Five Things Every College Wants You to Be

It’s that time of year when seniors begin sitting down to
fill out college applications.  And when they do, a lot of those seniors
will be wondering, “What do these colleges want to hear?” and “What are they
looking for ?” and “Would winning the presidency of a small but
quickly-developing country improve my chances???”

While colleges aren’t looking for just one type of student,
there are certain things every college would like you to be, especially when
you’re filling out applications.

1.  Be focused.

When you fill out your applications, remember that more
information isn’t always better.  Admissions officers are inundated with
material at this time of year. If you send them a five page resume listing everything
you’ve done since birth, they won’t be able to tell who you are and what you
really care about.  Focus on activities that really matter to you. 
Don’t include extra materials unless the college encourages you to do so. 
And most importantly, remember that you have a limited amount of space to use
to help them get to know you.  It's better to use that space to share a
lot about the most important parts of your life than it is to share a little
about everything.  

2.  Be clear.
A lot of activities and awards have strange names that admissions officers
won’t recognize.  The “Inter-School Liaison Team” or the fact that you won
the “Cosmos Award” won’t mean much to them.  So be direct.  Tell
them, “'I am one of two students from my school on the ‘Inter-School Liaison
Team,’ an organization that meets monthly to improve relations among the six
high schools in my county.”  And let them know that the “Cosmos Award” is
“given to one junior chosen by the faculty for outstanding academic achievement
in the sciences.”    Now is not the time for modesty, so be clear and
make sure you help them understand what you’re sharing.

3.  Be respectful…to everyone involved.
Don’t call the admissions offices every day with new questions that could have
been answered by simply visiting the website.  Don’t wait until the last
minute to ask your teachers and counselor to write letters of
recommendation.  And most importantly, don’t forget to write thank-you
notes to anyone who takes the time to help you with your college application process—like
your counselor, your teachers, and your college interviewers.  Remember,
it is your responsibility to find, apply and get accepted to college.  And
while every student deserves assistance, those who help you are deserving of
your thanks.   

4.  Be honest.
Few things can turn an admissions officer off faster than dishonesty.  So
don’t claim to have volunteered for 40 hours if you only did 10.  And if
you’ve had disciplinary action taken against you and you are asked about it on
an application, tell the truth.  Own up to your mistakes.  It’s just
not worth the risk of lying.  In fact, honesty can be especially
endearing.  Don't be afraid to admit that you had the worst accent of any
student in your Spanish class.  Nobody is perfect, including admissions
officers.  And it’s hard not to respect a kid who has the guts admit your
faults.

5.  Be yourself.
A lot of students are so worried about how to present themselves to the
colleges that they forget to be themselves.  It is important to be clear
and honest and direct, but there is no need for you to pretend to be anyone
other than who you actually are.  Colleges like teenagers.  They
don't expect you to know everything, never to have made mistakes, or to be
perfect.  So present your best self honestly.  Be confident in what
you've done and who you are.  And most importantly, be secure in the
knowledge that there are plenty of colleges to go around for everyone and you
will almost certainly end up happy at one of them.