College applications can feel overwhelming, but by using these tips, you can be sure to make the most of the process and put yourself on the track forward toward your goals.

Choose wisely to win big!

Not all colleges are the same because not all students are the same. Your personality and academic goals should guide your search for schools, whether in-state or out-of-state.  Instead of following the crowd, explore your own path by considering the following things about a school:

  • Where they rank in your subject of interest: Rankings are somewhat subjective, but it is a rough indication of the strengths of a college. You wouldn’t buy a smartphone sold by the Girl Scouts because clearly, their expertise is in delicious cookies. A similar logic follows for schools. Not every business school or teaching program is the same, so compare the quality. If a college is known for its research in medicine, it probably has funding for that research and with it, opportunities for YOU.
  • Public vs. Private: After attending both a public and a private university, I can say that there are some major differences. At the public university, I was one of hundreds sometimes, yet I realized that this gave me an urge to work harder and distinguish myself from the crowd. At my private university, I was impressed by the one-to-one time with professors, the rigor of my classes, and how my classmates really wanted to learn.

Make contact with your top colleges.

As you compile your list of schools, don’t be shy! Reach out to admissions staff. You can ask them key questions about the application process, but they can also connect you with current students or alumni. In my experience, the admissions staff has the job of selling you on the school, but current students or alumni see both positives and negatives of the experience that you should weigh as you choose whether or not to apply.

Get organized.

Google Docs is your new best friend. Set up a Google Spreadsheet to keep track of each application’s requirements and check them off as you complete them. With so many applications, it can be easy to lose track of who has received transcripts and how many letters of recommendation you need to provide.

Make your essay stand out.

Essays are your chance to stand out on your application. You can communicate how your life experiences have shaped your passions and what your academic goals are for your time in college. To hack your college essay, read this blog for great tips!

Tell your story.

Your college application should tell a complete and unified story. Even if you are a well-rounded student with many activities listed on your resume, you need to show that you clearly know what you enjoy, what you are passionate about, and what that means for your college education. Start to think of your strengths and how you would describe yourself to others. Make a list of these descriptors and refer back to them to keep your mind on track. If your experience and your passion during high school has been in community projects, drive that home on your resume and essays. If you talk about your love for investing in the community in your essay and have no experience listed on your resume, admissions will see that the two don’t align.