General principles

  1. College application basics: crash course
  2. The prime directive of college applications
  3. The overlapping jigsaw puzzle
  4. What makes an application impressive?
  5. The philosophical side and the spirit of action

College application basics: crash course

  • Timeline for everything: asking teachers/counselor for recommendations, submitting recommendations, requesting transcript, drafting essays polishing essays, submitting essays, supplements
  • Most early action deadlines are November 1, most regular action deadlines are around December 31. Give specifics UCs or end of November. Priority for Harvard and Princeton is December 1. Table deadlines?
  • Set each deadline a day early! Of course, plan to have the application done before then, but submitting at the last minute is a nightmare because website sometimes go down, and time zone confusion often causes problems. Also, you always wish you had one more day to fix that last comma error in your application. Schedule it.
  • Note: the University of California system, for instance goes on almost every year. They actually end up extending the deadline date, but don’t push it.
  • Explanation early action versus restrictive early action versus early decision
  • You need 3 recommendations for most colleges – 2 teacher (from different subject areas), one counselor. One optional additional letter is allowed (e.g. employer, mentor). More information: see Letters of Recommendation section
  • Choosing schools to apply to. Safety, likely, reach. Make a spreadsheet or use online software such as Naviance that comes with school. Include spreadsheet template with college

Tips and tricks

The prime directive of college applications

Make admissions officers think you are interesting/cool/exuberant/funny/upstanding individual -- a person they would want to go on a cross-country or road trip with, as well as a smart and effortlessly multitalented person.

Also, remember as you embark on your voyage of composition and self-discovery:
"Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth, without caring two pence how often it has been told before, you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it." - C.S Lewis

The overlapping jigsaw puzzle—efficiently conveying all facets of yourself

  • Between the structure and content of your essays, convey as many facets of yourself as possible while filling in details of a general theme or storyline.
  • Fill in any gaps with interview when possible.
  • Substantiate bold claims and central components of your application with extracurriculars/awards / achievements and supplementary material mailed in/online.
  • Letters of recommendation further support these points and also convey your caring, passionate, and dedicated character while speaking to your effortless intelligence/strengths.
  • Shore up tragic flaws/serious weaknesses; there are no buts -- you are accepted or not accepted.
  • Principle: it’s easier to be well-rounded than well-lopsided. Don’t fail the easy stuff.

What makes an application impressive? The Failed Simulation Principle

In short, if you can get the admissions officers to ask themselves "How the heck did did a high school student do that?" you've made yourself an interesting applicant. It's not about getting perfect grades and scores all the time; if you accomplish something genuinely beneficial and out of the ordinary, you're golden.

The spirit of action

  • On awards and achievements, black belts and tournament, victories, achievements, acceptances:
    • Whether or not you get accepted to the college of your dreams, you will still be awesome person you have discovered yourself to be and made yourself through the process of writing your applications
    • "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." ~Theodore Roosevelt
    • That said, it's more fun to succeed than to fail. So do you have to really want to get into college? Do you have to be readily open-minded, excited, nonjudgmental, and prepared to delve into the deepest parts of your present and past self to find the keys that will unlock your future?
      • Absolutely. Get pumped. See Mindset section under essays