This is like an anecdote.
I have drawn all my life. On Junior high school my drawings, (class projects) had a waiting list from people that wanted to have them. They were not spectacular, but my classmates liked them. The same in High school, hand-drawn poster size images used to decorate the classroom (Hollydays related) all ended at someone's home.
Even the periodic table poster I prepared, was stolen by an anonymous collector. :o)
I worked as a cartoonist (and graphic design related) before finishing High school and was not because I looked for the job. A teacher looked for me.
Regardless of all that I Studied Mechanical Engineering for two years. I thought Graphic Design was just a hobby.
One day came an epiphany. Taking some notes about differential equations I realized that the notes were written over a draw of a roller coaster (with people screaming on a cart) The roller coaster was the graph itself.
That day I decided to be a good graphic designer, not just as a hobby. I switched to a "Graphic Communication Design" degree. Some years have passed since and I am still learning.
If you think Graphic Design Is just about knowing Photoshop and some automated tools to find color palettes. I am afraid you are wrong.
skills that help me stand out from other applicants?
Have outstanding pieces of work.
In what field? That is another thing you need to think about. What field do you want to be in?
Take a look at this: Why is it that people are so surprised that graphics design can be hard??