How to Produce a Winning College Application

Courtney Rubin and Josh Moody wrote an article for US News & World Report that describes what admissions officials say they want students to know about producing great admissions applications. Guess what, they said the same things that counselors and advisors have been telling students all along.

One of the mistakes made most often is that students look at an application and assume they know how to complete it. Ever heard, “if at first you don’t succeed, look in the trash for the instructions”? Well, when it comes to a college application there is no second chance to get it right. Read the instructions, don’t leave questions unanswered and that goes for “optional” questions too.

Someone applying to college is taking a big step toward the independence of adulthood. Nothing says you are not ready to live an independent life like having your parents write essays, complete applications and contact the colleges on your behalf. College officials want to evaluate your work, your ideas and want to hear from you. If they can’t get a good feel for who you are, colleges will likely pass on your application in favor for someone who did a better job of communicating with them.

One document that can provide a great deal of information is the resume. I am surprised by how many rising seniors have never put together a resume. The purpose of a resume in the employment area is to entice an employer to grant an interview. It works much the same with colleges. The resume is not meant to be your life story. It should deliver an enticing glimpse into the things that are important to you, how you spend your time and how you have been rewarded for contributing to school and community. This glimpse should be no more than one page long. I am only aware of two colleges that require a resume longer than that.

Nothing frustrates me more than a student waiting until the application deadline is close enough to touch before submitting an application. If I’m frustrated, imagine how the people receiving your application must feel. Sliding in under a deadline creates another problem; being rushed. Beating a deadline is usually the product of procrastination. Rushing to submit will allow no time for proofreading and guarantees that there will be mistakes.

There are several more points made in the article but you get the message. Colleges want to accept students who have done interesting things, have good grades, are reasonably mature and who take care of business. Every mistake they find in your application is another reason to respond with a rejection letter.

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