College Admissions: 6 Steps To A Killer College Application
Monday, August 22, 2016
1. Start early
A truly great college essay or app has rarely been written in the 48 hours before a deadline. The best go through weeks of rewrites before they are powerful and polished. So, don’t procrastinate, start early, and revise, revise, revise.
2. Watch your spelling, capitalization and grammar
It sounds simple, but in the era of texting, I see students fail to capitalize “I” and a host of other things every day. And since most electronic application systems don’t have a spell check feature, you need to proof your work carefully. Do your essays in a word processing program first, then cut and paste them in. It’s fine to have a parent or teacher review your application or essay; it’s just not all right to have them do it for you.
3. Make the most of your essays
Colleges want to see who you are in a 3-dimensional way in your Personal Statement. Use this opportunity to make yourself come alive for the reader. Don’t try to “boil the ocean” and reiterate what is on your application. Pick a point in time and tell a story that captures who you are as an individual. Write on an issue that your feel passionately about.
Tell admissions about a work of art, literature or music that holds special significance for you. I have had students write captivating essays about things as simple as cooking dinner with their family or as complex as working in an AIDS hospital in Kenya. I have laughed over a student’s description of being inside a puppet for a theatre performance, and I have cried over a story about a girl’s relationship with her autistic brother. The topic doesn’t need to be ground breaking, as long as it conveys who you are as a person, showcases your intellect, and demonstrates that you have college-level writing skills. Remember that admissions readers will read hundreds of essays a week, so make yours lively, engaging and genuine.
4. Treat the activities section like gold
This part of the application is key to making you stand out in the admissions process. Put your activities where you have a leadership role (president, treasurer, founder, captain) or where you have spent the most hours and years, up front. Don’t try to go in chronological or alphabetical order; put the most impressive first and the least impressive last. Include all your activities. Make a list and check it twice to be sure you included all your jobs, clubs, music lessons, church work, etc.
5. Note special circumstances
There is a section in the Common Application which allows you to explain anything unusual about your high school grades. This is a great opportunity to detail if you were diagnosed with a Learning Disability, had severe Mono and were out of school for 6 weeks, experienced the loss of a parent or sibling, or any other circumstances which may have affected your grades.
6. Supplements count
Admissions Reps will often joke that they don’t appreciate getting a supplemental essay that starts out “the reason I want to go to BC is…”, when they are at BU. It sounds silly, but too many students write generic essays when asked why they want to go to a particular college, and some even forget to change the name. This is a weeding opportunity for admissions; they want to see that you have done your homework and have some very SPECIFIC reasons why you want to attend THEIR college. Reference things you saw on the campus tour, mention courses you want to take, elaborate on research opportunities you want to pursue and organizations you want to join on campus.
Colleges want to know that you are going to do more than just sit in class, sleep in the dorms, and eat in the dining halls. They want students who will give back as much as they take from a school. They want thoughtful applications from conscientious students, and that takes time. So start early and proof everything judiciously before you hit the “send” button.
This article originally ran in 2013
Related Slideshow: 10 Pieces of Advice for College Freshmen and Their Parents
Heading off to college can be a stressful time. To ease the anxiety, Cristiana Quinn, GoLocalProv's College Admissions Expert, has some sage words for children and parents alike.
When you arrive at college, don't expect everything to be perfect. Your roommate, classes or sports team may not be everything that you dreamed of, and that's okay. Make the best of it, and remember that college gets easier after you adjust in the first semester. Stay in touch with friends and family from home, but transition to your new life. Don't live virtually (texting) hanging on to the past too much--live in the moment in your new community.
Make sure you know where health services is on campus and the hours. Also, know where the closest hospital is, in case health services is closed. Visit the academic support center and learn about tutoring and study skills resources in the first week of school---BEFORE you need them.
Join at least 3 organizations or clubs on campus. This will give you a chance to meet a variety of people outside of your dorm and classes. Chances are that these students will be more aligned with your interests and values. Intramural sports teams, the campus newspaper, community service groups, political groups, outing clubs are all good.
Get a healthcare proxy signed before your son/daughter goes off to campus. This is critical for students over 18, otherwise you will not have access to medical info in the case of and emergency (due to healthcare privacy laws). You need to be able to speak with doctors and make decisions remotely and quickly if anything happens.
Expect some bumps in the road. Homesickness is normal, as are issues with roommates and professors. Be supportive at a distance. Never call a professor, and try not to text your child multiple times a day. This is the time to let them learn independence and more responsibility. They can deal with issues if you give them the chance.
Avoid pushing a major--this usually leads to unhappiness and causes stress in the family. It's good to provide students with resources, but encourage them to seek career testing and counseling on-campus with professors and the Career Center. Discuss options, but don't dictate or pressure students to select something too early.
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