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College Application Tips

College application tips can help you take information you already know and apply it to your college application. Applying to college can be stressful and a little scary, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. These college application tips for every area of your application process can make things simpler for you.

College Application Tips for the Paper or Electronic Application

There aren’t a whole lot of college application tips most people need for the actual paper or electronic application form. It’s much like applying for a job, and will normally ask you for information you already know about yourself. The main thing is to read it carefully and make sure you’re answering questions exactly. For instance, if it asks for your GPA, make sure you’re reporting it on the right scale (usually 4.0 as opposed to 12.0), and see if you’re supposed to use your GPA from your junior year or from halfway through your senior year.

Tips for the Personal Essay

The personal essay is the toughest part of the college application for many students. Sometimes the question is super-specific, and it can seem difficult to flesh out an answer that meets the word count requirements. Sometimes, on the other hand, the question is so vague you may not even know where to begin to answer it. Use these college application tips to write the best possible personal essay:

  • Talk about your experiences in detail. Don’t try to give a bird’s eye view of your life because that’s not what the essay is about. Instead, it should be about a few specific things about you – or stories about you. In fact, telling short, anecdotal stories in your essay is a great idea. You don’t have to be super-dry, and anecdotes can make your application essay stand out.

  • Use excellent transitions. If you aren’t sure how to transition from one idea to the next, ask a teacher or friend to help you. Transitions are one of the most difficult parts of writing in general, and showing that you’ve mastered them will really set your essay apart.

  • Speak in your own voice. You need to strike a balance here. Don’t sound too unprofessional, and don’t become ungrammatical. On the other hand, you don’t have to use high-sounding academic language that you wouldn’t normally use. Think about talking to a person you really admire and respect – someone that you would want to think well of you – and use language that you’d use in that situation, rather than what you’d say when telling the same story to a friend or family member.

  • Tell them what they want to hear. You need to read the essay prompt in detail. Some are more vague than others, but chances are they all ask for certain details. While you can take the basic idea of one essay and transfer it to others, you shouldn’t have one essay you use for all applications because it won’t fit all the prompt questions. It’s best to take time to craft a new essay for each application so you know you’re giving it your best.

Once you write a personal essay, have one or two other people, at least, look over it. Give them the essay prompt, too, so they know if you’re answering the question or not. Just another set of eyes can really be helpful!

College Application Tips for Interviews

Not all colleges ask for interviews, but many do. Think of college interviews as a ramped-up version of the personal essay, where you get to be a living, breathing essay. The main college application tips that students need to hear about interviews are to relax and not to be afraid to talk about your accomplishments. There’s a difference between bragging and stating facts, so just state facts about where you are and what you’ve done so the interviewers get to know you.

College Application Tips for Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation can be a vital part of any application process, and most colleges will ask for two or three. Make sure you understand who to ask for letters of recommendation based on the application information, and get letters from teachers who have known you recently and for long enough to write you an honest recommendation.

One thing that’s helpful for teachers and other letter writers is to have a short resume of your accomplishments. You may also want to talk to them about the college and program you’re applying to, as they’ll want to tailor their letter to that college or program. Finally, one of the best college application tips out there is to give the people who are generously spending time on your letters of recommendation plenty of time to get them finished, so you and they don’t feel rushed!

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