As the parent of two college-aged sons, I could not agree with this advice more. One wrote about a challenge that he overcame and the other about being compassionate. Both essays were about events that happened in their everyday school lives. Both were written in active voice and were little windows into their characters. Neither used the words challenge or compassionate. I am convinced that it was the strength and sincerity of their essays that opened the doors at the top schools that said “Yes” to my sons. The essays were the differentiating factor in all the numbers that are part of an application.
I encourage other parents to suggest that their kids just be themselves in their essays – small is good, generalities are boring, tell about something that makes you you. Oh, and read The Gatekeepers – – it offers the best insights into the college admissions process of any of the dozens of books I read on the topic.
The first step is to request an admission package from the list of colleges and universities to which you have decided to apply. With this information in hand you will be able to make a checklist of all required documents, letters and essays you will need to complete your application fully and on time. Take note of any and all deadlines associated which each of your applications. The only thing worse than an improperly made application is no application at all.
College entrance exams are another important part of the application process. The most common exams you will encounter are the and the . These tests are designed to measure a students academic accomplishments and readiness for college. The ACT and the SAT evaluate a students development in English, mathematics, science and reading.
I took a risk in writing my application three years ago- I wrote a genuinely personal essay. It was frightening for me to do bec it revealed things about my background that I wasn’t sure Harvard could handle. But it was a risk that paid off.
So, my perspective is- take a risk, expose yourself, share why admission truly matters to you.
Your college admissions applications will require cover letters and essays. It is never a good idea to recycle material on these. Make each essay and cover letter unique. Each of your applications should be individualized for the college or university to which it is intended.
First, can you write? Colleges want to know if your ability to write meets the academic standards of the college. They want to see that you can take a thought and develop it in a clear and organized fashion, using proper grammar. No typos, please. Your ease with language and ability to write in an engaging and thoughtful way shows them that you can express yourself effectively and that you possess the intellectual ability and readiness for college work.
As you work on finishing up your essays, don't psych yourself out by thinking the essay has to do all the heavy lifting in a college application. It is only one of many pieces. Keep in mind the two things that colleges are looking for when they read your essay:
Most college admission officers agree that a student’s character is the most difficult thing to measure on the application. College essays are the place for students to reveal their personal stories in an authentic, engaging and sincere way . In addition to what has already been mentioned, it’s important to read the essay prompts carefully and understand the intent of the question.
Second, who are you? Admission officers want to hear your voice and know more about you when they have finished your essay than they did before they started reading it. Above all, they are trying to learn what impact you will have on their community. Will you make their school a better place simply by being a part of it -- whether that’s in the classroom, chemistry lab, a residence hall, or theater program. Colleges look for who you are in the application as a whole and the essays are one place in particular where this can be seen most clearly. So tell a story only you can tell.
The college application process takes time, preparation and creativity, which is a lot for any active senior to handle. Summer, however, typically offers about 10 weeks free of classes and homework and many of the other stresses that come with high school. The pressure of the looming college application deadline is still months away, which allows students the freedom to play around with different ideas, test different angles and solicit feedback from friends and family.
Periodically, in a feature called “Tip Sheet,” The Choice will post short items by admissions officers, guidance counselors and others to help applicants and their families better understand aspects of the admissions process. As an inaugural post in this series, Martha C. Merrill, the dean of admission and financial aid of , and a graduate of the class of 1984, encourages incoming high school seniors to begin contemplating their college essays this summer. She also offers perspective on what she looks for in an applicant’s essay.
Many college applicants are required to provide one or more along with their college application. This is a tool you can leverage to make your college application more powerful. Letters of recommendation can come from a favorite teacher, a counselor, a coach or even a boss. These letters are designed to emphasize your positive attributes, outline your scholastic accomplishments and demonstrate your extracurricular passions. A successful letter of recommendation explains why you are a prime candidate for a particular college or university.