Highlighting Personal Qualities on College Applications

With a competitive college landscape in which universities seem to only be getting more and more selective each year, it is crucial for the prospective student to stand out from the crowd. When prominent schools such as UCLA receive 111,000 applications to make an entering class of six-thousand freshman, simply a high grade point average (GPA) and strong standardized test score is not enough. On the contrary, a student, through his or her experiences and accomplishments must demonstrate that he or she not only has the potential to succeed at the respective university, but to also stand out from the crowd and contribute to making a more diverse student body for colleges.


Many qualities that are deemed strong and ideal for college applications are often acquired traits that take time to build into one’s day-to-day routine. For this reason, young students should start thinking about what they stand for and how they would like to explore their interests at the start of high school.  More specifically, the one personal quality, above all others, that will be held in high regard is a student’s commitment to growth. Many essay prompts, in one way or another, will ask you to describe an experience or challenge and how you grew from it. 


Growth can be demonstrated through a number of experiences, and those experiences generally will highlight positive characteristics and dispositions of the student. Qualities such as a disciplined work ethic, persistence, tenacity, and innovation are at the forefront of a strong college application. Interestingly, many students have accomplishments that are unique and demonstrate these qualities; however, how it is presented on the college applications is just as important.


Overall, college applications are an opportunity for the student to be seen as more than just a statistic. Did the student achieve a great accomplishment that required him to not give up despite falling short multiple times? This would be a great example of perseverance. Has the student contributed to his community in a manner that makes life easier for his community members? This shows a degree of selflessness and care that has the potential to shine through on a college application. 


Personal qualities are just that: personal. High school students, especially those who are entering or at the beginning of their high school careers should seek to identify which of the discussed qualities align best with their own characteristics and experiences. Once identified, students should seek to participate in activities that will continue to cultivate those qualities.