Application Tips from Expert College Admissions Consultants

Be an active participant in your college visits. Instead of just attending, listening, and walking around, get a small notebook just for visits and write down at least five things you like about the school and five things you don’t like about the school. You can also refer back to these notes should you need to write a supplemental essay asking “Why this college?”. Tweet this Tip.

Ask teachers for recommendations prior to the end of junior year, before they leave for the summer. Some teachers limit the number of letters they will write each year, and this is a way to make sure you’re not out of luck come the fall. Others might use the summer to write in support of you while their work with you is still fresh in their minds. Tweet this Tip.

The essay is the part of the application over which you have the most control. Use it! Spend some real time thinking through your topic. Are you sharing something important about yourself with the admissions committee? Are you telling a story anyone could tell, or is it specific to you? Have you highlighted a way in which you will add to the campus community or something about yourself that is unique? The more time you take to think through what you will write about, the more likely your essay will positively impact your chances of being admitted.

Think about how you learn best when determining your ideal college. Do things “click” for you when discussing ideas with other students, listening to a lecture, studying on your own in the library, or experimenting in the lab? Make sure there is a good match between your preferred learning style and what the college offers.

When planning your college visits, do your research. Look on the website for clubs you'd join if you were a first year student, and email the president or outreach coordinator and ask to sit in on a meeting or event. During the visit, be your most outgoing self. Talk to every person you can. Conducting informal "person on the street" interviews in an elevator or in line in the dining hall may tell you more in five minutes than an hour with a tour guide. Ask: What's your major? What other colleges did you look at? Would you make the same choice now? If you could change one thing about the college, what would it be? The answers will give you great information about campus life.

It's easy to find reach schools you love, and often to find match schools too, but it's just as important to identify two safety schools that will be good, solid fits. You also need to show interest in those safeties (e.g. request information via their websites, attend local rep visits, visit the campus, etc.) prior to applying so the admissions committee will see you as a serious applicant.

When visiting a college, don't focus on superficial qualities like how nice the residence halls are. Instead, think about whether the students at the school are people with whom you want to spend the next four years of your life. If you like your roommates and the people who live in your residence hall, you'll have a great time no matter if your room is big or small. And the most luxurious room imaginable won’t make up for attending a college where you don't connect with the other students.