What Are Academic Strengths? Academic Strengths List & Examples

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Whether you’re a current pupil or a prospective college student, it’s important to recognize your academic strengths. So, what exactly are academic strengths, you ask? In essence, they’re the qualities that make you a great student and learner. Making a list of these attributes can help you build confidence, but it can also help you identify areas for improvement. Not sure how to start? We’re here to help you explore your academic strengths.

Classroom-Related Strengths

So, why do colleges ask about your academic strengths to begin with? First and foremost, these institutions want to make sure you have the skills you need to be successful in the classroom. When preparing an application, you’ll want to emphasize classes you excelled in or special skills that set you apart from other students.

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Say, for example, that you are really good with computers. You might list skills like:

  • Digital Literacy
  • Coding
  • IT Skills
  • STEM

Once you begin to list your skills, you’ll likely be able to come up with even more abilities worth emphasizing. For example, someone with the skillset above might also highlight the following traits:

  • Critical thinking
  • Analysis
  • Curiosity
  • Love of learning
  • Systems thinking

Other classroom-related skills can be more general, but that doesn’t mean that they’re any less important. If you’re a great test taker, don’t be afraid to mention it. Generally, test-taking skills result in good grades, so you might also list strengths such as:

  • Organization
  • Prioritization
  • Research
  • Time management

Character Traits as Academic Strengths

Even if you’re not a natural-born test taker or essayist, showing off your character strengths can also go a long way toward building a standout application. If you’re a great athlete, for example, list those accomplishments and the qualities that help you excel in that field (or that were nurtured by participating in sports).

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If you led your team to a championship match or earned a black belt in martial arts, there’s certainly a lot to glean. These accomplishments say a great deal about your strengths, so you might list some of the following qualities:

  • Self-discipline
  • Collaborative
  • Persistent
  • Self-direction
  • Good listener
  • Problem solver

Colleges want to know that you’re not the kind of person who is going to give up when things get hard. More often, success boils down to persistence, so don’t be afraid to let yourself shine in whatever areas display that mentality and drive.

Creative Skills as Academic Strengths

If you’re an artist of any sort, be sure to mention that on your application as well. Creative people tend to be successful in a wide array of fields due to their ability to think outside of the box.

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While creativity is a strong strength to list, don’t be afraid to get specific as far as your favorite art forms, from creative writing and filmmaking to improv and painting. Additionally, you’ll want to consider what your artistic pursuits reveal about you trait-wise. Some strengths that stem from artistic ability might include:

  • Design thinking
  • Reading comprehension
  • Open-mindedness
  • Storytelling
  • Analytical skills
  • Visual communication
  • Emotional intelligence

The Importance of Extracurricular Activities

Ever wonder why colleges love to see a well-rounded application stuffed with extracurriculars? Well, it’s largely due to the fact that your involvement in clubs and social groups can say a great deal about you as a person. Most colleges aren’t just looking for students with great grades. In fact, they want folks who will add something to their on-campus (or virtual) community.

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In addition to listing all of the groups, clubs, and organizations you’ve been a part of outside the classroom, mention any roles or offices you’ve held. After all, being a leader is a huge plus. Even outside of leadership, extracurricular activities can foster strengths like:

  • Strong verbal and non-verbal communication skills
  • Active listening
  • Consensus building
  • Debate
  • Public speaking
  • Socializing

How to Address Areas for Improvement

Sometimes, applications will ask you to list your “weaknesses” — or, as we like to see them, areas that need some improvement. In other words, they don’t just want to know your natural strengths. While listing your weaknesses may feel counterintuitive, keep in mind that it’s also an opportunity to demonstrate your self-awareness. And, as an added bonus, you can show them your commitment to (and game plan for) refining those areas.

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Listing some weaknesses can also help you explain any gaps in your application. For example, if you’re not a great test taker, highlighting that weakness can help you express that your grades may not reflect your aptitude or passion. Still not sure how to write about weaknesses? Try thinking about things you’ve overcome. If you used to struggle with time management, you might explain how upping your organization game helped you plan ahead and feel less overwhelmed.

In the end, it’s all about balance — and crafting that well-rounded picture. It’s hard to illustrate everything that makes you unique in an application, but staying honest and focusing on what you know can go a long way.