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College Application Strategies

College Application Strategies

Prepare Your College Application for Success

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “In fall 2015, some 20.2 million students are expected to attend American colleges and universities, constituting an increase of about 4.9 million since fall 2000.”1 As admissions committees face an increased number of applications, it’s more important than ever to position your college application for success. But how can you set yourself apart from the multitude of applicants?

Follow these five strategies to make your college application stand out:

1. Be Thorough

Many people adopt a shorter version of their legal name, or go by their middle name. Before you begin your application, decide what name you’ll use. Then, remain consistent throughout every form. Switching names – for example, going from Jenny to Jen to Jennifer – increases the chance your application will get misfiled.

A thorough application is also error free. Incorrect information, grammatical errors, and incomplete forms will hinder college acceptance. When your college application is complete, set it aside to proofread with fresh eyes the next day. Ask a parent, teacher, or counselor to review your application – including your essay – before submitting.

2. Tell Your Story

What sets you apart from other talented candidates? The essay portion of a college application is an opportunity to voice your answer. When choosing a topic, keep in mind you don’t need to have reached the top of a mountain, scored the winning goal, or started your own company. The goal of your essay is to help admissions committees grasp who you are, the challenges you’ve overcome, and how your background will move their campus community forward.

Tell your own story. Share your unique personality, interests, and background. Don’t shy away from discussing bad grades, a rocky school history, or a learning difference. Use these topics to show how far you’ve come and highlight where you are now. The best way to stand out is to be yourself.

3. Submit Early

Colleges and universities receive a high number of applications the day they’re due. This makes it difficult for applications to stand out and for admissions committees to determine if their school is your first choice.

Distinguish yourself by applying as early as possible. Set a deadline for filling out forms, completing your essay, and receiving recommendations three or more weeks before they’re due. This will allow you time to review your materials for accuracy and submit them before the flood of other applications.

4. Alert Your School

You must let your high school admissions office know which colleges or universities you’re applying to so they can send your transcripts on time. This commonly forgotten step leaves most applicants scrambling at the last minute.

It’s also beneficial to relay where you’re applying to anyone writing a letter of recommendation for you. This information will help them compose a focused letter and mail it to the correct location.

5. Get Confirmation

Applications are accepted via internet submissions and traditional mail. If you apply online, make sure you receive an automated message verifying the receipt of your application. If you mail your application, call two weeks after the mail date to confirm your materials arrived.

Keep copies of every piece of every application you submit. Additionally, save identification numbers and passwords to online application accounts you create. This will save you time and eliminate stress should any issues arise as you complete and submit numerous applications.

Additional Tips for Stand-Out Applications

  • Don’t let bad grades hold you back. While several factors play a role in college acceptance, your grades are one of the most important. But don’t stress if you have a low GPA – it’s never too late to improve grades. Check out our tips to transform your high school transcript for college acceptance.
  • Don’t forget your extracurricular resume. Grades, test scores, and essays are not the only factors used in admission decisions. In order to grow a college community, admissions committees look for involved, motivated students. Your extracurricular resume will reveal your passions, leadership experience, and the impact you’re going to make.
  • Manage your online profiles. If a college or university is interested in you, they’ll check your social media profiles. Make sure your Facebook, Twitter, and other social accounts display the person you want colleges to see.

At GRA, we’re passionate about students pursuing higher education and make it our goal to align each young man with multiple college options. Our Dean of Academics, Guidance, and College Placement, Melissa Nipper, works with each student and his family to devise a college application plan and work with them through the entire admissions process to reach the best possible outcome.

Discover how GRA students are transforming their education and achieving their ultimate goal: college acceptance.


1 National Center for Education Statistics. “Back to School Statistics.” Accessed October 15, 2015.

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