5 (Actually Useful) College Application Tips

Whether you're starting to feel the pressure of college application season already or you're still early in your high school career and won't be applying for many months to come, you can never be too prepared when it comes to these ever-so-important submissions.

Still, you shouldn't stress yourself out too hard over it—so sit back, get excited about your future and check out some of these (actually useful, realistic) college application tips:

1. Get Personal

What's your biggest selling point when it comes to college applications? You! Remember that the people going through these applications have seen and read it all, so they probably don't want to hear yet another rambling story about how your family inspires you or how you want to make a difference in the world—unless, of course, you really get personal with it. Look deep at the essay questions on your applications and think outside of the box when it comes to how you answer them. This is your chance to stand out, and one way to do this is by tugging at the heartstrings of your reader. Think long and hard about why you want to attend this school, why you deserve it and what it would mean for your future, and use that as inspiration in your writing.

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2. Market Yourself and Your Experience

Even if you coasted your way through school without a top-notch GPA, joining tons of clubs or participating in sports or other extracurricular activities, that doesn't mean you don't have experience that you can talk up on your application. The key here is in knowing how to market yourself, and the best way to do that is to think about your "personal brand." For example, if you worked a summer job in food service, you can market how that gave you experience in knowing the value of money, the pain of struggling for a work-life-school balance, the importance of time management and how people treat others in a work environment (come on, who hasn't had an unnecessarily rude customer or boss at least once?). Whatever experience you have, find a way to extract some skills and personal growth details and be sure to use them smartly within your application.


3. Don't Get Stuck on One 'Dream School'

Most of us have that one university that we think of as our "dream school," whether that be because of a gorgeous campus, endless amenities, esteemed sports, a great program in a subject you're interested in or just a location. Whatever your reasons for prioritizing this one school may be, though, try not to get stuck on the idea of attending it just in case you somehow don't get in. By that, we mean you should apply to at least a few "backup schools" that would still suit you and tick most of the boxes on your list of dream school desires, and that you shouldn't get too upset if you don't get accepted. It also means that you shouldn't skimp on effort when applying to these backup schools, either, as you never know which one might end up being your future home if you go about it the right way.

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4. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread

One of the quickest ways to get your application placed in the wrong pile when it's being judged on the other side is by having it filled with plenty of typos, mistakes or grammatical errors. Even if writing isn't your strong suit, you can do your best to avoid potentially rejection-worthy mistakes by proofreading as much (and in as many different ways) as possible. You could even have a parent, trusted friend or possibly even a teacher read over your application letter for you for best results, as they might catch something that you happened to miss.


5. Get Those Letters of Recommendation

Impressing your teachers might not be at the top of your priority list when it comes to school, but it is time to start thinking about which ones you might be able to get a letter of recommendation out of. That doesn't mean you should start sucking up to all of them, but it also doesn't mean that you can go up to just any of them and assume that they'll be happy to take the time out to write something that could have a direct impact on your future. If there's a certain teacher you feel most comfortable with or who has noted on your personal progress or determination before, that might be a good start. If you can't think of anyone, it's definitely time to start being a little nicer to those teachers (by the way, it doesn't matter if it's your AP calculus teacher or the drama teacher who lets you nap in their classroom every lunch period, just whoever will actually write one out for you).

Shutterstock: Female Student Talking To High School Counselor

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When in doubt though, don't stress too hard about college applications. After all, you still have to focus on getting through high school in order to make it to college, right? With that said, keep these tips in mind as you take those applications head-on and simply write with your heart—the right school will be able to see your value so long as you put in the effort.

And if you need a little extra help, we've got your back. Just click HERE for some college application advice not to take, or for some application mistakes you didn't realize you might be making, click HERE.