When almost twenty million students enroll in American colleges and universities every year, one of the biggest challenges in the admissions process is how to make your application stand out. Admissions officers are looking for a well-rounded freshman class (not just well-rounded students) and that means your dream college wants to know what makes you unique. Your application should tell a story about your strengths, passions, and plans. But, that’s easier said than done when you’re still exploring your interests and aren’t quite sure where to focus your energies.
There’s a research-backed way to get the crucial insight you need: Aptitude testing with the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation in one of our 11 testing centers across the U.S. Our nonprofit research organization has been studying human aptitudes—innate abilities—and careers for nearly 100 years. Testing with us is a data-driven way to learn about your natural strengths, all through a series of hands-on tests, which are like puzzles or games. Once you know your aptitudes, you’ll know which careers and majors match your potential and which paths you should avoid. Armed with this self-knowledge you’ll be able to use your college application to tell your story. Here’s how:
1. Focus on Classes that Fit You Best
Did you know there are 38 Advanced Placement exams? Colleges generally want to see that you’re challenging yourself, but not at the expense of your GPA. Aptitude testing can indicate if you have a mind for the humanities or one that’s better suited for STEM classes. If you already have a demanding schedule and aren’t sure how many AP classes you’ll be able to handle, start by signing up for the subjects that best match your aptitudes. They’ll come more naturally to you and be a better match for your likely college major. Aptitude testing is a great way to optimize your class schedule.
2. Choose Targeted Extracurriculars
Sports, clubs, after-school jobs, and volunteer experiences are your chance to demonstrate interests and initiative outside of the classroom. Deep involvement in one or two areas shows colleges where you have commitment and passion. If you know you have aptitudes in areas related to music, this knowledge can guide you to DJ a radio show or join an improv comedy team. Do you think like an entrepreneur? Start a small business or become the president of your school’s entrepreneur’s club. Score like an engineer? Lead your school’s robotics team or start your own. Aptitude testing helps you make a smart choice from a variety of opportunities.
3. Ace the Personal Statement
Many colleges, including the more than 800 schools that use the Common Application, ask you to write about one of your meaningful talents in your personal statement. If you’ve done aptitude testing, you’ll have hard data to use in your answer. Not only does aptitude testing give you the vocabulary to better explain your own talents, it also proves your commitment to making a well-informed decision about your education and future. Our aptitude testing is often described as a best-kept secret, so writing about your aptitudes and the testing experience in your statement will be sure to be memorable. While other students will be writing about what they think they’re good at, you’ll have the data to prove to colleges that you have the potential to be successful.
4. Make your Interview and College Tour Count
It’s a good idea to get some face time with a college you’re interested in, and admissions offices look for students who ask good questions. Some schools offer interviews, but if your top choice doesn’t, try to take a guided tour of the campus. This is your chances to find out if the school will be the right fit for you, so you’ll want to start your visit by knowing what you’re looking for in a college. The information you glean from aptitude testing can help you ask informed questions about school size (large or small), teaching methods (lectures or fieldwork), study abroad opportunities, and majors. Your test results can help you answer the “whys” behind your goals for college: Why this school? Why this major?
5. Narrow Down Majors Early and Intelligently
Our research shows that students who use aptitude testing to choose their college major switch majors at lower rates than the typical student. That’s because aptitude testing is like trying out a number of different career paths at once. While there can be good reasons to go into college undeclared, the benefits of narrowing down potential majors early on can be huge: access to major-specific scholarships; more opportunities to get into required classes; time to create a portfolio if your school requires one; and even access to professional development opportunities. And don’t forget one of the biggest advantages of all—the relief of knowing you’re on the right educational path. You’ll not only save time and tuition money, but you can stop worrying about what to major in and start enjoying your college experience.