Tips to Stand Out on Your College Applications

Shelly Pond Good News Editor

Getting accepted to your dream college can be a competitive process. College Fair Circuit Coordinator and Director of College Planning at Westminster Academy Donna Payner offers the following tips to high school students that can help them stand out from the crowd in the college application process.



standWhen doing the resume or activities part of the application, talk about what your role was in the club, not what the purpose of the club is because college admission counselors know these nationally-recognized clubs. They want to know what that student did personally to contribute to that club. 

Always look for opportunities to highlight leadership roles, especially if there’s been a progression. For instance if you’ve been in key club for four years, you started out as just a member then you were a committee chairman and then you were elected president, that shows a progression of leadership for which you made a big contribution. Not everyone will have the opportunity to be president of a club, but leadership can still be demonstrated through participation on committees.

Volunteer in an area you’re passionate about. If you’re passionate about the environment then volunteer within the community to help the environment. if you’re passionate about working with children, then your volunteer service should reflect that. Colleges want to see you demonstrate that passion, and a long term commitment is more important to colleges than a lot of scattered experiences all over.



standWhen it comes to essay topics, Christian colleges often want to hear your testimony and how you live out your faith within your community. Secular colleges tend to look for a student to show who they were, how they’ve encountered an obstacle or they’ve grown throughout high school and why they’re ready for college. Demonstrate resiliency, maturity and problem solving.



Prepare early for the standardized testing process. Those SATs and ACTs should really be something that happens spring of the junior year or the summer between junior and senior year and should be wrapping up by October or November of the senior year.

Due to COVID it was hard to find an open testing center, so a lot of colleges went test optional and remain test optional because they didn’t want families to feel they had to put their children at risk in order to take a test and there was no online option. However, Florida public universities require test scores for admittance as mandated by state statutes.


Apply early

The most important tip Payner offers is to apply early and complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form early so you will be first in line for acceptance and financial aid. Learn more at

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