After you’ve decided where you want to apply to college, the next step is to actually fill out the application materials. 456 colleges use the Common Application, an application that you can fill out online and submit to multiple colleges. However, UT-Knoxville doesn’t use the Common App, nor do many other colleges in Tennessee. Make sure to check out your colleges’ requirements before starting any application.
Most applications, including the Common App, consist of several parts: basic information, like your name; academic information, which includes your transcript of classes and grades; standardized test scores; and financial information. It’s important that you fill out every part of the application to the best of your ability. For example, if you’re specifically asked for both your SAT score and your ACT score, make sure you provide both.
Some colleges might ask for a letter of recommendation from a teacher. Always give the teacher at least three weeks’ notice before the application is due. This will ensure that your teacher will have time to write something meaningful. Some high schools even have policies stating that you must give a teacher a certain amount of time to write the letter. Respect your teachers’ time by following those guidelines.
In addition to the application form, colleges will usually ask you for an "essay" or a "personal statement" that helps them to get to know you as more than a standardized test score or a GPA. These essays are important because they provide you with an opportunity to show college admissions officers who you really are. However, the essay-writing process can be daunting; it's hard to look at a blank sheet of paper and plan out a concise and meaningful essay. Here are some tips to help you on your way.
- Before you begin writing, brainstorm a list of topics you feel passionately about. What extracurricular activities have you participated in, and how have they changed you as a person? What life experiences have helped to shape your outlook on life? These are not easy questions, so don't feel discouraged if the brainstorming process is slow. Obviously, as a TSA member, one viable option is to write about your experience in TSA.
- If you are asked to answer a specific prompt, ensure that your essay actually answers the question posed in the prompt. An off-topic essay, even one that is well-written, will almost certainly hurt your chances of impressing admissions officers.
- If you are asked to write a "personal statement," your options are wide-open. However, you should not use the personal statement as a resume that lists every single activity you have participated in during high school. Instead, pick a single topic that you think best represents you, and make it as meaningful as you can.
- Write about something you are passionate about. Sure, "National Merit Semifinalist" may sound impressive, but does it really represent who you are as a person? Admissions officers read thousands of essays, so they're good at distinguishing between pompous, hokey and passionately-written essays.
- Most of the time, your essay will be limited to roughly 500 words. Don't waste space with unnecessary detail! Keep your writing concise and clear.
- When you're finished with your first draft, ask one of your favorite teachers to review and critique it. They may be able to correct grammatical errors or offer suggestions on your writing.
Since you can’t possibly pass or fail a college interview, don’t be nervous! Just make some basic preparations and remember some simple manners before going in. Because your interviewer should be treated with respect at all times, you should demonstrate that by dressing nicely. Avoid casual clothing and messy hair. ALWAYS be on time. If you have any doubts of your ability to be timely, arrive early; make a great first impression. When you speak to the interviewer, remember to be polite, respond conversationally, and to be yourself. Never try to be someone you are not, because usually it doesn’t end well. Lastly, be confident, but not arrogant. Present yourself well, but don’t push it over the limits. With these tips, your interview will start and end well!
We hope that you’ve found these tips helpful in your college application process. Remember that many people are involved in the process- teachers, guidance councilors, admissions officers, and interviewers. Be sure to respect their time and energy, and you can’t go wrong. Next month, we’ll finish our three-part blog on colleges with a discussion on how to select classes that play off of the skills you have learned through TSA. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, be sure to post them below!