Launch Global Education
Sparks blog: Your authentic self

by Dr. Ann Wagner

What are colleges looking for?

It’s a question we hear so often.  Here is the short answer: You!

Now let’s dive in more deeply.

No right applicant

Every college or university seeks variety. While you should be able to find statistics to better understand an average student at any given college or university, these are generalizations. This means that students fall both above and below entrance examination scores and grade point averages. Students can and will sometimes get accepted to reach schools and will occasionally be denied from a safety school.  There is no magic formula to get into any college or university.

hand covered in colorful paint

What makes you unique?

So, now that you know that you don’t need to be any one thing, take some time to reflect on what makes you uniquely you. Yes, your academic scores are an important part of your college application packet.  But so are your interests, your talents, your ideas, and your abilities. Your race, ethnicity, gender identity, socio-economic status, upbringing, and geographic location—along with so many other ways to describe and define yourself—are all part of what makes you you. Embrace who you are, and the things that set you apart.

confident girl in glasses

Know your strengths and challenges

Yep, we all have them.  Understand the things you do well and capitalize on them.  And understand that most challenges can be overcome—or at least improved upon—with time, effort, and grit.

Think carefully about where you put your time and energy. What excites you? What ties to your future interests? If you are a good writer, lean into that.  Find more opportunities to write.  Enter a competition. Volunteer your services to a non-profit organization.

But also think about those things that are challenging for you. What do you need to work on?  Perhaps you lack confidence in speaking in front of others. Find comfortable spaces to practice speaking and study people who do it well.  Then think about ways you can connect what you do well with your challenges.  For example, you could entry a poetry slam competition, reading your own work (strength!) in front of an audience (challenge).

chalkboard with hand covering the im of impossible

Build your confidence

The fact is that you most likely have far less to worry about than you fear. When you better understand who you are, you will approach all things with more confidence, including the college application process.  With an understanding of your unique qualities and the support of your counselor and others, build a college list that includes reach, fit, and safety schools. Yes, you will likely get declined from some schools.  But you will also likely get acceptances and some terrific choices. 

And just remember, universities have to make tough choices. If you weren’t selected, it doesn’t mean you weren’t a qualified candidate, it just means that they had other priorities for their acceptance pool. And that means that it likely wouldn’t have been your best fit anyway. Embrace the opportunities you are presented and choose the one that will work the best for you.

Embracing your authentic self is what matters most.

Dr. Ann Wagner

Ann Wagner, EdD is a founder and the Vision Engineer for Launch Education.  Dr. Wagner has led international schools around the world and currently teaches at the university level, working with educators earning their master's degrees.