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Duke University
Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How to Create a Story with Your College Application

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Sophie Alina in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.


What’s Covered:



Crafting a strong application theme is a crucial part of the college application process. It will help you tie together your academic and extracurricular interests and highlight your value to the admissions officers who read your application. 


However, there are so many components to a strong college application that it can be difficult to know where to start. In this article, you will learn how to incorporate all aspects of your application – academic interests, extracurricular profile, essays, and letters of recommendation – into a consistent and compelling theme.


Focus on Your Academic Interests


One important aspect to consider when crafting your application theme is your academic interests or career goals. A strong application theme has a high school transcript that reflects the student’s academic talents, interests, and goals for the future. 


If you took several math and science classes, then your theme might highlight your passion for technology or how you want to pursue a career in engineering. If you are interested in the environment, you might plan to take AP Environmental Science or other science classes that will demonstrate your passion for learning about the environment or climate change. Your high school courses should showcase your strengths and interests in a way that aligns with your application theme.


Strengthen Your Extracurricular Profile


Your application theme should also be supported by your extracurricular profile. Most students participate in too many unrelated extracurriculars and are not able to explain their interest in the activities. For example, you might be in a video game design club, serve on student council, and participate in soccer. While it’s great to include all of these activities in your college application, you can strengthen your application by ordering those activities by relevance to your theme. The first extracurricular should correspond with your theme the most. This way, the admissions officers can recreate your theme by simply reading your list of extracurricular activities. 


Additionally, as an underclassman it can be extremely impressive to sign up for or even found a club that is in the realm of this theme. For example, if you are interested in environmental sustainability, you might create a club that promotes sustainability in your school, and by your senior year it should be one of the most prominent clubs at the top of your extracurricular profile.


Tell Your Story Through Compelling Essays 


Your college essay is a great place to start elaborating on your application theme. Many essay questions ask students to talk about how their extracurricular activities have impacted their life and plans for the future. 


For example, you may be involved in math honor society and may also have an interest in teaching. To combine these interests in math and help other students you began tutoring math within your school or community. These activities would be great to highlight in your college application essays, as this demonstrates your interest in math, commitment to service, and leadership ability. College essays provide a rich space to elaborate on important extracurricular experiences and how they have shaped your goals and values. 


Secure the Perfect Recommendation Letters


When thinking about who to ask to write your recommendation letters, it is important to consider asking people who will be able to speak to your strengths and extend the application theme you have created. For example, if you are interested in pursuing a degree in Chemical Engineering, it is logical for you to ask your math teacher, chemistry teacher, or even a mentor from an engineering club. 


It is also crucial that your teachers know about the application theme you are trying to create so that they are able to write a persuasive letter that compliments your theme. This is really powerful because it shows cohesion between all parts of your application. 


To guide your recommenders, you should give them a copy of your transcript and a resume, which should include a list of relevant hobbies and extracurricular activities. In addition to these, your school may ask you to provide them with an extra form with information about your interests, family life, and future goals, including the type of college you want to attend, what you plan to major in, and your intended career path. This is all information that can make it easier for your teacher to craft a strong recommendation letter that supports and strengthens your overall application theme.


Tying it All Together


Whether you’re only a freshman in high school or a senior beginning to think about essays, determining a strong application theme will help you put your best foot forward in the college admissions process. The most important thing to remember is to be authentic when discussing your values and passions. A clear and genuine application theme that reflects who you are will help your narrative to shine amongst the other applications.


Whether you are trying to craft your application, edit your essays, or organize your college application process, CollegeVine is here to help! Using our college advising platform, students and parents can connect with experts for one-on-one advising sessions or essay reviews. You can get started by booking a free consultation with an expert to see if they’d be a good fit for you.