What college admissions officers are really looking for . . .

Now that got your attention, didn’t it? Thought you were finally going to Google that ultimate checklist of what to do to make sure you get in? I am here to give you another sort of checklist.

How about: How to apply to the schools that are right for me? That could also be phrased as: How to be fairly confident they will admit me? Well, here is my list:

1. No one thing will “get you in.” Stop worrying right now about the perfect essay, the most impressive monologue or the most gorgeous portfolio.
2. In everything you submit, stay as true to your personal message as possible. The combination of an honest essay, your work and your stated goals should provide the most complete picture of who you are for the admissions committee to consider.
3. Use your application to paint a broad picture of who you are. One thing like your GPA or your test scores won’t be the deciding factor of whether you are in or out.
4. Bring something extra to the table. Show them, tell them, and make sure they understand what unique quality you possess. This type of information is an important component of helping the school to understand “why them?” “Why their program?” “Why do you belong there?
5. A strong letter of recommendation from a teacher or someone who knows you well can make a difference. The most important thing is not particularly who sent it, but what it says about you and your ability to succeed at their school.
6. Want to be absolutely certain you will get in? Then, apply to the RIGHT schools. What that really means is: do your homework, visit the school, educate yourself and know exactly why this is the right place for you. Nine times out of ten, they will agree with you. Better yet, have several of these “great fit” options ready so that if the whims of the admissions counselor work against you, those same whims are likely to work in your favor somewhere else.

An underlying streak of insubordination and truculence, combined with a desire to take the most difficult possible courses at the most advanced level (which will result in often mediocre grades, or even failure), all leavened with a profound, gentle skepticism and sense of irony, will forge a student’s character far better than conforming to what admissions counselors want, seek, or think.— A.T. Lineower-Jones

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