So there seems to be a lot of hype about how everyone needs to have a certain SAT score, and a perfect 4.0, or at least close to it.
But the fact is, it’s just not all about those standardized numbers. Top schools like Stanford (and, arguably, especially Stanford) are looking for something that makes an individual just that- an individual. They are looking for that special something that sets a prospective student apart from all the other masses. Remember, admissions counselors have to read thousands upon thousands of applications from perfectly qualified students, who all have amazing grades and test scores.
MAKE YOURSELF UNIQUE.
If there is one thing that is the most important overall the other factors, it is probably the essay. In that short 500 words, you have to make yourself stand out from the masses of other students. Make it so you as an individual person can be heard through that essay. What is it you do that makes you stand out from everyone else? Because remember, not only do nearly all applicants have very grades and test scores, they also have volunteered x number of hours, done y number of clubs, and participated in z number of activities.
So what is it that makes you you?
Well, that is a question only you can answer. For me, it was personal obstacles in my life (family-related, financial, and living situation difficulties) and how I overcame them and how they did not hinder my academic success, while for most it would’ve.
So your homework, current underclassmen, is to think of a character-defining moment or event or activity. Then you can write about that whatever it is, and show your true character by demonstrating how it relates to that thing. My past does not hinder nor obstruct me; it has simply shaped me into who I am. I have a friend who got in who wrote about how she wore a certain hair braid for a long time in her life, and then when she had to get it cut out she was worried no one would recognize her, because she wouldn’t be her. (She went on to say how this showed how she viewed herself, and how she thought the world viewed her, and what she learned about self identity.)
For the record, my SAT was 2040. My ACT was a lot better, at 32, but I was not a valedictorian, and did not have a perfect 4.0.
And please just remember, top schools receive so many applications, that sometimes someone who seems to be the perfect all-around student may not get in. If that is you, don’t be discouraged. If you don’t think that’s you, if you think you won’t make the cut, APPLY ANYWAY. I did. And I got in. This time last year, I thought I would be going to a local community college because of a number of reasons. Stanford was not even in my wildest dreams. Then I went through a lot of changes, and long story short, I went for it. I encourage everyone to as well.
Make yourself stand out. The sky is not the limit, either, as the sky is so limiting. Get out of the atmosphere, and see where you land when you shoot for the stars.
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