A Guide to the Acceptance Process

<p>The Pursuit of an Elite Institution: A Guide to a Northwestern Acceptance</p>

<p>We’ve all been in this position. Nervously staring at the common application website, repeatedly scrolling through the Northwestern undergraduate pages, meticulously scrutinizing the supplement and common application essays — all without a legitimate understanding of how to perfect this application.</p>

<p>The college application process is a riveting albeit daunting experience that can alter the paths of our lives. For several months, and in some cases years, our minds race vigorously. Will I get into Northwestern? Are my scores too low? Will they reward my rigorous schedule with consideration to my less-than-stellar grade point average? The unknowns outweigh the knows and our lives become fixated on our future, rather than the present.</p>

<p>My mission in this following guide is to prevent these nerves, or at least neutralize some of them, while creating a better understanding of what it takes to successfully put yourself in a position to turn the heads of the admissions committee. </p>

<p>Part I: The Most Crucial Aspect of the Application: The Essay
If you’re considering an institution on par with Northwestern or the Ivy league universities, you most likely maintain a superior work-ethic, a clear vision of your future, and a drive to succeed with all that you do. This is why the essay, above all, can make or break the application.</p>

<p>To begin with, I’ll tell a bit of a story. A friend of mine, without a doubt the smartest student I’ve encountered in both high school and college, applied to three schools: Princeton, Northwestern, and the University of Wisconsin. It came without speculation that he could not only thrive in these environments, but push the limits of intellectual capabilities while establishing himself as the epitome of brilliance. His standardized test scores backed this up; a 36 on the ACT was followed by a 2,400 on the SAT. I had never met a student with a 36, let alone a 2,400. Obviously, there was some natural brilliance in this kid, but did he retain a respectable work ethic? That, too, was undoubtedly a strength of his. He was arguably one of the most dedicated individuals I’e been around. His extracurriculars were off the chart as well; he was a three time first-team all conference basketball selection (a prestigious and unheard of record), while also being considered a top-ten recruit in the state. Basketball wasn’t part of his future plans despite this incredible talent, but it was clearly something that could set him apart in the application process. His community service was incredible and unique, as he refrained from simply volunteering, instead pioneering several school projects that benefited the likes of the Alzheimer’s Association and research for cancer. To sum it up, he perfected the art of the application, yet there was one thing missing: his essays. Unfortunately, the star student and star athlete put little effort into his essays, opting for a cliche route that revealed little about him. It came as no surprise when Princeton and Northwestern sent him denial letters, with Wisconsin quickly ushering him into Madison.</p>

<p>Moral of the story: you can be a brilliant, hard working, and intelligent individual that will get denied without second thought if you write your essays with reluctance.</p>

<p>These essays are the one opportunity to set yourself apart. They can easily neutralize a poor test score (to an extent). The difference between a 34 on the ACT and a 30 isn’t much; but the difference between a great essay and a poor piece of writing is obvious and becomes a critical part of the applicant’s resume. </p>

<p>More specifically with regard to the essay itself, one should avoid the depressed tone. If you’re working to get the admissions committee to feel bad for you, your essay is likely weak. If you’re writing about an experience or significant event, refrain from giving a play-by-play; instead, focus on why this is significant, how you’ve changed, and how this will affect you going forward. Too often have I encountered essays that summarize a unique experience, one capable of turning heads, but didn’t emphasize why this was being written. What can you bring to this university? Don’t simply list off your qualities, either. This is a recipe for disaster. Highlight the qualities that make you who you are: your drive, your motivation, your love for learning, and your desire to challenge yourself intellectually and psychologically. </p>

<p>Above all, however, is the supplement essay. The common app prides itself on being unique and rewarding those who have had enticing experiences. On the other hand, the supplement essay rewards those who have done their research, show a commitment to the university, and can convey their eagerness in an intellectual manner. These essays are crucial and can be successfully completed given a few considerations. What are you majoring in and how does this university’s program compare to the nation’s elite? Where will you take this major and how does this university prepare you for your future? What specific professors are heralded in their respective fields? If you understand these questions and can answer them accurately, you’ve put yourself in a great position to be successful. </p>

<p>Part II: Dedication and its Significance to Admission Committees
We’ve all seen the applicants with a grocery list of extracurriculars: volunteering, random assortments of club that pertain little to their interests, and other miscellaneous activities that offer little of importance to their lives. These students are an often occurrence and are frowned upon by admissions committees and are typically disregarded for those with a demonstrated dedication to a particular activity.</p>

<p>Another quick story: a friend of mine was on the opposite spectrum compared to the aforementioned student. A 27 on the ACT was of little importance when the admissions committee saw both a clear dedication to his soccer (another elite athlete) and his effort with the essays. The dedication to soccer was unmatched: he played on a regional level, captained his high school for two years, won all-state honors for two consecutive years, player of the year honors, and created camps for young athletes being introduced to soccer. It was this dedication that propelled him to an elite institution (top 20 in USA Today). </p>

<p>We aren’t all blessed with superior athletic talent, but we all have the ability to demonstrate a dedication to something of importance. This is obviously easier done coming into your freshman year, but being able to affect others through your passion for something is instrumental and typically rewarded.</p>

<p>Part III: Class Rigor is of Utmost Importance
One of the three most significant components of the application is class rigor. Learning has become a lost art, replaced by those who concern themselves with their grades rather than their true capacity to learn. Those who demonstrate a willingness to challenge themselves show the colleges that they can and likely will excel in a rigorous environment.</p>

<p>Part IV: The ACT and SAT Aren’t That Important
Sure, standardized test scores provide a glimpse by comparing you to everyone else, but, in all reality, they are not significant. Kids concern themselves over this enigmatic issue far too much. These scores aren’t a testament to the applicant’s intelligence and are disregarded if the rest of the application is of superior quality. </p>

<p>A helpful tip for those looking to increase their scores: practice is key. Tips and tricks are rare in a test like this. Get your timing down, adjust to the format, and you'll be fine. If you consistently take these practice tests, found in most practice books, you'll be assimilated to the type of questions and garner a better understanding of what to look for. </p>

<p>Part V: Establish your Interest
You can do this a number of ways. Some colleges record your contacts with the schools, whether it be via email or phone. Don’t go overboard, though. Just make it subtle but clear that you have an interest. Go and take a tour, if possible, and use that in your supplement. Colleges genuinely search for those who show an interest, are committed to the university, and have done their research.</p>

<p>Part VI: Know You’ll be Fine
You’ve all put yourself in position to be successful. Making the right choice in selecting a college is obviously important, but know that wherever you’ll go, you’ll have great opportunities to be successful. This is a big step in your lives and you should treat it as such, but you’ll all have great opportunities. Take them!</p>