For high school seniors, this time of year is a mixed bag. On one hand, you’re in your last year of high school and are excited for the future. On the other, it’s time to put together your college applications. When it came time for me to apply to colleges, I felt pretty overwhelmed. This was the first time that I was applying for something so important, and hearing colleges constantly talked about by everyone in my life only added to the pressure. For many students like me, the process of applying to colleges seems daunting.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “Between 2014 and 2025, full-time enrollment is projected to increase by 14 percent.” With a growing number of college applicants, it’s important to make yourself stand out to admissions officers.
I remember when I was applying to colleges, the general advice from adults was that I needed to seem “well-rounded” in my applications. I had a long list of extracurriculars, but what I found was more important was showing dedication to something. In June, the Washington Post’s Jeffrey Salingo argued, “Instead of encouraging students to be ‘well-rounded,’ we should be encouraging them to have both breadth and depth, and to have a flexible mindset to learn where their curiosity takes them.” Indeed, this seems to be what college admissions are looking for more nowadays.
In other words, to really stand out, it’s not just about getting good test scores. You’re going to college to pursue a career,and you need to cultivate a personality that shows admissions that you really want this opportunity.
Here are some ways to go through your college applications and really make them your own:
- Do some brainstorming. Make a list of everything you’ve been involved in over the last four years. Make a list of things you think describe yourself. Just free-write, let the ideas flow, and see what comes to you. After looking through all of these ideas, you can hone in on what’s important to who you are; now you have a general picture of what to focus your applications around.
- The Essay: There are five prompts to choose from when writing your common app essay. Pick one where you can write about something specific and personal. While some of the questions are already designed so you can tell a story, it’s a good idea to create some kind of narrative placing you in the moment of doing something. Details are key, and don’t forget to have others read over your essay before you submit it! Boston Tutoring Services offers Essay Coaching that helps students through every step of writing their essays. Here are some more tips for writing a great essay.
- Tweak your application for each college. Once you know what schools you’re interested in, think about what it is about you that fits into that particular academic environment. What is each school looking for, and how does that school meet your needs? You want to enter into a partnership with your college, so thinking about fostering a mutually beneficial relationship is a helpful mindset when drafting your application. Here’s What college admissions officers say they want in a candidate.
- Relax and be yourself. This is super important! If you present who you are, as someone with goals, interests, or passions all their own, then there’s a college out there that will want you. Colleges are looking for individuals who can bring something unique to their campus. Try not to get overwhelmed, and good luck with your applications!
Kale B. Connerty
Boston Tutoring Services