Seniors, whether you’ve already submitted your applications, or if you’re planning one final application assault over the holiday break, here are five ways you can still improve your chances of admission to college.
1. Keep working hard in school
We know that might sound like the same old advice, but the truth is that a lot of colleges ask to see your first semester senior grades before they make admissions decisions, and those grades can absolutely impact your chances of admission. Of all the things you can do to improve your chances (or not do that will hurt your chances), this one is the most important.
2. Update your colleges with news you have to share.
The "A" you got on your physics quiz may not merit a full scale media alert, but a nomination for a physics department award is something the colleges would want to know about. That’s what application updates are for. If you have noteworthy news to share after you submit an application, write a short letter to your colleges so they can update your file. Just remember that quality is much more important than quantity; you should only update colleges if the news is significant. If you’re unsure whether or not your news is newsworthy, ask your counselor.
3. Call your colleges to follow-up.
A few weeks after you submit your applications, place a call to each of your colleges and ask if they can confirm that your file is complete. If any component is missing (test scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation), don’t panic; but do go to the source immediately to make sure they’ve been sent. And remember to always be courteous and respectful when you call colleges. The person answering the phone just might be the same person who will read your application.
4. Give your essays a reality check.
If you haven’t yet submitted your applications, read your essays through again to make sure you really mean exactly what you wrote. For example, if you wrote, "Volunteering at the homeless shelter was the most rewarding experience of my life," but you volunteered there for one day and never went back again, admissions officers will wonder just how rewarding it must have been for you. Make sure you say what you mean and that your actions back up your statements. It makes your essays much more sincere, and the admissions officers will be able to get a better sense of who you really are.
5. Give thanks to those who deserve it.
Write a nice thank-you card to your counselor, to the people who wrote your letters of recommendation, and to anyone else who was helpful to you during the application process. You should do this because it’s the right thing to do and those people deserve your sincere thanks. But you should also do it because the colleges will often call teachers and counselors to verify information contained in their letters, and your thanks just gives them one more reason to support you.