Almost twenty million students enroll in American colleges and universities every year, and competition for acceptance can be fierce. Admissions officers want a well-rounded freshman class, not just well-rounded students, so your dream school needs to know what makes you unique. Your college application should tell a story about your strengths, passions, and plans. But, what if you’re still in the exploration phase and aren’t sure where to focus your energies?

This is where aptitude testing can help. It’s not only a research-backed way to make career choices, it can also give you an edge in the college application process. Here are five ways to bring your aptitude test scores into your higher ed planning:

1. Focus on Classes that Fit You Best

The College Board offers a whopping 38 Advanced Placement exams. Which ones should you take? After all, colleges want to see that you’re challenging yourself, but not at the expense of your GPA. If you have a demanding schedule and aren’t sure how many AP classes you can handle, start by signing up for the subjects that fit your aptitudes. That could be economics and statistics if you have strong numerical talents; AP studio art if your high scores point to design; or chemistry and physics if you’re a 3D thinker. Aptitudes predict potential, so these courses will be a better use of your time and energy and set you up for success. They might also be more directly relevant to your future college major. 

2. Choose Targeted Extracurriculars

Strong academics are only part of the college application equation, though. Sports, clubs, after-school jobs, and volunteer experiences are your chances to demonstrate your unique interests and passions. Quality matters more than quantity here, since schools value deeper commitment in one or two areas over more casual participation. Once again, aptitude testing can help you make a smart choice. Are your aptitudes related to music or performing arts? Start a radio show or audition for a play. Do you think like an entrepreneur? Start a small business or become the president of your school’s entrepreneurs club. Score like an engineer? Lead the robotics team or start your own.

3. Master the Personal Statement

Now it’s time for the college application itself. There’s a good chance you’ll fill out the Common Application, since over a thousand schools currently use it. One of their top essay prompts is to write about one of your meaningful talents. If you’ve done aptitude testing, you’ll have hard data to use in your response. That means you can confidently say that you’re an ideas person, have a numerical mind, are a spatial thinker, and so on. And, since people describe aptitude testing as a best-kept secret, writing about your testing experience is a unique angle that other students won’t have. While they might be writing about what they think they’re good at, you’ll have objective data to build your essay around. Not to mention that aptitude testing can be a great way to prove to colleges that you’re serious about your career and education. 

4. Make your Interview and College Tour Count 

No matter where you are in the college application process, it’s a good idea to get some face time with the college you want to go to. Some schools offer interviews, but if your top pick doesn’t, try to take a guided tour of the campus instead. This is your chance to find out if the school is a fit for you, so go into the experience knowing what you’re looking for. Learning about your aptitudes can help you better evaluate aspects like school size (large or small), teaching methods (lectures or fieldwork), study abroad opportunities, and majors. Remember, admissions offices look for informed students who ask good questions. Think of your test results as answering the “whys” behind your goals for college—Why this school? Why this major?

5. Narrow Down College Majors Early and Intelligently

Finally, our research shows that students who use aptitude testing to choose their college major switch at lower rates than the typical student. That’s because aptitude testing is like trying out a number of different career paths at once. There can be good reasons to go into college undeclared, but the benefits of narrowing your options can be huge. Declare early and you could have access to major-specific scholarships; more opportunities to get into required classes; a head start on creating a portfolio if needed; and even 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. 

Are you ready to choose intelligently?

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