Obviously when applying to these prestigious institutions and programs you must give your absolute best, and you can start as early as you like with your personal development and experience. Here are three guiding concepts to bear in mind as you make these choices.
1. Develop a Niche
If you’ve heard the phrase “jack of all trades, master of none,” this is particularly true in competitive college admissions. In college, you plan to pursue excellence and mastery of a specialized field, correct? It’s in your best interest to concentrate your attention on your intended field as early and as much as possible. We hear all the time that people are meant to be “well-rounded”. It sounds good, but that’s the same as knowing a little about a lot of things, rather than knowing a lot about one or two things.
These institutions are looking for potential students who will be successful in their programs. How will you demonstrate your abilities if you appear simply mediocre in many areas, rather than advanced in your desired field? As with your admissions essay, you want your resume or curriculum vitae to stand out. You want it to be memorable. Invest your time and energy in courses and experiences that further your ultimate goals.
2. Don’t Expect Results Overnight
True professionals, true masters of their craft will invariably tell you that excellence is not easily achieved. You WILL need to put in the work. Consider this quote from Malcolm Gladswell: “The 10,000-hours rule says that if you look at any kind of cognitively complex field, from playing chess to being a neurosurgeon, we see this incredibly consistent pattern that you cannot be good at that unless you practice for 10,000 hours, which is roughly ten years, if you think about four hours a day.”
You will need to put in the work to convince these institutions that you deserve their assistance and resources in order to work even harder – at becoming a professional in your field. You are improving your chances at turning your passion into your career. And remember, there’s nothing wrong with being “pointy” instead of “well-rounded.” “Pointy” is passionate. “Pointy” is driven.
3. Understand What Universities Value
Colleges know that prospective students (and their parents) research rankings. Reputation matters to these schools, and therefore, you need to offer value to them. Your application should show them how you will add to their community.
In addition, schools are looking to maintain or improve their yield. Once admission is offered to a student, it improves their yield when that student actually enrolls. This factors into an institution’s reputation. This is why “demonstrated interest” is important – school representatives are encouraged by your attention and sincerity when you engage in conversation with them. This can be at a college fair, in your application and correspondence, during a campus tour, etc. They will know when your interest is not genuine, and they know that prospective students are researching multiple schools at once. When you demonstrate your interest in a school, be sincere.
Lastly, your standardized test scores matter here too. If your scores are higher than the school’s average, you raise their average. Inversely, if your scores are lower than the school’s average, you may lower theirs and therefore are considered a liability, which they will avoid offering admission to.
Obviously, these tips are not something that you can begin your senior year of high school after perusing a few colleges online. If you review tip #2, preparing early can be to your benefit. If you know what your passion is, if you know what drives you, then you can channel that into your class selections, volunteer opportunities, internships, summer activities, etc. Prepare yourself to give yourself the best chance of acceptance.
About the author:
Kristen Moon is an independent college counselor and founder of MoonPrep.com. Moon Prep provides one-on-one tutoring services catered to university admissions. They guide students through the entire application process including: completing applications, personal statements, supplemental essays, student resumes, scholarships, and financial aid. Their specialty lies in the Ivy League, direct medical programs (BS/MD), and highly competitive universities.