The changing landscape of college admissions
Technology has facilitated many aspects of our lives including college applications. With The Common Application platform, it has become easier than ever to apply to many colleges at the same time. In 2015, According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 36 percent of first-time freshmen applied to seven or more colleges, while 10 years earlier, this number was only 17 percent. What are the consequences of this increase in applications? College applicants can ‘cast their net wider’ and increase their odds of admission. On the other hand, college admissions officers have to review this ever-growing number of applications. The average number to be reviewed is as high as 850 applications per admissions counselor.
These changes pose new challenges for the high school seniors preparing their college applications. Transcripts, grades, and test scores remain very important, and nothing can compensate for poor academic performance. But when there are hundreds of applicants with similar academic results like your own, how can you increase the chances that an admissions officer chooses your application among many? A college application essay may be the answer.
The importance of the application essay
According to the research that we conducted in 2017, an application essay plays an important role in the candidate assessment process. In general, there are three types of essay topics:
- Tell us about yourself.
- Tell us why you have chosen to apply to our college.
- Write a creative essay.
Colleges ask for essays to evaluate students’ writing skills and his or her ability to formulate a logical argument, as well as to learn more about them. This task helps to assess the student’s overall fit with the college, along with understanding how a student can contribute to the college’s community and culture. Last but not least, colleges want to see how well a candidate can complete a major piece of work that assignments like writing an essay constitute.
When working on your essay, you have to make sure that it is well structured and written, factually true, and meets all the formal criteria that a college expects to be met. But an essay is also an opportunity to tell your personal story, engage your reader: the admissions officer. It helps to make you stand out in a crowd of applicants. Just imagine how many essays an admissions counselor has to read. Do not fall into the ‘dull’ category.
At myKlovr, we propose that you take four steps to be better prepared to tell your own story.
1. Discover what makes you special
College admissions officers are not looking for personal essays that are biographies or full of dates and places. They are in search of young people who will be successful in college and will make great contributions to the school.
We believe that everyone is special, but not everyone has discovered what it is that makes them special.
The research that we conducted among college counselors and admissions officers revealed 12 personal qualities that are associated with college success. Six of them, which we call interpersonal, are related to how we interact with other people (e.g. collaboration, empathy, leadership), and the other six, intrapersonal, describe traits in themselves (e.g. enthusiasm, critical thinking, perseverance). In the Personal part of the myKlovr Student Portfolio, you will find a short assessment where we invite you to reflect on which of these character features define you as a person. It is a great idea to ask others for their feedback. Remember that your parents, friends, and teachers may see you differently than what you think.
The objective of the assessment is to help you identify what makes you special and which personal qualities can constitute the main thread of your own story. Do not expect to max out on every personal quality. This is unrealistic and perhaps not very helpful when you want to tell a unique and compelling personal story.
2. Don’t tell, prove it
Admissions officers are skeptical by nature. They need to be great listeners but equally, they need to read between the lines and to separate ‘the wheat from the chaff’. They will expect you not only to tell them how great of a candidate you are, but to prove it and convince them of this.
How do you do that? With facts. Your myKlovr Student Portfolio has a few sections where you can capture your experiences, roles, achievements and recognition that you were awarded. These parts are there so that when you are writing your essay, you can look there for evidence that endorses your story. Claiming that you have great leadership skills is one thing, but explaining how you organized a group of fellow students to clean up your neighborhood’s animal shelter after it was flooded is quite something else.
Sometimes, it is hard to remember these events when you need them. Details may be difficult to recall. This is why we encourage you to include all these events in your Student Portfolio. You will not need to use them all, but a well selected, relevant story can give your essay a lot of credibility and make it a more memorably engaging read for an admissions officer.
3. Engage through storytelling
Everybody has heard about the power of storytelling. Human beings pay more attention and better remember stories than data. In fact, our ancestors accumulated and passed knowledge on from generation to generation via stories; think only of the ancient Greek mythology or the Bible.
Once you have chosen what personal qualities will provide the backbone for your own story, and selected the facts and events to substantiate them, it is time to articulate your story. The ‘About Me’ part of your myKlovr Student Portfolio is there specifically to help you put together, practice, and elaborate your story. Start writing it early and come back to change and improve it as often as you want. Invite other people to read it and offer you their advice. If you do that early enough, you will be less nervous in your senior year.
We also encourage you to produce a personal video. All it takes is a script that you can write yourself, a smartphone (plus a tripod if you want to be really fancy), and a free YouTube account. Why would you produce a video? Just think about an admissions officer who is reading through a pile of essays. Wouldn’t it be a welcome change for them to check out an applicant’s video and see a real human face? Your video (must be under 2 minutes or otherwise few people will watch it) gives you an opportunity to connect with an admissions counselor, tell your story, convey your emotions, and ultimately be remembered.
4. Share your vision
Colleges look into their applicants’ pasts, but also assess their future students’ and graduates’ chances. Once a college admits you, they really want you to do well and graduate successfully. They care because a graduation rate. It is an important indicator that affects a school’s reputation.
Admissions officers would like to know what your vision of your future is so that they can assess if their college is the right place for you to achieve your goals. If you love animals and want to become a veterinarian, and they do not offer a relevant major, there would be high likelihood that you’d not be happy at their college and transfer to another one – something that colleges do not like.
In your myKlovr Student Portfolio, we have included a section entitled ‘Statement of Purpose’. We invite you to write about your future here. What do you want to achieve in life? How do you want to get there? What is a college of your dreams? What majors are you excited about? These reflections are important for two reasons. First, they will help you formulate your expectations, and secondly, you will be much better prepared to choose a college that is right for you. Moreover, you will be able to convincingly explain to an admissions officer why you are applying to their college and how you expect it to help you achieve your life’s destination.
Nobody can write your college application essay for you better than you will because an authentic and emotionally engaging essay has to come from a true source.