Question: I took second place at national music composition contest. Will this help me get into a highly competitive college?
Congratulations on your win. Generally speaking, success in any sort of national competition is a plus in admission officers' eyes. At the most competitive colleges, it won't go a long way to make up for mediocre test scores or grades, but it will help an already-good applicant stand out in a pool of other strong contenders. The vast majority of applicants to Ivy League colleges (and their hypercompetitive equivalents) are already qualified to attend, so admission officials are always on the look-out for other accomplishments or traits that make some candidates a cut above the others. However, they are also accustomed to a proliferation of competitions and "national" awards, and many officials have thus become somewhat jaded when it comes to distinguishing the legitimate honors from those that may be less so.