As a high school senior, you know there are two parts to getting into college – getting accepted by the college of your choice, and finding enough money to pay for it. To qualify for financial aid you must complete the FAFSA, and there is really not a lot of room for originality on the application. They ask specific questions about your financial situation, you provide answers, and the college bases your financial aid award on this information.
But the actual college application is a little different. Whether it is the Common App, Coalition App, or individual college application, the questions are the same for every student. The difference here is that you can craft answers to certain questions that will really help you stand out to college admissions officers. Here are some tips on what you can do differently on your college app that might help increase your chances of acceptance:
• Learn what your colleges want: First check each college’s website to make sure you know exactly what they require as part of their application. Some might have supplemental requirements that are different from others.
• Outline what you want them to know about you: Before you even begin, think about what you want admissions officers to know about you as a person. Are you serious, academic, athletic or generous? What have you done that demonstrates these qualities? How will your uniqueness help their student body?
• Think through the process first: Don’t just start at question one and work your way through the application. Read the entire application, and think about how you might use the questions to demonstrate your special qualities.
• Do you need to explain your academics: Some grades can stand for themselves, and some can’t. If you have a preferred field of study, you want to demonstrate how the classes you took are preparing you for the next step. If you took a “challenge” course but did poorly, you might need to provide an explanation as to why you felt it was important to take it in the first place.
• Demonstrate that you’re capable of solving problems: You may have been interested in a specific topic, but your school just didn’t have a strong program in that area. So what did you do to feed your passion? You might have read more, taken online courses, started a club, or found a teacher to serve as a mentor. If so, you’ve got to let the colleges know about your willingness to look outside the box for solutions.
• Be the “you” that you are: Don’t worry about trying to be a perfect applicant; be the real person you are. Let them know about your special qualities and your quirks.
• Pretend you are someone else reading your application: Take some time to look at your application from an outsider’s point of view. Does it get your attention, and make you want to stop long enough to learn more?