Tips for Nailing the College Admission Process

Emily Coleman
Emily Coleman
ELL academic support specialist; Ph.D. candidate in Strategic Leadership and Administrative Studies with Education concentration
Woman filling out a college application at a desktop computer.

What are Colleges Looking for in a Candidate?

College admissions offices are always looking for the next star student to bring on to their campus whom they feel will be an excellent fit and wonderful asset to an academic program. Hence, admission candidates needs to make sure that they portray themselves in the best way possible on paper so that they stand out from the crowd of other applicants.

Colleges always focus on the academic standing of applicants to their programs. Colleges want to see that you have challenged yourself academically and that your grades show that. You can use your admissions essay to detail what may have happened during particular courses and what you have learned from them that will make you a better student in the future or strengthen your skills.

During the admission process, admission counselors also focus on non-academic achievements. Although professional students may feel that they do not have enough free time to do an extensive amount of professional activities or volunteering in the community, it is a college admission must. There are 168 hours in a week. Do you lead a particular professional group within your school? Were you in charge of a new initiative that just rolled out? Have you spent time as a mentor teacher? Making time for these kinds of activities will not only make you stand out in the admission process, but it will also make you are more well-rounded person.

Additionally, if you are applying to a graduate education program, you want to make sure that you research the program before applying to it. Find out what the program focuses on. Be sure to build that kind of experience into your application. If they host programs in the community, take the time to learn about it and see how your past experience can benefit that program. You want to make the admissions office be able to picture you in the program. Graduate education programs tend to also want to know what professional experience you have had. Go through your resume and decide what projects you want to highlight in your application.

How can a Candidate Make Themselves Stand Out?

Separating oneself from a crowd of applications should be your goal when completing your admission application. Admission counselors are reading through many applications, and overtime, even those with great grades will get lost in the pile if they all seem to be the same. Admissions candidates need to look at the mission and goals of the universities that they are applying to and creatively link their experience – academic and non-academic – to them.

Personal experience and stories of how one has overcome challenges in his/her life are always intriguing for those reading through essays. Reflect back on both the positives and negatives that you have had in your life. Showing your strengths may be easier than you would think by telling them about something that you have experienced. The personal essay section of the application is the place to show who you are in the most interesting way possible.

When trying to stand out amongst graduate education applications, the applicant needs to emphasize past experiences that has made them want to further their education. Detail a story that of when you may have interacted with a teacher or student who influenced your decision to go back to school. How did that experience change or impact your future plans? Explain how you will bring your previous experiences into the courses, which will benefit other students in the classes. Graduate education programs focus on a specific area in the education world. Showing, through your application, how you fit in it will make your application very competitive.

Other Things to Consider

While working through the application, there are other things that one must consider. Be sure to see if there are specific entrance exams that you need to submit your application, such as the GRE. These entrance exams may not be given all of the time, therefore, be sure that you get them done early so that you can submit your application on time. Furthermore, prepare yourself for these tests. If colleges are requiring them, they are going to look at the scores. Do not think that you can just go in on that day, take the test, and get a good grade.

Ready yourself for a possible interview. Admission offices may decide that they want to interview you. Be sure to research your program and the school. Ask someone you trust to do a mock interview with you. This will help you get rid of the nerves that may occur on that day. Consider how much the university emphasizes professional accomplishments. Speak with your previous employers and colleagues to gather their ideas on how you were successful when you worked with them. Think about challenges you may have overcome and be able to list qualities about yourself that helped you with these barriers. The more self-reflection you do before you begin the application process, the easier it will be to make yourself stand out from the crowd.

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