The college admissions process is scary, to say the least. You spend months building the perfect application -- writing your clear and concise Common App essay, taking and re-taking standardized tests, begging teachers for recommendation letters -- only to leave the next four years of your life in the hands of people you probably never met. You wonder if your essay depicts you in the best light, and how much that B+ you got in math your sophomore year will impact the college’s final decision. You think about what you could add that will separate your application from the thousands of applications being read in the admissions office that year -- maybe an extra word about the school, or a reference to the mascot. You scour the school’s admissions page, looking for tips and tricks from admissions counselors and current students, hoping you’ll find the key to getting in.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but these ‘tips and tricks’ to getting into a college are not foolproof, and most times they’re not even original. I’ve been around admissions counselors since I first stepped on this campus, and they never cease to amaze me with the stories of students and families who have gone to great lengths to impress them. Although these efforts make for great office conversation, they do not always yield a desirable result. Admissions counselors frequently say that there is no formula for getting into college, mainly because there are many factors taken into consideration during the process, some of which are beyond the control of students, families, and guidance counselors.
So what now? How do you get into the college of your dreams, and prove to the admissions counselors that you are worthy of admission? My advice is cliché at best: be yourself. Yes, you are one of 20,000 + applicants, but your story will for sure be different. No other person in that applicant pool can tell the story of your life the exact same way you can. No one can see the world you live in through your eyes. Tell your story as you have lived it. Write your essay so that anyone reading it can understand who you are, and don’t be afraid to be honest. If you’re the top scorer for your basketball team and also enjoy writing poetry, talk about that. If you like taking walks through the woods after school, take your readers on that walk with you. There’s no need to think of an outlandish way to be different; you already are.
One of Dave Chappelle’s sketches on Chappelle Show was called, “When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong." This recurring comedic sketch depicts situations in which a person’s authentic approach to a situation results in an unfortunate outcome. I say to you with confidence that ‘keeping it real’ can do much more good than harm in the admissions process, and will save you plenty of time and energy. Approaching this process with the intent of giving your readers the truest version of you may yield a better result than purposely trying to impress them. Admissions counselors are human beings, just like you, and they are looking to create a class that is a diverse population of human beings. I challenge you to celebrate the human being you are. Let your experience shape your application, and let your story be the thing that sets you apart.
Photo: Jacob Roeland | Flickr