Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Applications have to attract colleges

Fortifying resume is worthwhile.Unique aspects of students help them gain admission.

For the Journal-Constitution

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hasan Khosravi turned a trip to a science program at Georgia Tech into an ongoing cancer research project.

The Northview High School senior attended a biotech program at Tech with a friend and approached a professor there about a possible research project. The professor liked the idea, and Khosravi is now in the experimentation stage of his research.

“We found a drug and came up with a model to bring a drug inside a cancer cell to rid it of glucose,” said Khosravi, who is the salutatorian of his senior class at Northview. “I took the initiative to start e-mailing a professor about my idea, and he accepted it.”

That golden nugget made its way onto Khosravi’s college application and helped him get accepted to Georgia Tech. He starts in the fall.

Khosravi, who also was accepted to Vanderbilt, Emory and the University of Georgia, plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering en route to a pre-med degree.

Khosravi’s experience is just one way rising high school seniors can beef up their college applications to help get into top colleges.

There is no cookie-cutter formula to bulking up an application. Each should be as unique as the student filling out the forms, and that is what catches the eye of admissions officers.

“It’s a big misconception to say that schools look for well-rounded kids,” Georgia Tech admissions officer Rick Clark said. “A better way to put it is that schools look for a well-rounded class.”

Because of that, college admissions officers aren’t looking for specific types of extracurricular involvement from prospective students. Rather, they seek out qualities students possess as a result of such activities.

Colleges consider grade-point average, SAT or ACT scores and the number of AP classes. But what comes next on the application —- extracurricular activities, personal information and essay answers —- speaks volumes about a student’s interests, personality and dedication.

Clark says an application showing a student worked 20 hours a week for three years in a career-oriented job carries just as much weight as an application that features three years of community-service projects or travel abroad.

Here are some ways high school students can strengthen a college application, according to admissions officers.

Obtain leadership positions

Participation in Governor’s Honors programs or other academic programs like the National Honor Society is impressive. But college officials say that leadership comes in many forms and goes beyond titles. Colleges take notice when students advocate for themselves throughout the admissions process.

“That’s being a leader in a way,” Clark said. Leadership also manifests itself on the job, such as students who may work a part-time job through high school and get promoted or take on added responsibilities in that job, Clark said.

Choose quality over quantity in activities

“We’d rather see quality involvement,” said Jean Jordan, director of admissions at Emory University. Getting involved in things that are important to the student, such as community service, are critical, Jordan added.

Walton senior Angela Morabito and Shorter College freshman Sarah Weaver had what admissions officers are looking for. Both dedicated themselves to intensive extracurricular activities.

Morabito, 17, who will attend Georgetown University, participated in the U.S. High School Diplomats program the past two summers. She spent three weeks in Japan as part of the program last summer.

Weaver, 18, a graduate of Union Grove High School in McDonough, traveled across the country and to Europe as a six-year member of the prestigious Spivey Youth Choir.

These in-depth experiences look good on an application and were instrumental in the students’ choice of study. Morabito will be a culture and politics major in Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. Weaver is on scholarship as a music major at Shorter.

Set yourself apart in the essay

It’s helpful to highlight these in the essay. “Pick topics that give us information we aren’t going to find on the application,” Emory’s Jordan said. “We want the students to come alive. To use the essay for this is very critical.”

Walton High School senior Brian Slamm, 17, is involved in music and wanted to show that side. He is a percussionist, plays in three youth orchestras and is a member of the marching band and jazz ensemble at Walton.

“In my essay, I compared music to myself,” Slamm said. “Music is an entirely different side of me, and that’s what my essay was about.”

Wear your passion on your sleeve

Students should turn their personal interests into an attractive resume item.

Georgia Tech senior Thomas Christian, a double major in earth and atmospheric sciences, and international affairs, put his passion to work for him. He knew in high school he wanted to pursue a scientific degree and has participated twice in the International Science Fair.

“College administrators can spot students who do something because they want to and those who do it to pad their applications,” Christian said. “Find what you’re passionate about, be it band or the football team. It doesn’t matter. Just engage in something beyond the classroom and be passionate about it.”

That passion also can be displayed in the way students handle the application process. Contact with college administrators, counselors and sometimes faculty members can leave a good impression.

Morabito, who applied to eight schools, kept a list to make sure she had everything covered. She even sent thank-you notes to the schools after the process was over.

Be as detailed as possible

It’s one thing to choose the right activities. Showing that you’ve done them is important, too.

“It’s interesting how many kids are involved in a lot of things but don’t put it down on their applications,” Tech’s Clark said. “They assume that they’ve got this great GPA and that’ll be enough. If it’s (asked for) on the application, then it’s important.”

It’s not enough that students just list their involvement. An accompanying story is always best.

“Everybody has a unique voice,” Clark said. “If you are an Eagle Scout, tell us how you got it.”

Provided by Associated Content

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