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College Applications: What You Need to Know and Do – 5 Tips

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College Applications: What You Need to Know and Do – 5 Tips

By Spencer Hagaman

First impressions matter, and that is exactly the role of a college application. When crafted carefully and skillfully, a college application can perfectly illustrate to a college admissions officer why the student would be a perfect fit for the college or university.

August is right around the corner, and for rising high school seniors, time is going to start flying quickly from here through next May/June (depending on when they graduate). The first major event they will encounter will be applying to college. Whether they are applying early action or early decision in November or regular decision in January, it’s never too early to start considering and working on applications, so here’s my 5 tips to surviving the college application season:

1. Know what’s required and when it’s required.

SAT? ACT? Letters of recommendation? Personal essays? Different schools require different items at different times. If you’re applying via the Common Application or the Coalition Application, these sites keep track of what’s due and when it’s due. Still, it does not hurt to have an ongoing Excel sheet of what schools you’re applying to with all of their required items and their deadlines. Better safe than sorry!

2. Start early.

We all tend to procrastinate on huge and lengthy projects, and while we tell ourselves the pressure makes us better, it’s far from the truth. Unlike high school where you often get the chance to make up a project or a test if you do not perform well, college applications are a one-shot deal. Set a schedule for yourself and knock out the applications one small chunk at a time. It’ll improve the quality of your application and will make the overall experience more tolerable.

3. Find what makes you stand out and unique and explain why that makes you the perfect applicant.

College application readers have to look at thousands of applications a year, and after a while they all start to blur together. You need to catch their attention quickly and make your application stand out from the pack. Ask yourself what makes you different from every other applicant and emphasize that. Maybe you are student body president or varsity team captain of one of the sports teams. Maybe you started a club or found a new interest or passion. Whatever makes you different, make sure you include that in your application and essays!

4. Be true to yourself.

Throughout the reading process, admissions officers quickly become experts at sniffing out lies and exaggerations. And nothing gets an application thrown out faster than lying (not even #5).

5. Revise/Edit/Re-read. Avoid grammatical errors at all costs.

You want to sound competent and intelligent, and nothing destroys that quicker than spelling and punctuation errors. Look over your essays multiple times. Read them out loud and listen for flow. You can even have someone read over them. Do whatever is necessary to ensure there are no mistakes.

So get started on those applications, and when you finally submit them, pat yourself on
the back and celebrate! Good luck!


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