If you’ve ever seen (or even heard of) Gilmore Girls, you’ll know that the main character, Rory, is desperate to get into Harvard – and that she spends most of her high school career trying to stand out from the crowd. She studies nonstop, does all the extracurriculars, builds houses for charity, even joins a sorority she doesn’t want to just to boost her social standing. But, in the end, she finds out that all her hard work doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll get into the college of her dreams.
Sometimes, trying to figure out the nuances of what colleges expect from you can feel hopeless. Test scores need to be good but they’re not everything; essays should be excellent but personal; extracurriculars should be varied but not so much that it looks like you’re uncommitted.
If you’re trying to figure out what college admissions really want to see on your resume, we’re here to tell you what it is. The one golden ticket that colleges are seeking out more and more.
At this point, test scores, resume-building experiences, and essays are equally expected by colleges across the board. So, admissions are increasingly looking above and beyond these success points for students who have proven they know how to research and analyze data. There are 3 big reasons for this.
1. Colleges want students who are curious & interested.
It might be hard to believe, but colleges don’t want students who will be contented with memorizing information and regurgitating it. They want students who know how to ask questions because they are genuinely curious and are passionate about learning in-depth about a topic that fascinates them. This is why high school research is so important to students entering college. It shows that a student can identify a passion and pursue their own curiosity about it. By choosing a topic they’re interested in, coming up with original questions about it, conducting research that lets them discover circuitous answers, and presenting their findings passionately, students go beyond homework assignments and enter their own world of interest. Research is a process that teaches a student that learning is not routine or predetermined but rather is alive and deeply personal. And, hey, if you were a teacher, wouldn’t you want your students to be like that?
2. Colleges want critical thinkers
Critical thinking is the ability to think objectively about an issue to form an opinion. It is a highly sought-after quality among employers and, up until now, has been something many colleges claim they teach students. But more and more articles have come out in the last decade questioning whether colleges are actually living up to that promise.
Whether or not colleges are living up to the task of teaching critical thinking skills, many believe this is a skill that should be developed early on in the education process since much of it depends on a healthy sense of self-esteem (which should be built before reaching college!)
High school research helps to promote healthy self-belief which leads to the ability to create informed, concrete opinions. Students develop self-confidence through choosing their own topic and learning to direct the research process through their own curiosity. Learning how to tie together multiple ideas and coming up with their own conclusion gives them a sense of freedom – it is empowering to create an informed, objective opinion rather than repeating what a teacher says. This sense of self-security will stabilize students as they learn to stand up for their opinions and share ideas in the college environment.
3. Colleges want students with hands-on experience.
Experiential learning is learning by doing. And in college, there are many opportunities for students to apply what they’re learning in real-life scenarios through internships and research programs. Colleges want to know that incoming students can handle the application of theory in a real-world scenario so these undergraduate opportunities will help them flourish. If a student has only ever gained textbook knowledge, then applying knowledge in a real-life setting may be overwhelming. But if a student already has had experience with research in a specific field and seen how theory is applied in actuality, then college will become a time for them to really craft and hone that particular skill-set in their chosen field. Research opportunities in high school give students this kind of hands-on access to connect their education with the “real world” – a trait colleges find very appealing when considering admission.
Now you know what the golden ticket is, why wait! If you’re looking for opportunities to gain high school research experience, NJIN is launching a new online research program that will provide you with just the kind of unique, hands-on research college admissions are looking for! Visit our homepage to find out more!
At NJIN, we are passionate about helping young people discover their earth-purpose. Our programs are designed to offer structured curriculum and real-world experiences within a space that encourages students to roam freely in nature, growing their innovation, self-exploration, and experimentation. Join us!