Hello fellow parents, and Happy Thanksgiving!
I’m doing lots of Application Reviews right now, and some students are so caught up with minutia that they miss the big picture of the message their application is conveying to colleges. I don’t want that to happen to your kid!
Please share the following tips with your child to ensure their application represents them well when read holistically. (Or file these tips away, and then present with a flourish to save the day when application time comes—we parents need all the wins we can get!)
5 Big Picture College Application Tips
to make sure your application represents you at your sparkly best
- Devote more application space toward highlighting your strengths than defending your weaknesses. This may sound obvious, but some students become so caught up in explaining away their worst grade, or describing their struggle with an obstacle in intricate detail, that they don’t see they’re drawing attention to reasons that colleges should not admit them. No need to shy away from the negative, but spend the bulk of your valuable application space on what colleges are most interested in: how you tackled and overcame those obstacles.
- Make sure what you care about most is front and center. Some students are so worried about finding a “unique” niche essay topic that they end up missing the opportunity to write an essay about what they obsess over or spend all their time doing. Skip the gimmicks to write from your heart about what you genuinely care about most, which is exactly what colleges want to know.
- Remember that the evaluator doesn’t go to your school. It’s understandable that students want to cram as much information as they can into the tight space allotted on the application. But especially in the Activities and Honors sections, students commonly include abbreviations, acronyms, and titles that would only have meaning in their everyday environment. When you edit, prioritize clarity to a reader who doesn’t live in your world.
- No one expects you to know for sure what you want to do when you grow up. Some students are so fearful about specifying a major or choosing a particular career path that the resulting application is vague and doesn’t share much about them. Fun fact: about 80% of college undergraduates switch majors along the way, and colleges know this! Everyone changes and grows. Admission evaluators just want to get a sense of what direction you’re interested in trying, so they can get to know you better as you are today. No one will hold you to it once you enroll.
- Take care not to sterilize your unique voice out of your essays when you edit. Some students (or adults they ask to help them with their essays) are so concerned about “getting it right” that the essay stiffens and starts to read more like a formal cover letter for a job than a personal essay written by a seventeen or eighteen-year-old. Editing and correctness are important! But your true voice is what makes you one-of-a-kind and helps you stand out.
Do nothing for 2 minutes.
Scream into the void.
A timely tidbit for parents of seniors: There’s nothing like a hard deadline to light a fire under a teenager’s derriere. If your child waited until the last minute and is scrambling to complete applications, this is your kid’s self-created emergency, not yours. Help if you want to, or don’t, but regardless, enjoy your eggnog (whether spiked or not) and keep in mind that done is better than perfect.
Contact me if you need help with an Application Review or someone to talk you down from Anxiety Cliff. You’ve got this, and I’ve got your back this holiday season and always.