Putting together your college applications is definitely an exhausting process, but it can also be very exciting. If you’ve made the decision that college is the right next stop for you, getting ready to venture out on your own and gathering the materials for your applications are the first steps into the next stage of your life. College applications require a lot of time and focus, and it can get overwhelming. Before you wipe your hands and declare yourself “Done!” be sure you have all the pieces you need to complete those applications.
Some students may feel nervous or anxious about asking their teachers for letters of recommendation, but these letters are one of the most important components of your college application. Check with the schools you’re applying to to be sure of their requirements – some schools require more or fewer than others, and some stipulate which teachers or faculty members they accept letters from.
Decide which teachers know you well and who can positively attest to your work ethic, skill, and dedication as a student. Check in with your guidance office; they should have a request form for you to fill out. Approach your teachers before or after school and mention that you feel he or she knows you well as a student and that you would greatly appreciate their taking the time to write a letter of recommendation for you. If you make your selections wisely, you should have no problem getting a “Yes.” Some teachers may allow you to have a copy of the letter; others will deliver them to the school via mail or your guidance office confidentially. If this is the case, they are simply following traditional protocol, so there’s no need to worry about anything negative in the letter.
Many college applications request you submit a resume to supplement your transcripts, letters, and essay. The purpose of this resume is to show you will be an active member of the student community, contribute to your campus, and demonstrate your ability to work hard while remaining aware of and active in your surrounding environment. Items to include on this resume include any jobs you have held, volunteer work you have done, clubs you’ve joined, and anything else that shows you to be a well-rounded and dynamic person. Be sure to include dates as well; colleges like to see you can stick with things for more than a few months. Don’t forget:
• Participation in clubs, organizations, recreational activities in both your school and community
• Any volunteer work, including donation/drive participation, fundraisers, runs/walks for causes
• Your role in organizations and any titles you’ve held (e.g. VP of your school’s Key Club)
Don’t undersell yourself here. Be proud of your activities and show the schools your commitment to your student and local community.
The Personal Essay
College essay questions range from subjects like life-changing events and experiences, future goals, and attitudes on certain issues. Whatever the subject, there are some general guidelines it is imperative to follow for an outstanding essay that will catch the college’s attention:
• Do not ever hit “send” on your first draft. After your first copy is written, step away so that you almost forget what you wrote. Return after at least one day with “fresh eyes,” and read it diligently, checking for spelling, grammar, and style errors.
• Have someone who knows you well, like a parent or teacher, read it. They may offer insight on points you could add or modify to make your narrative stronger and more effective.
• Edit again for content. Then, edit AGAIN for spelling, grammar, style, and structure. This is your personal narrative, the representation you are offering the school of yourself. Make sure it’s your best effort.