September 30, 2019

Tip for college admissions: Stand out through entrepreneurship

The founder of Girls With Impact shares three tips for helping teens distinguish themselves in the grueling college admissions process.

What do college admissions officers look for? Entrepreneur Jennifer Openshaw shares tips for standing out among the crowd. Photo of Stanford University by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Amid the college admissions deception in Hollywood and the ultra-rich, are you wondering: how can I give my teen a leg-up in the college admissions process? How can I do it honestly … and without spending thousands of dollars I don’t have?

The answer is, it’s all about differentiation. And there are some key rules to know about how you differentiate today.

“Parents aren’t thinking out of the box when it comes to helping their kid get into college,” said Josefina Estela, a mother who runs a creative party planning company, Dream and Party.

“They’re all doing the same thing: academics, sports, and community service. They need something like Girls With Impact to create something unique, show their leadership, and really set themselves apart.”

If you’re a parent who’s helping your teen apply for college or a young person about to start the process yourself, here are three rules that will help differentiate you from the pack.

Rule No. 1: Show real leadership

Leadership isn’t about joining clubs or even becoming president of a club. As Harvard director of admissions Marilyn McGrath told me, “Building skills is great, especially when it’s something you thought of independently, showing initiative of something you care about.”

When she was in high school, Jody Bell launched a website that provided resources for immigrant children. Photo courtesy of Girls With Impact

“The question we always ask is: what has she/he done?”

Jody Bell, 17 and now at the University of Charleston, discovered how a project she created through Girls With Impact—a website for youth on deportation—distinctly sets her apart and demonstrated her leadership skills.

“My mom couldn’t afford the $70,000 tuition of my first college choice,” Jody says. “When I visited another college and showed them my venture, In Case of Deportation, they called me down to the guidance counselor’s office the next morning: They gave me a $20,000 scholarship, put me into the honors program in business, and gave me a delegate seat on the Mock U.N.”

Rule No. 2: Make smarter extra-curricular choices

Similar to Jody, Rachel Motley, now 18, at Howard University, placed her entrepreneurial experience as her top extra-curricular activity.

She created a business plan for “Crown Kits” through the same after-school entrepreneurship program. Her experience with that project became the center of her college applications and interviews at both Howard and Babson College, one of the top schools for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Not only did Rachel “feel more capable” with the business training, but she also received two full ride offers to both Babson and Howard worth $200,000.

Rule No. 3: Empower him/her with confidence

Between ages 8-14, girls face a 30 percent drop in confidence. That confidence gap can be detrimental–girls avoid taking on riskier projects, fail to speak up, and hold back from demonstrating real leadership.

Following Rule No. 3 requires confidence and a support system.

Emily Brydges, 14, said, “Before taking Girls With Impact, I didn’t have the courage or resources to take my passion and make it into something real.”

Emily has since gone on to create No Loose Ends, a business that sells colored shoe laces and raises funds for a women’s nonprofit.

She’s now on her way to differentiating herself for college, without deception.

Girls With Impact

Jennifer Openshaw

Girls With Impact

Jennifer Openshaw, is CEO of Girls With Impact, the nation’s only live, online entrepreneur and leadership program. She’s appeared on Oprah, Dr. Phil and many other programs.