One of the most common questions higher education professionals receive is, “how can students make themselves stand out in a very competitive and saturated academic environment?” The application process can often seem overwhelming and clouded in mystery but there are some very clear steps you can take to show yourself in the best light during the application review. This article is here to share seven very important tips on how you can accomplish just that.
Challenge yourself academically and receive top grades
It is no surprise that selective universities want to admit high-level academic students. So, the number one thing you should focus on is challenging yourself academically within the opportunities that are available to you. Be sure to meet with your guidance counselor early and learn the full curriculum available to you. Selective universities prefer to see AP/IB courses on your transcript in lieu of honors or dual enrollment because the rigor of the prior is standardized across the nation. However, universities do always take into consideration what curriculum is available at your high school. Once you solidify a strong rigor, it is equally important to be successful in your chosen courses. The myth that earning a B in an AP class is better than an A in a regular one, is simply untrue. Schools want to see the rigor and the A! That means that if you find yourself falling behind or struggling in your class be sure to reach out to your teacher or seek out tutoring to get the help you need to succeed.
Receive high standardized testing scores
In the last few years, we have noticed a rise in test-optional institutions due to the pandemic; however, Solomon always encourages our students to diligently prepare and take standardized tests, as well as work hard to secure a high score. Most schools want to see that you are scoring in the top 75% of their testing range to be a competitive applicant. Numerous tutoring companies and free test prep resources are available to assist you in your preparation. The benefit of having testing in the admission process is that it gives the committee an additional strong data point to prove your academic foundation and preparation to be successful at their institution.
Compelling Personal Statement
Your personal essay is a very important part of your application because it is one of only a few opportunities for admission officers to learn about who you are. The essay is a rare opportunity to share something authentic and unique about your personality, life experience, perspective, or life goals.
Your ability to craft a thoughtful, articulate, and grammatically correct essay demonstrates your ability to be successful at their university. Be sure that you dedicate time to creating an engaging narrative that draws in your reader and maintains their interest. Your ability to connect with the committee with help display your academic potential and ability to communicate your thoughts effectively.
Share your genuine interest in the university
Many selective universities consider your demonstrated interest in attending when deciding if you have a genuine desire to be involved in their student community and make an impact. Nothing will lose the interest of the admission committee more than generic or inaccurate supplemental essays. Before applying, do your best to engage with the universities you want to attend. Even if you aren’t able to visit the campus, you can browse their websites, research student organizations, review faculty research, and attend virtual webinars that are offered. Demonstrating your familiarity and authentic interest in a university is the strongest way to display your fit with the school.
Strong letters of recommendations
Most colleges will require between 1-3 letters of recommendation from your high school counselor and teachers. Some schools will even allow an additional letter from someone outside of your high school environment.
These letters play a large role in your admission decision because they indicate how the school views you as a person, student, and leader. They demonstrate your character in the classroom, your ability to collaborate, and your academic ambition. When choosing a recommender be sure they know you on a deeper, more personal level and can speak to your abilities, accomplishments, and positive qualities.
Apply to a variety of schools
Applying to college is similar to investing in the stock market. You wouldn’t put all your money in one stock, right? You want to diversify your risk by spreading out your investment. Applying to college works the same way. By applying to a variety of colleges, you are ensuring that even if you get rejected from your first-choice school, you still have a strong chance of gaining admission to at least one college on your list.
You want to do research and understand, based on your admission profile, what schools would be considered your safety, match, and reach schools. Your school counselor will help you put together your college list for schools where you meet or exceed the required benchmarks to be admitted. These schools will be considered your match and safety schools.
Once you have completed that, you can start considering your reach schools, which are institutions that you’re less likely to get admitted to. Colleges that we identify as reach schools for all students include universities in the Ivy League and highly selective private institutions like Stanford.
Have an Early Decision plan
When applying to college it is always recommended to have an Early Decision plan. Applying to a school early allows you to get application paperwork out of the way allowing you to focus on senior year, it shows the university you can take initiative and gives you a strong advantage over regular decision applicants. Most universities admit about 40-50% of their freshman class through the early decision, so acceptance rates increase drastically when you go through either early decision or early action routes.
The last piece of advice to take into the application process is to never be afraid to ask for help. The college admission process can be an overwhelming and stressful time, so be sure to take advantage of all available resources. Your high school counselor, parents, and admission counselors are there to answer your questions, guide you through this process and help you reach your college goals. Our consultants are standing by to help take your application to the next level!