What to Do When Good Grades Can't Get You In

In the last entry, I asked you about how to identify your contribution. What are you working towards to make your mark? The earlier you do some thinking (and more importantly, acting) on how you will contribute to your school, community, and family, the more impressive you’ll be to college admissions officers.

But it’s not out of the question that you can get started a little later and make a big impact. Take my student, Mike. Mike was a fantastic student academically and his test scores weren’t half bad either. But he was pretty haphazard about how he chose his clubs and activities. Unlike other students, one thing Mike had going for him is that he chose to do things after school that he actually liked—like skateboarding, playing in a band, and sharing stories on his blog—but he hadn’t thought about how to build on these experiences to make a larger impact.

When I first met with Mike, he told me that he wholeheartedly wanted to be a writer. There...

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