11:08am, October 26, 2013, Topics: admissions profile, self-portrait, recommendations, activities, scores
Numbers play a major role in the college acceptance game. The numbers I'm referring to include GPA, class rank, and standardized test scores. Add in the essay and this package of information creates a profile or picture of the student. This profile helps the admissions staff decide if an applicant is a good fit for their college.
Obviously grades, extra-curricular activities and test scores are cut-and-dried, and the essay gives students an opportunity to tell the college more about themselves than a transcript can ever reveal. To make the application process less stressful, think of it in terms of creating a picture, and you are painting a self-portrait. When you're finished, the most important details should stand out so the admissions staff has a clear picture of who you are.
The key when filling out an application is to understand that the college is creating your profile, or picture, based on the information you send them. In addition to your numbers and essay, your portrait includes school and community activities. To avoid a fuzzy picture, do not assume the admissions staff understands your activities or your level of involvement.
For instance, if you started a food pantry and you spend 20 hours a week running it, you need to say more than "volunteer community worker" under the activities section. If not, your self-portrait will lack bold details, and you miss a great opportunity to set yourself apart from the other applicants.
You are creating a "picture" that focuses on your abilities and strengths. As you paint each part of your application picture, you are revealing your character, which gives the admissions staff insight about the type of person you are and how well you fit their student profile. Remember, the college considers how your portrait fits the bigger picture as a student on their campus.
Your self-portrait also includes recommendations. In most instances, colleges ask for counselor or teacher recommendations. To avoid broad brush strokes, don't assume your counselor and teachers know everything there is to know about you. You can help by telling them about some of your significant accomplishments and activities. I always appreciated this, and I know many teachers feel the same way. When you provide information, you give your teachers and counselor the opportunity to include details that make an outstanding picture.
Besides, having an important activity or personal characteristic painted and highlighted by a counselor or teacher is more impressive than talking about it yourself. Your teachers and counselor know the type of student you are. They know the amount of effort you put into your school work, how well you interact with your classmates, as well as your potential as a college student.
Additional recommendations from community leaders can be included if you are deeply involved in a community project. Most important, follow the directions on the application. Too many layers of paint will dull a clear picture. If you're tempted to pile it on, this line from a college asking for two recommendations should keep you from dipping into the paint jar once too often: If you include more than two recommendations, we assume you don't know how to read directions.
Now it's time to put the finishing touches on your portrait. Many colleges give you the opportunity to add some significant details about yourself that are not included or fully explained on your application. For example, you can explain that you have curtailed your after-school activities because your mother lost her job, and you are working part-time to help your family during this stressful time. Or, you can include additional details about a challenging academic competition on your activities list that will emphasize the finer points of your character. Or, perhaps you're on the varsity cross country team, but you sprained your ankle and had to sit out most of the season. Describing how you handled the disappointment can showcase a positive attitude.
When you approach your college application like you are painting a self-portrait, you look inward to reveal the type of person you are. And since we are all works in progress, a self-portrait is never a complete picture of the person you are. Your goal is to make sure you paint a bold, clear picture so the admissions staff says "Yes."