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Monday, January 27, 2014

College Crash Course Part 6: Ways to Stand Out to Colleges


In the last blog, we talked about depth–not breadth–when pursuing extra curricular activities. Commitment, leadership, and long-term involvement are what colleges like to see. Homeschooled students have the rare opportunity to become experts in the fields that interest them. Don’t let your child settle for a typical education. Encourage him to specialize in one or two areas, making him stand out from the crowd. This will definitely get the attention of college counselors.

What are some ways your child can stand out with his passions and extra curricular activities? Below are some ideas.

Enter a Competition

There are competitions for almost every field of interest. Whether it’s birding, piano, art, writing, math, debate, mock trial or Legos–competitions abound! Adding competition and especially a win to your child's list of activities will do wonders for that spit shine on his application.

My daughter entered ballet competitions and placed highly, giving her application that special "oomph." She took her talent in dance to the Miss America Organization by competing for Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen as Miss Fulton County’s Outstanding Teen, bringing home several awards and cash for college.

Start a Business
 
With the advent of online shopping, one can sell almost anything they create. How can your child’s interest turn into an online business?

When my daughter was younger, she started a dance magazine and sold subscriptions online, mailing her printed magazine each month. She could have turned her dance knowledge into a plethora of different businesses, including writing “How To” books, selling dance paraphernalia, or teaching classes. Teaching classes actually deserves its own bullet point.

Teach a Class

Colleges are looking for leadership skills. Teaching others is highly valued and will add gold stars to your child’s entrance application.

Whether your child is a history buff or an expert on birds, he can hold a weekly or one time class to share his love of his favorite subject.

Start a Blog

Blogging is big. Very big. If your child is excited about and committed to creating content and talking about his passion on a weekly basis (in short spurts), he could garner a following that would look quite impressive to college admissions counselors.

Hold a Summer Camp

Is your child an expert on reptiles, baseball, ping pong, acting, ballet, or something else? If so, he can hold a summer camp for young children, teaching them the fundamentals of his interest. Whatever it is, parents are looking for summer camps for their children.

When my daughter was a young teen, she put together a musical theatre camp for elementary students. The camp filled quickly. She and a friend assigned the campers roles in a play, taught them ballet, fed them snacks, and played lots of fun theatre games over the course of a week. At the end of the week, parents came to enjoy watching their children perform. My daughter made a little money, had a lot of fun, and added a double whammy to her college application in both leadership and business initiative.

Attend a Summer Camp

Don’t waste the summer months. This is the time to really enhance your child’s college application by having him attend a summer program!

Whatever your child’s interest, summer programs can be an important part of making him stand out. There are programs dedicated to almost every passion your child might have. They look great on the entrance application and can definitely improve your child’s chances of getting into a competitive school.

Most colleges offer programs for high school students and some even offer college credit for the experience. If your child is interested in a particular college, check out their summer programs to score some brownie points and prove your child’s commitment to that school.

My daughter auditioned for and attended ballet summer camps every summer from age thirteen to seventeen. She met so many amazing friends and teachers, opening her world to valuable life experiences. These camps honed her talent and were a great addition to her application.

Do some research online by plugging in “Summer Program” or “Summer Camp” next to the area of interest your child might enjoy studying over the summer.

Write a Book or eBook

Colleges love writers. If your child has any writing aptitude, encourage him to write a book. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, starting and finishing a book is an impressive feat.

There are many avenues for getting a book published these days. Some publishing houses and agents specialize in teen authors. Whether you seek traditional publication or self-publishing, the process will give your child an invaluable experience.

Build an Informational Website or Podcast

Your homeschooled student has the advantage of time–time to become one of the experts. A friend’s son took his baseball knowledge to the next level by becoming an online expert. No one knew he was in high school. It didn’t matter; he knew his stuff. He ended up with a great job, making a lot of money as a senior contributor on a national program while in college.

If your child has spent a great deal of time on one subject, encourage him to make his expertise available to others. He can do this through building a website, starting a podcast or, as we stated before, blogging.
  
Volunteer

A great way for your child to build up his knowledge and expertise in a field is to volunteer his time in that field. A friend of mine's son who planned to become a vet, volunteered at his vet’s office beginning at age twelve. My son is interested in becoming an environmental scientist and is volunteering at a local nature center, taking visitors on trails to tell them about the local flora and fauna. Volunteering is a great way to sparkle among colleges. We'll discuss this concept in another post. 

There are many ways your child can take their unique interest to the next level. This is the beauty of homeschooling through high school.

Do you have any other ideas for making your child stand out to colleges? Share them by commenting on this blog!

Jeannie Fulbright

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