Last time I talked about the important of submitting a strong application when applying to a selective college. Today I am going to discuss the 5 steps you need to follow to have a strong application. I am assuming you are using the Common Application since most selective colleges use this form.
Step 1. Don’t make any mistakes. Seems kind of obvious, doesn’t it? Yet, every year, when reviewing the applications of my students, I commonly see obvious mistakes. Misspell your home address? Yep. Misspell your native language? Yep. Put the wrong birth date down? Yep. Double check your work including what you think are the simply things.
Step 2. Keep the personal statement personal. Most students understand that you don’t want to be talking about your grades and accomplishments in the personal statement. I always tell students that if I can find the information in some other part of your application I don’t want to see it in the essay.
Colleges are looking at the personal statement to see how well you write and to hopefully learn something about who you are as a person. This can be something small that has influenced how you think or that is important to you. Something that makes you laugh or makes you nostalgic. And if someone else could write the same essay you wrote, it probably needs to be written.
Step 3. Write the activity essay about something that is important to you. The activity essay is much more straightforward than the personal statement. Simply write about an activity that is important to you. Don’t try to figure out what activity will most impress the admissions officer. You will most likely guess wrong and it won’t tell them anything about you. They don’t want to be impressed. They want to learn about you.
Step 4. List your important activities in order of importance. The instructions for the activity list is simple. List your activities in the order that they are important to you from the most important to least. Yet more than 50% of my very bright students fail to put the activities in order and just list random activities.
The other thing to keep in mind is that you should only list important activities. Now, what is important to you may not be important to someone else so don’t worry about what other people are doing. But being voted the most likely to succeed in 5th grade probably shouldn’t be on the list of activities. General rule of thumb for most people is that you should only list activities that you have been involved with during high school.
Students often worry that they don’t have enough real activities to fill all of the positions on the activity list. Don’t worry about this. If you have focused all of your time around 2 or 3 activities and have great involvement with those activities, don’t worry if you have blank spaces on your activity list. I have often see very successful students not complete all of the activity spaces.
Step 5. Be very specific in answering essays on supplemental applications. The supplemental application essays tend to have questions that are very specific to that college. So answer the question so that there is no question you are talking about that college. You should not be able to use one essay on “Why I like college A” for more than one college. If you can, it needs to be redone to be more specific.
If you follow these 5 steps you will be more competitive than most of the students applying to these colleges.