By Deb Coco
College Admissions Coach
The College Advisor of New York, Inc.
Fall is in the air. School is back in session, the days are a bit cooler and the pumpkin spice obsession is back. And, at The College Advisor of New York, our seniors are hard at work selling themselves.
It may seem strange to look at your college application process as a marketing campaign, but indeed it is. For most students, this is probably the first time you’ve ever launched such an important sales pitch. “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” and at no time is this more true than when you hit the submit button on your college applications.
This is not the time to be shy about your achievements; you are now in the company of some stiff competition for spots at colleges and universities all over the country. How do you make yourself stand out? Here are a few tips on to make sure your application is noticed.
The most important components to a stellar application are still (and always have been) a strong GPA and high standardized test scores. At this point in your high school career, your critically scrutinized junior year has passed, but it is very important to not “slack off” during your senior year either. Colleges will want to see that you’ve kept up your work standards and they may even accept you with the provision that they review your spring transcript as well. Gone are the days of senior year being all play. Be sure your teacher recommendations are ready to go; at The College Advisor, we recommend our students connect with teachers before leaving for their senior summer so as to avoid the “glut” the best teachers experience in the fall. If you already did that, then great! If not, make sure you don’t let September slip away before you’ve met with two core course teachers and verify that they are willing to write a letter for you.
In my last blog I discussed the importance of the main essay. This is an extremely unique piece of writing; it is YOUR chance to tell the admission committee who you are outside of the facts. All of your accolades will be well represented on your Common Application; the essay wants you to dig deeper so please do not regurgitate information from your Activities section. Be authentic and give the reader a glimpse of who you are when no one else is looking. What makes you tick? What brings you joy? What do you want them to know about you that your application does NOT show? If you ask yourself these questions, you’ll be surprised how words begin to flow.
The Activity section of the Common Application is your chance to share what you’ve done outside the classroom — be sure it is complete and list activities in order of importance to YOU. Tell the reader what you’ve done and why it mattered. Did you hold a leadership role? List it! Were you the youngest member ever elected to the Latin Honor Society? Let them know! And remember, list only activities from freshman year forward . . . colleges do not care (nor do they have time to review) what you did in 8th grade. If you want to add a resume to your application, many colleges will allow you to do so. We still do not recommend you go back to junior high school even on the resume, but if you are so compelled, that is the only place anything beyond high school should be mentioned in your application.
Last but not least, proofread! Your application is a representation of you – is it sloppy? Did you remember to capitalize letters in your Activity section? Do not use acronyms when describing anything on your application – your reader cannot decipher them. So, if you are a member of the New York State Student Musical Association, do not list NYSSMA – that will not mean a thing to the admission committee.
Finally, use the Common Application’s print preview option before you actually submit! Reviewing on a computer screen is still no substitute for seeing the application on paper – you will catch “typos” you might have otherwise missed.
Good luck and congratulate yourself that you’ve come so far! This process is a journey and you are just about at the finish line.