What universities seek in an application
Starting a college application doesn’t have to be intimidating. Instead, it’s your one chance to tell your favorite schools about yourself and why you can’t wait to be a part of their campus. At the end of the day, while your SAT/ACT scores and GPA matter, college admissions staff are looking at much more than the numbers. They want a glimpse of who you as a whole person — your personality, interests and character — and whether their university will be the right fit for you and your future. Here are a few important things that colleges want to see in an application:
1. Think outside the box — or fishbowl — while writing your essay
Dennis Gagaoin, associate director of undergraduate admissions at Seattle Pacific University, said one of the most memorable essays he’s read was from a student who wrote from the perspective of her pet fish, using its fishbowl as a metaphor for growing up in a small town and describing how she was ready to expand her experiences during college in a big city. “I’ve also read essays where students write poetry or use creative literary devices,” Gagaoin said.
Most importantly, Gagaoin said a college admissions essay is the time for students to be themselves and demonstrate their personalities.
2. Share volunteer or service work
This can be a great way of showcasing another facet of your character and interests, whether it’s spending time at a homeless shelter or playing with cats at the local humane society. Colleges love hearing about specific ways high school students are caring for and engaging in their communities. “That’s definitely important,” Gagaoin said. “That’s also an indicator of being a good fit for our community.”
3. Show depth — not just breadth — of extra-curricular activities
It’s a given that colleges want to know you played trombone in the marching band, while also playing varsity softball and taking first place at the state debate championships. However, Gagaoin said it’s not just the number of activities that matter, but also the amount of time and energy you poured into each of them. Even if it’s just one activity, but students can show how passionate they are about it, Gagaoin said that’s incredibly important to see on an application. “Someone doesn’t have to do anything and everything,” he said.
4. State future goals clearly
Whether in your essay or elsewhere on the application, talk about what you want out of your college years, or what you want to be or do post-college. Gagaoin said sometimes students say want to learn more about Christianity or want some of their questions about faith answered; others share how they want to use their education to benefit society later on. Be genuine and honest about what you want to achieve during and after college.
5. Go above and beyond
Some college applications don’t require references, but it adds a nice touch to include them anyway. And to show a college you’re interested, make sure you help your admissions counselors get to know you outside of your application. Set up a Skype call or correspond with them over email. “I always recommend students to visit campus. That way we have a face to a name and an application as well,” Gagaoin said.