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admissions officers

Making a Compelling Application

When your application arrives at your favorite college, the officers are not deciding whether to accept or reject you, but rather your application. Therefore, you need to make your application reflect your abilities, personality, background, interests, and past performance.

Don’t Hesitate – Starting Early Pays Off

Don’t wait until senior year to download the applications you need.  Ideally, you will begin familiarizing yourself with your college applications and their requirements during the spring of your junior year.  You will need time to carefully gather the necessary information and compile lists of activities and honors.  If you can begin writing your essays over the summer, you will save plenty of time; just make sure to ask the admissions offices whether or not they plan on changing the essays in the fall.  

Submitting your application as early as possible is always beneficial.  Close to the deadline date, admissions officers must read close to 100 applications a day, but early in the season, they read only a handful a day.  If the admissions officer has more time to consider your application in a thoughtful way, your chances are greatly improved.  Also, an early submission suggests that you are quite serious about your interest in the school, even when you do not select Early Action or another similar option.

Extracurricular Activities and Your Application

You cannot fool college admissions officers by presenting an extremely long list of extracurricular activities in your application.  While it is true that colleges want to make sure that you are doing something worthwhile in your spare time, it is not necessary to be a member of 20 different clubs, sports, or organizations.  However, if you spend 20 hours a week at one particular activity, and you have become the mainstay of that organization, that’s impressive. 

Extracurricular activity lists should demonstrate:

  1. Dedication and Loyalty
  2. Well-Roundedness
  3. Social Awareness and Sophistication
  4. Leadership Capacity

First Jobs and Student Resumes

As a high school student, it is not expected that you will have a lengthy resume.  However, having a job in high school can impress admissions officers.  It is a good idea include the number of hours per week you normally work at your job, and any leadership positions that you’ve held.  Your job doesn’t need to be unusual, but your dedication is what matters.  Some schools permit additional recommendation letters from job supervisors, and a glowing report of your maturity, work ethic, and problem-solving skills can be a real boon.

Look after your applications! If you apply online, always save a copy of your essays on your hard drive, and also a backup copy on CD or other removable drive.  Take your time, and do your best to present yourself in the best light possible.

Colleges want students that have excellent grades and SAT scores, but these criteria are frequently not the make-or-break factors that influence acceptance, particularly at highly selective schools.  Colleges have to work hard to keep or make their good reputations, just like students, and therefore need to choose the right students.  Unfortunately, sometimes that means that qualified students don’t get accepted to particular schools – but that does not mean that these students are any less qualified than before they got their thin envelope!

Colleges want specific and unique individuals to attend their schools, not walking transcripts!  But since colleges probably won’t come looking for you (you’re probably not worried about being accepted to college if they are!), you need to find your special niche yourself.

Remember, even when you get accepted to the school of your dreams, no college acceptance letter guarantees a good education, a good job, or a happy life.  Even if you make it to Harvard, there’s no guarantee that your life will be perfect.

Who Gets Accepted?

Today, more students than ever are applying for highly selective colleges; more students overall are planning on attending college after high school, and more successful students are seeking diplomas from big-name schools.  This means that many highly-qualified candidates are rejected from the most selective schools.  Can you believe…

-       Students with perfect SAT scores

-       Valedictorians

-       Winners of famous, private scholarships

… all can get rejected from the most selective (and even less selective!) schools?

The Game Plan:

How can you increase your odds of acceptance into a school that is not only prestigious, but that will give you the best shot at an exemplary education?  Research colleges thoroughly; sometimes colleges are just looking for someone very specific – an oboe player for the orchestra, a star quarterback for the football team, a speaker of Korean to help improve the language department, or a student council star to take over campus government.

Use your Interview to find out whether your specific skill set is particularly desired by a specific school.  Your interview is not only a great way to make a good impression on the admissions officers, but also the easiest way to find out about the kind of students that each college needs.  Come prepared, and don’t be afraid to ask very frank questions about the student body.  It will not harm your chances; in fact, your serious interest in finding the best match for you can only reflect positively on your application.

You are more likely to be successful in your attempt at getting into school if you follow a few simple rules in the process. Through honesty, self-knowledge of goals, desires, and abilities, a readiness for the school itself, and a realistic understanding of those reading your application you will be more likely to succeed in gaining acceptance to the school of your desire.

1: Honesty

In your application you will be asked intimate questions about personal motivation and what draws you in a particular direction. Try to answer these with as much truthfulness as possible. Admissions officers can often detect falsehood, so show your genuine reasons and motivations without disguise. Being yourself makes all the difference.

2: Matching Yourself

Admissions officers don’t just look at whether or not you have a great academic and professional background, your recommendations, and your interviews. They are also keen on finding candidates that would fit in well with their school. So look into not only ranking and GMAT medians, but also what kinds of students attend a particular program, what their backgrounds and goals are and how those match up with yours. Finding a school with likeminded people will contribute to both the success of your application and your future career path.

3: Determining Goals and Motivations

Defining your goals and motivations needs to happen well before you step onto campus for classes. You need to know where you want your MBA to take you. The process of figuring out your own goals and motivations will enable you to create focused, thoughtful, and clear applications that will make sense to admissions officers. Admissions consultants are often helpful in assisting candidates in the process of self-evaluation. Meeting with people who are further along in career paths that interest you may also prove helpful in determining your own path.

4: Don’t apply before you’re prepared to

It is better that you submit a clear, concise, well-thought out application rather than submitting a rushed application in the early rounds. Sending in an application that shows you at your best (the best GMAT you can achieve, the best recommendations you can have, the best essay statements you can compose) is most likely to be successful one, regardless of the round in which it is submitted.

5: Realistic Understanding of the Admissions Officials

Many people think admissions staff are extremely scrutinizing and perfectionists; in other words, machines with little understanding of the possibility for human error or mistakes. In fact, admissions officers are more likely to pay attention to interesting applications from a human perspective. So do not hesitate to show your true self to the readers of your application.

Posted on March 3, 2009 by Manhattan Review

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