Although academics and involvement in extracurricular activities are indeed two important factors that are seriously considered by college admissions committees, you should be aware of the importance of school citizenship to college officials. Building a positive reputation among your peers and faculty alike will not only help you have a satisfying and enjoyable high school experience, it will also enhance your college application.
Why is school citizenship important in the college admissions process?
Keep this one thought in mind regarding the ultimate goal of college admissions officers in their final decision-making: college admissions officers are building a COMMUNITY of people. They do want the best, the brightest, and the most talented, but they also want to see evidence of outstanding personal qualities in these students. As they ponder their decision, the admissions committee will look for students who will be a positive force in the classroom, in the dorm, as a spectator at college events, and as a participant in college activities. They want leaders and people who care for others, especially those less fortunate than themselves. The review of your college application, your essays, your interview, and most importantly your recommendations will provide insight into who you are as a person.
How can you build a positive reputation?
You can build a strong reputation as a solid school citizen in numerous ways. The most obvious is what your parents tried to instill in you long ago: to always be polite to people. People, especially the adults around, take notice of the times you say thank you and show genuine appreciation, the times you hold a door open for someone, or when you help push a fellow student in a wheelchair up the ramp to class. Teachers love to chat about their students in the faculty room or at lunch; it would be better to leave a positive impression on them so they share the nice qualities you possess rather than the opposite. The more people who hear about your stellar traits, the better off you will be when application time rolls around and recommendations need to be requested from teachers and coaches or activity advisors.
Another obvious way to maintain a good reputation is to always follow school rules and policies. If your school has a rule requiring students to remove their hat when they enter the building, then remember to do that even if you feel more comfortable with a baseball cap on your head! Likewise, if the school mandates no cell phones on school grounds, play it safe and leave it at home or in your vehicle even if you feel disconnected to the world without it. Don’t be known as a student who tries to get around the rules!
A good school citizen is a student who actively takes part in school life. Help out at Homecoming; attend athletic events, school plays, music productions; and try to socialize with a wide circle of friends that includes different types of people, not just the athletes or the most popular.
There are other ways that make a positive impact on the way people perceive you. You might want to consider asking a favorite teacher if you could help out in his/her classroom after school. Perhaps you might help a science teacher set up his classroom for lab work or help him clean up after the lab day is over. Another teacher might love your assistance in making bulletin boards for the classroom or compiling activity sheets that have just been copied. Another suggestion might be to start a new club or activity that many students have indicated their interest in. Or, you could suggest to your guidance counselor that you would like to be a “Buddy” to any new student who enrolls so that the student will feel more comfortable on their first day at a new school.
Finally, your work ethic is very important. When you take an interest in your work and don’t try to scrape by, it is very evident to your teachers, class advisors, extracurricular advisors, and even to administrators. You should always put forth your best effort. It is also better to be honest about your shortcomings: procrastinating, not completely understanding, not happy with your first attempt, and own up to the problem(s) in order to negotiate a workable solution than to glass over a poorly done essay or to lie about late work. At the same time, if you always have a problem or an excuse, this too makes a less than favorable impression.
Think about all the possibilities that YOU can DO at your school to become a great school citizen! Rather than just thinking about doing something nice, put your caring thoughts into action. Be honest, fair, hardworking, and realize that people see you for what you do and what you are. Earn the respect and admiration of students, faculty and your school!