The college application season is upon us with a vengeance! Students are straining to get their applications in shape for the early deadlines. Those who have completed their early applications are gearing up for the marathon required to complete the other 6-7 schools on their list. In their haste to get it done, many kids make the common mistake of presenting themselves as one-dimensional.
It is true that the best applications will build a theme, selecting a few highlights that we want admission officers to remember. However it is easy to go overboard and show only the most important activity in a child’s life. For example, a violinist who has four music related entries in the activity section, talks about her music in the main essay, and highlights her teaching studio in the extracurricular short essay misses a golden opportunity.
Pick the place to build your theme in the Common Application (or any application): activity section, main essay, or extracurricular short essay found in the college supplements. Then use the remaining essay or other opportunities to show something new. Many schools give you short essays or quick response questions that help a student demonstration their depth.
I love it when I discover that the violinist’s most prized possession is the antique crochet hook that her great grandmother used to teach her to crochet, that the dedicated STEM kid wishes he were better at playing bluegrass on his mandolin, that the heavy hitting science researcher goes ballroom dancing every Thursday night, that the winner of national piano titles produces original movies for film festivals, that the athlete taught himself to program in Python, or that the exceptional math student has his own sports radio program.
These little facts pull these kids out of the stereotype and present a new and very interesting aspect. It forces reviewers to stop and think about the student. It causes delight and conjecture. Remember, the goal is to show your student as a gem with many sparkling facets, not a diamond in the rough whose potential is hidden.
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