Students are applying to more and more colleges and universities. At some point the applications all blur together. You need to answer every box. Don’t go into sleep mode. Take time crafting each application. Make it unique to you, and unique to the school. Admission committees are using these applications as a way to get to know you.
Here are 5 ways to best introduce yourself:
1. Make the Grades
Maybe there was a semester where you slacked off, a semester where you filled your schedule with more than you could handle, or a semester when you fell behind for personal reasons. What matters most is that you bounced back. Yes, colleges have minimum GPA requirements—be aware of this when making a list of options—but they also have a good eye and understanding of high school transcripts. Admission committees value more than just the grade itself. One of their values is the idea of an incline. Even if you struggled first semester freshman year, they recognize when students work hard to improve their grades. They also keep an eye out for class choices. That means taking three study halls and TA’ing does reflect your work ethic, and it may count against you. Take calculus even if you don’t have to. Getting a B- in Calculus says much more about you than an A+ in Ceramics. Show the admission committee that you work hard, that you take your grades seriously and that you’ll do the same at their college or university.
2. Strong Recommendations
Hopefully by senior year you’ll have formed a relationship with at least one or two faculty members. Pick teachers and coaches who know you beyond the classroom. They should have a good sense of who you are as a person. You want their recommendation to consist of more than just a pat on the back for getting an A in Biology. Pick the teachers who understand you, the ones who see you and the ones who know what makes you unique. Recommendations are a chance for admission committees to see who you are through the eyes of someone else. There are things you can’t say about yourself, or even see in yourself, that teachers can. Good recommendations make all the difference when it comes to your application.
3. Extracurricular Activities
“Quality over quantity” is the road less traveled when it comes to extracurricular activities. It’s the plot in movies or TV shows—the ivy league hopeful who is a joiner, the president of twenty clubs AND volunteers at the local animal shelter. The quality of your extra curricular activities is much more important than the length of the list. Admission officers are smart enough to see through the façade. The idea of extracurricular activities is that you pick what you are truly passionate about. It’s another opportunity to display who you are. Take on leadership roles in clubs because you want to, not because you think you need to. Sincerity in the application process will shine through—especially when it comes to your extracurricular activities.
4. Memorable Personal Essay
There’s a format and formula most people stick to when it comes time to write their personal essay. The summer you spent on a mission trip. The profound influence your grandma had on you. I’m here to tell you, “DON’T DO THAT!” Not just for your sake, but for the sake of the admissions officers sifting through hundreds of applications. Colleges and universities will have a general prompt, but mostly it’s up to you to make your essay great. This is your chance to define yourself. Up until this point your grades, your teachers and your activities have spoken for you. This is the moment to say, “That’s what I’ve done, but this is who I am.” Use this opportunity to its full potential. I’m not saying you can’t have a great essay about a summer mission trip, or about your Grandma. What I’m saying is to make it count. My best advice? Zoom in. Don’t speak in generalities. Pick one moment, scene or even object from that summer. Talk about the way your Grandma made sweet potatoes every Thanksgiving. Zoom in on the details of life, even the mundane summers spent working for your dad, and then zoom out to explore the impact these details had in creating who you are. At the end of the day, make it memorable.
5. Who YOU Are!
College admission committees are trying to get an idea of who you are. They want to see where you’d fit in their community. Use every opportunity to sell yourself. Even the 2-3 sentences allotted to describe your extra curricular activities, your summer jobs or volunteer hours. Make every section count. Nothing is a throw away section, nor should it be. Make them want to team up with you for the next four years. Use the application to show them they won’t regret it!