In the five years I spent working for a Christian college, I talked to a lot of prospective students. Some of those students attended the school and, eventually, I watched them graduate—remembering all too well the high-schooler who approached the recruitment table only four years earlier. Each time I saw one of these students graduate into a brand-new career, I remembered the qualities that set them apart at the beginning.
Every college is different. This being the case, every college counselor will be looking for a specific type of student. But there are a few things we look for that are universal. These qualities set students apart from the crowd. These students are the ones who, as they walk away, get talked about by the recruiters. They’re the students we want on our campus. So here are five things that college recruiters are looking for in prospective students.
Counselors realize that high school is a busy time; we were there, too! But students who begin thinking about college early are at an advantage. By taking initiative on your post-secondary education—doing research, picking colleges to visit and perusing programs of study—you’re proving you have the initiative it takes to actually complete a college degree.
Initiative is most obvious to counselors when students take ownership of their education. Students who call directly—instead of waiting for their parents to do it—leave an impression of confidence. That’s exactly what counselors are looking for.
Closely tied to initiative is ambition. Where initiative takes the lead, ambition follows through. Ambition doesn’t always mean straight A’s and involvement in every kind of extracurricular activity—although counselors DO like to see good grades. Ambition can sometimes mean a student has persevered to achieve excellence in one specific area. A student who perseveres in grades, athletics an extracurricular activity or all of the above will have an advantage in college.
A curious mind is appealing to counselors because it tells them the student desires to learn. Since college is a place of higher learning, curiosity makes for the best students!
Students who ask questions—especially “Why?” and “How?”—are motivated to have the initiative and ambition previously mentioned. When you’re naturally interested in learning, you’ll be much more likely to ask tough questions and work hard to find answers.
While counselors know high school students won’t be completely prepared for college—no one is!—they are impressed by those who know what they want for their higher education. With so much information available on the Internet, research is easy to do. Make a list of your top five colleges of choice and narrow down your favorite programs of study. Come up with questions to discuss when you visit the campus or meet with a counselor. This kind of preparation goes a long way in showing off who a student is.
Finally, the most noteworthy characteristic of a quality student is respect. Look the counselor in his eye. Shake hands. Present your questions in a respectful manner. Believe it or not, these actions are rare in today’s society. Students who act this way stand out from the crowd—and from the stack of applications.