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How to Build Your Killer Admissions Team
Let’s face it: applying to college is hard work. Sometimes, it may feel like no one understands what you’re going through, and that you’re in this alone. But don’t think you can’t ask for help! While you’re ultimately responsible for every component of your applications, there are still a number of people who can assist you.
This team may even include people you haven’t considered, like friends, family, other people’s parents, and your peers. Check out A User’s Guide to the Common Application for a walkthrough of the application process, and read on to learn about how you can use the aid of your admissions team.
Who Should Read Your Essay
Your essay gives colleges insight into your personality and your strengths, so how you articulate these ideas is important. While its weight can vary depending on your profile and the competitiveness and size of the college in question, as we discuss in How Important Is the College Essay?, you should still look at it as a crucial component of your application and a chance to show colleges who you are and what you will contribute to their campuses.
You can ask any number of people to read your essay and offer feedback, such as your English teacher, guidance counselor, peers, family, and alumni from the college in question. They may be able to tell you if your essay is a good reflection of your character, provide a reader viewpoint you might not have considered, and catch grammatical or writing errors (your English teacher may be especially helpful on that final point). Show your essay to as many people as possible, so you’re not missing any biases or possible misreadings of your essay.
However, it is important to keep the feedback you receive in perspective, since these people don’t necessarily know the ins and outs of the admissions process, and may not know what the admissions committee wants to see. Check out Whom Should I Ask for Help with My College Essay? for more ideas. If you’re looking for help from someone with a deeper understanding of college admissions, CollegeVine’s experts can help you craft a stellar essay from ideation to execution through our Essay Editing program.
Who Should Write Your Letters of Recommendation
While your references should be the ones writing your letters of recommendation, you should be there to assist them along the way, since they are, after all, doing you a favor. Ask them in person to write your letters instead of over email, and be polite and courteous in your request. Make sure to convey your gratitude, and walk them through the process. Don’t forget the crucial step of writing your recommenders thank you notes after they submit their letters.
While most schools will specifically ask for teacher and guidance counselor recommendations, you can also submit additional letters from anyone who can provide a character reference. This might include someone for whom you have worked or a volunteer leader you worked under. Be sure to avoid asking family members for recommendations; colleges know they will be biased. A caveat, though—if a college specifically asks you not to submit additional letters, then don’t. You don’t want to seem like you can’t follow instructions.
For more advice on recommendation letters, read What Makes a Good Recommendation Letter?
Who Should Help with Your Transcript
Your transcript is the part of your application with which you will likely have the least involvement, since your guidance counselor is the one who will send it to colleges. Just make sure he or she knows exactly where you are applying and the deadline of each school well in advance. Be sure to thank them for their assistance as well.
Who Can Help You Ace Standardized Tests
Standardized tests may seem grueling, but there are plenty of people who can help you ace them. Other students who have done well are natural choices, since they know the test and how to get a high score. Check out our Tutoring Program to learn how near-peer tutors who have aced the test can teach you strategies to do the same.
Who Can Help You with Interviews
An interview might be an optional component of your application. If you do get the chance to interview with an alum or college representative, make the most of it. You want to make sure you present your best self.
Try practicing interviewing with an alum of your high school—someone who has been through the college process and knows what kind of questions interviewers ask—or, even better, an alum of or someone who currently attends the college in question, since he or she knows exactly what the process looks like. You could also ask a teacher, guidance counselor, or family friend for help, since they have likely been through many interviews in their lives.
You should also consider your interviewer a member of your admissions team. He or she is not just there to evaluate you, but also to answer your questions and help you get a feel for the school to make sure it’s a good fit. Be sure to come prepared with a few good questions that don’t have obvious answers on the college website to show that you’ve done your research.
For more interview tips, read How to Prepare for Your College Interview.
Who Can Help You with the Rest of the Application
Your application has many components aside from the other materials we’ve discussed. You’ll need to list and describe your basic information, the majors you’re considering, any honors and awards you’ve received, and extracurricular activities, among other information. It can be helpful to have someone walk you through the process and help coordinate all the moving parts.
You may need to be proactive about seeking help, and sometimes you will need to help others help you! For instance, you may need to assist your guidance counselor with his or her recommendation. Try to develop a good relationship with this individual early on, so that when the time comes, the letter comes naturally. You can also ask your parents to assist with aspects like reading your materials and providing financial information.
How to present and package yourself may seem difficult. Be sure to check out our College Applications Guidance Program for assistance with branding yourself and managing every aspect of the process.
What You Should Take Away
The college process can be stressful and daunting, but bringing in as many people as are willing who know what they’re doing can be extremely helpful. In addition to the people we’ve mentioned, try talking to older friends or other people you know who have been through the admissions process. They are likely to have useful advice and tips for not only the process itself, but also managing your stress and taking care of yourself throughout.
Looking for help with your college applications? Check out our College Application Guidance Program. When you sign up for our program, we carefully pair you with the perfect near-peer admissions specialist based on your current academic and extracurricular profile and the schools in which you’re interested. Your personal specialist will help you with branding, essays, and interviews, and provide you with support and guidance in all other aspects of the application process.
Learn more about the program here.