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What Will Colleges Look For?

In light of all the changes in college entrance requirements and processes, many students and their parents are wondering what colleges will be looking for in the next wave of admissions. Typically, students know exactly what colleges seek in a strong college applicant. However, this year things are looking blurry. With the cancellation of the SAT/ACT, extracurricular activities on hold, and the difficulty of assessing grades via online learning, students are left to their own initiative and drive to build their resume. Making yourself stand out amongst your peers will take some creativity and thought. To-Do Lists during this time are helpful in order to get goal-oriented and organized.

In this blog, we’ve compiled a list of Academic Things To Do as well as Non-Academic Things To Do. Last, you will find a list that combines both. While it is important to keep focused and do all the academic preparation possible, engaging in relaxing activities is just as crucial for your personal well-being.

College Ready To-Do List

  • Work on and update your resume, brag sheet, and Common App. If you are a junior, work on your UC College Essays.
  • Create your college list. Since you won’t be able to tour colleges anytime soon, do some virtual tours. First, do an online research to create your prospective college list. Use college search engines that let you filter by certain criteria, such as size, setting, and SAT/ACT score, in order to find schools that appeal to you.
  • Get on prospective schools email lists to get updates about the school and stay in the loop. Colleges like to know you are interested in them and will keep an eye on you if you put yourself out there.
  • Make sure to keep actively involved in the clubs your school still has online. If you are part of organizations at school that have come to a halt, find ways to connect and create weekly meetings and agendas. Take charge and show initiative and think of creative ways to keep your involvement alive. Create a new virtual club, get your school to approve of it, find a teacher to support it, and get people to join. 
  • Continue your AP Courses and Preparation for the exam. Prepare and know about the changes in format and timing on the AP Exams.
  • Connect with College Admission Officers. Connect with them on social media (here’s an example), send them an email, or give them a call. Ask them questions, and share some information about yourself.
  • Apply for Financial Aid. Know the deadlines. Use Net Price Calculators to estimate the cost of college.
  • Search and apply for Scholarships. Use Scholarship Search Engines to find those that apply to you.

Mental Health and Well-Being To-Do List

  • Educate yourself about ways to keep yourself mentally and emotionally healthy during this time.
  • Engage in activities that are relaxing and fun such as reading a novel, watch films, paint, draw, work on a jigsaw puzzle, knit, sew, juggle, paint your room, organize your room, cook, bake, garden, listen and create music, work on collages, arts and crafts.

Fun Activities To-Do List (That Can Help Build Your Resume)

  • Read a Biography or Historical Piece of Literature. Other reading material includes Art History, Classical Poetry, Philosophy, Cultural Pieces, and Science Pieces.
  • Watch Historical Films and Documentaries
  • Write Reviews for films, books, restaurants, etc.
  • Write an Op Piece and submit to a newspaper- many are interested in a teen perspective on various current issues.
  • Take an online class such as on Coursera, UC Scout, BYU Independent Study, edX
  • Be a political volunteer- presidential elections are in November!
  • Start a YouTube Channel
  • Design a website or create an app
  • Volunteer to help with childcare, assisting the elderly, or organizing for those in need

Lastly, and most importantly, take good care of yourself during this time. Keep a schedule for eating, sleeping, exercising, and relaxing. The CDC recommends taking breaks from the news and social media. If you feel anxious, take deep breaths, stretch, and meditate. Eat well, exercise regularly, sleep well, and avoid drugs and alcohol. Please reach out to someone if you end up feeling overwhelmed.