Your writing skills will continue to develop the more you use them. Write, rewrite, edit, write again. Prepare your college application essays in advance. Find a topic that sets you apart from the thousands of essays passing across the admissions desks every day. I wrote about my summer spent in Europe with the CCP College Prep Programme. Every college I applied to granted me an interview, remarking about my experiences, and I was accepted to every college to which I applied. You will write a tremendous amount in college. Learning to effectively communicate in writing is an absolute necessity in college and beyond.

In order to succeed in college, develop confidence in your ability to become a standout college applicant, and establish yourself as a student and a future global scholar, begin today by utilizing these five steps. Take the time to invest in your future. Find opportunities to make yourself memorable. Travel and learn through great summer programs. Study and develop your skills systematically. Serve your community and the world by making a difference one person at a time. Stride into the academic adventure of your future with confidence.

Once you have begun the first step, the next four will follow far easier than you anticipate. Your achievements that once seemed so difficult to accomplish will fill you with a sense of pride and purpose that will follow you not only through high school, but through your college application process, college, and professional career as well.

NSHSS College Members from around the globe join the 2017 Student Council

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NSHSS Student Council members are outstanding college students from around the globe who give advice based on their own experiences and offer information on Society programs, scholarships, and activities throughout the upcoming year. Membership on the Student Council provides an important leadership opportunity beyond high school. Our Council members come from around the world.

High school seniors are eligible to apply for the Student Council in the member dashboard annually May-August.

You may contact council members by emailing studentcouncil@nshss.org and including the name of the council member you wish to contact.

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