Before you read further, you need to know this.
I am not a college advisor, consultant, or guru.
But I am a mother of two who gave her kids and their friends some advice in how to best present themselves on a college application.
My experience as a career consultant, evaluating and helping others write thousands of resumes helped prepare me for the task.
Whether due to my editorial help or not, thankfully, my kids got into the colleges of their choice.
I can relate to the intense pressure right about now that teens face in finalizing applications and putting the finishing touches on that all-important college essay.
With the upcoming flurry of activity surrounding Thanksgiving, I’m sure most teens will not be really, truly thankful until the last application has been sent off to the seeming abyss of the college admissions office.
Although much of the focus might be on the college essay, you might want to pay equal attention to how your application (or resume) reflects the story of who you are and what you’ve accomplished.
Yes, you need to squeeze meaning out of every word so your essay (in addition to meeting the new 500 word upper limit for the Common Application) must be attention-grabbing. However, you can be equally thoughtful and creative with factual information.
Many teens overlook how they appear on the application or college resume. Consider these points before you tackle the job:
- Know who you are. This is the most crucial thing you could do right now. Some call this ‘branding’, and although I may not love the term, thinking of yourself in the third person, as a brand so to speak, will help you define more carefully what you want to present. What are your interests, hobbies, skills? Are they reflected accurately in your activities? Could someone figure out what’s important to you by seeing the totality of your activities? If not, you may either have too many activities listed or too few. No one says that you have to write about every single thing you’ve ever done. If need be, edit out those things that don’t add meaning to your presentation. Being a marginal member of a group for a few years won’t add to the portrait you’re trying to paint.
- Learn how to write a resume. The experience will help focus you and help you limit your words. Make sure you use action words and show results where possible. For example: “created unique fundraiser that engaged over 70% of students, raising $5,000 as the most successful event that year.” is way better than “planned or chaired school fundraiser.”
- What experience can you share that will set you apart from the crowd? Try to not to list things that are general, but instead show off your specific contributions. For example, “contributed to a monthly blog for the school paper that received regular reader comments….” instead of “wrote for the school paper” or “was a reporter for the school paper”. Similarly, if you list commonplace activities that all of your peers are also listing, well, it’s just ho-hum. Think hard about what you do that others are not doing. For example, taking additional academic courses shows that you’ll be able to handle a challenging course load in college.
- Show a commitment over a long-term to some activity, cause, youth group, camp, or educational experience, that perhaps led you to take on a leadership position. If you can articulate that, even better. For example: “participant in youth group for three years, taking on successive leadership positions and am now Vice President of Membership.”
- Make sure your language is colorful, descriptive, and not boring. Hopefully your personality will shine through and you’ll get to the college of your dreams!
Please comment if you have additional ideas to add, everyone will benefit!