“The View From 30,000 Feet”

The stage is set in the college application process. After months, if not years, of research and preparation, you are ready to apply.

Before you actually begin to fill out any applications, take a quick look at the blank forms within the context of the admission process you are about to enter. In order to really gain perspective, imagine conducting this exercise from “30,000 feet”—a vantage point that will give you a sense of the big picture around the application process. In searching for colleges and arriving at a short list (6-8 schools), you identified your priorities and focused on defining a good fit. You have also come to understand some of the complexities of the decision-making process from the college’s point of view while learning what they want as they use the admission process to build new communities.

Now, you need to compete with hundreds if not thousands of other qualified candidates who are vying for limited places at the same colleges that interest you. The outcomes will rest less on who is most qualified and more on whom among the qualified candidates are most desirable. In order to succeed in this competition, therefore, you need to pull your credentials together into a compelling statement that reveals your value to the institution.

Indeed, your application must be your personal statement, a statement that thoughtfully and carefully weaves together each element of your recent life experience. Rather than a random collection of information, it should be a cohesive statement that says to an admission committee: “Here I am. Take me!”

So, go to 30,000 feet. Think through each element of the application to understand why and how it will be considered by admission committees. What thoughts and feelings will be elicited by the information you provide? How are your passions and interests being revealed? As you develop insight into what the sum of your credentials has to say about the person you are becoming, you also gain perspective into how your talents, interests and achievements need to come together to shape the theme of your application.

As you descend from 30,000 feet, you are better prepared to make your statement. Take stock of your “hooks” (points of distinction). Consider the manner in which they might be best communicated in the various “hotspots” (places admission officers look first for key information) on your application? Then put together an application that tells your story.

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