Apply Well, Early & Right

Many students applying for college find the application process quite intimidating. The errors, thus committed, can put paid to many a youngster's collegiate dreams. This article intends to share a quick and useful checklist that will help overcome these glitches; and make your application stand out, thus maximizing your chances of admission into your dream university.

The Checklist:

(a) Read instructions
(b) Submit on time
(c) Be fair to yourself
(d) Proofread
(e) Balance the emphasis
(f) Own your application
(g) Offer fresh thoughts
(h) Avoid generalities
(i) Meet class requirements

Reading instructions carefully is extremely important, because each college has its uniqueness embedded within its application; and assuming a single size that can fit all (or ignoring simple / basic guidelines) can ensure your application gets rejected straight-away. In a funny, yet sad, example, there is this case of a Visa credit card number being shared by a student with Clemson University's ad-com, where the application had asked for the student's visa number!

Keeping a little buffer time is going to be immensely beneficial. As Murphy's Law postulates, there is always a possibility of delay in transmitting documents - due to computer downtime, printer woes, postal delays, acts of God and the like, to name a few. A safer approach would be to take the cut-off as one week ahead of the stated deadline. This will help all papers to be prepared and submitted on time.

It is also important that you act in a way that would be fair to yourself. As a high-school student, to submit a resume long enough to match that of a 40-year old veteran would certainly raise eyebrows. If your profile has had so many achievements, listing them is likely to bring no harm; but to sustain the interest of the ad-com, it is important to mention only the best-3 or the best-5 WOW achievements in your resume.

A well-intentioned, superbly-rounded profile can still be wrecked by a poorly proofread application. The misuse, rampant these days, of 'there' for 'their', 'weather' for 'whether', 'lets' for 'let's', 'its' for 'it's', etc., are all examples of how a little error can make the whole application unpalatable. It is expected that the student knows these errors and avoids them.

The purpose of collegiate education is to be, well, educated. At the same time, to add extracurricular activities that suddenly make their appearance in the profile during the senior year smacks of nonchalance. It is important that a balanced profile is presented, which includes the student's successful progression through academic years, while balancing high quality participation and performance in co-curriculars and extracurriculars throughout. Consistency is key; as is balance.

Remember, it is you, the student who is being presented through, and in, the application. Thus, you should be viewed as one who is keen on getting admitted. That attribute should be reflected in every element of the application. The parents following up with the university (or ad-com) is a great sign of the family's involvement, but over-doing the same can be detrimental to the application itself. It becomes, accordingly, extremely important that the follow-through efforts are directed by the student, whether on the phone, via email, or in person, who is then viewed as the owner of the process.

The application should be considered as a crucial tool to showcase the student's candidature. The opportunity to maximize exposure to the multi-faceted skill-set of the student should be leveraged upon. To achieve the same, try offering fresh thoughts, with as many & different examples as possible in various prompts, rather than presenting the same idea in differently wordsmithed attempts.

Many a time, the student's essay turns out to be a little modified, generic one, meaning the core and the buffer remain the same, while the packaging gets moved about a bit. Instead, try composing fresh essays for every college, with the same content. This way, you gain two advantages: a sharpening of writing skills; and a truly customized essay that tugs at the heart of the ad-com members!

The choice of college should also be backed up with the choice of subjects before college. This means that if you want to major in a particular subject, you should have taken courses that are prerequisites for the same during your pre-college years. If you want to take Advanced Algebra, it is natural for the college to expect you to have taken Basic Algebra in school. This act of meeting class requirements is also a way to avoid taking papers that could have been completed while you were at school.

Heeding to the points outlined in this article can help make your application extremely note-worthy, and a stand-out one. When admit percentages hover around the low single digits in Ivy League colleges and low double-digits in next rung colleges, the differentiation of your candidature is key and we wish you well in your pursuit to a great collegiate education!