Common Application: How to be the Best Applicant You Can Be

When I speak to high school students about to embark on the college application process, the most common questions I get asked are “What was your GPA? What did you get on the SAT? How many APs did you take?” And while these numbers have value on your application, it is important to remember that you are more than just numbers. In this article, I will be outlining what you can do to be the best applicant you can be.

By the time you are reading this, you are most likely completing (or are near completion) of your high school career. By this time, most of your grades are set and stone, perhaps you have already taken the SATs, now all you have left is the Common Application. And while you have worked hard for years and months to obtain those numbers, they are just pieces of the entire package that you will submit in January for consideration at university.

Here are five steps you should take while completing your application:

  1. Apply to a spectrum of colleges

Consult your college guidance counselor. If you’ve never visited your counselor before, now is the time. Select colleges based on factors such as location, size, etc. Make sure to apply to a spectrum of colleges, the three main categories: reach, match and safety. And while we can never really know what goes on behind admissions doors, consult your counselor for better insight as to where you stand. Each additional college that you submit to is another application fee, so it is important to consolidate your list early on. I would say a good time would be by the end of October.

2. Reach out to your English teacher to read over your Personal Statement

Revise, revise and revise again! Pick a prompt, tell a story and revise! Show don’t tell.  Reach out to your English teacher and get some insight as to how you can revise your Personal Statement. A note to make: do not try to impress admissions committees with your extensive encyclopedia-searched jargon, but do keep the language professional. Do not use conjunction words (don’t, haven’t; instead do not, and have not).

3. Get started on your secondary essays early!

Give yourself time to brew over essay prompts as there will be plenty of them. Often schools will have one or more secondary essays and there is importance to these as they make you stand out from other applicants. Colleges are not seeking to build a homogeneous class, instead they are looking for a well-rounded student body. One of the most common questions is: how is our school a good fit for you? Search on the college’s respective website, but also look into the courses they offer, community outreach programs that they have, before you dive straight into answering the question. Do not wait until the last month to start drafting your essays, give them the same amount of time and work as you have done for the rest of your application.

4. Follow-up and hold your Guidance Counselor/Recommenders accountable

I have heard accounts from students where their Guidance Counselor would not submit their transcript onto the Common Application, or their Recommenders submitting their recommendation letter at the very last moment. Make sure to follow-up. Be annoying! It will save you a lot of stress and headache later.

5. Enjoy your Senior Year, but not too much

When you finally hit that submit button to your colleges in January. Take a breath, you’re done. Relax and enjoy the company of your friends for the last few months of your senior year. But do make sure to still pass your classes, colleges have and will rescind your offer if you do not pass your classes in the end. And if you are taking AP courses, still study for them, because they might come in handy in college. But you’ve made it this far, after months of studying for the SAT, working on those essays; you are done. So, go have fun and enjoy your senior year.  

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