In light of Loughlin-gate, colleges everywhere are being heavily scrutinized for how they admit students. Which, hi, they should be! I worked for a university’s admissions office for four years, and I was absolutely horrified by what these celebrities were able to get away with. *cue Grandpa voice* In my day, it didn’t f*cking work like that. Or maybe I just wasn’t aware of that part? In any case, if you don’t have rich parents willing to commit fraud, go to prison, and waste a quarter of a million dollars on you because you’re too stupid/lazy to do it the right way, let me help you out. I have some expertise in the area of applying to college that I don’t think a lot of people are aware of. These tips apply to both undergrad and grad school, and even if they don’t work for you, doing these things definitely won’t hurt. Remember, you’re an Elle Woods, who busted her ass to be smart enough for Harvard even though her daddy could have def written her a check. Don’t be an Olivia Jade. Nobody else will tell you these secrets about applying to college—not your guidance counselor, and not one of those giant books that list every stat of every college in the U.S. that your mom forces you to pore over (or was that just my experience applying to college?). Either way, you are welcome.
1. You Need An Edge
Let’s say you did everything right. You studied hard, got good grades, and took standardized tests six f*cking times for the same relative score. (Just me?) The problem is, there are thousands of other people exactly like you who are also applying to college. Same classes, same programs, same grades, etc. So why would they pick you over them? This is where your edge comes in. It used to be enough to have a 4.0 and high test scores, and now that’s somehow the basic standard. So especially if you’re below that threshold, you need something that makes you better/different than those identical kids. For me, it was my artist portfolio, because I went to film school for animation. Grades and test-wise, I was perfectly average for my school, but being a pretty good artist pushed me to be more competitive. If you have no talent in anything (sorry), find something else to do. Do a ton of community service, especially if it’s related to your major. You can help organize some kind of charity event that you can brag about later. It’s even better if it’s relevant to your field. Like, if you’re applying for psychology, maybe volunteer at a clinic, or try to get some research gigs to pad your resume. Whatever it is, try to come up with something that makes you better than average. Your edge can also be that your daddy bought a building (ugh), but let’s hope the school at least cares that your grades are good enough to actually attend the school, too.
2. They Keep Track of Contact
This is a weird one that I’m not sure every school does, but a lot of them do. Plus, it can’t hurt. Schools keep track of how many times you contact them to gauge your interest. It reflects poorly on admissions if they send out a certain number of acceptances and most people choose somewhere else. They really like to say sh*t like, “Oooh sorry, we only have a acceptance rate.” Whatever. Anyway, they are way more likely to accept you if you seem super stoked to go there and are, in their eyes, a guaranteed acceptance. This is why you have a way better chance of getting in (it’s like 30% higher) as an early decision or early action applicant. Early decision means it’s binding (if they accept you, you have to go) so only do this for your top choice, but early action means you still get to choose, so apply early to every school that offers it. In addition, contact them as often as you can without making it weird. You have to have legit reasons. Email admissions and tell them this is your first choice school if it is. Use all of your stalking skills for good (for once) to contact the head of your program. Tell them how much you want to be there for specific reasons (that you then list out). Go on a tour at the campus. Set up an interview if possible. Anything that is attached to your name will be logged, and this can very much be your “edge” when it comes down to you and an identical student. You showed more interest than Generic Good Students A-Z, so hopefully they’ll cancel each other out.
3. You Can Go Straight To Professors
Furthermore, stalking your future professors can also count as contact. But again, like, respect their privacy and don’t be creepy about it. What I mean is if you really want to go to this school, figure out who will be teaching you in whatever department you think you might want to major or take classes in. Did one of the head professors write a book? Read that f*cking book and email them about how much you loved it, and you can’t wait to learn from them for these reasons, and you’ll be applying in Fall 2019 so please look out for you. Did a professor work on one of your favorite movies? Same thing. Ask if they have tips for your portfolio for your application. No one does this, so they’ll probably be flattered and forward your email to the department head/admissions committee with a recommendation. If they never respond, no big deal, it didn’t do any harm. Unless of course you called their personal cell phone or showed up at their home. Don’t do that.
In all seriousness, though, cold emailing people is a useful skill you should start learning before college, because you have to do the same sh*t for jobs in the real world, only then they call it “networking”. The sooner you start practicing, the better you’ll get at it.
4. They Check How Dumb Your School Was
This one I found both funny and offensive. Admissions offices weigh your GPA based on how well your previous school is ranked, similar to how you get a weighted credit by taking an AP class. I went to an okay public school, where I graduated with a 3.8 GPA. My friend got into the same college as me with a 3.0. I was like, um, why and how? It’s because he went to a highly ranked college prep boarding school in Connecticut or some sh*t. His 3.0 was weighed higher than my 3.8, because I went to a dumb school and he went to a very rigorous program. This is important to know, especially when you’re up against identical students with perfect grades from better schools. If your current school is not ranked super high, your grades need to be even better, and you’ll need that edge even more. Don’t be discouraged, though. I turned out fine, and I still don’t even know basic geography.
Hopefully these tips will help you out before you start sending out applications! It’s never too early to start contacting people and planting those seeds. Do you have any more advice to people applying to school? Let me know your secrets in the comments!
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