- Ten Skills to Highlight in Your College Applications
- What are colleges looking for, and why?
- Ten Key Skills to Emphasize on Your Applications
- 1. Commitment
- 2. Creativity
- 3. Critical Thinking
- 4. Initiative
- 5. Intellectual Curiosity
- 7. Leadership
- 8. Open-Mindedness
- 9. Social Consciousness
- 10. Teamwork
- 7 Situations in college in which you will certainly recognize yourself
- 1. Professors Calling You When You Weren’t Listening
- 2. Copying One’s Work and Getting Spotted
- 3. What’s that Professor Name?
- 4. Whoops. Caught with Plagiarism?
- 5. Your Stomach Starts its own Life in Class
- 6. Laptop is everywhere!
- 7. Partying with Whom? Ha?
- Aren’t They Recognizable?
- Are You Career Competent?
Ten Skills to Highlight in Your College Applications
In some ways, applying to college can seem a numbers game. Numerical measures of success, such as your GPA, class rank, and standardized test scores, play an important role in building your applicant profile and determining which colleges are good matches for you.
However, competitive colleges aren’t just interested in these numbers. They also base their decisions upon the less tangible, more personal skills that are revealed in the other parts of your college application, including your essay(s), extracurricular activities, and recommendations.
Skills these can’t always be quantified in the same way as your grades can; nevertheless, they help determine whether you’ll be able to flourish in a college environment.
While top colleges certainly do want students who have a track record of academic success, they’re also interested in bringing in students who have the qualities that will allow them to use their academic skills to do great things on campus and throughout their lives.
In this post, we’ll go over ten skills that deserve starring roles in your college applications, and why demonstrating these skills helps to show that you’re a qualified applicant for your colleges of choice.
What are colleges looking for, and why?
As you know, every college is slightly different in terms of what it looks for in applicants, and finding a good fit between a particular applicant and a particular college is very important. However, it’s possible to make some broad statements about the kinds of qualities and skills that competitive colleges are seeking.
To get admitted to a top college, you need to stand out. As we’ve discussed in our blog post Why Are Acceptance Rates So Low?, competitive colleges attract a far larger number of qualified applicants than they could possibly admit, so simply having high grades and test scores isn’t enough to obtain any guarantees of admission.
When you’re facing this kind of competition, you’ll need to take special care to ensure that your application will pique admissions committees’ interest. Emphasizing particular skills and qualities that colleges appreciate, such as those we list below, will help to round out your applicant profile and give colleges a sense of who you really are.
Competitive colleges need to know that you’ll be a positive addition to the campus. A college isn’t just a place where you go to school — it’s also where you work, socialize, build communities, and live your life for four years. Similarly, you don’t attend college alone, so how you interact with the people around you is important, whether they’re peers, instructors, or others.
You’ll also need to demonstrate that you have the potential to grow by making full use of the college’s resources.
Obviously, colleges aren’t looking for students whose hard work and high performance are limited to their high school years.
They’re interested not only in your past, but in your future, and whether you’re ly to become a student whose presence will enrich the campus environment.
Ten Key Skills to Emphasize on Your Applications
It’s clear that colleges are looking for more than high scores and lists of awards when they evaluate applicants, but you may be wondering what particular qualities will impress admissions committees. Here are ten specific skills that can help you to stand out as a strong candidate when it comes time for you to apply to colleges.
Building a competitive applicant profile isn’t just about participating in many different activities; it’s also about showing that you’ve committed to long-term projects of interest to you, as we’ve discussed in our post Well-Rounded or Specialized? Colleges are looking for applicants who stick to their goals, follow through on intentions, and keep promises they’ve made to others.
Competitive colleges appreciate students who have demonstrated commitment in their academic, extracurricular, and personal pursuits. It would be quite difficult for an applicant to gain the necessary credentials for admission to a top school without showing commitment, but it’s useful to have other representations of that ability visible on your application.
At heart, demonstrating your creativity means showing that you’re able to think outside the box (to use a particularly uncreative metaphor) and come up with new concepts, approaches, and interpretations. Creativity can be expressed in your involvement with the arts, of course, but it’s also a quality that can show up in many different situations, from technical innovation to problem solving, in any field.
When colleges consider your application, your creativity is a quality that can really set you apart as an individual — and an applicant with great potential to have an impact on the world.
Whether you’re making a breakthrough argument in an academic paper, resolving an issue for an extracurricular group, or dreaming of your future startup, this skill will definitely come in handy as you plot your future.
3. Critical Thinking
For most students, the college academic experience will be much different from that of high school.
One of the biggest differences is that in college, you’ll be expected to not only absorb and integrate factual information, but also to think more critically about sources, perspectives, contexts, and intellectual frameworks you encounter — including the assumptions you yourself hold dear.
When colleges evaluate applicants, they’re considering in part whether those applicants will be able to handle the demands of college coursework. Demonstrating that you’re able to investigate and interrogate academic material in a sophisticated way will speak highly of your academic skill, maturity, and potential.
Coming up with brilliant, creative ideas is a great thing, but it’s only half the battle. In order to have an impact, no matter what scale you’re acting upon, you also need to be able to turn those ideas into realities. Your skill in getting projects that matter to you off the ground will reflect well on you when it’s time to apply to colleges.
Colleges always to see applicants who have not only taken advantage of available opportunities, but also put extra effort into creating viable opportunities where none seemed to exist. Your proven initiative can show that you not only have great ideas, but also the practical skills to back them up.
5. Intellectual Curiosity
When it comes to academic performance, colleges aren’t just interested in your grades and test scores. They also want to know that you’re genuinely invested in your intellectual development and that you actively enjoy the experience of investigating the world around you. Many colleges use the phrase “love of learning” to express the approach that they’re looking for in applicants.
Demonstrating this love of learning communicates to colleges that whatever you choose to study, you can be counted upon to continue seeking knowledge and understanding in your academic work. After all, the main purpose of going to college is to get an education, and by showing your intellectual curiosity, you’re telling colleges that you’ll take that educational opportunity seriously.
College applicants generally hover in the gray area between childhood and adulthood, as we’ve explored in our post Do Colleges Consider Me a Child or an Adult When I Apply? The colleges to which you apply certainly won’t expect you to be a full-fledged adult right that minute, but they will expect you to demonstrate the maturity and good judgement necessary for you to handle the freedoms and responsibilities of college life.
Showing good judgement means demonstrating to colleges that you’re able to plan ahead, understand and accept consequences, and make choices that support your goals. It also means showing that you’re responsible and respectful in the way you handle the college application process.
It’s especially important that you not show evidence of poor judgement on your college applications.
As we’ve discussed before in the post Getting Back On Track After A Disciplinary Setback, having an incident of particularly poor judgement on your record can give colleges pause.
However, showing that you’ve learned and grown as a result of that experience can mitigate its effect somewhat.
In the college admissions world, the word “leadership” is thrown around a great deal — we’ve certainly addressed it before on the CollegeVine blog, in posts Your Resume, Revamped: Securing Leadership Positions and Perfecting your Extracurricular Profile. You might be tempted to dismiss it as a cliché, but leadership really is an important skill to show off on your applications.
Leadership skills can encompass your ability to plan and oversee projects, your capability to provide substantive praise and criticism, and your power to inspire others and help them achieve their goals. Being a good leader doesn’t mean taking on all the work yourself; effectively delegating tasks and recognizing others’ useful talents are key skills as well.
Of course, one way to demonstrate your leadership ability is to have taken on leadership roles in your extracurricular activities. However, how well you do as a leader matters just as much as whether you can get elected or selected for one of these positions. If you can demonstrate that you were a truly effective leader, that may really help you to stand out among the applicant pool.
One of the best aspects of attending college is that it introduces you to new things. Between the individuals you interact with and the contents of your courses, you’ll encounter an incredible and diverse range of people, ideas, and perspectives on campus, and many of these will ly be unfamiliar to you.
Being open-minded doesn’t mean that you have to agree with every new idea you encounter. What it does mean is that you’re willing and able to respectfully consider and interact with the full range of perspectives that you’ll be exposed to in college, and to appreciate the richness of that experience.
9. Social Consciousness
Being socially conscious means you’re aware of issues and concerns that stretch beyond your immediate surroundings and into the lives of others, both on a global level and within the communities of which you’re a part. This knowledge will inform both the way you understand your academic work and the way you live. Competitive colleges will want to see that you’ve spent time thinking about issues these.
In addition to mere awareness, colleges want to know that you’re working on having an effect on the world beyond yourself. There are many ways to do this; you don’t need to win a Nobel Prize or be elected president to be doing important work. What’s most important is that your goals involve some kind of larger impact.
While your individual accomplishments and qualities are of the highest importance when applying to colleges, your skill at working with others can’t be neglected. In the classroom and outside of it, you’ll never be truly alone, and it’s important that you know how to manage interactions and collaborate effectively.
Group projects still exist in college, and most extracurricular activities are community-based.
Internships, working in a scientific lab, and many other activities will ly involve working with others on a task that’s not your own — that’s often how people gain the skills and experience to later become innovators and leaders.
Sometimes, this requires putting the needs of the group or a decision you may not agree with over your individual needs and ideas.
No matter what field you eventually enter, collaboration is everywhere, and great things come from embracing it. Colleges need to be sure that your individual skills are paired with the ability to work well with others and, when necessary, prioritize the team’s success over your own.
Clearly, this is not an exhaustive list of what competitive colleges are looking for in their applicants, and many other features can also help you to position yourself as a strong candidate. However, each of these qualities is quite important, and it’s wise for you to consider whether your applicant profile gives you opportunities to clearly demonstrate how you’ve mastered them.
As we’ve said, every college is different. Each school has particular qualities, skills, and abilities that it’s looking for in applicants, and it’s important that you put in effort to understand whether a particular school’s priorities are a good match for your own. Finding a college that’s a great fit for you personally will give you the best opportunity to thrive.
If you’d to learn more about what top colleges are looking for in their applicants, check out these posts from the CollegeVine blog, as well as our Ultimate Guides to particular colleges and their application requirement:
- Will a Perfect Score on the SAT/ACT Get Me Into a Good College?
- Who Elite Colleges Compare You To When Making Admissions Decisions
- What Does It Take to Get Into Harvard?
At CollegeVine, we’re passionate about making college guidance accessible to all. That’s why we took the guidance that’s helped 100,000 students and made it free.
On our college applications platform, you can use our chancing engine, build a best-fit school list, and learn how to improve your profile—all for free.
Sign up for your CollegeVine account today to get a boost on your college journey.
We'll send you information to help you throughout the college admissions process.
7 Situations in college in which you will certainly recognize yourself
No matter what kind of situations you’ve experienced most, college times are memorable, even if they’re talking about plagiarism situations that were absolutely horrible! By entering this new stage in life, students ‘ funny situations and jokes on the college life are purely groundbreaking. So, let’s take a look at seven most common situations of students, who are full of College student humor, in which you will probably recognize yourself.
1. Professors Calling You When You Weren’t Listening
Have you not experienced this situation at least once during your college years? While some students certainly don’t stand in the way of the classroom content, others may be too obsessed with romantic business or thinking about the plans for the weekend. Those instructors, who interrupt you from the domain in which you are located, are actually so! They do this of course because they realise that no students are being amused by their endless readings and too exciting monologues.
Well, jokes on college life aside, professors have a hidden talent of knowing who does not listen and when.
No, really, was someone not interrupted by a professor amid pleasing thoughts about your college romance or ambitious partying plans for a weekend? A wide range of College student funny situations were concentrated at least once on this funny situation.
Depending on the temperament and mood of an instructor, your destiny was decided without your participation. Do you remember that sense of fool for your peers? Ah, those professors with their unexpected conversations!
If only you use a time machine and return to that class. You would be most inclined to listen to that particular reading without even thinking about anything else. Ah, all those jokes about the life of the university, how true they are!
2. Copying One’s Work and Getting Spotted
Do not let us wrong; We are fully in favour of self-development in the midst of college education. But sometimes the workload was too obsessive, so the only available choice to pass a course was to copy the work. The most predictable outcome of this university situation was a shameful lead by your instructor, who accused you of plagiarism the work of your close knowledge!
Oh, if only those check plagiarism free services were available then to let the lyrics look not that similar. The main reason why so many students make jokes on college life, especially with regard to copying someone’s work is the unconsciousness of plagiarism control-free platforms.
Of course, most of the former students are currently masters in unrecognizable making two identical texts if the professor plagiarism between two must check. At the time, that situation ended quite poorly.
While some had to take the lessons again, others were punished with the flag for plagiarism for the remainder of their college stay. The whole class probably thought these implications were somewhat “funny”, but trust us; They weren’t.
Don’t you remember the same?
3. What’s that Professor Name?
In any case, all students have asked themselves something: “Who is that Mister that taught the course?” Mr. Miller? Mr. Williams? Or maybe Mr. Davis? The funniest situations happened when one mistakenly called a professor with a wrong name! So, all those jokes on college life about not knowing your professor’s name are 100% real and very recognizable to the College attendees.
Yes, you could deceive the system by calling that Mister with a tricky “Professor”.
But were you not obsessed with remembering the name of Mister while you had the need to email him? If I were to return to that class with an unknown professor name, I would probably write it down! Nonetheless, professors ‘ names were always hard to remember, eventually becoming one of the most recognizable parts of College student humor without time frame!
4. Whoops. Caught with Plagiarism?
What was the last time you could just not complete that annoying assignment? Endless guidelines, a rubric, samples and all other papers, weren’t they too much? Most students thought about falling out while they were in front of the screen with that task.
A deadline is approaching slowly, paper should be published as soon as possible. So many jokes about the college life would express in this case, reasons is the case to publish at least something. Fingers crossed for not getting caught!
The next day you stand for your professor, who complains that you are copying the entire passages of your report. The results of the upcoming conversation are ly to deteriorate.
As highlighted by the modern free plagiarism Checker services, all those stories could have been reversed if only that student could check for free for plagiarism through work.
This situation regarding plagiarism Checker Free is somewhat common for dozens of College students.
For those who are currently going to college, you explain how the situation happened to the professor, without intensifying the already existing conflict. Plagiarism is something terrible, for sure.
5. Your Stomach Starts its own Life in Class
Some jokes on College Life focus only on making fun of normal normal body functions.
Let’s face it; Most students miss most of their breakfast due to the highly disrupted sleep schedule, coupled with a lack of self-discipline in the mornings.
Was there someone sitting in the classroom and suddenly a stomach came on the scene with his own rock opera when the whole class is still seated? Oh, this situation is something that everyone would recognize for certain!
Even if to see this situation as completely normal when one had missed breakfast, such situations are both funny and embarrassing at the same time. College student humor is sometimes really difficult, so make sure your colleagues will make fun of you for long after this “incident” takes place in college.
But why did you feel embarrassed because of your normal bodily functions? Most of the students who were the main heroes in these circumstances, were long after it took place, at the same time embarrassed for long weeks after that time. But wait, guys. These are completely normal bodily functions and reactions. Stop making fun. At least provisionally.
6. Laptop is everywhere!
Sometimes a preparation for the final is too robust. The only thing that you are asked is to concentrate all your attention and make drastic efforts towards that long-requested “Pass”. But how do most students achieve this goal? By bringing that annoying laptop everywhere you go!
Some jokes on college life even claim that college is literally sitting in front of your laptop in different places. And if you’ve prepared hard times for your finals, then prepare to grab it everywhere. Library? Fine. Class? Ok. Toilet? Okay, we all understand that exams are close.
While this is not a sign of the usual dependence on your laptop, you should be sure that all students now acknowledge that laptop is somewhat an artifact of college education. Just by bringing it everywhere, one could really go through that groundbreaking atmosphere of the College. Yeah, a laptop is really “great”.
Some students even argue that they had their dreams with laptops as main characters. Wow, College is full of social interactions and networking facilities (NO).
7. Partying with Whom? Ha?
University celebrations, the true symbols of teaching times. They are often expected to have truly groundbreaking experiences with numerous social interactions and fun times! Wait, aren’t they? Most students have been to some parties, where they literally knew no one. Either be invited by mistake or for some other reason, those parties are certainly the myths of College student humor.
Basically, during such parties, people are just walking circles without saying a word to someone. The common feature of this “entertainment” is a sense of literally purposeless. Wow.
Regardless of how students do to these parties, they find these parties as a bit terrible. So, maybe they should socialize more next time? Well, it depends heavily on what people are present there at the time. While some may be close to your temperament, others may seem too harsh or rude.
All in all, the whole situation with getting a party without at least knowing someone, can be disturbing. Luckily for our article, this situation is quite widespread among students. How do you get through it? Well, who knows for sure?
Aren’t They Recognizable?
All these seven situations are the most recognizable cases of students. While some make jokes about the life of the university and its situations, others find that they are part of the funny life of the students.
So, it doesn’t really matter whether you are singing a rock opera with your stomach or worrying about using plagiarism Checker Free, make sure thousands of students around the world find these situations very recognizable.
So, if you feel that you are alone with your failures or misconceptions during college times, do not be too shy to return to this article. We are with you, everyone was in the midst of those situations.
Are You Career Competent?
You may not have been asked this specific question in a job interview. But fundamentally all interview questions are trying to help the interviewer to define your career competence.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has recently highlighted the idea of career competencies and career readiness in a push to help colleges and universities work with their students in ways that encourage a successful transition from the academic environment to the workplace. That includes the process of moving from being a graduate student or postdoc to a being faculty member within academe, as well as entering into career fields in business, non-profits, government, and beyond.
You can view the NACE competencies here and read about how these competencies were developed through an interactive process involving both career services professionals and human resources/recruiting staff at more than 600 different employers. As such, they represent both what career services professionals should be helping graduate students and postdocs achieve (or at least talk about effectively), and what employers are broadly looking for in some of their ideal candidates.
I the idea of competencies. They give people professional development goals to work towards. They help students and postdocs understand that it takes a wide diversity of skills to be successful in any work situation. They demonstrate that there are always news skills to be learned and new situations in which to apply pre-existing skills.
That said, I’m not sure I the word “competency” as much — at least when thinking about the way graduate students and postdocs think about themselves.
Unfortunately, much in the same way that the word “pedagogy” doesn’t find much love outside of academe (most people would call it “teaching”), the word “competency” doesn’t get much day-to-day use when it comes to the interactions that faculty members and students/postdocs have with one another.
In fact, it can feel a very foreign concept. No one has ever made an appointment with me at the University of Pennsylvania’s Career Services to talk about their competencies.
One definition of competency I found online described the term as “the ability to do something successfully or efficiently.” As definitions go, it is a short one but not entirely helpful. Most people would probably agree that a competency is a positive attribute — something you want more of.
No matter what you are doing, you will probably be better off if you are doing it more competently. However, you can’t make someone more competent just by giving them something knowledge — there is no magical competency pill.
A competency is something that needs to be practiced so that it can be used effectively in a wide range of appropriate situations, and at all the right times.
At Penn, we have been thinking about how the NACE competencies can be adapted for the different student and postdoc populations we serve through Career Services.
We are considering how they might inform the future programming we develop as well as the way we work with students one-on-one with our advising.
We are also thinking about how these career competencies have value to our colleagues in other student service offices on the campus as they work with students in their various capacities.
Here are the NACE career readiness competencies:
1. Critical thinking and problem solving
2. Oral/written communication
4. Information technology application
6. Professionalism and work ethic
7. Career management
One of the first changes we made to this list at Penn was to integrate the idea of applying information technology into the other competencies rather than having it stand alone.
We decided that telling students that it is important for them to use technology to accomplish a task and solve problems would ly trigger blank stares flavored with a distinct essence of disbelief. No one is going to sound cool and trendy telling students that using technology is important — especially since many may not actually know that there is any alternative.
(And, yes, it is always important to sound somewhat cool and trendy to be seen as credible by some students — at least as cool and trendy as someone can who uses the words “cool” and “trendy.”)
We also added a “self-management and personal wellness” competency to emphasize concepts such as resiliency in the face of challenges, mistakes and failures. Students and postdocs should know that it is OK to make some mistakes, that failure often creates different opportunities, and that it is both professional and important to ask for help in pretty much any scenario.
Here are the career competencies we have developed so far:
Self-management and personal wellness. Build personal and professional development strategies and goals with a clear focus on effectively managing stress and balancing work/life commitments.
- Assess personal feelings and effectively keep emotions in perspective.
- Showcase empathy and understanding with others.
- Cultivate and foster habits of wellness to increase focus, productivity and impact.
- Develop and demonstrate resiliency within a professional setting and other stressful situations.
- Gain awareness of available wellness resources and support and ask for help when needed.
Active listening and effective communication. Accurately receive and interpret verbal and non-verbal messages from direct reports, peers, colleagues, and supervisors. Clearly and effectively articulate thoughts and to varied audiences in writing and in presentation.
- Adapt speaking approaches to suit different audiences.
- Communicate effectively and professionally through diverse channels (social media, emails, verbal communication).
- Express ideas in a coherent manner.
- Write/edit letters, position papers, proposals, web content and complex technical reports clearly and effectively.
Critical thinking and problem solving. Exercise sound reasoning to analyze issues, make decisions, overcome problems, address ambiguity and find relevant information.
- Obtain, interpret, and use knowledge, facts, and data to resolve problems.
- Demonstrate creativity, originality and inventiveness.
- Easily adapt new technologies and applications to address work challenges and apply computing skills to solve problems.
Teamwork and collaboration. Build collaborative relationships with colleagues and clients representing diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, religions, lifestyles, disciplines, and viewpoints.
- Assume various roles within a team structure.
- Effectively manage and negotiate different personalities in order to reach a common goal.
- Understand how to problem solve when encountering challenging workplace dynamics.
Leadership and project management. Develop professional, working relationships with colleagues, peers, and supervisors/advisors, and leverage the strengths of others to achieve common goals.
- Develop a strategically conceptualized plan to identify and achieve goals.
- Utilize interpersonal skills to coach, develop, motivate and gain buy-in from others.
- Organize, prioritize and delegate work.
- Identify opportunity areas to more successfully achieve goals.
- Leverage diverse talent pool to maximize team results.
Professionalism and work ethic. Demonstrate personal accountability and effective work habits (e.g., punctuality, working productively with others and time/workload management), and understand the impact of non-verbal communication on professional image.
- Demonstrate integrity and behave ethically.
- Make responsible decisions that consider the interests of the larger community.
- Assume responsibility when mistakes are made and learn from them in future situations.
- Communicate with colleagues in language appropriate for the work. environment and suitable for a diverse environment.
- Go above and beyond to make positive impressions.
- Understand data privacy and security issues particular to the workplace.
Career Management. Identify and express one's skills, strengths, knowledge and experiences relevant to both the desired position and career goals, and identify areas necessary for professional growth.
- Assess current role and how it will lead to future prospects.
- Understand and take necessary steps to find and pursue opportunities.
- Articulate impact on workplace by effectively communicating and illustrating skills, competencies, knowledge and experiences.
- Self-advocate for professional development and advancement.
- Understand current industry’s market and relationship to the overall economy.
Many higher education institutions have developed their own customized competencies for their students, and we hope that this approach at Penn will be similarly helpful for us as administrative staff as well as to the students and postdocs we serve. It is clear that the role of career advisers is not necessarily to assist them in gaining all of these competencies. Many fall outside of the reach of a career services office.
But we can certainly play a key part in helping students and postdocs understand the importance of these traits from the prospective of employers, to point them towards experiences that help them develop and practice these competencies, and perhaps most important, to help them be able to communicate the competencies they do have in clear, illustrative and relevant ways during their job search and career development. I will describe possible ways to gain and then demonstrate some of these competencies in a future post.