• Caroline Rumani

Last-Minute Tips for College Applications

With the end of the college application season slowly approaching, there is a lot of anxiety and stress for seniors in high school (and juniors!). Whether it is a sibling, friend, family member, or close confidant, we all seek advice on how to “stand out” among the sea of other applicants as eager as ourselves. As tutors, we’ve endured this period in our life: the nerves, tensions, excitement, all of it. We’ve acquired some key tips along the way for not only completing these applications, but for thoroughly articulating the unique and characteristic aspects of our current work and prospective goals.

In lengthy online application portals such as the Common App and the Coalition Application, it can be daunting to craft essays writing about yourself; it may seem unconventional as opposed to the multitude of research and analytical pieces written throughout your high school career. In a way, think of these essays as analyzing yourself and your involvements: how do your past achievements and involvements serve as a reflection of you and your values? What will you bring to each college or university you are applying to?

Here is a narrowed down list of some last-minute tips and pointers for the most common application portal -- The Common App:

  • Fill out EVERY part of the application (yes, even the “optional” essays) that pertain to you. These are opportunities to develop your personality in these applications, which can ultimately make you a stronger candidate! Especially with this year’s unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, include information that is relevant to your application / affects your life in a significant manner. For example, if you are writing the optional essay in the Common App regarding the effects of the pandemic, write about any aspect of your personal life that affects your application (ex. job loss, income change, family life, etc.). Typically, the optional essays vary among schools, so completing every one will show your admissions officer your personal dedication and determination!

  • Highlight activities and responsibilities of great importance to you, and don’t feel obligated to create a long list of these. For the Common App, there are an immense number of list options, and there’s even a ranking system of most-to-least significant to you (key!). Choose activities that demonstrate leadership and pertain to your prospective goals; for example, if you want to major in electrical engineering and you were captain of your robotics team, make sure you place these above others. When filling out the description of these, include particular achievements and experiences (ex. “Created a mechanical arm with peers that won 1st Place in the State Robotic Comp.”). Since you are limited by characters, using abbreviations is permissible and recommended.

  • One simple phrase: “show, don’t tell.” Especially when writing your personal statement, this should be about you! You don’t have to craft some metaphorical essay about how your life is an allegory, but it should be unique to you. If a metaphorical manifestation is your style, then go with it! Whatever you write, make sure it is appropriate to you and your attributes that shine (and even your flaws, but make sure you demonstrate growth). These admissions officers view hundreds of applications, so the main question you should ask yourself throughout is: could this essay be written by anyone else?

  • Final note: create a holistic flow and relevance within your application. With your applications, you will most likely write about three to four essays per school, and within each of these, your officers will be looking for consistency and growth. You can compare this idea to a theme; for example, a chemistry-major applicant may accentuate their passion for not only chemistry, but writing as well, ultimately supporting their love for interdisciplinary studies (hence, why they applied to a university focusing on interdisciplinary studies). Incorporating multiple elements of your personality is important!


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