Keep an open-mind and be willing to go outside your normal routine. When opportunities present themselves, take them. Is your school putting on a fundraiser of some sort? Get involved. Even if the cause is not inspiring to you, you may find that volunteering/working with people, fund-raising, getting out into the community, and/or making a difference do inspire. Is someone looking for a tutor in a subject you know well? Volunteer. You may discover a passion for teaching, or working with young (or adult or elderly or language-learning) students.
Are you a problem-solver? You don’t have to love education or public service to see a problem in your school or community and figure out how to fix it. One student recognized that the crowded halls at her school were causing kids to be late to class, and the crowds were caused by people on their phones. So she proposed a “texting lane” in the hallways, where the texters could stand still and the walkers could get where they were going.
Think about the classes you have taken or are taking now. What was it about your favorite classes that intrigued you? Would you like to go deeper into a historical time period or scientific concept? Would you like to do more creative writing or perhaps take music lessons? There are competitions for historical research, science fairs, magazines and newspapers that might accept poetry, many performance opportunities you could pursue.
What do you do for fun? How could you expand that activity? One student I worked with loved playing video games, so he proposed a video game review column to his local newspaper (when he was 15, coincidentally). His eventual college was so impressed, they mentioned the column when they were bragging on their new freshman class at the first day welcome assembly. Another student was intrigued by 3-D printing, so he taught himself how to use the software to create his own 3-D printed designs.
There are lots of things you can find that interest you enough to spend a significant amount of time doing them, if you look. You don’t have to find one single thing that you “love.” Just get out there and get interested in things.
But I digress. Whichever high-powered political science school you apply to, you will need:
The one thing you should not do is create an organization or program because you think you need one for college admissions. Just like joining all the clubs in school just to show you’re “involved,” admissions officers can see right through this. Showing true leadership—born of passion, not obligation—is what is going to make you a stand-out candidate.
In addition, you need to research all the schools you are going to apply to and make sure each one is a good fit for you. Applying to every school you think is an Ivy simply because they are an Ivy is a recipe for disaster. You will definitely be rejected by some, just because the straight-laced student who fits in at Harvard or Princeton will not fit in at Cornell (the Ivy League ag school) or Brown. Don’t waste your time applying to schools that don’t fit you!
 National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y)
 United States Senate Page
 The Congressional Award is the United States Congress’ award for young Americans.
This answer was first published on Quora on July 18, 2016. Follow me on Quora for more great content!
The Congressional Award program is a terrific way for students to beef up their college applications while learning those soft skills that employers want and turn an ordinary service-learning resume into something extraordinary. This program, set up by the US Congress, teaches kids between the ages of 14-24 those valuable “soft skills” like goal-setting, organization, time management and perseverance, and can be earned in conjunction with extracurricular activities you are already doing. Although the Program has been in place since 1979, it is still relatively unknown, so having such an award on your resume will help you stand out. I encourage every student to look into the Congressional Award as a way to beef up your college applications.
Goals for the awards are set in four areas: volunteering/public service, personal development, physical fitness and exploration/expedition. Students set goals in each of these four areas and work with their advisor and validators to accomplish them. Goals might include:
And you’re not in this alone. Much like the Eagle Scout and Girl Scouts Gold Award programs, the Congressional Award Program requires students to have an advisor, an adult who works closely with the student to oversee the entire program to keep him or her on track. Advisors can be any adult not related to the student by blood or by marriage, and can be anyone from a teacher, scout leader or guidance counselor to a family friend. Students also need validators--coaches, guides, service work supervisors, tutors or others--who help the student create measurable goals and then achieve them. Both the validators and advisor have to sign off on the students Record Book pages, the required method of documenting the work that has been done. The very first thing students learn is how to approach adults to request their help with the Program.
need to be consecutive, so your 24 months for the gold award can be spread out across your entire high school (and even college) career to lessen your stress. Hours accumulate across all the levels, so the Gold Award is only 12 months longer than the Silver Award.
Students who are interested in earning a Congressional Award should obtain the official Congressional Award Program Book to learn about the requirements. You can register for the program at the Congressional Award website or by snail mail. Only hours completed after you are registered for the Program count toward your Congressional Award. Every student should consider the Congressional Award as a way to beef up your college applications. Given its prestige and relative obscurity, having such a Congressional Award on your resume will help you stand out.
Lessa Scherrer is an college admissions consultant who has worked with college-bound students for many years. She is a member of NACAC and WACAC and also teaches ACT Prep, speed-reading, college study skills and college-level writing.
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