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College – Admissions

What sort of candidates are the college admissions committees looking for?

Everyone knows that the current buzzword floating around college admissions committees is "diversity," but how does that apply to an individual applicant? While the age-old requirement of being “well-rounded” is still a factor, colleges are now looking not for students with the longest, most varied list of extracurricular activities, but for students who are individuals with distinct personalities and a clear ability to add something to a college community. You don’t have to be a member of a relatively unrepresented ethnic minority or socioeconomic class to contribute to diversity; you just have to have something more than good grades and high test scores (which you can assume most applicants will have).

Are you a figure skater? Do you write music? Are you politically active? Do you have unusually strong convictions about something? Have you made your mark on your community at home in some way? These are the things you want to communicate to the admissions officers, through your interview and especially through your essay. And if your grades or your test scores are not what the committee might expect them to be, the essay is a good opportunity to explain why this might be or what makes up for it. Your essay will make the difference between an average application and an outstanding one, so don’t underestimate how important it is. The presentation of the essay can also determine if the committee sees you as a sloppy person who doesn’t care about their work, or a clear-minded person who attends to detail.

The best thing to do is to have several people look over your essay at its various stages, and ideally have a professional editor give you advice and feedback on how to improve both the content and the presentation. Remember, though, that however much we help you, the best essay in the world may not make up for sub-par test scores, so you should be careful to prepare for your standardized tests as well as you can. Practice tests are sold in most bookstores, and there are numerous sources online for test preparation help.

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