College Admissions: 6 Steps To A Killer College Application
Monday, October 14, 2013
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
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.
Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic, college counseling and athletic recruiting services for students. www.collegeadvisorsonline.com.
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