College Applications can be tricky.
Depending on the audience (in this case the college you’re applying to), the admissions administration department each have their own “special” list of what to look for and what to avoid. One thing is certain – there is a lot of advice on how to make sure you meet that criteria.
The question to ask yourself is, what advice actually works? Or better yet, what can I do to make sure I stand out?
Depending on where you’re application paperwork manages to land in the stack on the admissions table, you can stand out from the other applicants with some help from these tips below…
- If you’re going to score, score BIG! SAT scores do matter. So, take your time with the preparation tests (PSAT). Depending on what school you plan on applying to, SAT score qualifications vary from college to college. There are three sections; critical reading, mathematics, and writing. The scores range from 200-800 per section, which means overall the best score you can achieve on your SAT is 2400. According to Majortests.com a score of 1650-1800 is adequate, a score of 1800-2100 is good and a score above 2100 is excellent. If your test taking skills aren’t something you need to worry about, then you’ve got one item checked off of your list.
- Fill in all blank! Although the application may appear tedious, the school uses it during their evaluation process. It might not give details into your character, but it provides the essentials relating to demographics (which is a huge factor during decision time). There are a few items that aren’t necessarily important to fill out. In these cases the ‘additional information’ section isn’t a place to bare your soul, so if no additional information is necessary – don’t add anything. Sometimes less is more and you can do that in the essay!
- Self analyze yourself. As of August 2013, the essay guidelines have changed. The length is no longer 500 words but 650. Students will be given the option of 5 choices to discuss and reflect upon. College applicants can choose from the following essay questions:
- Some students have a background or story so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. This is a self reflection question in which you have the opportunity to identify your background story.
- Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn? Although it’s far more comfortable to express your successes and accomplishments versus your failures, at the same time this question gives the college admissions department an insight into your ability to learn from your failures and mistakes. They’re looking for how you responded to it and what you did to improve upon it as a result.
- Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again? This question asks the college applicant to reveal one of your core values. It’s asking you to step outside of the box and expose what you’re unsure about and question why you’re unsure about it. By doing so, it gives the admissions department an idea of your personality and character.
- Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you? Think about where you are most content. Maybe it’s a room in your home, a public place or an open space out in the wild. When you approach this question, consider what the admissions department will learn about you as a result. Not only is it revealing what kind of person you are, but where those personal quirks stem from. If you’re most content in your own room, what does that actually say about you? If your favorite spot is a park, are you most comfortable in the open? If so, why?
- Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family. Generally, most high school students have not yet experienced an event that has transformed their life. A lot of those instances happen during the college years. However, if this question reciprocates with you the most it’s a great way to explore your hero moment. Analyzing your transformation from before, during and after will give the admins an idea of how you approach moments of personal growth. Think about that while you write it.
Regardless of what topic you select, this is the moment where you take a step back and identify your personality, characteristics, values, achievements, struggles, and failures. Reflecting on the past 18+ years of your life may not be ideal, but it reveals your critical and creative skills to the people who will inevitably decide if you match the requirements for getting into their college or not.
Here are a few helpful tips to get you started… Grab a piece of paper and draw a line through the middle or fold in half. One on half list your:
- Strengths and achievements
On the other side list your:
- Weaknesses and your failures
After you’ve done a bit of reflecting, turn the paper over and:
- Write out what were the top 5 most significant moments (from childhood to adulthood) you’ve experienced (Was is receiving recognition on an assignment or learning to ride a bike? Perhaps you were a teachers pet, or maybe you lost someone close to you?).
What has the exercise accomplished?
It’s given you a starting point on how you’ve developed over the last 18 years that can be used as a reference when you begin writing your essay.
As mentioned before, there are plenty of resources on the web that you can rely on for creating a good essay. Here are a few good ones that you may want to check out:
Good luck with your essay!
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