Students at Sewanee: The University of the South via Flickr

A common misconception is that colleges only accept students who fit a certain profile. Similarly, some students convince themselves that individual colleges prefer students with very particular skill sets.

In reality, colleges seek to build diverse and interesting classes.

Part of higher education is familiarizing yourself with the world at large. This involves getting to know people from other cultures, races, and socioeconomic situations.

While colleges have admissions standards, they don’t expect every student who enrolls to fit a perfect profile. If every student on campus were exactly alike, they wouldn’t have much to learn from one another. Instead, they look to build a community of different kinds of students, with different backgrounds and passions.

Your advantage in college admissions

Have a college picked out but afraid you don’t fit the typical student profile? Consider applying anyway. You will never know exactly what each college is looking for to know whether or not you meet their needs. Take the following example:

Student A

Student A has taken a reasonably rigorous load of high school courses and has standardized test scores at the bottom of the colleges desired range. Student A is also an outstanding softball pitcher having played on both school and travel teams with great success.

Student B

Student B has also taken a suitably rigorous load of high school courses. Unfortunately her test scores are not stellar. Student B, however, has done significant volunteer work in her community. She has spent many hours tutoring elementary school children, has volunteered at a soup kitchen since middle school, and provides after school care for her younger siblings so that her single parent can work.

Just because Student B does not have that single outstanding talent does not mean that she is any less valuable to colleges. Student A’s pitching skills are only valuable if the school is in need of a softball pitcher.

If they already have an abundance of pitchers on the college’s softball roster, then Student A is not as appealing as Student B who brings her own spirit of generosity.

The key is to find what makes you unique and make it shine.

Whether it’s your passion and dedication to a particular topic, your hard work ethic that you exhibit by volunteering or your desire to make the world a better place, what matters is that you are able to show a college that you’re unique and will enhance the community on their campus.