The Little Things Add Up: 4 Easy Ways to Stand Out from the College Admissions Crowd

Guest post from our friends at Shmoop

Anyone who claims that standardized test scores don’t matter hasn’t applied to college recently. Love it or hate it, these scores matter now more than ever, with scales like the Academic Index determining students’ fate more ominously than an angry Greek god.

As it turns out, there are things about humans that can be hard to quantify or sum up in 1,000 words. And that’s why—like it or not—test scores matter. As do GPA and schedule strength. That homework assignment you’re blowing off could mean the difference between being the VP of Business Development at Uber and working for them in, uh, another capacity.

It sounds doomsday-ish, yes, but think about it: missed homework assignment = slightly lower GPA = don’t get into a top-tier college (or any college?) = not as competitive in the job marketplace = … you get the drift.

Oh, and by the way, your test scores and grades matter for getting financial aid, too. Think you’ll get grant money or a fancy scholarship if you flop on every standardized test? If you didn’t take those extra APs? If your grades look like the low notes on a scale?

Not so much.

Sure, there are tons of smart people with great test scores and a 4.0 GPA applying to Princeton. But if you’re not one of those people? Well, we hope you can throw a 90mph fastball.

So Shmoop yourself forward a little bit: with Shmoop’s subscription, you get access to hundreds of test prep guides for whatever test you’re taking (ACT, SAT, AP, exit exams…the list goes on). Content review, drills, practice exams, videos…you’ll have a leg up on other applicants without having to pay an arm and a leg. Plus, you’ll get access to hundreds of online courses, which can count for credit, boost your resume, or just impress admissions officers who are looking for self-starters.

With that in mind, here are a few tips and tricks we’ve learned over the years.

4 Easy Ways to Stand Out from the College Admissions Crowd

  1. Have skills.

Yep, skills. Those little things that don’t include “watching other people play video games on YouTube.” Take a few Shmoop courses like “Introduction to HTML and CSS” or “Introduction to Photoshop” or “Digital Literacy.”

  1. Study smart.

It’s one thing to study—it’s another thing to study smart. Shmoop’s test prep guides will give you thousands of drills and all the content review you need to be sure you’re picking up what the benevolent test overlords are putting down.

  1. Do your research.

Don’t apply to Harvard just because you look good in crimson. Sure, you want to have a few reach schools, but don’t waste your time (and money) applying to schools that will toss out your application the second they get it.

  1. Focus on schedule strength.

Take more AP classes, try out a few non-standard classes, or even work with your school to create your own research-based class. If your school doesn’t offer what you’re looking for, see if you can find it on Shmoop: we have loads of authorized AP courses and hundreds of electives to help boost your schedule strength.

Bottom line: the little things add up.


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