Will Your College Application Be Attention-Getting?
By Jeannette Webb
Monday I asked if your child’s college application would fit within the parameters of the particular college they were interested in attending. Today we will look at two ways to make their application stand out.
1. Make sure the Activity Profile is worthwhile. I can tell within a few minutes if a student lives from the heart and their projects are a reflection of that vision or if they are trying to compile a list of stuff to impress a college. One application is totally flat, the other sparkles up from the page. Admissions officers can spot the difference in a heartbeat.
Sometimes I do have to help a passionate student find their voice and express themselves better via the essay and short answer questions. (Tip – it is much easier to focus on personal essay skills early in high school rather than in the midst of college applications. Trust me. College applications are tense enough without having to learn to write as well!) Almost always do I have to help students choose better words to describe their activities and teach them to present them in the best light. But this is very doable. The extremely difficult part comes when a student has just joined things because she thinks it looks good, she has nothing original in her resume, or she has sat at home dreaming about becoming something she never became.
The Activity Profile counts as 1/3 the weight of the application. However, in an application class of equally academically qualified candidates, this is the key to getting the attention of an admissions officer. Those who have done worthwhile things that they deeply care about rise to the top, while the grinds who focus only on grades or the serial joiners who’ve joined their way to mediocrity find themselves on the rejection heap. Those students who live honestly and impact others can’t help themselves. Their interest in life oozes out of their essays, jumps up off the activity list, gives meaning to short answer questions. They stand out from the crowd because life is an adventure.
2. Make sure the Homeschool Supplemental Material is professional. Gone are the days you can take in a scrapbook of newspaper clippings to an Admissions officer and expect them to be thrilled. There are a few exceptions in tiny liberal arts schools, but they are extremely rare. Portfolios are thin and reserved for the actual creations of artists, photographers, and writers.
Transcripts are one page and extremely clear. Homeschoolers have a bad reputation for convoluted transcripts. Don’t go there! Letters of Recommendation need to be stellar from someone who knows your student well. The School Profile and Transcript Legend need to be concise while, at the same time, providing enough detail. Your Counselor Letter needs to be honest without sounding like a gushy mother.
For your student’s college application to be attention-getting, your student must have lived a life that is interesting to themselves and conversely to others. It doesn’t matter whether they are leaders or writers or entrepreneurs or servants or athletes or scientists or musicians. Whatever they are, you will need to put much thought into the presentation of their application. My clients begin the process in the middle of the junior year to have ample time to do the best job possible. It is a great deal of work, but putting together an attention-getting application is an incredibly rewarding endeavor!