I don’t know why I did, or more accurately, I don’t remember how the list got that long. It seemed like, oh, choices are good. The more schools I apply to, the more choices I’ll have about where to go! Well, sort of.
While choices are good, too many choices are not. Not to mention that too many colleges on your list means too many college applications. And too many frickin’ application fees.
For your own sanity, I’d suggest keeping it around seven. It is better to rule out a school early, not to wait until you’ve cried, sweat, and strained over an application. Of course, it’s important to have a balance among the schools on your list between competitive schools and ones to which you will very likely get in.
Keeping your list short(ish) will also make writing your college application essays easier.
So much seems to rest on getting that essay right. It’s one of the only parts of your college application that is personal; the rest is mainly numbers and figures such as your grades and test scores. While it can seem like one of the more stressful components of a college application, it doesn’t have to be. Try to have fun with it (haha)!
Tons of schools use the Common Application, which can be a huge burden off your shoulders when it comes to keeping things organized. The Common Application requires just one essay (of 600 to 1500 words) to be sent to all the schools, though individual schools may require other additional essays.
This essay amounts to a couple of pages, which isn’t really that many pages considering how much the prompts require of you. Given the limited space, you should keep your writing concise and clear.
Despite the brevity required of the essay, the prompts on the Common Application are pretty open-ended, so you’ll have a lot of leeway in tailoring your essay to your life and your experiences. This year’s prompts are the same as last year’s, and include topics of personal failure, challenging ideas you disagree with, your transition from childhood to adulthood, and meaningful places. They ask about you, so you should write about you.
As for content, I’d suggest writing about something that isn’t directly school-related, unless you have something very unique and/or poignant to say about your experience at school. But given that the essay is intended to give an admissions committee more of an idea about what makes you unique, it is more compelling to read about something more personal.
When writing, keep your style relaxed but polished. Write like yourself. Don’t overuse a thesaurus, but make sure you use proper grammar, spelling, and appropriate language for an academic setting. Use colorful and descriptive language (think about how many essays the admissions committees read…Think about how you can make yours stand out). Also, get feedback from at least three people, and proofread the heck out of your final draft before you send it off!
Tons of colleges have a standard “Why do you want to come here?” type question. Here’s a secret: you really only have to write one, with variance. If you are applying to many similar schools, this is especially true. Maybe you like the size, the availability of research opportunities, and the sweet marching band at all the schools to which you’ve chosen to apply. Once you put these common traits into writing, you’re halfway done. For the rest, state clearly what draws you to each school specifically. Remember to send the right version to the right school!!!
One last thing: a calendar is a great tool for keeping yourself organized with your college apps. Give yourself ample time to get everything done, but also give yourself deadlines and stick to them. Seeing a full list of all you need to do can be daunting, but it’s better than finding “surprise” tasks later!
Okay, here’s the actual last thing: If you need help brainstorming, editing, or whatever else, I’d love to help! Shoot me an email or message and I’ll get back to you soon 🙂 .