1) Finesse the Common Application - While the essays demonstrate an applicant’s writing style and aptitude, the way students phrase their activities, employment, and community service is also important. Strive to use strong ‘action’ verbs here, and to emphasize leadership and initiation.
Juniors: Why wait till next year to see what the Common App is all about? Create an account now, or print out a pdf of the entire Common App to learn what it requires and requests. The more time you have to prepare it, the better!
2) The “College List” is a Work in Progress - like a piece of artwork the college list is constantly molded and modified as the student develops a stronger sense of what he/she is really looking for in the college experience. It is crucial to keep an open mind up until the eleventh hour and to continually consider options. Sometimes a student feels that he needs another ‘safety’ school just in case, or he wants to apply to one more ‘reach’ school because final SAT or ACT scores widened the net.
Extra Pointer: Identify the “deal breakers” from the beginning. If you know for sure you want a Northeast college, don’t let someone talk you into adding Georgia Tech to your list. If your gut tells you that you will be more successful in small classes and greater access to professors, stick to the smaller colleges.
3) Visit, visit, visit! – In real estate it’s “location, location, location.” In college admissions, it's "visit, visit, visit." There is a great emphasis now on really getting to know the colleges to which you will apply and showing them how interested you are. Over the past few years, there’s growing importance on “demonstrated interest” and more and more schools are assessing how students do this. Some will ask applicants directly: “did you attend an information session;” “meet with an admissions rep;” “visit our campus?” The more ‘yes’ boxes checked off, the more attractive the candidate.
Visiting, and re-visiting campuses, can make a huge difference. Most importantly, students can only feel a college vibe if they walk around, spend time with current students, really look around and soak in the atmosphere. This is why it is so crucial to start college trips in the fall of junior year, not the spring. If at all possible, I strongly recommend visits in the spring of sophomore year.