I discovered College Confidential the summer going into senior year. As far as I can remember, I practically spent my entire summer on this website - panicking along with fellow '11ers, reading and rereading old accepted threads, and picking up bits of advice here and there.
When senior year began, I made a pact with my best friend: we swore off College Confidential for the rest of senior year. I was successful in this regard and didn't come back to CC until I had received my acceptances in April 2011. The verdict: accepted everywhere, including Stanford, Princeton, and Columbia as a John Jay Scholar (still not sure what the heck that is, ha.) I ultimately chose Penn because business was my absolute passion and I knew Wharton would provide the best opportunities to pursue this field.
However, I found myself falling into CC relapse many times after senior year. Yet each time I was about to hit "submit" for a new post, I decided I was past my CC stage. After all, I had reached the finish line of the college app marathon; I didn't need to be on CC anymore. But looking back, I've realized how much I've learned through this site. So here's my final contribution to CC - more than a year late, but hey, better late than never. Here goes: General
Know what makes an applicant impressive, and understand the Failed Simulation Effect. In short, if you can get the admissions officers to ask themselves "How the heck did did a high school student do that?" you've made yourself an interesting applicant. It's not about getting perfect grades and scores all the time; if you accomplish something genuinely beneficial and out of the ordinary, you're golden. Essays
1. Be interesting. Admissions officers are interesting people who are bored and maxed. They want to read interesting essays. They want to find interesting people to populate next year’s freshman class. The beauty of the fact that they are looking for interesting people is that once you have become an interesting person, you simply have to be yourself in your essays. You don’t have to pretend anything.
2. Show interest. This is particularly applicable to top, but not the best, universities. Every year, colleges fight to protect their so-called yield, which is basically how many admitted students end up going to their university. The yield is important because it helps to determine the college’s ranking. When they have over 30,000 students to choose from, they’re only going to take the students that they think will attend to protect the yield. This means that when you’re writing your essays, make sure to demonstrate interest. Be specific about why you want to attend the school.
3. Find your voice. Do not write like a dead fish that was robotic to begin with. Instead of talking about yourself and the things you did (and invariably sounding like an arrogant prig), reveal through vivid and specific examples why the things you like to do are awesome. While no rule is absolute – the only absolute goal in college applications is the intended impression – voice is essential to maintaining the vivacity of your essays. Doing it right:
“Imagine playing chess while simultaneously running a marathon with a pack of wolves pursuing you. The game is called Squash and it’s a sport for multitasks.”
Side note: the handwritten message on my Stanford acceptance letter commented, of all things, on my writing voice. While I can't pinpoint any single thing as the cause of my acceptance, I'm certain that a unique, passionate voice helped my chances immensely. Interviews
1. Prove yourself. Your goal in the college interview is to prove that you are an interesting and engaging (and cool, friendly, positive) person; as with the rest of your application, you want to come across as someone they would find it fascinating to go on a cross-country road trip with.
2. Show who you are. Talk about projects you've worked on, research you've done, internships you've had caught, classes you've taken, revelations you've had, philosophical concepts you've stumbled upon, books you've read, interesting recent developments in the news that provoke thought, trends in modern society; steer the conversation towards items you can talk about.
3. Bring your enthusiasm. The interviewer asks you about your life and achievements plus your interests, philosophies, and aspirations. For most of the process, the best preparation is to simply be enthusiastic about life as you travel through it. Don't lose your exuberance to nerves on the threshold of the coffee shop or café where you're supposed to meet the person. Final Thoughts
Whether or not you get accepted to the college of your dreams, you will still be awesome person you have discovered yourself to be and made yourself through the process of writing your application. That said, it's more fun to succeed than to fail. So do you have to really want to get into college? Do you have to be readily open-minded, excited, nonjudgmental, and prepared to delve into the deepest parts of your present and past self to find the keys that will unlock your future?
So get pumped and get going on those apps! If you need someone to look over your essays or anything application-related, feel free to PM me and I'd be happy to help.