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10 College Admission Hacks Every Applicant Should Know

4 Min Read
December 16, 2023

Navigating the college admissions process can feel like navigating a minefield, where strategy is key. This is where college admission hacks come into play, offering smart, insider tips not just to survive the process, but to thrive within it. These hacks are crucial as they provide practical shortcuts to making your application stand out in a sea of prospective students. 

By strategically planning every component of your application—from how you present your honors and awards to the timing of your application—you can significantly enhance your chances of landing a spot at your dream school. Let's dive into some of these game-changing tactics and learn how to apply them effectively to your college application strategy.

Utilizing the Honors Section Efficiently

With the expanded 100-character limit in the Common App's Honors section, you now have the opportunity to describe your awards more effectively. Use this space to clarify the significance of each award, such as detailing its selectivity or your specific ranking, which can give admissions officers a clearer picture of your achievements.

Correctly Reporting Your ACT Scores

It's crucial to report your highest composite ACT score from a single testing session on the Common App. This precise reporting reflects the standard most colleges use to assess your test scores, ensuring your application accurately represents your best performance on a single test date.

Dual-Use of National Merit Essays

If you're a National Merit Semifinalist, strategically reuse your main college application essay for the National Merit application. Ensure it is consistent with the formatting requirements—single-space your essay, remove any double returns between paragraphs, and indent the first word of each paragraph. This allows you to maintain the integrity of your 650-word essay while adapting it to the National Merit's more compact format, effectively streamlining your application process.

Writing Strategies for Standout Essays

Crafting essays that captivate admissions committees is about more than just answering prompts. Start with a compelling hook to grab the reader’s attention and use vivid, specific details to keep it. Structure your essay with a clear narrative that allows your personality and insights to shine through. Revise extensively, seeking feedback to refine your voice and message, ensuring that your essay not only answers the prompt effectively but also leaves a memorable impression.

Exploring Lesser-Known Program Start Dates

Consider non-traditional entry points like summer start, freshman fall abroad, or second-semester start programs. These options can significantly boost your chances of admission as they often have more availability and less competition. Indicating your willingness to start at these alternative times shows flexibility and eagerness to engage with the institution, traits that can make you a more attractive candidate to admissions officers.

Applying as a Legacy Student

If your parents attended a particular university, applying to their alma mater could substantially boost your chances of admission. Many colleges have a legacy preference, which can give you a significant edge in the admissions process. This advantage is especially pronounced at elite institutions where competition is fierce. Highlighting your family's ongoing relationship with the university not only demonstrates a sustained commitment to the school's community but may also tip the scales in your favor during the decision-making process.

Selecting the Right Major

One tactical approach in the college application process is choosing a major with lower average SAT scores. Research shows that some majors have lower entry requirements but no less prestige or potential for success. By applying for a major that typically attracts fewer students or those with lower test scores, you can increase your chances of admission. This strategy can be particularly effective at competitive schools where popular programs may be oversubscribed.

Understanding Demographic Trends

Leverage demographic data to enhance your application by choosing a major that is atypical for your demographic. For example, applying to a field which is traditionally dominated by the opposite gender or a different ethnic group can increase your desirability as a candidate, as colleges strive for diverse student bodies. This strategy can not only highlight your unique perspective but also position you as a valuable addition to the program.

Adjusting Strategies Based on Research

It’s crucial to keep your college application strategy flexible and responsive to the latest data and trends from your target schools. Continuous research into recent admissions statistics and developments within departments can provide insights that allow you to adjust your approach, ensuring your application remains competitive. For instance, if a college announces an expansion in a particular department, it might be a good time to show interest in that program.

Review and Revise

Always be ready to review and adjust your college application strategy based on the responses you receive and any new information you gather. Regularly updating your approach based on real-time feedback can make the difference between acceptance and rejection.

Utilizing these admission hacks can significantly streamline and enhance your college application process. Approach your college journey proactively and with confidence, equipped with strategies that will not only meet, but exceed the admissions committee's expectations.

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