This summer I spent a good chunk of time writing about my college search. I used my own search as a vehicle (cautionary tale?) to share some advice to help you frame your own search as a process of reflection. Now that our application is open, I will rely on my experience as an admission professional to help you think about the act of applying to college as… you guessed it, a process of reflection.
I consider myself lucky to have spent my entire career at colleges that use a holistic admission process. Is this a familiar term to you? My colleague Susan defines holistic application reading here. Let me share my own definition here. As an admission officer, I have two responsibilities:
- To bring the faculty at Olin an academically prepared student body who demonstrate the potential to learn and grow and be productive members of Olin’s classrooms. (This often comes from the more objective pieces of your application: grades, test scores, curriculum, etc.)
- To create the intentional community that is Olin. (I mentioned in a previous post that schools can seem similar on paper, but are truly not the same in person. It’s the creation of these intentional communities through the holistic admission process that creates the unique vibe you feel on campus or when you meet a current student or an alum. That’s why getting to know you through the more subjective parts of your application- such as essays, recommendations, and resumes- is important. We need to get to know you the person along with you the student).
For us, the unnamed application readers, to get to know you through your application, you need do a bit of reflection. How?
Application Advice #1: Don’t repeat yourself. Before you sit to write any piece of a college application, think of the application as a complete package. We will learn about you through your essays, list of activities, your transcript, your recommendations, your testing if required, possibly an interview or portfolio, etc. There are many opportunities for you to share something with us; take full advantage of your application by not repeating similar content in multiple places. When I read an application where the activities list is about soccer… and the essay is about soccer… and then the supplemental Olin essays are about soccer, too, I get to the end of the application thinking… so, they like soccer… what else? You are more than one activity or one career direction or one experience. Maximize what we can learn about you by really utilizing all the different pieces of the application so that as a whole, they reveal the multi-dimensional person you are.