How to be a Strong College Applicant

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By Maxwell Clarence picking intershipBoyd – Feb. 2, 2015: 

Applying and getting into college can be an overwhelming feat for many. Combining all of your hard work, grades, test scores and other accomplishments into a small package is challenging. Knowing what to emphasize and focus on for your application can be a daunting task. Today, we will pick through what makes a strong college applicant and try to help you determine how to mold your application.

Most schools look at the whole picture of your application. This includes your academics (GPA, test scores, course load), essays, and letters of recommendation. Colleges really do look for a well-rounded applicant, who shows not only academic strength and integrity but special talents and interests as well. In addition, they pay attention to the organization of your application.

Assess your academic strength

By and large, your GPA, standardized test scores, and the level of difficulty of your prior coursework have been very important to many colleges in their admissions process. These numbers traditionally show your strengths and weaknesses as a student, and help colleges compare a large number of applicants. With that said, a high GPA taking all easier courses may not be as impressive as a slightly lower GPA with more college-prep courses. Standardized tests scores, such as the SAT and ACT, have traditionally been an important aspect in college admissions. This still stands true at most institutions, however the good news for students who may not be the best test takers is that there is an increasing number of schools who de-emphasize the use of test scores for admissions.

Take time to write your essays

Before writing admissions essay, really consider the school you are applying to and why you would be a good fit there. Dig deep into your strengths, weaknesses, interests, what the school can offer you and what you can offer to the school. Your essay is your initial chance to give yourself a voice and explain why you should be admitted to that college. While there are many resources available with tips for writing your essays, common themes include to be yourself, be creative but honest, keep your essay succinct, and to write several drafts and proofread before finalizing it. Include an introduction, body, and conclusion to guide the reader.

Choose letters of recommendation wisely

Your letters of recommendation work similarly in your personal essays in that they shed light onto you as a person, including your character, interests and personality. You should ask individuals who really know you well to write letters for you. This may include teachers, mentors, coaches, counselors, and even coworkers or bosses if you have a job outside of school. You should try to pick at least one person who can describe you outside of the academic setting.

Proofread, proofread, proofread!

Spelling and grammar mistakes do not go unnoticed on college applications. You should read everything you write, and then reread it multiple times. Have someone you trust review your application as well. Read your essays out loud to be sure they make sense. Finally, read all of the instructions on the application carefully to make sure you don’t miss anything. While grades, test scores, essays and letters of recommendation all take a long time to develop and strengthen, an application free of errors is something you can accomplish in a short amount of time with the right focus and help.

When applying to college, remember that there are many facets of a strong applicant. Consider all of your academics and extra-curricular activities to be an important part of your application. Don’t fret if your application is lacking on one of these aspects. Instead, try to focus on your strengths. And lastly, make sure your application is free of errors before you hit submit!

 By: Maxwell Clarence Boyd, Degree Jungle contributor.

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