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What To Do Now To Impress Colleges When Applying

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Having an impressive application when applying to college isn’t only limited to answering essay questions and submitting on or before the deadline. They will need to make the extra effort to impress and leave a positive feedback to their chosen school’s admission reviewers for incoming college students. They should have a lasting impression, and it’s never an easy task, after all. However, a student’s college application will manifest the positive result they desire when having the right tools, mindset, and preparation.

When getting ready for applying to your chosen school, you’ll probably have questions in mind regarding how to impress colleges when submitting your application. Each academic institution has a different set of criteria. That said, the majority of them prefer students who are passionate, goal-oriented, and smart both in their academic and personal lives.

An impressive college application will highlight your skills, interest, and aspirations as an incoming college student. To help you prepare for college, we highlight everything you need to know regarding how to impress colleges when applying.

Explore these quick links for useful tips to impress colleges when applying:

College Application Overview
How Tough Is it To Apply For College?
Successful College Application Rates
How To Impress Colleges When Applying
Do’s and Don’ts When Applying For College

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College Application Overview

Preparing and completing college applications is one of the most challenging tasks each student will encounter after high school. Although college applications generally involve many processes and paperwork to finish, it’s possible to accomplish them if you stay determined, prepared, and organized.

Ideally, you should research and list all the prospective schools you intend to apply during your sophomore and the first few months of your junior years. Once your list is narrowed, you can start applying. 

As a start, you can use the Common App. It’s one of the most popular tools that come from a non-profit organization. It provides you with the opportunity to upload application requirements and send one application to many colleges in one go. It’s one of the best tools for a more organized application process since students can manage their applications on a one-stop-shop website. Through this tool, it’s also easier for schools to access the materials.

However, not all academic institutions utilize the Common App. If you want to verify whether your potential school accepts through the Common App, you can visit its website or ask the school directly. It’s also important to consider that many schools have school-specific materials that students must accomplish to be accepted.

Aside from the Common App, some schools have their online application for admission. Given that, you should read the admissions page of the school you intend to apply. It’s ideal so that you won’t miss out on any vital information or admission requirements.

Ideal Number Of College Applications 

Students send many applications to numerous schools in the hopes of getting accepted. However, if you’ve done your comprehensive research, you’ll save time and effort. According to the College Board, students must send four to eight applications, divided into three categories:


For this category, you can send two to four applications. This classification refers to the schools that you want to apply to and suitable choices for you. The school’s program requirements, typical average scores of other applicants, and grades are a good match for you.


This classification includes the academic institutions you want to apply, but you’re certain you can’t pass their standards or screening. It can be schools that you can enroll in; however, the competition is tough among applicants. For this classification, you can send one or two applications.


A school under this classification describes as the one you can highly get accepted. Specifically, it’s a community college with a rolling admissions policy and an excellent reciprocal program with a 4-year university for many first-year students. It’s recommended that you’ll apply to at least one safety school; however, several students consider enrolling in financial safety and academic safety school.

Application Deadlines

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Every school has specific deadlines for the submission of application materials. As a best practice, you should carefully remember the schools’ deadlines when applying. To keep everything organized, you should work closely with an admission officer or guidance counselor to ensure that the requirements are completed on time. In all college application processes, missing deadlines is one of the biggest flaws you want to avoid.

For information regarding deadlines, every school has a dedicated website regarding the admissions process. Also, you can directly ask the admissions department for more information. If you want to submit early, you can prepare and complete your application materials during the fall term of your senior year until mid-November.

Application Fees

Aside from admission requirements, students pay application fees during enrollment. Application payments differ per college. In most cases, the range of admission fees is $50 to $90 per paper application. Some schools will waive admission fees or lower them if you apply online. With the Common App, you can send a waiver request regarding your admission fees on your profile.

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How Tough Is it To Apply For College?

Applying for college includes personal statements, letters of recommendation, essays, standardized examinations, and financial resources. Unlike the early 19th century, modern college applications are more intricate. They no longer rely on transcripts alone.

As a starting point, assess your personal, academic, and professional aspirations. From there, you can decide what program you’ll pursue and what school you can enroll in. Therefore, a challenging part of college application is identifying a suitable learning environment that best fits your passions and interests in life. In short, it’s finding the college you want and the program you’ll pursue.

Because you already know what you want for college, you’ll now deal with the school’s application requirements. One of the most challenging college application requirements to accomplish is personal essays or statements. Besides writing 500- to 1000-word essays, some schools will require students to submit short essays according to a set of questions. Given how tough college application can be, personal statements or essay is your opportunity to showcase your intent, passions, and personality. For some students, essays are challenging since they’re not a fan of writing essays in general. 

Essays are inevitable for some college applications; yet, many students disregard its importance. That said, they won’t exert any effort in crafting an impressive essay that can help them stand out from many competitors. While personal essays won’t guarantee you with acceptance letters, it’s crucial to help you succeed in your college applications.

Another stringent requirement to complete is the letters of recommendation. Although you’ve prepared and polished everything, the letters of recommendation can be challenging to accomplish since you don’t have control of your recommender’s time and priorities. With letters of recommendation, you need to have people who know you well personally and academically. Aside from that, they must be willing to take the time to write a comprehensive, well-crafted recommendation about you. Given the number of college applications you’ll send, find at least four references who are willing to complete LORs for you until you finally get accepted in a college or university.

When all application materials are submitted, it boils down to the waiting game. It’s an anxiety-inducing aspect when you’re waiting for a result of the applications you’ve submitted. There’s no other way to go but be optimistic and hopeful that everything will turn out well.

Despite the toughest challenges you’ll encounter when it comes to applying, be proud that you’ve made it this far. After all, there is a college that best fits your academic and professional aspirations.

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College Application Success Rates

Similar to admission requirements, each school has different sets of criteria for accepting students’ applications. Some colleges have stringent admission processes, while some aren’t as selective. That said, it’s entirely up to a specific college when it comes to setting their reputation regarding selectiveness. You might probably wonder – are admission rates significant to high school students and their parents? While it isn’t directly proportionate to their college application, it can affect their admission. Any information regarding college admission success rates will provide an overview of students’ chances of getting accepted.

In a nutshell, successful college application rates describe only an average number and don’t exactly tell you the possibilities of getting admitted. Also, low admission rates don’t necessarily indicate that a college is a suitable option for you.

After researching the different college admission rates, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed or discouraged. However, don’t stress yourself too much on the numbers. It’s one of the factors that can initiate you when narrowing down your college options. As parents and students, research on specific colleges you intend to apply. From there, you can discover what’s in store for you and how beneficial it can be to you or your child’s college application.

Lastly, many schools have created additional steps or considerations for applicants who can’t meet the traditional set of criteria. Diversity factors, including ethnic or racial backgrounds, unexpected life circumstances, and geographic locations, can influence students’ application. Other circumstances, such as an early application, can increase students’ chances of being accepted.

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How To Impress Colleges When Applying

Apply early.

One way to impress college admission reviewers is through early submissions. It portrays that you’re someone proactive and doesn’t procrastinate on essential aspects. Also, early submissions will provide admission reviewers with the opportunity to assess your application thoroughly, given the volume of applications are still less congested. Your credentials and accomplishments will get noticed and likely to stand out when applications aren’t overwhelming to reviewers. In contrast, it’s good to submit earlier than the deadline, don’t rush when preparing and compiling all your application materials. You can start your application early but take your time.

Gather comprehensive Letters of Recommendation.

In most cases, schools require letters of recommendation from people who genuinely know you. The Letters of Recommendation must come from those who can accurately describe your skills and accomplishments. Aside from that, they portray aspects of who you are that other requirements cannot. LORs provide a general overview of the students’ character and show that people are willing to vouch for them. They are indicators regarding your reputation, highlighting your overall credibility and personality on your behalf without biases.

For completing LORs, ask your references ahead of schedule, so they are done thoroughly. That said, reach out to your references as early as starting your last year in high school. School counselors and teachers will have a lot of paper works and deadlines to complete. If you want high-quality and well-crafted letters of recommendation, never ask someone who is pressured or rushed in their commitments.

Also, each school has different formats in terms of LOR submission. In some cases, they will ask your references to open links to submit your letter of recommendation. Some colleges prefer LORs from teachers within specific subjects, while some require references from guidance counselors. Other schools will even require both.

Complete Advanced Placement (AP) Courses.

During students’ junior years in high school, they generally can accomplish Advanced Placement courses. These courses allow you to obtain transfer credits and often result in fast-tracked placement when you apply in college. Since AP courses are equivalent to college-level classes, they are more rigorous and demanding than regular high school classes.

With AP courses, you are increasing your chances of getting accepted in college. It portrays that you are determined and ready to conquer the challenges and pressure of college coursework. Also, approximately one-third of schools will look at AP accomplishments when evaluating and deciding for scholarship recipients.

AP courses help you save financial resources since they don’t require any payment when you’re still completing your high school education. The extra credits will help you start your college studies and guarantee that you can finish your degree within four years.

Showcase supplemental materials.

Every school is unique in terms of adding supplemental materials. Given that, you should ensure that you verify the procedures, policies, and guidelines for every college you apply. If they aren’t mandatory, then you shouldn’t include them.

On the contrary, if they are accepted, supplemental materials are one of the best ways to showcase your achievements. Some of these include the following:

  • Choreography Videos
  • Audio Recordings
  • Writing Samples
  • Academic Papers
  • Photography Portfolio
  • Short Documentaries/Film
  • Musical Compositions

Although enrollment checklists generally involve more on the student’s academic background, supplemental materials can generally add up in some cases. However, don’t over exaggerate these materials to a point they overshadow your academic-related materials. 

The set of criteria regarding the submission of supplemental materials are listed on the school’s website. In some cases, you need to pay for every material submitted. As a best practice, avoid sending original copies since they will not be returned. If you require more information, you should inquire in the admissions team regarding the process.

Integrate a little humor.

This part can be tricky since not everyone has the same sense of humor as you. However, if you have your way to add sarcasm or a dry sense of humor, you can integrate it into your writing sample. There is no static rule that requires you to have a serious answer to every question you’re answering. You can respond to questions lightheartedly and add a bit of life rather than just dull responses.

If you’re concerned that your humor may not be perceived as expected, let other people read your writing. You can allow them to provide honest feedback and constructive criticisms. However, when you are always doubting, then you can skip it.

Avoid exaggerating.

Most students can become exaggerated when it comes to showcasing their achievements. It’s always tempting to appear as impressive as possible, especially if the competition is tough. Recognitions and awards are all well and good; however, honesty will make you stand out.

Your mistakes, setbacks, lessons learned, and life experiences shape you in the process of becoming a better person rather than just a set of accomplishments. In some cases, writing your story on how you’ve surpassed obstacles in life can be more beneficial in the bigger picture.

Follow instructions carefully.

Aside from early submissions, following instructions regarding admission requirements are crucial to an impressive college application. While you can submit as early as you can, ensure that you have double-checked everything, ranging from grammatical errors to spelling mistakes. If there is a limit regarding word count for essays and short answers, avoid writing beyond the word count. Also, don’t submit supplemental requirements unless the school requires you. 

Get to know your chosen school.

If you have a chosen school, there is no harm in initiating respectful conversations. Through this, you can add contact persons or references in your college application. Getting to know the admissions team of a school or region is also essential. With their pieces of advice and tips, you can make your college application stand out. Keep in touch with them throughout the admission process through friendly emails and handwritten messages.

Getting to know your school will leave a lasting impression from the reviewers on how interested you are. There’s nothing wrong with talking to school’s representatives during college fairs, given that they don’t come off as rude and excessive.

Polish your social media accounts.

While it’s overwhelming for admission reviewers to verify every applicant’s social media accounts, it’s more common than ever to integrate social media as a screening tool. If a school is screening a pool of applications, they often resort to verifying your social media background checks. If you have posts or status updates that come off as offensive, it highly portrays your character as questionable and unreliable.

Before applying, invest time and effort to clean up your social media accounts. Any post that includes personal drama, excessive vulgarity, and hatred must be removed. Create a social media presence that portrays you as a person with credibility and reflects diverse views and interests. 

Provide accurate documents.

During college applications, it’s normal to have a hectic schedule when it comes to documenting everything. Also, you aren’t going to remember everything all at once. There are different methods to keep your list organized, especially listing down your accomplishments. Writing or journaling is one of the common ways to do. You can also use a folder to arrange your awards and recognition you received.

Another method is to create a portfolio to showcase everything you’ve done. Whatever option you prefer, keep it relevant and up-to-date. If you’re planning to showcase your writing samples, you can include your website.


Volunteering is one of the initiatives you can do to highlight your personality. It reflects your character as someone willing to share time and talents for the community’s greater good. Many schools view applications with volunteering experiences as an essential factor. It describes your willingness to participate in the student community programs and services on campus. If you’re proactive in the community, then most likely, you are going to be participative in the student organizations within the school.

Also, volunteering doesn’t only provide a lasting impression, but it’s an excellent way to expand your network and meet new people.

Tell a story.

As you progress in your college application, personal essays, statements, and short answers provide you with the opportunity to utilize extra space for writing. When you have stories to tell, take advantage of it. In the school’s admission process, reviewers are interested in students who bring something unique and compelling. Most of them want to see how you grow as a student during high school. It also makes them eager to know how you’ve managed to cope with any challenges around you. If you have convincing write-ups, comprehensive explanations can help you impress college reviewers.

Your school records can showcase a long list of recognitions and awards. Your SAT scores, who you associate with, and where you have been are purely data. However, taking the time to write an interesting piece will reveal who you are as a person.

Aim for good grades.

Aiming for good grades is self-explanatory. It determines whether you get accepted easily or not. Once you have chosen your courses, you should work hard on yielding good grades. It doesn’t mean you have A’s in all your subjects. However, you should do your best to pass and achieve good standings.

Select your high school classes.

Undoubtedly, the set of high school classes you choose is essential for admission reviewers to discover more about your high school experience. Colleges and universities are meticulous about the courses you will take and your performance with each course. While it’s not the only factor to be reviewed, almost every school will carefully review this one.

The key is to stay realistic and relevant. For example, if you want to be a psychologist, you will need to take statistics classes aside from science and English. You can take more courses during the summer to add credentials. Through this, you are preparing yourself early that lets you take advanced classes in your junior and senior years. 

While it’s not critical to determine your preferred career this early, the more prepared you appear in your college applications, the more lasting impression you provide to reviewers.

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Do’s and Don’ts When Applying For College

Read instructions carefully.

Students should pay extra attention when it comes to application instructions and requirements. That said, you should provide as instructed. In some cases, students forgot to fill out important details in their application; hence, they’re leaving it blanks. Given that, they are submitting incomplete applications that aren’t appealing to reviewers. The spaces or pieces of information required by college and universities are there for a reason. It’s primarily for making informed and fair decisions regarding each student’s college application. As a student, you should pay attention to details and fill out any information accordingly.

Be Independent. Take the Lead.

Admission reviewers say parents must also be proactive in their child’s college application; however, it comes with limitations. For example, they shouldn’t be the one completing their application forms, writing personal statements or essays, and communicating with school officers. They can provide support and guidance, including keeping track of deadlines and explore scholarship opportunities. While parental support is also important, colleges prefer witnessing students manage and campaign for their application.

Keep your resume brief and concise.

When you’re a senior student, you aren’t expected to submit a 2-page resume. While school counselors encourage them to create a resume as a foundational step, admission officers should advocate properly and thoroughly fill out each student’s college application. Regardless of the number of extracurricular activities you’ve participated in, they should keep a 1-page resume only.

Proofread your essay.

Grammar and spell checking tools are important tools for creating a great and compelling essay. The good news is that there are many tools nowadays that help you with proofreading. Despite the availability, thoroughly proofreading your application requirements are unmatched. Admission reviewers are meticulous when it comes to evaluating your work, and they can tell if you have proofread your work or not. It’s ideal for proofreading all your requirements and applying the same thoroughness to their academic work.

Submit your applications early.

Students must know the deadlines for different application timelines, including early decisions, regular decisions, and early actions. Admission officials will question students’ interests and determination, and it is evident whether they can apply either at the last minute or ahead of schedule.

Don’t put redundant information.

It’s highly suggested that students should check their essays through a values scan. It means proofreading their write-ups to identify what themes or values are often recurring. Through this strategy, you can evaluate the pieces of information that you need to remove, explain further, add up, or improved. That said, essays or statements should highlight a diverse range of values instead of redundant information.

Don’t plagiarize documents.

A veteran college admission reviewer has already encountered and read thousands of statements and can identify if a student copies other sources on the internet or elsewhere. That said, every student must create an original essay for their college application. In writing a personal statement, it’s recommended that students must do a personal reflection. It’s easier for them to articulate their words and present themselves genuinely to colleges and universities through self-reflection. The more authentic you become, the more compelling and interesting you appear in the application.

Don’t overcrowd your application with extracurricular activities.

College admissions officers prefer proactive students; however, it doesn’t mean joining every high school club. That said, you shouldn’t overcrowd your activities or portray yourself inaccurately. Once an admission officer finds out that students have provided false information, they can easily get denied.

Don’t overlook program requirements.

All applicants should verify program requirements and complete the required high school classes to get accepted into their chosen program. For instance, students who will enroll in engineering programs must take advanced mathematics and physics classes in high school. 

Each college or university has its dedicated website for program offerings. However, if it isn’t available, you can directly contact your preferred colleges’ admissions department.

Don’t let doubts and worries consume you!

While it’s completely normal to feel pressured and anxious, don’t let it overpower your determination and drive. You might probably hear that getting into college requires insider knowledge, but it isn’t always the case. You’ll also get discouraged, at some point, if your preferred school has a single-digit acceptance rate. It’s doesn’t necessarily indicate the standard.

In 2018, the national average in terms of college acceptance rate was 67%. Considering more than half of the statistics are accepted, it means there is a college you’re going to get in.

Like other milestones in your life, college admission is an exciting time to venture something new. It’s generally challenging and overwhelming at first; however, it’s not something to dread about as a life and death situation.

You CAN get accepted to a college that you is the best fit for you! Do comprehensive research, take your time, and abide by the application rules.