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College Application DOs and DON'Ts

Information provided by Kaplan Test Prep

Do yourself a favor: Before you send in your application, proofread! Nothing will make admissions officers dump your application in the reject pile faster than a sloppy, illegible or error-ridden application.

A Persistent Myth: Admissions committees seek to recruit well-rounded students.

This is NOT necessarily true. What they're usually looking for is a well-rounded student body comprised of students with various interests and skills. This is good news. It means you don't need a ten-page list of activities stuffed with entries like the Trampoline Club and the Polka Band (unless, of course, you truly enjoy participating in the Polka Band).

But don't cut down on your activities for fear of appearing unfocused. Believe it or not, admissions committees can differentiate between those who are trying to load up their activities sheet and those who have a sincere interest in their extracurriculars. Don't worry about joining clubs you think colleges want to see on your resume. Do what you're really interested in.

Show the Real You

Feel like your GPA and SAT or ACT score don't tell the whole story? That's what your essays are for. Be yourself (but "yourself" with good grammar and perfect spelling). The cliche "Write about what you know" has never been more true. For more advice on essays, consult your teachers or your guidance counselors. Here are some essay questions that have been asked in the past:

  • "Describe what you would consider to be the perfect adventure." (Hollins College)
  • "What do you value most in a relationship? Describe the person you feel closest to and why your relationship is so strong." (Austin College)
  • "If you could declare a new holiday, what would you celebrate/commemorate? Why? How would it be observed?" (University of Puget Sound)
  • "You have just completed your three-hundred-page autobiography. Please submit page 217." (University of Pennsylvania)

Sell Yourself

The interview, though often not required, is another chance to show the real you. Try to schedule your interview for a Monday or a Friday, and spend the weekend on campus. If you don't know anyone at that school, call the admissions office. Most schools sponsor an overnight program for prospective students.

As for the interview itself, the most important thing you can do is to RELAX. Remember, you're there to find out more about the school just as much as to make an impression. Dress appropriately, go in armed with some questions that you genuinely want to ask, practice your firm handshake, and you'll do fine. If you're extraordinarily nervous about the interviewing process, rehearse with your guidance counselor or a friend.

Keeping up with Yesterday

If you're not a procrastinator, consider applying for EARLY ADMISSIONS. There are usually two alternatives -- Early Action (an admission decision that binds the school to the applicant, but not vice versa) and Early Decision (an admission decision that binds both the school and the applicant to one another). Be aware of which schools offer which options and their corresponding early deadlines.

Plan to get your regular applications in early while there are more spots available. Some schools have rolling admissions; in these cases, spots are taken as applications arrive and are accepted, so it's especially important to get your application in as early as possible.

More Information

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