3 Expert Tips for Applying to College

These 3 insights into the college admissions process will help you feel more confident as you put together your application. Applying to college is stressful, but Leland has the tools and support you need to succeed.

Posted May 10, 2024

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Applying to college is stressful and time-consuming but it also has a major impact on the rest of your life. For that reason, it’s incredibly important to be intentional about where and how you apply. Here are several tips from our expert Leland coaches to keep in mind as you go through the application process.

1. Apply to schools that are the right match for you

A lot of the time, students apply to colleges based on their reputation or convenience, rather than a deep understanding of their programs and specificities. Instead, take time to understand what makes each school unique and apply to ones that are a good fit for your needs and interests. For example, some schools have smaller classes that allow students to develop closer relationships with professors. Some schools have a STEM focus and offer a lot more resources in those areas.

Understanding the fit is important because colleges are actively building a community and that community has a culture. An indication of your potential success is whether you will fit into that community or not. By showing that you understand the culture and then conveying that it’s exactly what you’re looking for, the admissions committee will feel more comfortable welcoming you to the fold.

Another way to think about this is to consider, “Why should the university be interested in you? What do you bring to the community?” A compelling application lies in presenting a persuasive response to this question.

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2. Show the schools that you actually want to go there

Schools want to admit people who truly care about being a student there. Not only does it increase the chance of your retention and improve your motivation to succeed, but it also increases that program’s yield, or what percentage of students given an offer actually accept. This statistic is important to the universities for several reasons, most importantly their ranking against other programs.

In your application, there is a variety of ways to show this interest. Firstly, if there is any kind of early admissions or early decision deadline, make sure to apply for it. In doing so, you’re signaling that this school is your first choice and you care more about it than the others you’re applying to.

Secondly, you can demonstrate interest by attending events, taking campus tours, and signing up for emails (and clicking through them!), etc. Schools are tracking this data and it clearly indicates a concrete interest. If the school thinks that you’re more likely to accept, they’re more likely to extend an offer.

3. Apply to a lot of schools

Instead of applying to one reach school, one target, and one safety, a better approach is to apply to several schools within each of those brackets. Apply to several reach schools–maybe even a super-reach school–as well as several target and safety schools. By doing so, you avoid putting all your eggs in one basket. This requires more time, so start the application process early.

As mentioned above, researching the schools to make sure that you understand your motivations for applying to them is very important. Is there a specific professor or class that you’d like to take? Are there clubs that interest you or one that you’d like to start? What about the culture makes you think that you’d be a good fit? Have an idea of your answer to all these questions before you start writing your essays.

Get Into Your Dream School With the Help of an Expert

The best way to make your application stand out is to work one-on-one with an expert Leland admission coach. They’ll help you with every part of the application, from letters of recommendation, to resumes, ACT/SAT prep, essays, and much more. Browse all of the coaches here.

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