How to Write About Online Teen Academies on College Applications

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In a world in which top colleges receive tens of thousands of applications, standing out can be a challenge. Fortunately, by completing one of our cutting-edge Online Teen Academies, your college-bound student already has unique skills that are bound to impress.

College admissions officers are looking for students with specialized knowledge in STEM, business, entrepreneurship, and leadership. So the good news is: much of the hard work is already done! The question then becomes: how do teens highlight those skills and show them to their best advantage? 

Enter the Common Application. Accepted by most colleges and universities, the Common App is the admissions-facing submission that plays a critical role in the application process. Consisting of everything from high school transcripts to personal essays, recommendation letters, and more, there are multiple opportunities for your teen to impress!

If that sounds like a major undertaking, we won’t lie: it is a major undertaking. Never fear! In this guide, we’ll walk through how to describe an amazing Online Teen Academy experience in a compelling, stand-out manner. 

5 Keys to Success: The Common Application

Skills developed in an Online Teen Academy speak volumes to what teens can contribute to their future university class, and they're great to have on your high school senior or rising senior's radar. When described in the right detail, they can demonstrate skills that will open doors of opportunity at their dream colleges.  

Here’s how to showcase those skills in their best light. 

Include as an Extracurricular Activity

Make sure your teen includes this experience among their other extracurricular activities. For clarity, and to convey the impressive scope of the experience, they should include the full title of the course. After all, “Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning with NVIDIA,” is much stronger than a generic “Coding Bootcamp!” 

Describe the Experience in Detail 

Technically, descriptions of extracurriculars are optional. And it’s true: teens have the option to impress, one they should absolutely take!

There is usually a 50-150 character limit in this section of the Common App, so choose those words carefully. Teens should focus on skills learned and projects completed: the more specific, the better. 

Use Strong Action Words

Which of these two sentences is more impactful: “Participated in a 10-week coding course” or “Built JavaScript programming skills and coded a variety of projects." Which do you think is more illustrative of teen’s skills and more likely to make a great impression? 

If you were thinking it’s the second sentence, you’re on track to using strong action words! Especially with a character limit, make every word (literally) count.

List Skill Certification as an Academic Achievement

Yes, there is another section on the Common App in which this achievement can make a difference. Along with any other academic achievements your teen can include, they should make sure to add their Online Teen Academy skill certification. 

Upload Course Certificate & Associated Documents

It’s time to make it official! Remind your teen to upload their certificate to accompany the Common Application. If they have a digital portfolio or can link to their projects, they should absolutely include those as well. 

Next, Knock the Essay out of the Park

Teens can demonstrate much more than their writing skills in the Common App essay section. Clocking in at a maximum of 650 words, the essay gives applicants the chance to show their personalities, passions, and ability to reflect on their most meaningful life experiences. 

Online Teen Academies provide teens with ample material to describe, if they so choose, in an essay format. First things first, we recommend consulting the Common App Essay Prompts and this handy guide to 7 College Essay Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. We also highly recommend reading several high quality example college essays and - it goes without saying - starting the writing process a few months before the application deadline. 

Online Teen Academies: Essay 5 Dos & Don’ts 

With that foundation, here are 5 dos and don’ts for writing an excellent essay about an Online Teen Academy experience. 

Do: Plan & Reflect

An action-packed, 10-week experience gives teens a lot to think about. They should take time away from a blinking cursor to brainstorm, reflect, and plan. Teens should carefully consider potential connections to future goals, larger world issues, other hobbies and leadership activities, and even AP classes. Then, they can identify potential essay themes and the most powerful content.

Don’t: Simply Summarize the Experience

No one wants to read a laundry list. Plus, 650 words may seem lengthy, but in fact, it’s only a little over one single-spaced page. So, teens should use that valuable space to make sure it’s clear why they chose to write about their Online Teen Academy experience and how it shaped them as a person. 

Do: Describe the Entire Learning Process

Challenges, obstacles, and lessons learned make for compelling reading, so teens shouldn’t shy away from those! Not only can this paint a more accurate picture of the learning experience, teens’ ability to persevere, collaborate, and innovate can shine at the same time. 

Of course, the essay should still show teens in a positive light and end on a note of possibilities, but that doesn’t mean stumbling blocks should be edited out of the final product. 

Don’t: Focus on Successes Alone

College is challenging, and young people who demonstrate that they can take on challenges make better admission candidates. College essays that focus solely on “wins” can lack both in substance and detail. 

Do: Identify STEM Skills & Projects

As teens write their rough drafts, it’s a good idea to explain their work to someone new to the subject area. That way, they can ensure their amazing accomplishments make sense and clearly illustrate their amazing potential.  

Don’t: Get Lost in Buzzwords & Confusing Terms

AR experiences. Train an AI. Startup mindset. If you’re confused, you can probably relate to how an admissions officer might feel when reading a slew of unfamiliar tech terms. Quick definitions should take no more than a sentence. From there, most of the essay should focus on skills and projects that can be understood without a tech background. 

Submit an Amazing Application & Launch a Bright Future

Specialized skills in fields like coding, AR/VR, machine learning, AI, and entrepreneurship help teens stand out in a sea of prospective first year students. Not only that, but the soft skills teens learned over the course of an Online Teen Academy experience can make for a stand-out application as well.

For more resources on curating an amazing college application, check out these informative webinars: Writing About STEM on Your College Applications and Finding the Right Computer Science/Engineering College Program for You

A photo of Virginia

Virginia started with iD Tech at the University of Denver in 2015 and has loved every minute since then! A former teacher by trade, she has a master's in education and loves working to embolden the next generation through STEM. Outside the office, you can usually find her reading a good book, struggling on a yoga mat, or exploring the Rocky Mountains.