Going through the college admissions application process can be life-changing and exciting. For some, it may even be a passage into adulthood as students get to do some introspection and think about their goals and plan for their future. Navigating the admissions procedure is a learning process itself where students develop executive function and life skills that they will take with them beyond college life.
An independent college consultant can make the college application process less arduous than it seems by providing college counseling and college application guidance to students. Here is a checklist to keep track of your admissions requirements:
- Application Form – This may be done on paper or online through the Common App. Make sure to fill in all the necessary information including personal data, family, and school. Be mindful of the deadline as most schools are strict about timely submission.
- Test Scores – Many schools have adopted the test-optional policy but still accept voluntary submission of ACT and SAT test scores. Standardized test results still remain to be a fairground in assessing a student’s aptitude.
- Letters of Recommendation – Colleges ask for 2-3 letters of recommendation from teachers or counselors. Choose them reasonably well and make sure they know you quite well to be able to come up with a favorable recommendation.
- Essay / Personal Statement – Perhaps the most time-consuming of all the college application requirements would be the college essay. This takes several edits and rewrites to ensure that the final composition is a unique but authentic representation of you.
- High School Transcript – Colleges will ask for a copy of the high school transcript. This is usually directly sent from the high school and not through the student.
Most colleges and universities have adopted the test-optional policy for the coming admissions cycle. This has increased applications at elite schools as many students feel this gives them a bigger chance to qualify. However, that is not so. With more students applying, the admissions committee will elevate their standards and qualifications for admission. As a result, it becomes more difficult to stand out because you are competing with more applicants.
When a school says they are test-optional, they will still accept test scores should you decide to do so. Admissions officers claim that these scores will not affect their decision, but unless you have an otherwise perfect application (stellar GPA, outstanding extracurricular activities, and fantastic interview skills), a good standardized test score will, in most cases, be a net positive for your application.
A personal statement is an essay that talks about an applicant’s personal experiences, convictions, and qualities. Unlike the common app essay, a student is free to choose a topic to write about. Think about topics or subjects that you are interested in and passionate about. Make sure that you have spent a significant amount of time doing extracurricular activities related to this. Talk about why this topic is close to your heart, how it has changed you, and why you want to pursue this field of interest. Remember that your goal is to show off the traits that make you a good fit for that college.
Admissions officers take into consideration how significant your role is as well as your attitude and overall behavior towards your school community from the eyes of significant people you interact with through recommendation letters. It is very important to choose the teachers and mentors who will write these letters. First, choose the teacher you have a good relationship with and who you think knows you best, and this could be the teacher in the class you perform best in. It is highly likely that he/she will remember you and put you in high regard. Next, think of your mentor in the extracurricular activity you participated in that you worked the hardest with. He/she would know and understand your passion and how hardworking you are.
If you are not applying for athletic recruitment nor are you looking into taking up a music-related program, sports and music are some of the activities that are considered a negative arbitrage when putting together your profile. Instead, you may want to allocate more time to activities that showcase your intellect such as academic clubs, and leadership capabilities like the student council.
Your school may also offer more clubs that are aligned with your interests where you could impart innovative ideas and work with your fellow members to organize fun and meaningful events. However, if you think that none of the clubs your school offers are suitable for you, you may also choose to create one and take ownership of the organization.
Volunteer activities, internships, and part-time jobs may take a bigger chunk of your time, but these are the extracurriculars that will holistically demonstrate the skills you have obtained in practice. Through these experiences, you will be able to present positive qualities about yourself such as your competence, proactive attitude, professionalism, and ability to work efficiently and effectively under pressure.