*DISCLAIMER* I AM IN NO WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM SPONSORED BY, REPRESENTING, OR EVEN ADVOCATING FOR COLLEGEVINE.
Now that that is out of the way…
Collegevine is one of the student/college admissions blogs that I featured on my post “My Favorite Student/College/Productivity Blogs” (which you can read here). Along with having a blog, one of their most popular services is offering college admissions consulting on the entirety of the admissions and application process for high school seniors. They walk you through the entire process, from picking a list of schools to apply to based on their fancy software to ironing out the kinks in your college specific essays. (I personally am way against paying for any sort of help on anything - including SAT and college apps - but if you’re interested in their program, click here.)
This week, I had the opportunity to talk to a couple members of their team, Greg Eibell (the College Admissions Program Director) and Johan Zhang (the CEO and Founder). Both of them answered a lot of my questions concerning college admissions, and I decided to compile all the information into one post, because, sharing is caring, amiright?
After listening through more than 2 hours of recordings, I tried to separate the information into topics as best I could. The information is all straight from those two people; any information or personal commentary I added will be in parenthesis. Collegevine’s mission is to give students a high caliber of admissions and mentorship advice throughout their years in high school. My mission is the same, except for free.
How the college admissions process actually works
Here’s the crux of college admissions: top colleges look for diverse student bodies, not students. They want the best person in science, the best person in journalism, the best person in international affairs. Colleges are looking for the people who will give them a return on investment (although, c’mon, we are paying them so much money they shouldn’t be allowed to call us an investment, but whatever, I digress, I just you know, want college to be affordable). They’re looking for someone who will be an accomplished alumnus, so that when they’re interviewed by the news, the tagline will say “Harvard graduate found the cure to cancer”, and most importantly, will have enough money and be willing to donate to the college as an alumnus. (I know that’s really cynical, but that’s the way the world works)
Now, that’s not to say don’t be well rounded - other, not top colleges still like you to be well-rounded - but have a well defined passion. There’s a common misconception especially nowadays that being well-rounded is bad, which is definitely not true. There are tons of well-rounded individuals that get accepted into top schools every year (IMO it’s a much lower chance of admissions, however, and it turns into a bit of a crapshoot). Impressive individuals are impressive individuals. The problem is, being a well-rounded student is a lot more common these days - everyone knows how to become well-rounded.
But this “being amazing at one thing” is what is often called a “spike”. The talk of a “spike” is a little controversial (I personally subscribe to the theory, for more information on it look here), but that’s sort of really what you need for a true, high chance at those really competitive colleges and to be able to stand out to top colleges. Of course, having that one passion or strength at the level of being the best in the nation is difficult for a teenager. Most don’t really discover their passion in time to truly develop that spike, so it’s pretty hard and pretty rare. What we here at Collegevine recommend is something called juxtapositional depth. Instead of having that one thing that you are absolutely amazing at, have two to three mini-spikes, 2-3 things you are pretty, pretty good at. And to make these little spikes even stronger, use your essays and a common theme or narrative to tie these spikes together, to help adcoms (admissions committees) make sense of what you are good at, and make those 2-3 mini-spikes into more of a cohesive, larger spike. (I really love this piece of advice, I think it fits my situation very well. It’s actually what gave me my idea for my personal statement, which I think will be what I finally decide to go with.)
But what exactly happens in the process of college admissions? Generally, the entire college admissions process can be boiled down to this one phrase: a rough cut, and then fine sort. Or in different words, core sort, fine distinction. (This was honestly the most helpful part of this entire conversation.) A college admissions office is a very small team, to be honest, but they need to be able to review tens of thousands of applications in a very short amount of time. There is no way they can manually review all of those applications, and so they use technology to do the first “cut” in the admissions process, using an academic index. The academic index is where adcoms combine your GPA, SAT/ACT scores, SAT subject scores, and class rank - if applicable - with a predetermined algorithm into a number - your index. Adcoms then set a threshold for this academic index, and if you are not at or above this threshold, you will be cut automatically and not even considered further (of course, there are always exceptions, like legacies, recruited athletes, well-known musicians, stuff like that). If you meet the threshold, you then move on to the manual review, where each student is considered further.
In larger, public schools with higher acceptances, they will take anyone that meets the academic threshold. This is why some schools can afford to have rolling admissions. You might see your friend with better grades and scores be accepted almost immediately, while those with not as great of an academic index take longer to be processed. But in other schools, especially top schools where everyone that applies has incredibly good grades and scores, a high academic index only opens the door for you, and the manual review process becomes very important, where schools look at activities, honors/awards, recommendations, and essays.
In this “finer sort” of students, different colleges use different techniques. Some colleges use multiple readers to go through each application. This is when maybe a regional adcom who only focuses on a few states reads through all of the applications from their area that passed the academic threshold. If they like what they see, they will bump up the application to another reader, who has a broader focus in terms of region. This process may even repeat to a third reader, until the process completes and you have your incoming class.
Most colleges use a different process. For these schools, each member of the admissions office is responsible for a portion of the total applications, perhaps by region but not necessarily. After reading the applications they’ve been assigned, each member makes the case for you (like they’re your lawyer). There’ll be a projector or a tv, they’ll project the application, and the adcom will make a quick speech on why they liked you and why you should be accepted (or rejected). Everyone in the office will then review the notes on the applicant and take a vote. If you, the applicant, gets enough votes, great! You pass, you’re accepted. If not, you either get put into the rejected pile or into the “will look into further if we have spots left” pile.
In terms of advice for students, if you are vying for top schools and know you will meet that academic threshold, work on strengthening activities. If you’re still young - freshman, sophomore - start developing those extracurriculars, but always focus on grades and standardized tests. You don’t want to get cut during the first rough sort in the college admissions process. After you are confident in your GPA and scores, you can move on to developing your application in the finer sense.
A common question regarding this topic is can colleges see how many schools you are applying to and is it unappealing if you are applying to too many. The easy answer is nope, they can’t see. It’s actually a violation of US anti-trust laws (ehhh, APUSH). They are not allowed to talk to each other regarding admissions. So if you told Harvard they are your number #1 best school but told Yale the exact same thing, they will never know. Of course, there’s a whole moral and personal part of it, do you want to lie on your application and all that (okay, like, lying is bad - especially if you’re lying about an extracurricular or award or in your essay, but telling a school it is your number one barely qualifies at lying. So I wouldn’t worry too much about karma if you tell every school you apply to that it is your top choice. On a related note, please, Princeton. Accept me.) But no, colleges will not be able to communicate. However, there are some schools, like Rice, that ask you specifically what colleges you are applying to, but besides that no. Whether you applied to 8 schools, 30 schools, or 100 schools, they will never know. That being said, don’t apply to 100 schools. (IMO, 30 schools is a bit much too, but whatever floats your boat.)
Applying early is also something that can be a complicated topic. Applying early usually gives you a sizeable advantage in the admissions process, because you have demonstrated that that school is your definitive number one choice. A common question is something like, should I apply EA (non-binding early action) to a school like Princeton where I have a very slim chance at admission, or a school like Johns Hopkins where I have a better chance at admission and can use the ED (binding early decision) application to my advantage. To be honest, this is a hard question to answer without more information on the applicant. But it boils down to: would you feel dissatisfied for the rest of your life if you never found out you would have gotten into Princeton? In that case, I wouldn’t ED to Johns Hopkins. (This is literally me. Even if I don’t go, I just want the validation of getting in.) You may say you have a very small chance at Princeton, but it really depends on your application. Maybe we’ll see something in your application that says, eh, your chances are maybe not that bad (please let me be in this category, pleaseee).
This is not as common of a question: is it better or not to check off that you are applying for financial aid? (This is referring to a question on the college specific sections of the Common App where you can check yes or no. And of course, only applies to people who are actually considering not applying for financial aid for that college.) The answer to this depends on whether the school is need blind or not. Need blind means that they don’t consider your ability to pay during the admissions process. Most top colleges are need blind, so it does not make a difference whether you check it off or not. For other schools, double check whether it is need blind, then decide whether you need to check yes. (Personally, in my situation, I would check yes anyway; I don’t really see the point of leaving it unchecked unless you’re really not going to get any financial aid. And keep in mind a lot of colleges give merit aid under the table through financial aid, so fill out the FAFSA regardless!)
Another important factor that often gets overlooked in college admissions is the relationship between your high school and colleges. If not many kids from your high school get into top colleges every year, it can affect your chances of admission. If a college has an existing relationship with your high school, they are more likely to understand the context of grades and extracurriculars. If you’re valedictorian, president of everything, from a smaller, lesser-known school (I partially identify with this description), that may be great, but adcoms don’t really know how to place you amongst the rest of the applicants. What I recommend, if you’re coming from a lesser-known high school, is that it’s up to you in your descriptions and essays to provide context for your accomplishments. Say you are the leader of this organization that accomplished this and that. That has this many members. You just have to be more deliberate in your description. A lesser-known school may affect your chances, but there are a bunch of kids every year that get in all the time, so don’t use it as an excuse.
One question that we see more and more often these days is whether I should get an external counselor, beyond the one in my school, who is not very good. And the sad truth is that nowadays, one counselor is responsible for an average of 472 students, and each student only receives 38 minutes of guidance on average. Which means that high school seniors often spend more time choosing their senior yearbook quote than getting guidance. In the late 80s, money and resources for the guidance department started to get cut. There is a huge guidance gap in the US, which is why we founded Collegevine. It is way more common for students to have external counselors these days, it’s becoming as common as test prep (both of which I have strong opinions concerning). So, if you think you need it, go for it.
Making a college list
The trick to finding a college is matching up two axes, preference/fit vs. chancing. Preference or fit is how much the college appeals to you. For example, if you like a big school vs. a small school. Urban vs. rural. If you want to be in an urban environment, Dartmouth is not exactly the school for you. You need to be able to pair this “fit” with your actual chance to get into the school, your chance of admissions. (A resource I like for this - which is free, as opposed to Collegevine’s paid calculator - is Parchment.com. It overestimates you a little bit, as in maybe it spits out percentages that are a bit higher than the actual reality, but it is a good gauge of what your admissions chances may be, especially relative to other colleges on your list, based on previous data.)
Another thing you need to keep in mind is that you should find a school that fits the program you want to pursue. Just because the school is an Ivy doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best school for what you are interested in. If you want to go into theater, don’t go to Harvard, go to NYU. (Funny story, I actually know someone personally who went to Harvard for theater or performing arts or something similar and graduated with a crapload of debt when she could’ve gone to a better school for her interests for a cheaper price.) A top school is not always an end all be all. (This is also something that really resonates with me, because although my top school is Princeton, it is quite frankly not great for pre-med, or natural sciences in general. But alas, it is the only top school I can afford.)
Academics in college admissions
*These were a lot of Q&A type questions, so I’m going to keep the formatting for this section as such.*
What is the ideal timeline for taking standardized tests?
The first test you will take is the PSAT. You can take this one in sophomore year - it isn’t required and doesn’t really matter, but it is good for experience for next year. In junior year, you will have to take the PSAT in October. If you do well, you will then be eligible for some summer programs, you’ll start to get annoying mail, and you might even get a national merit scholarship award, either commended or semi-finalist to finalist. The SAT or ACT can be taken at any time in high school, but I recommend taking it in junior year. Usually, the earliest you should take it is the end of sophomore year, but most take it during junior year and the beginning of senior year.
Honestly, the best time to take the SAT or ACT is when you have actually prepared for it. Some students will say I’ll sign up for the exam, and if I’m ready for it, great, if not, whatever (tbh, this was me). It’s true you can retake it, but there are way better ways to spend a Saturday than taking an exam you didn’t study for. A lot of students think they can go in blind, just take the exam to get a baseline score, but I definitely don’t recommend that (whoops, too late now). You need to study and prepare and take the exam when you are confident and ready. Find a time in your junior year when not as much is going on, which I know, is hard to imagine, but use that time to double down on your studying. For other students, senior year will be a better time to take the test because there’s just not enough time to study in junior year. Now, of course, you have the option of studying over the summer and taking it in August, if that works for you. It all depends on your personal schedule and your ability to study.
Should I take the SAT again? (I asked him this with my score, a 1580)
This might seem like a crazy question, but it is actually something to consider, especially if you are the type of student that is thinking this way. What I can say is, if the rest of your application isn’t that great, and will really be bolstered by that perfect score, take it again. If the rest of your application is complementary and amazing, especially your GPA and SAT Subject scores - because that is what will factor into your academic index - there is no real reason to take it again and I would recommend using that time on something better. Unless of course, you sneezed and bubbled something wrong and that’s why you got a 1580, there’s no need to take it again. (Considering my GPA and Subject scores, this made me feel better about not taking the SAT again.)
What are SAT prep books you recommend?
Princeton Review tends to be the best strictly because of the volume of exams and other resources. The Collegeboard blue book is actually the definitive best book because the exams are the closest to the real thing (although IMO, I don’t think buying it is worth it, because those tests are available on Khan Academy). Basically, when looking at test books, you want to make sure the tests in the prep books closely mirror the real exam. Barron’s, for example, is a lot more difficult than the actual test. This can work sometimes, but not for the SAT. Ideally, compare your test prep book scores to the blue book scores, and the one that is the closest is the best book.
How much does being a National Merit Semifinalist help?
Truth be told, it doesn’t really help that much. I know a ton of students that were not semi-finalists or even commended scholars and were just fine in college admissions. All that it tells adcoms is that you did really well on the PSAT. If you have a strong real SAT/ACT score anyway, they don’t really care. So it doesn’t really help much, believe it or not. The only thing it might help with is filling in slots on the Honors/Awards section on the Common App.
What are the actual score cutoffs that schools use in their academic index?
There’s no one answer to this question, because it depends on a ton of factors. I know it’s a sensitive topic, but ethnicity is definitely a factor, it can slide the scale one way or the other. Your GPA will factor into it. You can also look for data online, there’s a bunch of it, on what the percentile test scores are for the schools you want to apply to - the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentile of SAT or ACT scores. Depending on how your GPA looks, you can decide which percentile is an appropriate cutoff for you. (I recommend having your target score to be 75% of the school you want to go to.)
How are AP test scores weighted?
Honestly, colleges don’t really care about your AP test scores (then why the hell did I kill myself self-studying for all of those APs? Cause I’m a masochist. Plus credit, I guess. Ugh). Universities are usually really strict about you sending official score reports for the SAT/ACT, SAT subject tests, and your transcript, because if you were to mess up or god-forbid lie, that would completely mess up the academic index process of admissions. But colleges only ask you to self report APs (man, I’m going to send in those frickin scores anyway). In terms of whether you should report a “bad” score like a 3 - if you have more than 5 exams and you fail to report one, it’s not going to make a difference, they might even think you forgot to report it (btw, this pertains to people who have taken those AP courses to go along with your exams, because taking the course and not the exam looks fishy). But if you took less than 5 or so APs, meaning you took the class but didn’t report the scores, it can be a flag for adcoms that you are not reporting it because you did not do well, or did not pass. So if you passed (got a 3 or above) report it. One thing to keep in mind: if your high school is not well known, it can invite scrutiny if you report a 3 on the exam, but got an A in the AP class. This un-legitimizes the class to some degree, so maybe that’s a situation where you don’t report the score.
How do you balance academics with extracurriculars?
This depends on the types of schools you are applying to. If you are applying to less selective schools, academics matter more, no question. For more selective schools, you kind of want both. This is why junior year can be so tough, because both academics and extracurriculars demand a lot from you - you’re likely to have a leadership position and you have to deal with harder classes and standardized tests. If you absolutely had to choose, I would focus slightly more on academics. You don’t want your academics to fall through the floor because then you won’t even be eligible for those top level schools. If you can keep up your academics for the most part and get some amazing extracurriculars, that would also be okay. The best thing you can do is try really hard for your academics in freshmen and sophomore year, so even if you slack off a little in junior year to focus on your other activities, it won’t affect your GPA as much (exactly what happened to me).
If playing sports (or another time consuming extracurricular) compromises my academics, should I drop it?
Your GPA and sports are on two entirely different planes. GPA is usually significantly more important. However, dropping it altogether is not always the answer. If it’s at the point where it’s affecting your grades, it’s maybe not worth dropping, but instead negotiating to a point where you have less involvement in the activity, so you can bring your focus back to academics. If you’re in sophomore year, it might be better to drop the activity or back down, because that is the year where you don’t want your grades to drop. If you honestly can’t do both, then drop the sport. It’s not worth as much as your grades. Being a varsity athlete does not give you wiggle room for your GPA.
Of course, if you’re a recruited athlete, it’s a different story - don’t drop your sport, that’s probably your best chance of getting into top schools. There’s a much lower threshold for GPA if you are a recruited athlete. Keep in mind, it should be obvious if you’re a recruited athlete or not. If you’re the best in the nation, yes, you are recruited. If you’re the best in your school but not much more… then no, you’re not recruited.
My high school makes me take gym and health, will it be a disadvantage?
I’m assuming you’re at the point where gym and health are preventing you from taking a more serious class and reducing rigor of your transcript, or that it’s even bringing your GPA down (I swear, that is my problem. Every class is weighted except for gym and it is ridiculous how much it affects my GPA). Honestly, if this is the case, you can’t do anything about it. Every adcom knows you have to take gym. They won’t hold it against you. Some colleges might even recompute your GPA based on an internal calculator that doesn’t include gym/health. All in all, don’t worry about it.
Do I really need to take 4 years of foreign language? (This is referring to the fact that a lot of colleges list 4 years of an FL as a requirement for admissions.)
A lot of universities say students must have 4 years of foreign language (especially top schools). But there are so many students that don’t take their language for 4 years that still get admitted, so that shows schools don’t really care that much about it. Of course, if you aren’t taking that foreign language your last year, make sure to take a different challenging class that takes it place. If you’re not taking that 4th year of Spanish so you have space for a study hall or early dismissal, that looks worse to admissions officers. But if you’re giving it up for a class that is more interesting/more aligned to your future goals, no college is going to penalize you for that.
Does senior year matter?
Short answer, yes. Your first semester/first half of senior year counts towards your GPA, and colleges will see those grades in the mid-year report. But the spring of your senior year does not count towards your admissions. Of course, if you’re an A student and start slipping to C’s, that can be alarming, and in some cases, your application can even get rescinded, that is, colleges will take back the acceptance they offered you. But usually, nothing happens, the second half of your senior year holds no true weight.
Extracurriculars and activities
Extracurriculars are another thing that can be put into two axes and divided up into two categories: impressiveness and uniqueness. Of course, the best ECs are the ones in the top right, with qualities of both. These make you both stand out - especially to top colleges - and give you something to expand on in other parts of your application, like essays.
Summer internships or camps are extracurriculars I always get a lot of questions about, especially regarding their importance. In short, summer internships and camps are definitely not something that is required by any means. There are always plenty of students that don’t have one and still get into top schools. However, having this experience shows admissions officers that you are serious about that field, and can make you more memorable in their eyes.
But something to keep in mind, and something that is our motto at Collegevine: cheap is better, free is best (and the ones that pay you are awesomeeeee XD). Only a few summer camps are merit-based in their admissions - as in there is a relatively difficult application process that screens based on grades and accomplishments and experience and whatnot. Those that are, for example, RSI (research science institute - I mentioned it in my post “All the Summer Programs that I Know Exist”), MITES, SSP, and other research ones (I’m planning another article specifically about these high, national/regional level internships), are prestigious and well known to adcoms. These serve as a sort of pre-signal, something that shows you have already been vetted by a reputable organization and were one of the best that applied to their selective program. Collegevine’s mentorship program actually focuses on widening student’s horizons beyond just their school and introduces them to opportunities like these merit programs that can enhance their college application (this is what I want to do with this blog, except for free).
So all in all, merit based programs are fantastic. But for programs you have to pay to get into, it’s not that valuable. All that that shows adcoms is that you… paid money. But regardless, just a camp alone, even if it is nationally recognized and merit-based, is not going to impress adcoms, you still need to have a complete application.
Recommendations can be an enormous part of your total application, especially if you are trying for top colleges. It is important for those rec letters to fit in with the rest of you application, to follow the same general theme throughout. Ideally, you should have your recommenders complement the narrative you are trying to pull together in your application. The best way to do this is when asking for that rec, nudge that recommender by saying, “I would really appreciate it if you could focus on this, or mention this part of my personality, of talk about this aspect of my student profile.” I understand it isn’t always possible to do this, especially if you ask for the recommendations before you truly start shaping your application, but then you can try to pick recommenders who you know will complement the other parts of your application, even if it is in a more broad sense.
In order to pick recommenders, decide what role you need each rec letter to play. If you feel your application doesn’t showcase your passion for engineering, or if you especially want to emphasize that part of your application, maybe go for your AP Physics teacher. Once you pick that rec, maybe you realize your entire application doesn’t talk enough of your winning personality or leadership skills. In that case, I would go with a leadership advisor, or academic coach, something along those lines. If you want to showcase maybe your creativity and complex thought, go with your English teacher. Pick your recommenders based on what you want your application to say about you and to either fill in gaps in your other letter or application, or to emphasize a specific facet of yourself.
Generally, it is better to have recs from later along in high school, because colleges are often skeptical about recommenders from earlier grades. Schools want to admit students that are as close to who they will be when they are on their college campus next year. This means that junior and senior year teachers will be able to much better represent your true self, as opposed to freshman or sophomore year teachers.
Your personal statement
Essentially, the goal of your personal statement is to create a narrative or core theme that pulls the rest of the parts of your application together. If your application seems a bit scattered or has a lot of different aspects, your personal statement is a place where you can make your story easier to follow, create that one fundamental aspect that is shadowed by all parts of your application. For example, if you’re a part of Model UN, involved in community service, and a member of an international charity, a theme could be you want to promote a more connected globe through community service. Your personal statement needs to showcase your personality and prove to adcoms that you are more than just a robot that got good grades.
Although writing a good essay is important, personal statements have different weights in different schools. Public schools, or those with higher acceptance rates might not even read your essay. On the other hand, in top colleges, your essay can be as much as 25% of your entire application (I read somewhere that generally essays are 10%-30% of your application) because everyone in those schools has top level grades, scores, and even extracurriculars. Definitely, in top 50, 75 schools, the essays matter a lot.
As far as writing one: adcoms can sometimes have tens of thousands of applications to review, and you need to find a way to stand out, a way for them to remember you. If your essay is just a resume in words, it’ll be hard for the adcom to be able to describe you. If your application didn’t give them something to remember, they won’t be able to accurately represent you. Essays are your opportunity to show these adcoms what interests you and why it does, giving you a chance to provide that imprint, telling them “keep me in mind”.
The best way to have your essay stand out among the others is to write about something that matters to you, in a unique and interesting way, that aligns with the rest of your application, and demonstrates “fit” with the college (for supplements). Avoid cliche topics - some include an essay about my grandmother, a sports underdog struggle, I did poorly in a class but then studied really hard and got an A, those are all really cliche topics that you want to stay away from. Try to focus on something that hasn’t been written before, and is personal to you. (A tip for college essays I really like is: would it be weird to put someone else’s name at the top of your essay? If yes, then it’s a great essay. Another one is, if someone in your school found your essay lying in the hallway with no name, would they know it’s yours after reading it?). You want to show some sort of change, or show why you view the world the way you do. Try to stay away from a 5 paragraph essay, or at least, that type of format. Use anecdotes, similes, but always have a clear purpose. After reading your essay, you don’t want the adcom to think, “so what?” Make sure it says something interesting and profound that is clearly conveyed to the reader.
A common questions regarding essays and personal statements is “is an essay about hardship better?” It’s true that the sensationalist essays that make the news and all that usually have something to do with hardship, they are very dramatic. But ton of the essays we deal with, and of essays in general, have no hardship what so ever. All that matters is how you present yourself and how the essay shows your character. Remember the Costco essay? (It was awesome, definitely read it if you haven’t already). That was one of our students. That one had no hardship. Except for maybe when Costco sells you too much food that you can’t all eat before the expiration date. (It’s sad that I laughed at that joke.)
In line with this topic, another question is how out of the box can my personal statement be? My best advice is, don’t try too hard. Some students completely flub the essay because they try way too hard, and the adcoms can immediately tell. Students think that colleges want them to stand out, but end up writing an essay that sounds very gimmicky. In that way, out of the box is not that great of an idea. For example, one student decided to write an essay on how his experience in high school can be compared to a toilet. He was obviously going for a shock factor, because no one would have written about toilets before. But then we pointed out that maybe comparing the past few years of life to a toilet was not the best way to go. If you try to get crazy a little, make sure you are staying true to yourself and not trying too hard.
Completing your essays on time and following a general timeline also needs to be a priority. In general, finish your Common App personal statement in the summer, and work on your supplements as the year goes on. We recommend finishing your early decision/action essays as soon as possible in the summer, so you can get that out of the way in time for November 1st. Then you can turn your focus onto your regular decision essays. You can even wait until after you submit your ED application to get started on your other essays, so you can put as much effort into your early application essays and maybe not have to write all of your essays in case you get into that early decision school.
(I know, I know, the advice he gave here is all really general and honestly, I didn’t find it as helpful as I would have liked, so I will try to do more research and pull together an entire post on the personal statement.)
For supplemental essays in particular, it is important to appeal to the fit of the school. Colleges essentially ask themselves during the application process, do I want this applicant talking to the current students on my campus? They answer this question by comparing their perception of the student through these supplements and recommendation letters, to their current campus culture and composition. To help enhance your “fit” in the school, try to find the atmosphere of the school (by this he means the general type of students admitted - are they social leaders, are they global citizens, are they social justice warriors), and try to focus your supplementals around that quality. A well-known one is Harvard and their quality of moral integrity. It can be hard to find out these “fit” qualities, but try to talk to current students to see what the feel is like around campus, what sort of students are attending the school. Collegevine also has tips on supplementals for each college, especially top colleges (I definitely recommend checking these out on their blog).
That’s it for this one guys! Hope you found it as helpful as I did :) And if you did, share this with someone else! Everyone should have access to this information.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out, I’ll try my best to answer them.
And as always, thanks for reading!