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If you have not begun to fill out your college applications – now is the time. Even though the application is the part of the admission process over which you have complete control there is a tendency to procrastinate or to complete the easy biographical part and then stop. The deadline looms and the crisis begins. And with crisis, come mistakes. The quality of the application can make or break your chances of admission even for those of you with stellar records. Since selective colleges get hundreds or even thousands of applications from very qualified candidates they will be more impressed with a neat, accurate application rather than one that looks like the dog had a go at it. To quote an admissions officer, “to us, a sloppy application means a sloppy applicant.” This doesn’t mean that your application has to be museum quality, but it has to represent a serious attempt to communicate who you are and why you should be admitted to College X.

The application consists of several sections and sometimes numerous parts. Some schools require completion of Part I before you can begin Parts II and III. Be aware of these requirements so that you have enough time to submit all the parts before the deadline. The sections include:

* Biographical data for the student and parents. Usually this is pretty easy and the main word of advice for students is to be honest and give as much information as possible. For parents, don’t be embarrassed to say what you do for a living, your level of education or if you didn’t go to college. Colleges will not hold any of this against your student and sometimes it can work in your favor.

* Activities. Colleges are not looking for a laundry list of everything you have done for four years. List the activities in order of highest priority to you and ones in which you have held some leadership position. If asked to comment on the meaning of these activities, be sure to emphasize how this particular activity is unique for you.

* Career interests. First, if you don’t have a career interest – don’t make one up. Second, if you do have a career interest make sure that your grades back up that interest. For example, to say that you want to be an engineer and then have a C in Calculus will not impress the admission officer. It is perfectly acceptable to put down ‘Undecided’ if that is what you are.

* Honors and awards. This section is often particularly intimidating and one in which students soon regret that they didn’t ‘do more’ in school. Unfortunately it is the time of reality – either you have something to put in the blank or you don’t.

* Optional data. Colleges are trying to find out as much as possible about you, so if at all possible try to put something in this space. Personal information that will give the admission officer a clearer picture of you is most helpful. Examples would be any unusual circumstances at home, language barriers, or anything not covered in another place in the application.

* Personal statement. It is a PERSONAL statement, and that means the college wants to know about you and your world. They want to know how well you write and how you think. This essay can make or break your case for admission so it stands to reason that you should start early, answer the question, write numerous drafts, and proof read once, twice or as many times as it takes to get it right. If there is a statement as to why you want to go to College X, you had better have some good reason why this college is unique for you.

Now get going, time is a wasting! Keep in mind that colleges are very serious about deadlines.

Judith Christie
College Planning Consultants