7 Essentials of the College Application Process

7 Essentials of the College Application Process
  • Opening Intro -

    You've applied to two or three of your favorite schools and expect to be accepted by each one.

    Well, good luck with that.


You can increase your chances of college acceptance.

Colleges and universities are receiving record numbers of applications, making it very likely that one or more of your favorites will turn your application down or wait-list you. That means you must very carefully work through the application process for each school, keeping in mind the following seven essentials as you move forward.

1. Work on that essay — When you apply for college, most schools are looking for an essay. Your grades are good, you scored well on the SATs or ACTs, but an essay can make you or break you. Unlike the scores, an essay tells the school something about you personally. Thus, it is critically important for you to respond with a well written “report” that tells your story. All things considered, a clearly written essay can help set you apart from another student with like grades and test scores. Write your essay, rewrite it and rewrite it again. Make absolutely certain that the essay represents your voice.

2. Clean up your Facebook page — Facebook is considered THE most important address on the Internet for people who want to see and be seen. That means college admissions people will be reviewing your pages to see what you post. They’re also using Google to learn about you reports Mary Beth Marklein writing for USA Today. Mend your Internet presence BEFORE you submit an application. That means eradicating damaging information including incriminating photos.

3. Interviews still happen — Many schools have abandoned on-campus interviews, while others still do them. This means if you are asked to interview, that you follow through with that request even if it is optional. Otherwise, the school may think that you aren’t a serious applicant. Like an essay, an interview allows the school to get to know you better. This your opportunity to become a face to the school, not just a name offers Robert Johns as told to the Chronicle. Practice interviewing with a family member or friend to fine tune your message.

4. Demonstrate passion — Steven Cohen, author of the college admissions book, Getting In!, dispels 10 myths of college admissions process in his September 23, 2011, article for Forbes magazine. Cohen notes that many students are under the impression that schools want a well-rounded kid. He insists that the college wants a well-rounded class instead. This is where you should show your passion as a prospective student, demonstrating to the school what you offer as a potential member of that class.

5. Showcase your skills — Contrary to popular opinion, college admissions professionals are not looking for a long list of activities, but want to see to what degree you were involved in the activities that you chose. Your dedication, leadership and true involvement are important as well as your balance — athletics v. volunteering, for example. You’ll need to differentiate between meaningful and minimal contributions offers Peterson’s. That means taking credit only for the level of involvement you had.

6. Teacher recommendations rule — Recommendations are needed to help you get into college, but not every recommendation is weighed the same or even wanted. Your neighbor, an employer or even a congressman may have some nice things to say about you, but schools are looking for recommendations from your teachers, people who know you personally and understand how well you work. At Vanderbilt University, you’re required to submit two teacher and one guidance counselor recommendation. Familiarize yourself with each school’s required recommendations and submit accordingly.

7. Early decision increases your odds — Many schools especially small private ones offer early admissions programs whereby you apply to a school and are bound to attend there if you are accepted. Jacques Steinberg, reporting for The New York Times notes that just over half of students who apply for college the traditional way are accepted. That rises to just over three-quarters of students who are accepted when applying early. This means that if you have a top school on your list, then apply early to increase the likelihood that you will get in. Rank your colleges according to your desire to attend there and send in an early admissions application to the school that finished atop your list.

Applying for college is a job in itself, something that takes much care and should never be rushed. You want to attend only the school that is a good fit for you and schools want students that are a good fit for them. Being certain of your college choices before your senior year of high school is advantageous, especially your top choice if you plan to apply early.

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