Schools like the University of Chicago are beginning to do away with test score requirements because so much research has pointed out that this is not indicative of the whole student. If a high schooler wants to truly set themselves apart from the other straight A students, a robust portfolio of extracurricular activities is the solution. This doesn't mean the child should spend all of their free time joining every club and sport they can find. The answer is to make the extracurricular, curricular. Integrate these activities into the school experience, creating a body of work that exemplifies what the student can offer the university.
Internships Start Now
In addition to extracurricular examples, work experiences also show an admissions councilor that a student is already dedicated to their chose career. At the same time, internships during high school - even something as small as making copies for a company they find interesting - will help the child decide what they'd like to do with the rest of their life. If accounting is of interest, spend a few hours in a firm each week to see if the real-life environment is still of interest.
Start Planning for College in 9th Grade
In order to accomplish any of the above mentioned steps, college planning should start as soon as the student enters Freshman year. Careers don't need to be decided when the child is 14, but this level of thinking will create a purpose-drive high school experience.