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Articles / Applying to College / Which "Competitions" Boost Admissions Odds?

Which "Competitions" Boost Admissions Odds?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Feb. 5, 2010

Question: I am a high school junior who has finally realized the importance of competitions to set me apart from others. Many have told me to find a "passionate" endeavor, but I realize the importance of competitions too. Besides the usual Olympiads and lab-research competitions, what other competitions may I enter?

There are lots of ways to demonstrate your passions, and there are so many "competitions" around that taking part in them--or even winning them--doesn't necessarily make you stand out in a hyper-competitive crowd. Unlike the majority of old folks like myself who survived our wonder years with nary an award, yours is the "Everyone-Gets-a-Trophy" generation, and thus admission folks can become pretty jaded--rightfully so or not--whenever they spot "Winner" on an application. Thus, don't feel that contest success is your elite-college "hook."

But if you enjoy competing, probably the best known and respected competitions among college admission officials are the Intel Science Talent Search and the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology. (Perhaps you were referring to these when you mentioned the "usual lab-science competitions.") However, these are the heavy-hitters, and success in either one will make admission folks sit up and take notice. (Yet even garnering top honors in these biggies will not provide a sure-thing fat letter from your top-choice school.)

A personal favorite of mine, however, and one that will certainly be known to admission folks, too, is Teen Jeopardy. Test dates are coming up soon so, if you're interested, act fast. See http://www.jeopardy.com/onlinetests/teen/ You can take the preliminary screening test online at home!

And, of course, if your talents lie in the performing arts, there's always American Idol, too. :-)

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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