The college application process can be intimidating. Nevertheless, you should not get overwhelmed by the various sections and requirements. To give you an overview of the application process, let me break down each of the sections in terms of their relationship to a student’s admissions success. To begin, each application contains the following sections: background information, academic criteria, essays, letters of recommendation, and an optional interview.
In the background information section, you provide basic demographic information, such as your location of residence, gender, and race. This section of the application is used to help colleges and universities assess the diversity of the incoming class once all admissions decisions are released.
The academic criteria section is where your GPA, course grades, and test scores are entered. While this section is a vital component of the application, many students mistakenly believe it is the sole determinant of their admission decision – leading to much worry and anxiety. This mindset is far from the truth. Nearly every student who applies to one of the world’s top universities, including the Ivy League, are academically capable of handling their coursework and being considered for admission, so in a way, these academic criteria are used only as benchmarks to ensure competency in academic subject fields. For many admissions departments, the remaining sections of the application are used to ultimately determine each student’s decision.
Let’s face it: creating application essays is not fun and often stressful. In just a few hundred words, a student is asked to convince a college or university to extend an offer of admission. This is no easy task, and it is the most vital component of the college application. It is through these essays that students must distinguish themselves from the applicant pool and make their candidacy unforgettable to the admissions staff. So, what makes an essay unforgettable? You must discover your most noteworthy and unique accomplishments, which are not always obvious, and market them in a way that will captivate the attention of an admissions staff reader and leave a memorable impression. While the essays are the most important factor, the following two components can significantly sway your candidacy in favor of acceptance.
Many students overlook the importance of the letters of recommendation, often believing they are a small, insignificant part of the application. I hope to convince you otherwise, as these letters are often pivotal to a student’s admissions success. Once a college or university reviews your academic criteria and essays, they will have a strong understanding of your academic potential, along with your intellectual and personal insights. However, they are still missing important information, and the letters of recommendation provide an admissions staff with multiple perspectives of your academic and professional abilities. Most importantly, they highlight how you have performed in various settings. Often, many recommenders fall short in the content of their letters, offering little, if any, new information about a student – a significant disadvantage. It is important to be aware of this shortfall and ensure that your letters are strong assets to your applications.
The last section of the application process involves the optional interviews. Since these interviews are not required, they cannot hurt your chances of acceptance. Instead, these interviews have the potential to enrich an application with vivid stories and details that may influence an admissions staff towards an offer of acceptance. In other words, they can supplement your written statements with a memorable display of personality. Additionally, they are a rewarding opportunity to meet with a graduate of the college or university to learn about their experiences, which can help in your decision of where to enroll among offers of admission. However, I do not want to give too much away, since my next blog will detail the interview process with much more depth and clarity.