Dr. Monica Lewin, Learning Specialist
1. Proofread. Seriously.
Students should proofread their applications as “print preview” PDFs, and they should ask an adult — teacher, parent, or guidance counselor — to proofread them as well. Nothing will put a bad taste in an admissions officer’s mouth faster than seeing you misspelled “recommendation” as “reccomendation”. Plan out your submission timeline to include ample time to get feedback from one or more proofreaders. In truth, you should plan to submit your applications early! Colleges prefer to see you are a responsible, organized student who gets work done on time.
2. Don’t slack on the “Why X School” Essay.
Students should be careful to use very specific, insightful reasons when composing each school-specific essay section. Generic reasons like small class size or prestige won’t suffice. Colleges have started to weigh “demonstrated interest” as a major factor in the admissions process. Be sure to identify and convey all the unique details that intrigue you about the school or a specific major, without simply regurgitating information from their website. Instead, research the classes, programs, activities, and faculty. Is there a particular professor that impresses you? What charmed you at your last campus visit? Be sure to mention how specific faculty, staff, or alumni you spoke with contributed to your interest in the school.
3. Fully flesh out your list of extracurricular activities.
Although the activity section of the Common Application is limited to a certain number of characters, students should make sure all of their activities are well explained. If needed, put these extra details in the “additional information” section. This is especially true for any obscure abbreviations or uncommon activities that an admissions officer may not be familiar with. And, even if you think the admissions committee might not care about a hobby you’re serious about, talk about it! It’s also better you include the details of your activities in this section rather than attaching a Resume document, which has a chance of being forgotten.
4. Don’t over-share.
You may have heard people say that colleges are looking for applicants who have overcome some type of hardship, but you should avoid using the ‘App as your personal pity party. Balance your challenges by also discussing what you’ve learned and your positive features as an applicant. Give examples of how you made the best out of the situation, or describe what you learned from the experience. Colleges want to admit students who they think are mature, who can take responsibility for their own success– not those who see themselves as helpless victims of circumstance.
5. Lying won’t fly.
If an admissions officer notices inconsistencies in your application, it’s likely to end up being tossed straight in the “rejected” pile. Reviewers can add up the hours in your activities section to know if you’ve embellished your extracurriculars to a superhuman degree; they will notice if the way you describe your accomplishments doesn’t line up with your letter writers’ accounts. Furthermore, some universities may evaluate all the applications from a given high school at the same time, so if they see two applicants list themselves as President of the English Honors Society, for example, they will call a guidance counselor from your school to check this out.
After you submit…
Congratulate yourself! The college application process is stressful. However, keep in mind that your hard work does not stop here. Keep up with your academics– schools may check back in on your second semester grades. This will be especially critical if you are waitlisted or deferred… We’ll elaborate on this more in a future post!