Category Archives: College Applications

07 Nov 2019

Hold on: check your CommonApp for these 5 common mistakes before hitting “Submit Application”

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! 

06 Feb 2018

Second Semester Junior Year

Second semester junior year is a critical time to prepare for the college application process that will begin senior year. From test prep to summer plans, every detail matters.

Key factors that should be on every Junior’s mind:

1. Academic Excellence

Every year of high school academic are important. Junior year is no exception but it is the last opportunity students have to prove consistently high marks OR a clear trajectory of growth.

If you had a weaker start in high school but you have shown consistent growth through second semester junior year, college admissions committees will look at your grades favorably. Remember, any progress you make senior year won’t be on your application transcript.

2. Leadership Positions

Colleges want to see a commitment to 2-3 extracurricular activities that you’re really passionate about. Being able to show a leadership positions that has made a difference in your school or community is the best way to prove you will an asset to the college of your choice and will be able to contribute to the school community.

Begin thinking about possible leadership position in your senior year while you are still a junior. Put your name in for captain, start planning your student council campaign, talk to your coach or teacher about how you can contribute more to the team.

3. Summer Plans

A productive and fulfilling summer is just as important as the school year for your college application. Options can include work, volunteering, travel, or study.  To have the best opportunities available, start planning for them before spring break of your junior year.  Most summer programs have application processes that will need to be completed before March.

4. Test Prep

Summer is a time when most students do not have the structure of a daily schedule. Summer before junior year is the best time to prepare for standardized college, or, if you have completed your junior year, it is the best time to conclude test prep so you can take official tests in the early fall.

Meeting with a tutor more frequently during the summer months and adding more practice will help you reach your score goals.

And don’t forget to check exam dates and make sure you register for the right ones.

5. Identify your Recommenders

Start thinking about who will write your letters of recommendation. Before you leave for the summer, ask your teachers if they will write your recommendation.

Remember:

a) It is more courteous to ask for the recommendation (unless she has already agreed to write it, then begin your letter by confirming her offer).

b) Include a list of your accomplishments from freshman year to present. Don’t forget to highlight any leadership positions and include non-school related activities.  (This is an excellent motivation to write a resume).

c) Be direct and ask for a strong, stellar, outstanding… whatever word you choose… recommendation.

d) Provide a time line for a response and a date for the completed recommendation.

e) Close your request with a thank you and.

6. Narrow your College List

By the end of second semester junior year, you’ll want to have a preliminary list of colleges you want to apply to. Start the research. Know your “competitive tiers” – the schools that would be your target, reach, and safety schools.

7. College Visits

Use spring break to visit colleges while they’re in session. While it is nice to visit schools on your list, also take the schools with a variety of factors – urban vs. rural, big vs. small, public vs. private, etc. Information that includes a wide range of factors regarding schools and campuses will be helpful to inform your final choice.

8. Get Organized 

There’s a lot to keep track of in the college admissions process. Standardized test registration dates, early decision and regular decision application deadlines, dates to get your transcripts and your letters of recommendation – start adding these to your calendar NOW and review dates regularly during your senior year.