Friday, September 28th, 2018
BY GERALD M. BRADSHAW
Educated Advice Counselor
Bradshaw College Consulting
The fall semester of your senior year is normally the busiest time in your high school career, so the sooner you start the college application process, the easier it will be to meet the deadlines in early January.
The worst thing you can do is get bored with the process, which happens more often than you may realize. The best way to avoid this is to finish the mundane things first. Start by filling out the basic information required in the Common Application, which allows you to complete the document either online or in print.
Begin exploring the websites of the colleges and universities in which you are interested to get as much background information as possible about the school and the academic areas that interest you. You should take a look at the special essay questions required by the schools of your choice and make sure that you have checked out the test requirements for each school as they vary across the board. Make a list of your extracurricular and civic activities, because admissions offices look for more than top test scores and grades. There is intense competition for the few openings in top colleges, and they want well-rounded students who have a global perspective, leadership skills, and interests beyond academics.
If possible, visit the schools that interest you. If this isn’t possible, college admissions offices are more than happy to take email or phone inquiries. I frequently call Harvard’s admissions office for information and someone always answers on the first ring.
A warning — be aware of your posts and as well as those of your friends on social networking sites. Colleges as well as future employers have every right to look at these posts and they can impact the admissions and hiring decision-making process. You should also be on the alert for anonymous comments placed by jealous classmates. The competition can be cutthroat when it comes to top colleges and you do not want to take any chances. Clean up your email address before contacting potential schools. Names like “hotbabe” or “Ihatetests” will not impress admissions people. If possible use your real name, or at least part of it, in your email address. If your name is taken, add a few numbers after it. Believe me, this will help when school officials sort through all the emails you send.
Always be honest about your academic record. Letters of acceptance can be revoked. I know of one college that confirmed an anonymous tip that a teacher had caught a student plagiarizing an assignment in high school. This led to that student’s offer of admission being revoked. I suspect that if the applicant had disclosed the infraction, which occurred during his freshman year, and had explained the circumstances and detailed what he learned from the experience, there may have been a different outcome.
Essays are pivotal in the application process. Most top colleges require a personal essay, and some require any number of additional efforts in this area. Essays give you the opportunity to tell the school something about yourself that is not reflected in other parts of the application. Many students do not know that each essay is given a numerical score and this could be critical to your acceptance. I suggest writing about some interesting quirk that reveals a unique facet of your personality. Remember that you are responsible for marketing yourself and no one can do it for you. Brush up on your writing skills and use the essays to your advantage. I promise you will not be sorry you did.
Gerald Bradshaw is an international college admissions consultant with Bradshaw College Consulting
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