Planning for College Standing Out from Others

How to Make Your College Application Stand Out

Written by CB Experts

In high school it’s hard to stand out. You naturally want to be part of your peer group, and there are many cliques that define you before you know it. Who wants to be “different?”

But, being different for the right reasons could actually help you go to the college of your choice.  Why?  All that you do in high school will be reflected in your college recommendations from teachers, principals, and coaches–even on your transcript.   How you are evaluated by your school and through your guidance counselor’s evaluation can help you with your college application and mean gaining admission to the college of your choice.

It’s never too early to be different, which is, indeed, sometimes being yourself—not being like others. Maybe beginning to walk down a different path is really learning to be yourself.

Seeing YOU for who you really are…


Don’t LIMIT yourself to what others so often do—Joining the typical high school clubs or becoming a member of the typical high school teams is fine, BUT you could also….

  • Look for teams that are just starting up in or around your high school (lacrosse or lawn bowling) and join intramural teams (volleyball or competitive running), state-wide teams (travel hockey or tennis), or community leagues (men’s softball or curling).
  • Start your own club.  Think Students for Homework or Let’s Stop Global Warming Now!  Or join the more unusual clubs, where you just might learn different skills and maybe shine even more than you might on the more popular teams or in the more popular clubs. Does your school have a fledgling chess team or a small debate club? Instead of the drama club might you do story telling at speaking contests? Is there a rifle team or a skeet club in your high school? What about being part of a community salmon fishing club or a search and rescue squad?

Be a techie –  Turn your ability with computers into useful endeavors and parts of your application resume.

  • Develop or manage your high school’s website, or help a department/teacher/student group at your high school create its own website.
  • Record lectures or study tips for other high school students’ iPods.
  • Publish a newsletter with study skill information, resources for students to use for homework help, and student reviews of textbooks used at your school.
  • Create CD mixes for your school’s morning announcements or for the school band to use between sets at the football games.


Be of service – Cleaning up.

  • Everyday while eating in the cafeteria take a couple minutes to clean off two tables, yours and another.
  • Collect empty bottles for three months, turn them in for cash and give the money to a school club or activity, even to the principal’s slush fund for needy students.
  • Have a locker dump day and gather the shoes, coats, and hoodies and donate them to Good Will.
  • Go out and create a flower bed to spruce up the entrance to your school.
  • Tutor students during your study hall or read to students in the multiple handicapped program at your school.
  • Read to students in the lower grades at the elementary schools in your school district.

Honor others

  • Organize a breakfast of Danish and donuts with other students to honor teachers.
  • Make a point of having a thank-the-janitor day and make sure to talk with each one you see in the halls.
  • Write an announcement that thanks or honors a fellow student for his/her achievements and ask the school to broadcast it.
  • Bake cookies and distribute them to the high school’s kitchen staff.

Be a problem solver

  • Starting a conflict resolution team in your high school.
  • Look at some problems in your school and rather than writing a letter of complaint to the principal, write a letter that offers a couple solutions. For example, if there are too many students coming in tardy to classes during the lunch shifts, propose that free cookies will be given to all those who are on time to classes for a whole week.

Create entertainment

  • Script an impromptu awards day for one of your classes and give out hand-made awards for little achievements to everyone in your class.
  • Post a contest for the highest grade on a science lab for juniors and give them a CD mix you have made. And, make CD mixes for study periods or for art class.
  • Organize a poetry slam after school.

These are just a few tip-of-the iceberg suggestions. Once you start getting creative, you will be able to come up with many more ideas that will make you stand out as a person in your high school and later as an applicant to college.


Keep thinking! You won’t be creative in two minutes or even ten. Just keep trying to find new ways to look at things, help out, or have fun. Also, don’t stop with just one thing. Either create a tradition that you do several times throughout your high school years or keep doing different things. It’s best to do a number of innovative things to show you are truly different and not just a flash in the pan.

Now, when you begin applying to colleges, you will have some examples that show you are different from most other applicants, and you will know better who you are for your experiences. Wasn’t it fun?

About the author

CB Experts

Content created by retired College Admissions consultants.