What Makes A Competitive College Applicant

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Do you want to stand out from the crowd? Don’t want to stress about getting into your dream school? Then you need to make yourself different from the crowd. You need to become a competitive college applicant, not just a garden variety one.

Want to be a competitive college applicant? Great, then you need to do the hard work to get there. Here’s a cheat sheet to use.

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competitive college applicant

Exceed Admission Requirements

Go beyond what’s expected where possible.

Meeting the minimum requirements is expected of every college applicant. You’re literally one of tens of thousands doing so. To be competitive, you need to exceed the minimum expectations without jeopardizing your transcripts.

Examples of this extra effort include:

  • Advanced Placement classes
  • Taking on additional academic classes with electives

Remember that you can’t let your regular classwork or extracurriculars suffer, so work hard to balance everything together.

Don’t Take It Easy Senior Year

Don’t allow yourself to phone in your high school senior year work.

Plenty of kids choose to take a victory lap when senior year rolls around. It makes sense on a certain level; you’ve worked hard from elementary school until now and you want to finally relax.

To get ahead of everyone else, use your senior year to make one last hard push academically. Again, consider the following:

  • Taking Advanced Placement or dual-enrollment courses
  • Standardized test prep
  • Internships

Show admission boards that you didn’t take your senior year to rest on your laurels.

Work On College Applications Early

Start preparing for the transition as early as possible.

If you have a clear idea of where you want to attend college freshman year, then put in the work to get there early. Get an idea of what that school’s admissions board wants and tailor your studies accordingly.

Having that mindset of working hard before the competition even knows it works in your favor. More importantly, you can let those schools on your shortlist know that you’ve spent your entire high school career preparing for their attention.

Don’t Hide From Transcript Weaknesses

Be ready to address any flaws head-on.

It’s almost impossible to have a flawless high school transcript. Everyone has a problem class here or there eventually. The key is discussing:

  • What happened in that class
  • Why it presented problems for you
  • What you learned from that experience

Admissions officials will respect that you didn’t try to hide any flaws and that they only strengthened your character.

Perfect Your Application Essay

Write the essay admissions officials are waiting to read.

The college admission essay is your showcase; it presents you the opportunity to share your story with the school. Officials want to get a clear idea of the following items:

  • Who you are
  • What makes you tick
  • How you arrived at this point
  • Why you should be admitted to their school

The goal here is to hook them in with the first paragraph, keep them captivated, and have them wanting to meet you in-person when finished.

Get To Know The College Admissions Office

Connect with the office before you submit your application.

Do your research and check out the school’s admissions office website. Contact the office to find out who the admission counselors and advisors are.

Then, when planning out your campus visits, make sure to try and book an in-person appointment with one of them. When doing this research, make sure that you are the one making the phone calls and writing emails.

Don’t push that responsibility to a parent or guidance counselor. Show the officials that you’re in charge of your college search.

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Competitive College Applicant FAQ

What’s the easiest way I can improve my college application chances?

Don’t Take It Easy Senior Year. Don’t allow yourself to phone in your high school senior year work. Consider taking advanced placement or dual-enrollment courses or getting yourself an internship. Show admissions officials that you worked hard to the very end.

What should I do if I have a weak transcript?

Be ready to address any flaws head-on. It’s almost impossible to have a flawless high school transcript. Everyone has a problem class here or there eventually. The key is discussing what happened in those classes, why they presented problems for you, and what you learned from that experience.

Which application deliverable should I spend extra time on?

Write the essay admissions officials are waiting to read. The college admission essay is your showcase; it presents you the opportunity to share your story with the school. The goal here is to hook them in with the first paragraph, keep them captivated, and have them wanting to meet you in-person when finished.

What’s another easy tip I can use to make myself a more competitive applicant?

Connect with the office before you submit your application. Do your research and check out the school’s admissions office website. Contact the office to find out who the admission counselors and advisors are. Then, when planning out your campus visits, make sure to try and book an in-person appointment with one of them. When doing this research, make sure that you are the one making the phone calls and writing emails.