How to Amp Up Your College Application

8/2/17
By UW Colleges

Applying to college can be a stressful experience. You have prepared your resume, accumulated various experiences through school and your community and felt the pressure of the ever so important essay. It's finally time for you to put it all together into one cohesive application and it is totally normal to feel a little overwhelmed. Here are a few tips on how to amp up your college application and get accepted to the college of your dreams.

1. Start early

The best college applications cannot be completed 48 hours before the deadline. Plan ahead and try to complete the application will before the deadline. This allows you to take your time to perfect your application and avoid making mistakes. This will also give you some wiggle room in case something goes wrong or gets lost in cyberspace. The best way to do this is to create a to-do list of each element of the application and cross each item off as you go.

Boy smiling while studying on his laptop

2. Write a killer essay

The essay portion of the application is by far one of the most important elements of your application. This section allows for you to showcase who you are beyond the classroom. To blow the admissions staff away, be creative and try to avoid the cliché themes. Choose a theme or moment in your life that is unique to you and relate it to why you want to attend that school. College admissions staff want to hear about your everyday responsibilities no matter how mundane they may seem. Feel free to mention caring for relatives after school or a part-time job or any responsibility you have outside of school. It's best to evaluate students in light of the entire context of their day-to-day lives so try to provide a vivid glimpse into yours. If you are applying to multiple schools, write separate essays; the best essays are those that are tailored specifically to each school. Additionally, it's important to be vulnerable and explain anything that may have affected your performance in school. This could be something in your home life, a mental or physical disability, or other extenuating circumstance that may have challenged you while in school.

Girl smiling in a computer lab

3. Volunteer

College admissions staff are looking for applicants that are going to improve the campus community for the better. By demonstrating your commitment to helping the community in which you live, they will see that you are more than just a typical high school student but a well-rounded and involved member of your community.

Girl smiling outside

4. Showcase your experience

Many students think that joining as many clubs as possible will look better on college applications. While it is impressive to be a member of multiple clubs, it is often more impressive to have a deeper involvement in only a few clubs. By taking on leadership roles, organizing and attending events and capitalizing on opportunities, you demonstrate your commitment and genuine interest in what you dedicate your time doing. That being said, when organizing your experiences, put your most impressive experience and awards first to highlight your efforts.

2 girls chatting in a hallway

5. Get stellar recommendations

While a recommendation letter is not required, you are welcome to submit one along with your application to UW Colleges. Letters help to reveal aspects of your potential and showcase your communication skills, interpersonal skills and intellectual curiosity. With that in mind, get a letter of recommendation from the teacher that knows you best, not the one that graded you best. While a teacher may give you all A's, ask yourself, "does he/she know me as more than a student?" A teacher that can speak to who you are not only as a student but as an actual person in and outside of the classroom will be able to write the better letter in the long run.

Student and teacher working together in a greenhouse

6. Proofread, proofread and proofread again

This step is critical in creating your application. Misspelled words, poor grammar and multiple typos are not going to impress any colleges. Have your parents, teachers, school counselors and friends look over your entire application (especially the essay portion) and fix any errors before submitting.

Student talking with an advisor

7. Be yourself

This might sound like a no-brainer but it's best to show your true self in your essay. Your college application is a chance for you to let your personality shine. Stay true to who you are and don't worry about what you think admissions staff "want." Colleges want students that are unique and not afraid to stray from the pack so avoid "shoot for the stars" speeches and let your individuality be the focus.

Girl reading outside