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How to Align Your Interest with Your Values

Most universities are increasingly using a holistic review method when reviewing applicants for admission, what's your unique selling point?

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Feb 07, 2024

Most universities are increasingly using a holistic review method when reviewing applicants for admission, considering various aspects of a student’s academic and personal record. This includes the tangibles, like a student’s academic transcript, standardised test scores, recommendation letters, and essays. 

But it also includes the intangibles, like a student’s passions, interests, and motivations. While it may seem intuitive to strategise for certain aspects of the admissions process, like performing well in classes or studying for standardised tests, it’s often more difficult for students to think about how to uncover their passions and values and demonstrate those through extracurricular activities.

Developing Yourself Through Extracurriculars

Intentional student identity development is one of the most crucial aspects that is evaluated in the extracurricular activity section, and because of that, the extracurricular activity section remains one of the most difficult elements in the application review for many students to receive a high score on. 

The more selective a school is, the more difficult it is to achieve a high rating in the activity section, and how students articulate their experience and development in these roles is critical to attaining the maximum rating. So how can students be more strategic about how they pursue their interests and demonstrate their personal identity and development?

Self-Discovery in JC and Poly 

JC and Poly is when a student’s cognitive development allows them to construct their identity through the admission process; extracurricular activities provide the perfect opportunity to craft their story of self-identity. 

Think about your service learning projects, or your sports involvement—what do you enjoy about them? What did you learn about working with other people, or yourself? We want to help students understand their goals, their strengths, what they truly enjoy,as it is the important foundation for their application journey.

Personal Branding and Launch 

All our processes—no matter if students are applying to vet school or art school focus on helping students stand out and think for themselves. Many students feel they're just like their friends, engaging in the same activities. We guide them to break free from this and cultivate their unique identity.

Standing Out and Independent Thinking

We encourage students to discover what makes them different and to think independently. The goal is not just to participate but to stand out with purpose and authenticity.

JC and Poly: A Crucial Time for Self-Discovery

For Junior College (JC) or Polytechnic students, this is the perfect time to express who they are. Our coaches use the admissions process to help students discover themselves, laying a strong foundation for pursuing activities that match their individuality. Understanding that identity is complex and changes, our processes use school experiences as learning opportunities. We guide students in exploring and expressing their stories, getting ready for university early on in their JC career.

Self-Initiated Projects

Our Launch programme empowers students to embark on self-initiated projects. This experience teaches them how to effectively convey their vision, showcase their learning, and demonstrate leadership by initiating new endeavors. We provide a supportive framework for students to experiment, learn, and gain insights into themselves. Throughout the process, we offer guidance and accountability, ensuring they meet their responsibilities.

Defining Values and Interests: An Iterative Process 

A well-developed identity consists of values and beliefs that can help students set goals they can commit to accomplishing over time. A big part of our work with students is helping them identify their top-three core values and articulate why those values matter to them and how they have proven those values are important. 

Students often have many interests they want to explore, but our coaches encourage them to focus their passions and talents with intention to make an impact and develop their skills in an area that matters most to them, rather than commit to multiple activities. By guiding them in this way, they’ll remain engaged over a long period of time, even when things become challenging or don’t go their way.

Understanding Your Unique Voice

Let’s face it: understanding how to become a competitive applicant can be a daunting and confusing task. One of the best parts of working with students is to support our students in discovering their voice, which helps take the stress and overwhelm out of the university admissions process. 

Self-awareness has long been recognised as one of the most important traits for leaders to develop – which is something admissions officers are looking for in students’ applications and activity lists. By understanding our own motivations, values, and desires, we are better equipped to lead and make good decisions. So much of the university application process is about making decisions, and understanding their own voice can help students become better leaders and decision-makers in their extracurricular activities.

Uncovering your passions, values, and interests can take time, but it’s a critical piece of the college prep puzzle. At Icon, our team of expert coaches work with students to help them identify and develop their interests, including suggesting extracurricular initiatives that can help them not only stand out when they apply to college but also bring them genuine joy. Contact us today for more information on how we can work with you or your child to better explore their interests and activities – no matter where they are in the university prep process.



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Founded in 1999 to provide comprehensive standardised test preparation and admissions coaching for students embarking on their university education.

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