Pay Attention to the Whole College Application

Summer will be over in just a few weeks, and seniors who want to reduce the stress of college applications are working on their applications now. This is a great time to get those major essays written, but be sure to pay close attention to the entire application.

This means making the most of every opportunity to convey information to admissions officers. When you only have 150 characters to describe your activities and honors, instead of writing complete sentences, use short phrases starting with action verbs for maximum impact.

Several admissions directors have told me they read the “Why do you want to attend our school?” short essays very carefully. One admissions officer said that students don’t usually get help on these questions like they do on the longer essays, so he believes he gets a writing sample that is truly the student’s work.

Another reason to spend time on this question is that some colleges use it to try to gauge how serious a student is about attending the school. Many students write a generic response about academic excellence or a strong psychology department and just switch the name of the college for each application. Knowing what is distinctive about the college and being able to say very specifically why it is a good match for you tells admissions officers that you’re motivated enough to do some research and write a thoughtful answer to the question.

There’s another, perhaps more important reason to think carefully about this question. It helps you clarify your reasons for choosing a certain school, and if you can’t come up with anything to say, perhaps you shouldn’t be applying to that school. Being able to articulate what you want and how you would fit into a college community not only improves your chances of admission, it gives you a better chance of making a good college match, and that’s real success.

Success Stories

  • Kim and Paul R., Westlake Village
    "First, I have to say thank you. For being a part of Clare’s journey, and for all your help and guidance these past few years. Paul and I are thrilled she had so many outstanding choices of highly selective colleges to attend (we never thought a home educated student would be so enthusiastically received by Admissions in such a highly competitive applicant pool) ... Once again, our sincerest thanks and …
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