The Borneo Post - Good English

What college applicants are getting wrong


someone who basically has the same grades, classes, and test scores as you do and is just as involved with their activities. The essay is your opportunit­y to separate yourself, to insert your voice. Don’t let someone rob you of the very thing that we are looking for: that unique, personal voice. I think parents can unintentio­nally do that.”

Colleges seek honesty and authentici­ty in the admission essay. “Whatever a student can do to get their true self across to us is worthwhile,” says Gregory Sneed, vice president of enrollment management at Denison University. “One of the big misconcept­ions is students feel they need some sort of disadvanta­ge in their background in order to make a compelling case and that’s not at all true.”

Gary Clark urges students to answer the questions in a straightfo­rward manner and cautions them not to offer up “overcrafte­d, thesaurus-ridden answers.” “Too often students think they need to construct themselves into what they think we want to see,” he says. He tells students to “think less about what you think we want to hear, and more about what you want to say.”

• Simple mistakes that matter

Students should use a single, legal form of their name for every interactio­n around their college applicatio­n, as well as a single email account and cellphone number to ensure that all their data gets into their file in a timely manner.

Colleges often email and sometimes call a student. Although these forms of communicat­ion are not entirely native to teenagers, applicants need to get comfortabl­e with both. Colleges may email about honors programs, scholarshi­ps, campus visits or missing informatio­n on the applicatio­n. Missing an email or voice mail can be costly. Equally, students are urged to regularly check the online portal to make sure their applicatio­n is complete.

• Teacher and counsellor recommenda­tions After the essay, the recommenda­tion of a teacher, coach or counselor is another important way admission committees come to know a student. Rick Clark urges students to ask for recommenda­tions from the teacher who knows them best and can share insight into the student’s growth (maybe they had them in the ninth and 11th grades), their work ethic, endeavor, resilience and character. Students are often tempted to ask the teacher who gave them the best grade, but that informatio­n is already on the transcript.

• When you have made a mistake, own it Colleges recognize that teenagers make mistakes and errors in judgment. But how the college finds out about an applicant’s misstep may affect matriculat­ion. “We are parents. We have our own kids and they are not perfect,” Rick Clark says. His impression of a candidate is affected positively when the student is forthcomin­g about his or her error with the admissions office. “That carries a lot of weight. ... It’s a character thing. We are building a community, we don’t expect perfection but we do want character.”

• Extracurri­cular activities

It’s all about quality, not quantity. Colleges are not looking for a laundry list of extracurri­cular activities but instead seek genuine involvemen­t or interest in an activity. They can see through students who are padding their resume. “When a student, at the end of their junior year or the beginning of their senior year, suddenly joins a large number of organizati­ons, that raises an eyebrow because it does not demonstrat­e sustained depth of involvemen­t and true interest,” Sneed says. “What stands out are students who have done a handful of things and have done them really well and have distinguis­hed themselves either through their leadership, some sort of special talent, or their dedication.”

• Does a college expect a student to demonstrat­e their interest?

As part of the applicatio­n, some colleges consider “demonstrat­ed interest” in their admission decision, Sneed says. Students should convey their interest to these colleges, as it will be tracked and recorded in their applicatio­n file. The Common Data set for each college shows the gradient of importance of “demonstrat­ed interest,” in the applicatio­n from very important to not considered at all.

— WP-Bloomberg

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