College Application Tips

Kiefer Kettenis, Staff Writer

“So, what do you think you’ll major in? What schools are you looking at? How many are you applying to?” Seniors have been bombarded with these questions for the past few years, stress mounting with each terrifying proposition. Well, the time has come where seniors are expected to know how to respond. Application deadlines are approaching rapidly, with early action for IU and Purdue due on November 1. So how can you give yourself the best chance of getting into those schools you’ve been interrogated about?


Tip 1: Apply to schools with a variety of acceptance rates.

Many people hear the names of prestigious schools and set their sights on them, but the reality is many schools are incredibly hard to get into, even for the most accomplished students. When applying to colleges, it is best to have one to three ‘safety schools’, or schools that you are confident you can get into. For most, this is a school with upwards of a 70 percent acceptance rate. After safety schools, it is good to apply to some midrange schools that you are drawn to. These are schools around 50 percent acceptance for most, where getting in is a toss up. Finally, you can apply to a few reach schools, or schools that it is very difficult to get into. This strategy means that you always have options even if you don’t get into your dream school. It is good to apply to between five and 12 schools in total.


Tip 2: If you have the opportunity, visit schools you are considering applying to.

Sometimes a name or program can cause people to assume a school is a good fit for them and their interests. The reality is it’s very difficult to feel the atmosphere of a college without visiting in person or going on a virtual tour. Seeing the campus and the students out and about can reveal a lot about a school, and possibly be enough to cross a school you thought you would love off your list, or even add a school you had no interest into your consideration. Almost every school offers virtual tours if going to visit in person isn’t feasible. 


Tip 3: Write your CommonApp Essay about something you don’t talk about in other parts of your application.

Many people have a hobby or activity that they explain in their application and want to write about for their CommonApp essay. If there is a unique story relating to the activity then it could be alright to write about, but in general the college admissions staff will already know about your involvement in the thing you are writing about. It is best to write about something that is not really addressed in the rest of your application, so that your CommonApp essay gives you a new dimension and gives the people reading through your application new information.


Tip 4: Be smart about how many hours you put under each activity in the CommonApp.

In the CommonApp activities section, each activity asks how many hours you spend a week, weeks spent per year, and the years of high school you spend participating in the activity. Many students exaggerate time spent on an activity to make it seem like they were busier or more involved than they really were. This strategy can lead to very suspicious amounts of time spent on extracurriculars. As a general rule, you should never say you spend 52 weeks a year on an activity, as almost no activity is truly yearlong. On the other hand, you don’t want to sell yourself short and not give yourself as many hours as you really spend doing something; colleges are looking for where all your time went. The key is finding a balance where you accurately relate your time while being reasonable.


Tip 5: Don’t stress too much!

It can be overwhelming thinking about college and the future, and the frequent deadlines and high expectations of those surrounding you can be stressful. It is important to remember that no matter what school you end up attending, you will always find opportunities and experiences that will make it worth your time. Every school has upside, and college can be what you make of it. Good luck!