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Don’t take vacation from applications

Gerald Bradshaw

Gerald Bradshaw

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Updated: July 16, 2012 6:16AM



Dear Mr. Bradshaw — School is over, and I don’t expect to find a full-time job this summer. That leaves me with a lot of free time.

Rather than waste the summer, my mother said that this would be a good chance to start planning for college applications this fall. I have signed up to take the SAT in October.

Do you have any advice on the best way to prepare for the application process? — A Senior

Dear Senior — Here are some suggestions about things to do and not do that will give you a leg up in the application process.

The fall semester of your senior year is normally the busiest in your high school career, so the more time you prepare this summer, the easier it will be to meet testing and application deadlines. The worst thing you could do is get bored with the process, which happens more often than students realize. Getting most of the mundane things out of the way before school resumes is the best way to avoid this pitfall.

Start by filling out the basic information required in the common application. The College Board starts accepting applications Aug. 1, so you don’t have a lot of time to complete them.

Explore college websites to get as much background as possible about your selected schools and the areas of study that interest you. Make a list of your extracurricular activities and see if you can find a list of essay questions from which you will choose in each school’s application process.

If possible, visit the campuses of the schools that interest you. If this isn’t possible, you will find college admissions offices more than happy to take email or phone inquiries.

Warning: Be wary about your posts on social networking sites. College admissions officers understand your need for individual expression and may never look at them, but there are exceptions, and no rule says they can’t. Be on alert for anonymous comments placed by jealous classmates. The competition can get pretty cutthroat when it comes to top colleges.

This is also a good time to clean up your email address. Names like “hotbabe” or “Ihatetests” are not going to impress the admissions office. Use your real name, or at least part of it, in your email address. This will make it easier for admissions committees to search for your correspondence.

If your name is taken, add a few numbers after it. Believe me, it really helps when the schools sort through all the emails you send. These are points that will be scored in your favor.

Be honest about your academic record, because letters of acceptance can be revoked. I know of one college that confirmed an anonymous tip that a teacher had caught a student plagiarizing an assignment in high school. This led to the student’s admissions letter being revoked.

I suspect if the applicant had disclosed the infraction, which occurred during his freshman year, explained the circumstances and detailed what he learned from the experience, there may have been a different outcome.

Essays play a pivotal role in applications. Most competitive colleges require a personal essay, and many require as many as 10 or 15. Essay answers give you a chance to tell a school something about you that is not reflected in other parts of the application.

Never leave a request for an essay blank because each one is given a score and could play a pivotal role in your acceptance.

I suggest writing about some interesting quirk that reveals a facet of your personality. I had a client who wrote about her ability to identify a song after hearing just a couple of notes. The subject was trivial, but charming, and she was accepted at a top school.

Remember, you are responsible for marketing yourself, and no one can do it for you.

Brush up on your writing skills and use this downtime to good advantage. I promise that you won’t be sorry you did.



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