Tips for Crafting a Strong College Application

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  • 0:03 College Applications
  • 0:55 General Tips
  • 4:21 Application Essay
  • 6:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Applying to college can be a stressful time! In this lesson, we'll take a look at the elements of a strong application, including general tips for creating a competitive application and tips specific to creating a good personal essay.

College Applications

Chloe is a senior in high school, and she's excited about going to college next year. But first, she has to get accepted by a college.

Chloe is going through the college application process, which is when students try to get accepted to a college. It can be a very stressful and overwhelming time!

Every college is slightly different when it comes to the college application process. Deadlines, essay topics, and other parts of the process can vary from place to place. So how can Chloe ever figure out how to create a good application if applications are different at different schools?

While every school is unique, there are some general things that most colleges look for in applicants. Let's look closer at general tips for crafting a strong application and some specific tips on how to write a good college admissions essay.

General Tips

So, Chloe is applying to colleges. Every application is a little different, and she knows that even when two colleges ask for the same information, the office of admissions at each college is looking at that information in slightly different ways. So how on earth can she craft a strong application?

Though each college is different, there are some things that Chloe should keep in mind. In general, these are things that most colleges think are part of a strong application.

1. Be early. Colleges generally evaluate applications as they get them, so if they receive Chloe's application in November, they'll look at it then. If they receive it in December, they'll evaluate it at that point.

Here's the deal, though: most colleges get a flood of applications on the deadline. This means that they are overwhelmed on that date with applications, and they might have less time or energy to put towards evaluating an application. If Chloe can get her application in before the deadline, she might get more attention than she would otherwise.

Getting an application in early also signals that a student is interested in the college. Even if Chloe just gets her application in a couple of weeks before the deadline, she is signaling to the college that she's enthusiastic and really wants to go there. That could sway things in her favor.

2. Follow instructions. If a college asks for a certain piece of information or requests that things be submitted in a specific way, Chloe should follow those instructions. If she doesn't submit what they request in the way they request it, the admissions officers are likely to think that she's careless and they might not see her as a good fit.

3. Request transcripts and recommendations early. Many colleges ask for both high school transcripts and letters of recommendations from adults who know the prospective student well. Chloe should remember that, when she's requesting that her school send her transcripts or when she's asking people to write recommendations for her, she is asking for something that takes time. She should submit her requests a month in advance of the deadline, so that people have time to get what they need to support her.

4. Be honest. Some students try to make themselves sound better by adding information that isn't completely accurate or by outright lying. For example, Chloe knows someone who wrote that she was president of the student council at their school, but she wasn't. Lying or exaggerating is a bad idea on a college application. For one thing, the college can (and often does) check on the information in the application. If they find out that a student lied, they will not admit that student.

For another thing, the point of a college application is to show that the student is a good fit for the college. If Chloe says that she really likes to read Shakespeare but she secretly hates it, she might end up at a school where Shakespeare is a big part of the curriculum. That could lead to her being unhappy. Instead, she should be honest about who she is and what she's done. The right college for her will see her application and be happy to have her.

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