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by Jessica Brondo of The Edge | March 10, 2009

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If you're a senior, you're well into the college application process by now. At this point, you should be finalizing your list of schools to which you will be applying and should be getting started with your applications. There isn't much time left to add much to your resume without having it look self-serving rather than genuine, so you really want to focus on the application itself For starters:

Go visit (as many times as you can)

You want your dream school to know it's your dream school. To do so, you need to convince the school that you know what sets it apart from other schools and that you have specific reasons why you want to attend. The best way to prove this is by visiting the school as many times as you can. Each time you visit, check in with the admissions office and fill out a card so that they have a record of your visit. At the same time, make sure to maximize each visit. Try to sit in on a class in a department that you are interested in and possibly speak with the professor after class. If you are interested in sports or a specific extracurricular, it is a great idea to meet with people from that group to discuss the specifics of the opportunities. Some schools even offer overnight visits during which you can stay with an undergraduate and really get the feel for the campus.

Make sure your recommendations are stellar

Many students overlook the importance of outstanding recommendations and merely approach any teacher in whose class they did well. However, you should really give the selection of your recommender a bit more thought, as this is a great avenue to further personalize your application. Choose teachers or administrators who know you well and can speak about specific instances to illustrate your talent. Don't select a teacher just because of a title. A lot of students choose a title over familiarity because they think that it will bolster their application; but in reality, the best person to choose is the person who knows you best and can attest to all your amazing qualities.

Personalize your essay

Think of your essay as a reflection of you as a person. It is the one part of the application where you can really give the reader a glimpse into who you are as a person. Avoid using your essay as a brag sheet for your resume. Instead, aim for is a "slice of life" piece that illustrates the unique qualities that make you an appealing candidate for that particular university. Emphasize showing the reader who you are and not telling. For example, rather than start a sentence with "I am a leader because ..." tell a story that depicts exactly why you are a leader.

The essay does not have to be all-encompassing of all of your qualities. Last year, one of my students--who is now at Princeton University--wrote a particularly poignant essay on why his favorite color is blue. Try to be creative and choose a topic that completely showcases who you are as person so that the reader can differentiate you from the countless other students with similar grades and test scores.

Request an interview (or two)

Studies have shown that students who interview have a better chance of being admitted than those who do not interview; and students who interview twice are admitted at an even higher percentage than those who do one. That being said, it’s in your best interest to interview with your dream school. While some people get really nervous about interviewing, an interview is a great way to paint an even more vivid picture of who you are to the school.

Most schools conduct alumni interviews, for which you will meet with an alumnus/a from the school in your hometown, or on-campus interviews, for which you will meet with an admissions officer on-campus. In some cases, you can do both and if they offer you both, you should always say yes.

The goal of most interviews is twofold: to get a better idea of who you are as a person to determine if you would be a good fit for the school, and to give you a better idea of the school and what makes it unique and wonderful. So interviewing benefits both you and the school. Make sure to practice for any interviews before going, either with your guidance counselor, a parent or a private admissions counselor like we have at The Edge.

Apply for awards/scholarships

Another thing you can do to boost your brag sheet as a senior is apply for awards and scholarships through your school and/or community. Even if you do not hear back about the awards before you submit your applications, they can still make it on to a mid-year report that all schools request from students’ guidance counselors. In that report, your guidance counselor can update the schools on any new additions to your brag sheet. While reporting any awards you’ve received will boost your application, reporting falling grades can hurt you. So don't let senioritis get too dire and maintain top grades throughout the first semester.

The most important thing about any application is to convey why you feel you are a perfect fit for the school to which you are applying and to specify exactly what it is you like about the school.

For more information on the college admissions process and test preparation issues, visit The Edge online at www.edgeincollegeprep.com or call us today at (877) 499-EDGE to inquire about our current programs.

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