5 Ways to Personalize Your College Application

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In order to craft a strong college application, you'll want to personalize your application materials as much as possible. This blog post offers five options for ways to do so.

Personal College Applications are Compelling College Applications

If you're a student currently applying (or thinking about applying) to colleges, you might be stressing about how to make your application stand out from the rest. One of the best ways to craft a compelling college application is to personalize it to the fullest possible extent. Because you're inherently a unique, interesting person, the more you can tell your own story in your applications, the more interesting and unique they will be! Check out our five tips for ways to personalize your college application.

A student looks at a college application online

1. Tell Your Story in Your Essay

The part of your application best suited for the purpose of personalization is the essay. There's a reason it's sometimes referred to as a ''personal essay''! Colleges want to get to know you, so they specifically ask you to tell them about yourself and your goals in a written format. This is your chance to really stand out from the crowd.

So make your essay as personal as possible, including concrete details from your life, instead of more general statements that might apply to many people. Think about the characteristics that make you different from your classmates; for example:

  • Are you from a different country?
  • Do you have a unique talent, ability, or interest?
  • Do you spend your time in a way that most others don't?

The answers to these questions will tell you what to highlight in your essay.

2. List All of Your Extracurricular Activities

Usually, colleges require you to tell them what extracurricular activities you're involved in, like sports, clubs, and hobbies. You might be tempted to only include the ones that sound impressive, like honor societies and scholastic clubs, but we recommend that you mention all of your activities, even things like:

  • Offbeat special-interest clubs, like a Harry Potter club
  • Part-time jobs
  • Unusual hobbies, like creating YouTube videos

These activities help to paint a picture of who you are as an individual. Colleges are interested in seeing them even if they don't necessarily characterize you as academic or charitable. (You'll be able to point to those qualities of yours in other ways, such as through your grades, SAT scores, and community service work.)

3. Ask for a Personal Letter of Recommendation

You'll also be required to submit letters of recommendation from authority figures as part of your college applications. While you won't have very much control over the content of those recommendations, you'll most likely be asking for recommendations from teachers and other adults who really know who you are as a person. When asking for letters of recommendation, specifically mention that you're trying to build as personal an application as possible, and nicely request that your contacts try to write you a letter that paints a detailed picture of your personality.

A letter of recommendation

4. Take Electives That Speak to Your Interests

You don't have much of a choice of what classes you take in high school, but you do get to choose your electives. So try to choose electives that are related to your interests and/or intended area of study in college. These courses will be one of the few personal touches on your transcript. For example, if you've taken French for all four years of high school, or a combination of theater, dance, and choir, the person reviewing your college application will have a better understanding of your interests and who you are.

5. Do a College Interview

The most ideal follow-up to a college application, if you can make it happen, would be to do an interview with an administrator(s) from the college(s) you're applying to. This is a common practice among private colleges, though you can also inquire with public universities about whether it's a possibility. If successful, you'll interview with a staff member or alumnus of the college, who will then report back to the admissions department. Because this is the only in-person part of the college application process, it's your best chance to really communicate your personality. Be yourself, talk candidly about your life, and you'll do great!

A college applicant does a college interview

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By Daisy Rogozinsky
October 2018
college college admissions

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