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College Application Essays

Updated on June 29, 2012

So, chances are that if you are reading this, you are soon to be a high school senior or junior, or are a parent hoping to help their teen get into school. College Applications can be a very daunting task, especially for students applying to "Ivy League" schools or other highly regarded institutions.

From experience, I know that when applying to several schools, it can be almost physically painful trying to manage through the common app, individual supplements with three additional essays, silly questions like "favorite movie" and "favorite pet" (Yes, that was asked - on Princeton's supplement to the common app. Apparently your preference in pets is a substantial part of the admission process to the number one school in the country)

Anyway, below I've put together a list of a few tips to getting your college applications done and over with, and some ways to get bonus points that will help you (hopefully) get accepted to your dream school.


Do Your Research!

Probably the most vital task for a student applying to college is to first to decide what colleges best suit your needs. Think about your educational and career goals first - don't worry about money, that should not be a priority that should get in the way of you getting the education you need to be successful. As it turns out, high- class, research colleges and universities, even the Ivy League schools, often have the most funds available for scholarship awards, so never rule out a good college simply because it's pricey.

(That is another reason why you should start preparing for college as early as possible - as early as your freshman year. The better your grades are in high school, the more chance that you will get merit awards towards your collegiate education)

Research what schools are strong in your areas of interest, or, if you are completely sure of your intended major already, search for schools that are ranked highly in that major. Choose one or two "reach" schools, schools which you may not get accepted to (Such as the ivy league schools, or other hard-to-get schools), one or two "fallback" schools... Easy admission schools you can rely on getting into, and one or two schools that you think are in your "range" and have a reasonable chance of acceptance. Remember, a degree is a degree, and many very successful people have graduated from smaller universities and community colleges!

Do NOT just throw one application at Harvard and expect to get in... if you don't get admitted, you should leave yourself with a fallback by applying to an "easier" school.

If applying to an Ivy League school, be sure you are aware that getting in is not even all academics... most of the people that apply are valedictorians with ridiculously high SAT scores. Getting into one of these schools is logistically like hitting the lottery. If you are applying to one of these schools you should aim at having these minimum stats on your record:

Top 10% (at least), 1400+ SAT score, and plenty of extracurricular activities to back you up.You have to sell yourself to the admissions counselors at these schools...they have loads of valedictorians and salutatorians and people with 1500s on the SAT's ...but what do you have? There's plenty of space on your application to do that, just make sure you let them know what is special and different about you, what separates you from the other thirty thousand applicants.

Besides Ivy Leagues schools there are still plenty of other schools that turn out many successful students. Check out this hub to learn more.


Start Early, and Write A Good Essay

Now, applying to several schools can be time consuming, especially in your senior year of high school when you have a billion AP English papers due, want to spend all the time in the world with your friends, and want to get to level eighty-five in World of Warcraft! (okay...maybe that last bit was just me)

Seriously... It can be a pain. Each school generally has it's own application with at least one essay which is often different than the other ones you had to write. So make sure that you either start early in the school year, or even better, the summer before your senior year.

Have at least two teachers look over your paper... I had an English teacher and my physics teacher look over mine, because I wanted two different perspectives on it. This can make a huge difference - you may have missed something very important in you're essay. Like that "you're". Admissions counselors are looking for intelligent people who will make a positive impact on the world and their school's name - they want someone who can spell and doesn't mess up simple grammar.

Also, make your essay personal. Think hard, and make it something that you really have strong feelings about. It should practically write itself for you, It shouldn't be that hard after you get going.

After Submitting Your Applications

After submitting your applications ( you should submit them early, that shows that you are responsible and get things done) you will have to wait a while to get your acceptance letters. Don't worry about them though, and if you don't get into your top school, don't worry about it. If you apply to several schools you should have a school that will suit you sending you an acceptance letter.

Good Luck, and thanks for reading!


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    • collegeplanner profile image

      Susie Watts 6 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      As a private college counselor, I think you have given some great suggestions for college bound students. The more information they have, the better. My goal is to always help kids become stronger college applicants. These are some good ideas.

      Susie Watts


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