What Colleges Want
There are several things that take priority when it comes to defining what colleges want and look for when they pour through their annual deluge of admissions applications. Some of the information they look for is clear and straight-forward; other information is not so obvious.
Almost every high school student in the United States takes General Mathematics or Algebra I. Those courses do not prepare students for college-level work. In fact, research shows that students who enter college under-prepared in Mathematics will rarely earn a degree.
Therefore, the first set of criteria officials review is whether the applicant has taken challenging coursework in high school and what grades were achieved. Specifically, colleges look for these courses and the grades achieved:
- Mathematics (Algebra II, Statistics and Probability, Calculus),
- Science (Chemistry, Physics, Physiology, IT and/or AI), and
- AP or IB courses in almost any subject area.
The second category of performance colleges look through is behavioral. Admissions officials review (but are not limited to) attendance and punctuality records, disciplinary encounters both in high school and in society, and teacher evaluations and recommendations. Many also review the individual’s social media activity to catch a glimpse of a teen’s life our of school, even as partying across campuses is becoming more restrictive.
When it comes to extracurricular activities, college admissions officials look at broad and wide-ranging selections, but they look for special characteristics within the scope of activities undertaken by individual applicants. Recent surveys of admissions officials indicate there are characteristics they not only value but actively look for when students list and describe their involvement in extra-curricular activities.
Then check out the ways The Internship Depot provide opportunities for students to meet every expectation that colleges have by reviewing the bulleted list on the right.
The Rainmakers Internship Preparation Program (RIPP):
- provides you with the opportunity to develop the professional audacity you will need to secure a job in the growing GIG economy, where many workers have to piece together several short-term contracts on a regular basis to earn the equivalent of an annual salary,
- offers you the opportunity to get involved in a high quality extra-curricular activity that prepares you for any future you choose,
- unlike many other school-based programs offered to young adults, RIPP prepares you for both academic challenges you will face and for your life as a working adult,
- affords you the opportunity to build and demonstrate responsibility, integrity, and tenacity and to learn more about general behaviors that will help you be successful in the world of work, and
- allows you to accumulate evidence of accomplishment and letters of recommendation that prove to employers, colleges, or industry training programs that you have successfully completed a challenging program that increases your ability to function in any environment.
Check out specific information about what colleges want, and how we help students get what colleges want, in the two columns at the bottom of the page.
Don’t Miss This Additional Information:
Click on Each of the Black Boxes in Each Column Below for More Details.
Always Wonder Why
Colleges want people who have intellectual curiosity.
More and more, colleges are assessing hopeful candidates on their level of intellectual curiosity. Some colleges have even developed a methodology that scores applicants’ answers relative to this characteristic.
Intellectual curiosity means that an individual is internally drive to seek information for its own sake … not because a teacher will give her a failing grade or a boss will fire him if he doesn’t learn something about a new product. Essentially, intellectual curiosity drives an individual to learn unique for its own sake and not for any direct purpose.
Colleges will do their best to find out if an applicant has intellectual curiosity, and will question students to ferret out that information. Applicants will need to be prepared with truthful answers and ready to describe how that ‘characteristic’ plays out in real life.
An outstanding applicant response to questions about his/her intellectual curiosity could be:
“Yes, I plan to be a science major, but I have a deep interest in the 1940’s and Hitler’s rise to power. My great-grandfather served in World War II and fought in North Africa and Italy. He never made it to Germany, but I actually have a few of the medals he earned during his time in the Army. I have read at least a dozen books on that war. My particular favorite is the trilogy by Rick Atkinson that starts with ‘The Army at Dawn.’ I recently went on USArmy.gov and was able to trace his unit’s path through Africa and Europe. Someday I plan to follow that route to see where he spent five years of his life. What a sacrifice that generation made. By the way, I included the map of his route as an attachment to the essay I submitted with my application to this college.”
When college admissions officers realize that an applicant’s curiosity is genuine, his or her application can shoot to the top of the admissions pile. Be ready for the competition. Start reading.
… About Something Other Than Yourself
When colleges review applicant information, officials look for candidates with a demonstrated interest in things that matter … things that matter in different ways. While they want students who work hard and are focused on their academics and personal futures, they don’t want students who are so self-absorbed that they fail to help others or society as a whole.
These days, colleges and universities look for positive character traits, and among the things they look for is some form of charitable activity.
However, we all know that high school students have busy lives and between school classes, homework, and appropriate self-serving extra-curricular activities leaves little time for yet another requirement. But adding this item to a student’s ‘MUST DO’ list isn’t that hard.
Some examples of caring beyond one’s own self-interest would be:
- a student who is very good in Mathematics can tutor friends who need help (after securing the approval of all key Math teachers),
- a student who loves animals can foster an older cat or dog who is in an animal shelter waiting for a forever home (no kittens or puppies — they often demand 24/7 care), or
- a student who codes can develop a website for a non-profit organization.
These are just a few suggestions. But most importantly, whatever a student decides to do must be done well and hopefully documented with a letter of recommendation or certificate of thanks from adults who are appropriately connected to the undertaking.
Build a Paper Trail
Colleges want evidence of accomplishment. Students academic and behavioral efforts will be documented in their report cards and in any standardized tests they take. But having certificates presented in response for success achieved and letters of recommendations from teachers, coaches, and employers are invaluable. As students live their lives, they should look for opportunities to build the biggest paper trail possible.
Even better, students should try to be more targeted.
If a student is working in a child-care center after school and he or she wants to be a kindergarten teacher, a request for a letter of recommendation from the head of the center would be appropriate and a boon to that student’s future. In hat situation, it would be appropriate for the student to ask the letter to emphasize the great relationships he or she established with the members of the four-year-old class and/or parents as customers. If a student is working in the center but doesn’t want to be a kindergarten teacher, the head of the center can write a letter praising his or her on-time attendance and willingness to do anything the early childhood teachers asked.
Students should never miss a chance to build a case in support of their future goals, even if those goals change dramatically over the years.
Student’s may not know this yet, but time is often a person’s most valuable asset. In the world of work, time is absolutely the most valuable asset. So learning how to make careful decisions about how to spend one’s time is critical.
That’s why college admissions officials look for students who make intelligent decisions when selecting their extra-curricular activities. Many students try to compensate for weak academic performance with a flurry of after-school/summer commitments. Good try, but it won’t work.
Academics first — academics count more than any other factor — whether a student is bound for college or the world of work. If significant improvement is necessary, students should invest time — and money if necessary — to improve their academic achievement with tutoring rather than add an additional extra-curricular activity commitment.
Once that focus is clear, students don’t need to engage in 12 different extra-curricular activities. In fact, college admissions officers believe that one or two targeted and meaningful activities that truly relate to a student’s goals are a better investment of time than multiple less-relevant activities. And their admissions decisions reflect that philosophy.
Wanted: Passionate Involvement
Colleges want passionate involvement in activities that build leadership, contribute to personal achievement, and create depth, not breadth of experience.
In other words, one or two long-term ‘demanding’ activities are more important than multiple small activities that don’t demand as much from participants or don’t offer opportunities to demonstrate leadership and followship.
It turns out that colleges don’t believe that students who have many extra-curricular activities are necessarily ‘well rounded.’
Colleges want students who have an interest in, and substantially commit to, deeper involvement in fewer activities that matter and support their life goals. So choose carefully.
And We Can Help You
One whole segment of our Rainmakers Internship Preparation Program helps students understand how they can not only use and increase their intellectual curiosity, but how doing so can be nothing but beneficial to their current decision-making and future success.
Brain science clearly describes how stretching the mind — particularly with demanding academic subject matter — helps students build their ability to solve problems in that subject. But the process goes much farther. Difficult subject matter builds the brain like exercise builds the body. Stretching an individual’s mental processes also produces more brain neurons, which eventually leads to the ability to thing more critically.
Start simply. Read. Read. Read. And then read some more. Students should start by reading things that are of interest to them but fan out into related material that may not be that familiar to them.
As an individual begins to fill his or her brain with what seems to be irrelevant material, something strange happens. Out of the blue, the brain begins to connect one piece of information with another and a new idea is born. Sometimes it happens in the moments during which the brain seems to be at rest. No matter when it happens, that ‘brainstorm’ produces connections between ideas that would not have happened had that individual not been building his or her intellectual capacity all along.
Some of the best concepts/products/services ever created were generated that way .. someone’s brain connected one idea with another small idea with yet another concept. In many cases, the owner of that brainstorming brain wound up with a billion dollars in the bank.
What’s going to be in YOUR wallet?
… And Double the Impact
Today’s corporations routinely sponsor or make large contributions to charitable organizations that help hungry people, sick children, neglected animals, and a wide variety of other good causes. Some provide direct cash contributions to organizations that serve a cause. Others contribute products (shoes, medications, animal food).
There are two main reasons why businesses do this:
- their consumers expect them to be charitable, and without some level of acceptable social responsibility, many of their customers would buy a similar product elsewhere, and
- their employees want them to do so — many want to get directly involved with charitable efforts — which actually creates happier workers.
Corporations have learned how to make their charitable efforts pay off … literally. They make sure that the buying public is well aware of their efforts by integrating their charitable efforts in their product marketing. Thus, everyone wins. Hungry people get food, workers in a non-profit agency get paid to give out the food, and the company that donates the money gets public acclaim and tax credits … and a larger customer base.
Students need to use these same principles while building their portfolio of accomplishments for the college admissions process. Every college applicant should build a record of providing some level of service to people or organizations. There are many things students can do — two suggestions follow.
- students who are great in Mathematics can work with Math teachers and provide tutoring service to students who might need some help, or
- student can provide services to worthy causes, such as the local animal shelter.
Then these charitable students can double that impact by securing letters of gratitude or certificate of thanks from adults who are appropriately connected to the undertaking.
Get the Paper and the Trail
Integrated into our electronic curriculum (for grades 8 – 11) is advice that will help students make the best decisions possible as they move through middle and high school. We include suggestions about how they should gather as many recommendations as possible to acknowledge their accomplishments.
Of course, students can only gather recommendations if their behaviors and work products are worthy of same. So we ensure they know how their decisions and their behaviors can lead to success — or hinder their forward motion.
We also make sure they know that at every point along their educational journey, they hear from us about what constitutes appropriate behaviors, what defines outstanding effort, and what it means to strive for excellent outcomes. Consistently professional performance gives them the right to ask the adults they are working with to provide them with letters of recommendation. Adults rarely decline the opportunity to reward a hard-working teenager.
This ability to conform to standards demanded by others is often a hard lesson for teens to learn, but is critical for success. But learning how to be creative within defined constraints is a necessary skill that all workers will need — as is the kind of self-marketing one must do to be successful. The process they will need to use to secure written recommendations is one they are going to have to use routinely and helps them build their all-important professional networks.
The Wisest Investment
Participation in The Internship Depot’s programs is the best commitment of non-school time a student can make. In one tightly coordinated set of programs, students learn why and how they should and could improve their academic performance, increase their college admissions opportunities, define career goals, get experienced advice on résumé writing, learn how to choose a college and a career,and all things related, understand what needs to be done to meet employer demands, serve an internship, and be better prepared to enter the workplace.
Like many traditional programs, ours expects students to keep up with learning objectives and accomplish tasks by certain due dates. Unlike many traditional [programs, students can accomplish those activities at school, but also at home, online, and often as time permits.
No other program affords students the opportunity to build and demonstrate all the outcomes and behaviors colleges want to see in their incoming students.
Get Passionate Involvement Here
We provide an opportunity for students to enter a super HIGH QUALITY, LONG TERM (five-year) internship preparation program that provides opportunities for passionate involvement and depth of of experience for every participating student.
Our long-term program demands that participating students engage in activities that will provide alternating leadership/followship opportunities. These activities will be punctuated by written peer reviews that will provide participating students with a hard-core evaluation of their leadership and followship skills. It doesn’t get harder than that.
Not only is our sequence of programs long-term, in-depth and demanding, our program supports all students in their basic life goals since almost every student will need to secure a job as a young adult when they enter the workforce.
In conclusion, our program is the ultimate activity when it comes to students who need to show the ability to commit long-term to a program that matters and that supports their life goals.