Five Tips for Creating Compelling College Applications

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Category: College Admissions, College Counseling

education-379217_640The Common Application officially re-opened a few weeks ago, and our Green Ivy students have already started working on their applications in hopes of decreasing senior year stress (quote from a senior;  “I can’t imagine starting this stuff in October!” Here are some of our Green Ivy tips and best practices for students wanting to put together the most compelling college applications possible.


1.     Take charge of the college application process. Remember, you are applying to college, not your parents. To quote Hamilton (which some of us tend to do regularly), “Who tells your story?” Actively managing this process on your own can, among other things, reap the benefit of self-discovery, increased maturity and the knowledge that you are college-ready.

board-784347_6402.     Pay attention to the details, and remember, neatness counts. Typos, grammatical and spelling errors can send a not-so-great message to admissions officers about the level of care you have about attending their university. Also, pro tip: make sure you upload the right essay for the right school – don’t tell Boston College why you’d love to attend Villanova, for example. Triple-check – and do so in the morning, when you are more likely to catch mistakes.

3.     Write only the stories you can write. Don’t worry about what a “good” essay topic is – focus on what your best essay topic is. We’ve run several College Counseling Bootcamps this summer, and one of my favorite quotes on this issue came from a student. “You can’t mess up your own stories,” she said. “They’re yours.” Exactly! Write openly and honestly about your experiences, personal growth and the challenges you’ve faced, and the essay will follow.  

4.     Answer every question as completely as you can. Optional essays aren’t really optional if you are seriously interested in a school, and it’s always a good idea to maximize any space provided to elaborate on your activities to do just that.  

5.     Compile a list of everything you need to do from now to individual application deadlines. period-481478_640Some students are applying to a mix of private schools, the UCs, CSUs and out of state public schools, which can mean upwards of four-five separate applications to complete. In addition, EACH SCHOOL has their own supplements that require a good deal of work. Now is the perfect time to get organized in terms of all the moving pieces of your application from turning in teacher and counselor questionnaires to sending test scores and specific school deadlines, including any Early Action or Early Decision applications you are considering.

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