You have the scores, you have the top grades. Now you need to figure out how to make your application stand out among the thousands of applications each top-ranked school receives. The rejection rate at the Ivies, for instance, exceeds 85%, so the competition is fierce. With that in mind, here are 5 insider tips:
1 Don't feel limited by the common application. If you have more to say, submit an extra essay, an extra recommendation, or a note about a special circumstance. Colleges look for in-depth information about you, but often come up short because of the limitations of the common application.
2 Don't pick a clichéd essay topic, like describing your room or how you survived a difficult hike during your National Outdoor Leadership School course. Instead, focus on YOU--your academic strengths and accomplishments--and be sure to back them up with specific examples. Ultimately, your main essay is your chance to prove that you are a scholar. If you spend hours a day studying a particular subject, no one will know unless you talk about it in your application.
3 Be sure to highlight any major leadership skills you have demonstrated. Are you the head of your synagogue youth group? Did you design and implement any special projects related to your bar/bat mitzvah? Are you a counselor or song leader at summer camp? Be sure to mention these and other accomplishments on a detailed activity list.
4 Send extra materials if you have extra talents. If you're a top musician, send a CD to the music department. If you're a photographer, make a portfolio and submit it either to the admissions office or to the photography department.
5 Take the time to explain to every school WHY you are applying there, what attracts you to that particular school. Often colleges reject strong applicants because they don't think the student is truly interested in their school. If you're interested, show it!
--Dr. Michele Hernandez, president of Hernandez College Consulting LLC and author of four books including Don't Worry, You'll Get In: 100 Winning Tips for Stress Free College Admissions