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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)

Stand Out in College Admissions with an Application Theme

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:



Application volumes to elite colleges continue to increase more and more every year, so standing out from the rest of the applicant pool can be a challenging thing. Therefore, creating a cohesive and compelling story is one of the best and most important first steps that you can take in your college admissions journey.


Whether you’re just getting started with the college admissions process or you’re well on your way, crafting a strong application theme will help you put your best foot forward and impress the admissions officers who read your application. 


What is an Application Theme?


An application theme is integral to your college application because it helps tie everything together. Your college application is a big deal, and there are so many components for an admissions officer to keep track of – such as essay questions, short answer questions, your extracurricular profile, and your letters of recommendation. This is why there should be a common theme that runs through all parts of your application. 


When an admissions officer gets up from their desk after having reviewed your application, they should be able to summarize who you are in a single sentence. This one sentence, also known as your application theme, provides a narrative thread to your application and brings together all of the different aspects of who you are. 


Why is an Application Theme Important?


An application theme is important because it creates a memorable profile. When the admissions officer finishes reading your application, they should know who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and what is important to you. This will make it easier to vouch for you as a valuable asset to their school’s incoming class. Your application theme should encompass your life experiences, your strengths and values, and even your future plans. 


An increasing number of students are looking to stand out from the crowd, so your application theme should also set you apart from people whose academic interests, extracurricular list, and essays appear more random and disconnected. That is why it is important to start thinking about your application theme as soon as possible. It should guide which classes you enroll in, which extracurriculars you participate in, and which extracurriculars you plan to prioritize and put all of your energy into. Your goal is to create this narrative that encompasses your high school experiences and highlights the things that make you special.


How Can You Use an Application Theme?


The best application themes create a powerful narrative. They should be able to be applied to multiple elements of a student’s school and personal life, and the student should be able to reflect on how these experiences have affected their values and future goals. 


Whether you are trying to craft your application theme, 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.