— Here are some tips that will give you a leg up on applications.
† Because the fall semester of your senior year is normally the busiest time in your high school career, the earlier you start the application process the easier it will be to meet deadlines. The worst thing you can do is get bored with the process, which happens more often than students realize. The best way to avoid this is to finish mundane things first.
Start early on application process
Start by filling out the basic information required in the Common Application, which allows you to complete the document online or in print.
The College Board started accepting applications Aug. 1, so you need to get started quickly. Explore the websites of the colleges and universities in which you are interested to get as much background information as possible about the school and the academic areas that interest you. You also need to look for the special essay questions required by the schools of your choice.
† Make a list of extracurricular and civic activities, because admissions offices look for more than top test scores and grades. There is intense competition for the few openings in top colleges, and they want well-rounded students who have a global perspective and interests beyond academics.
† If possible, visit the schools that interest you. If this isn’t possible, college admissions offices are more than happy to take email or phone inquiries. I frequently call Harvard’s admissions office, and someone always answers on the first ring.
† Two warnings — be aware of your posts and those of your friends on social networking sites.
College admissions officials understand the need for individual expression and might never look at them. But there is no rule that prohibits them from doing so. Be on the alert for anonymous comments placed by jealous classmates. The competition can be cutthroat when it comes to top colleges.
Clean up your email address. Names like “hotbabe” or “Ihatetests” will not impress admissions people.
Use your real name, or at least part of it, in your email address. This will make it easier for admissions committees to search for your correspondence.
If your name is taken, add a few numbers after it. Believe me, this will help when school officials sort through all the emails you send.
† Always be honest about your academic record. Letters of acceptance can be revoked. I know of one college that confirmed an anonymous tip that a teacher had caught a student plagiarizing an assignment in high school. This led to that student’s offer of admission being revoked.
I suspect if the applicant had disclosed the infraction, which occurred during his freshman year, and explained the circumstances and detailed what he learned from the experience, there may have been a different outcome.
† Essays are pivotal in the application process. Most top colleges require a personal essay, and some require as many as 10 or 15.
Essay answers give you a chance to tell the school something about you that is not reflected in other parts of the application. Never leave blank a request for an essay.
Many students do not know that each essay is given a numerical score and could be critical to your acceptance. I suggest writing about some interesting quirk that reveals a unique facet of your personality.
I had a client who wrote about her ability to identify a song after hearing just a few notes. The subject was trivial, but charming, and she was accepted at a top school.
Remember, you are responsible for marketing yourself, and no one can do it for you. Brush up on your writing skills and use the essays to your advantage. I promise you won’t be sorry you did.
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