College Admissions Guidance

Blog posts about college admissions topics such as essays, extracurriculars,  planning, mental health, etc.

The post-COVID admissions strategy

application strategy demonstrated interest essays extracurricular activities senior year Apr 28, 2021
I know sound like a broken record when I bring up the 6-point evaluation admissions criteria. But this time, though the dimensions are the same, the way they are evaluated has changed subtly or a lot, depending how you see it. Like it or now, brace for the change.  
Essays: It’s not how well-written your essay is, it’s the topic you pick. I've done. I've done a video before on the Essay topics to avoid, and those still hold true. But now focus on making the topic you do choose to be interesting. Through your essays, you are appeal directly to the AO. So don’t bore her with a predictable presentation that she already guessed from your transcripts. If the main essay is about something that is not mentioned anywhere else in the application, if it tells a new story, the AO is instantly more intrigued. A successful essay will illustrate a moment of growth or self-awareness, casting the student in a positive light while revealing his or her authentic voice. The essay is where you can show off those little secret things about you that they would otherwise never know, Admissions officers rely on them to make their most nuanced decisions.

Extracurricular Activities: Last year, pandemic school closures eliminated the clubs and sports that help students stand out from the crowd. Lockdowns took away the chance for summer jobs and internships that would have highlighted their abilities and interests. But services performed for the family or the neighborhood have just as much value, Harberson said. So do personal projects — from scientific experiments to artistic creations — undertaken when traditional activities and organizations shut down. It’s about the impact the activity has on your life and the commitment you’ve made to it. In your activity list, the qualities and skills you gained through these experiences speak to who you are.

Demonstrated interest: Optimally, a college or university wants to offer its spots to students who genuinely want to join its next class. The AO will look at a student’s track record of ‘touch points’ with the college to determine their likelihood of enrolling,” Harberson explained. In the past, that might have included whether the family took a campus tour or whether the student applied in the early-action round. But because of the pandemic, demonstrated interest is changing, Now, if a college sends an e-mail, they’ll record whether the student opened it, or whether they clicked on the link. They’ll look at whether the student took a virtual tour. A virtual visit is not the same as being there in person, but, my gosh, did that level the playing field for students coming from every economic background. The pandemic also spawned virtual college fairs, yielding a whole new series of touch points for colleges to monitor. Some AOs are definitely keeping track of who is engaged in those Zoom presentations. I’m telling my students, have your video on, look presentable at least from the waist up, and be ready to share your story. This could be a chance for you to shine.

Will write on the remaining three soon :-)


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