College Application: Unconventional Ways to Standout

The admission pool for college-seekers grows exponentially more competitive every year. Everyone is getting good grades, scoring well on the SAT/ACT, and taking on leadership positions left and right. What else can you do to stand out? Here are three unconventional ways that can make your application a little more interesting to set you apart from the pack.

Take a class at a local community college
What better way to show a college or university that you’re ready for a higher level of academic coursework than excelling at it already? As a high school student, you have the ability to take college-level classes at local community colleges–an option called dual-enrollment. Having a completed college-level course on your resume will help you stand out. Make sure you do well in the class though! It won’t mean much if you barely squeak by with a C-.

Have a scholarship lined up before your senior year
Surprise–there are scholarships open for juniors! Most students apply for scholarships during their second semester senior year but for the organized individual who is thinking about their college application a year ahead of time, consider applying for scholarships early. Check out opportunities posted on the College Board website. College admissions officers will likely be impressed to see scholarship awards on your application and could reveal the above-and-beyond individual they are looking for.

Get to know the school really well
We recognize this can be tremendously difficult without actually attending, but there are many ways to learn about the school beyond the usual brochure material. First off, visit the campus and go on a tour to learn about the seemingly endless resources offered. Secondly, cold-connect (simply call someone up!) with current students and alumni through social media, asking if you could speak to them about their school (odds are they’ll say yes!). Lastly, an option that’s better than simply visiting the campus is to enroll in a summer program at the school. This way, you’ll get a feel for the learning style and culture.

The above three suggestions are geared more towards juniors and sophomores. While you can attempt to do these in the first semester of your senior year, it will be very difficult to balance these on top of your usual commitments and college applications. If you can find the time, one of these three methods can add a unique layer to your application.


Lawrence Lee brings a naturally creative mind to answering questions. The team jokester may sometimes make it a mission to digress off-topic, but we’ve found this always leads to a new discovery and perspective on a problem. As college admissions grow increasingly competitive, creativity can get you noticed. He’s currently a student athlete at the California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech), pursuing a double major in Mechanical Engineering and Business Economics & Management, and a Varsity basketball player. He has a deep love for traveling and recently waved the U.S. flag in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. You can contact Lawrence by emailing
Company profile: Stratton Advantage is a Seattle-based college admissions counseling firm that provides start-to-finish guidance and expertise on the college application process. Stratton Advantage works with all years of high school students from around the world and its approach is unique. You work with a team that includes a primary college counselor, a strategist, and a blind reader; that’s three people ensuring that you put your best foot forward. To learn more or to schedule your free 30-minute consultation, visit their website or email

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