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Your Best Application

I was on College Confidential (which I love to peruse) when I came across a thread that broke my heart. “I worked SO hard in high school and I had big goals for my future, but I have been rejected by so many places and I do not know what I did.” Isn’t this everyone’s worst fear? That all that effort will be for nothing. Now no one can promise to get you into Harvard, but I want to share with you my tips to creating a truly impressive application that tells your story so that hard work isn’t wasted.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. Schools Want Well-Rounded Student Bodies NOT Well-Rounded Students!!

I’m not sure exactly where this myth of the well-rounded student came from, but I see so many students running themselves ragged doing a million activities in an attempt to be “well-rounded.” They don’t really go deep in any of them, though. This isn’t going to impress anyone. Schools, especially selective schools, are looking for depth over breadth, quality over quantity. Your activities should tell your story.

So how do you achieve this? Pick something you really love, enjoy, and are good at. Maybe it’s math, maybe it’s journalism, maybe it’s social justice. That’s your base. The rest of your application should build on that base. If your base is STEM, your entire application should reflect that. Join the STEM clubs at school, compete at regional and national competitions (and win!), start a coding club at your school or in your city, organize a hackathon or science fair for a low income middle school in your area, start a math tutoring company, start a blog about being a girl who loves math. You can see there are a million ways to tell your story around your base. Think outside the box. You want your application to tell your unique and memorable story. Don’t forget that!

The key to building on your base and creating a truly impressive application is starting early. Ideally, that means finding your base Freshman year and planning your activities starting then. If you can do this, awesome. You’re ahead of the game and have plenty of time to craft your story. Maybe, though, you’re a junior. You can still use this advice! Starting your applications early is critical to making them as good as they possibly can be. One of my favorite tips for this is to ask for teacher recs at the end of your junior year. Your teachers won’t be overwhelmed by a million requests, and you will be really fresh in their minds. You can also start your essays during the summer, giving you plenty of time for editing. The most important thing is not to feel rushed to submit your applications. That’s when mistakes and sloppiness can sneak in.

So, what’s your base? Leave a comment with your base and one outside the box activity you’re pursuing related to it.

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One Response to “Your Best Application

  • Joey Law
    9 years ago

    Awesome advice, Jessica! I have saved your advice for my daughter.