With increased competitiveness, applying to college becomes more daunting and difficult each year. The most prestigious schools, such as Stanford University, may seem like a pipe dream, reserved only for the rich, well-connected or Einstein-level students. While you should do your best to succeed in high school, Stanford takes into consideration many other factors for admission. Here are some ways to increase your chances of getting into Stanford University, even if it seems impossible.

Carefully Plan Your Classes

Stanford recommends that high school students looking to attend the university take specific courses. If you've got your eye on Stanford, take four years of English classes that emphasize writing and literature, three or more years of history with emphases on writing essays and three or more years of the same foreign language. You should also take four years of math, including algebra, trigonometry and geometry. Where you can, you should take AP courses. This means attending the school takes some forethought.

Go Beyond Good Grades

Good grades and test scores certainly factor into whether you get into Stanford, but there are instances in which students with lower scores still make it in, even after being told by parents, friends and counselors that there was no way they would make the cut. This is because Stanford considers more than just good grades. Stanford looks for well-rounded individuals with a strong work ethic, a drive to help the community and a passion for learning. Try to vary your experiences and extra-curricular activities while you’re in high school.

Write a Unique Essay

Most college applicants write their life story for their application essay. The most successful application essays break from the norm and find a fresh approach to the essay topic. For example, recently Columbia applicants were asked, “What matters to you and why?” Two of the applicants who were successfully admitted wrote about ice cream and lasagna—not exactly two things that come to mind when you think of the most important things in your life. Because those essays took a unique approach, they stood out among the essays that talked about family or friends. Think outside the box.

Create Something

If you’re passionate about a particular field, it’s never too early to create something to call your own. Write a collection of short stories, create an iPhone app, make a video game, intern at a newspaper or volunteer as an apprentice. Show that you have what it takes to succeed in your area of study, and eventually, in your field. If you’re not sure where to start, contact people who have the kind of job you’d like to have one day and ask if you can shadow them and ask questions about how to stand out.