How Is Your College Application Considered?
This is the season when high school seniors who have not received the acceptances they hoped might be looking to send out another college application while juniors begin to consider where to send their first ones. At the same time, both wonder how their college application is considered, and whether it is taken seriously.
Some admissions offices are numbers-driven. Present the requisite test scores and GPA, properly validated, and you’re in. At some schools you will not even need to write an essay. But most college bound students will have more work to do in completing each college application. And the admissions process might be more complex.
While some schools trust admissions recommendations to a single reader, others have one or two admissions officers make the first read of a college application, and make recommendations to a full committee in very little time. Sometimes an initial read is completed in less than ten minutes. That can seem really scary, but it is reality at schools where admissions officers have piles of files to read.
I want to offer some tips to help students prepare a college application that will stand out.
- Get to know the admissions representative for your high school, when you can. Many colleges assign admissions officers to territories, even high schools where there is always strong interest from the student body. If your target schools are smaller colleges that are anxious for students, these people might become your best friend during the admissions process. Students and parents should introduce themselves at local college fairs and high school programs, whenever possible, and make sure that they have the admissions officer’s business card. Chances are, that person will be reading your college application, so make it reader-friendly. Politely share any updates after it is submitted.
- Visit the school and get to know the academic programs that you want. Admissions officers have more reason to say yes to a college application when they know that a prospective student has taken the time to learn about the school, and has some idea what s/he wants. Prospective students do not need to be committed to an exact major, but should have some idea of which ones they might want to consider, if accepted and enrolled.
- Thank everyone who helped you on your visit, even the tour guides. After visiting over 150 schools, I still wonder why prospective students and parents walk away from the tour guide at the end of a campus tour, and do not even thank the guide for their time. While tour guides have no formal role in selecting the next freshman class, they do share their impressions of who is naughty and who is nice with the people who make those decisions.
- Impress the admissions officer at the start of your essays. When you read a newspaper the major articles have headlines and first paragraphs written to get you to read more. The same will be true for the essays that become part of your college application. Consider having a title for your essay, even when it is answering a question, and put serious effort into that first paragraph. It should not only be well written and summarize your points; it should also draw the reader in to read more.
- Don’t use a college application to apologize for being ‘less than perfect’. College admissions officers are human, just like the applicants. They are not a looming judge or jury that lives to pick apart weaknesses in teenagers. Prospective students should never be obnoxious, but at the same time they should show confidence and pride in their accomplishments. If you cannot apply to a particular college with confidence and pride, then consider others where you can.
The college admissions process is far from perfect. Some may even say it is unfair. But prospective students cannot change or fight it while they’re going through the admissions cycle. For many it is their first experience at trying to impress someone that they do not know as well as their teachers or family friends.
Need help in navigating the college admissions process? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me at 609-406-0062.