Applying to college is essentially like selling a product–yourself.
Think of it this way: colleges want to get to know you. That’s why they have you fill out forms, write essays, and interview. But like with cereal brands, car models, and other products, colleges have options to choose from. Thus, it’s important to understand how to sell yourself in the college application process.
Here are five ways to sell yourself to a college and convince them to invest in you.
Like cereal brands, college applicants are generally pretty similar. While one box may have a leprechaun on the front and other a tiger, in the end, they’re both sugary breakfast products. That’s why it’s important to create a brand for yourself to differentiate yourself from other applicants. Obviously you can’t create your own packaging or motto, but try and think of an overarching story for yourself. What makes you who you are? What defines you? What are your passions? I chose to write about my family for my Common App essay, as I felt that they were very central to who I am. If your passion is clarinet, then write about that.
Admissions officers read hundreds of applications. Unfortunately, there will be many students who ran cross country, debated, played the violin, etc. While you may have similar activities to other applicants, there are certainly ways to differentiate yourself. Think about how your different activities overlap and how you apply your skills from one thing to another. For example, if you do both piano and Science Olympiad, think about how those activities fit together. I personally wrote about how the nature of musical theatre made me a more motivated and disciplined student. However, just be sure not to be too cliche. Things like talking about about how soccer made you a better team player risk coming off as very banal.
A good product is easy to use and understand. So too is a good college applicant. Admissions officers don’t have time to dedicate multiple hours to each application, so they’re going to look for a clear message and a clear brand (this goes back to the first point). Always go for quality over quantity. Colleges want to see that you’re involved, but if you list 12 different clubs you’re involved in, they’ll think you’re only doing things for your resume. Focus on your true passions and bring those out in your essays and interviews.
People are more likely to buy products with a good design and aesthetic. This is true of the application process as well. Not only should an essay be thoroughly proofread, but easy to read as well. Like any good essay, there should be variation in sentence structure and paragraph size. Resumes should generally be no more than a page and easy to read (check out this article for some helpful resume tips). Come to interviews dressed in business casual unless told otherwise. Always be formal in emails to colleges and interviewers.
No one wants to buy a car that doesn’t run or a pen that doesn’t write. Not only do colleges want to know that you can handle the rigor of their university, but that you’ve done the research. In other words, they want to know that your reasons for wanting to attend are more than just because of prestige. For the dreaded “Why College X?” essays, it’s important to be specific and creative. (More tips for these kinds of essays can be found here). You can also show your effectiveness through essays about activities. If you did something very novel or exciting, write about it! Just again make sure not to be too cliche. Think twice about writing about a volunteer experience unless it was very unique and truly impacted you.