The best thing you can do to better your chances of admission is to be authentically yourself.
Admissions officers say that the best applicants are those whose personality shines through. They read thousands of applications, so they can usually tell when someone is not being completely truthful. Melea Tejedas, Assistant Director for Portland Metro Recruitment for the University of Oregon, says, “When students are authentically themselves through the admissions process, it shows. Sometimes students will write an essay, or have a conversation with us, or withhold information about themselves, thinking that it is what we want to hear- or don’t want to hear. The truth is that when a student is honest and open about who they are, it shows. Honesty and authenticity allow us to truly connect with the student and their experiences, and to envision how they will fit on our campus. No individual is perfect, so a student attempting to portray that they are does not come across as genuine.”
Admissions officers simply want to get to know you through your application and see if the “you” who comes through resonates with them as someone who naturally will fit into their community. No college wants a freshman class filled with identical students, so there is not a particular profile they want. Instead they are looking for what you bring to the campus. And what can you bring to campus that is unique? You. You and your unique perspective.
How do you do this? Through a thoughtful college list, a personal essay, and an application that reflects your unique qualities.
First and foremost, rather than try to fit the mythical perfect profile for a particular college, find colleges that fit you...as you are, right now, at your core. Fill your list with schools that interest you, whether it is their programs, atmosphere, or activities. Find colleges where you can see yourself – both being comfortable and having an opportunity to grow. Then, do a sanity check. Where do you fall within their historical applicant pool? Is your academic profile in the mix? Are the colleges financially feasible for you? Pursue your list of good fits, get excited, and move forward.
Second, everyone (and their brother) is telling you about the importance of the personal essay. You are told to have a clear voice. What does that even mean? Simply put, your essay should be detailed and conversational enough that it couldn’t be written by anyone else. A friend should immediately recognize it as yours (with no name attached!). It should sound like you when you read it out loud...and yes, you should read it out loud. Break grammatical rules intentionally for stylistic purposes. Use contractions. Be yourself.
Finally, fill your application with your interests and activities, but don’t pad it with irrelevant details trying to be impressive. Ms. Tejedas says, “My best advice for students is to really reflect on who you are and what makes you uniquely you. What are you proud of? What do you have to work hard at? It may not fit the picture of what you think we are looking for. But the truth is, we are looking for students who are confident in what they bring to the table, and who are willing to work to overcome their challenges – no matter what it is that they bring to the table, and no matter what those challenges are.” Your application should be an accurate representation of you, which is a good thing when your list is filled with schools that are a good fit.
You are the best you in the universe. There is not another you out there. So why would you try to be someone else? In a world filled with people trying to impress, honesty and forthrightness are refreshing. Be bold, be brave, and be authentically yourself.