College Applications Strategy: Why It is Important to Have One
The first thing that needs to be discussed before starting the college applications process is strategy. Much of what goes into the hard choices college admissions officers have to make—such as whether institutions are prioritizing matters like diversity, legacy applicants, or athletic recruiting in a given year—is beyond students’ control. So it is crucial to know about everything you can control and learn how to position yourself throughout the process.
Strategy is important because it is designed for decision-making. But what exactly is strategy? Open Yale Courses defines it as “any of the options he or she can choose in a setting where the outcome depends not only on his own actions but on the action of others.” The “others” here are college admissions officers, other students who are competing for the same spot at Harvard and the school/counselor. So any complete strategy absolutely must account for those three groups.
Unfortunately, many students (and parents) start thinking something along the lines of “Well, if I just do my best, if I just focus on me, then everything will be OK.” Let’s be honest for a second, that’s a cop-out; you’re giving up even before the application is sent. Some students are simply misguided while some just buckle under the pressure. This problem is prevalent, especially among top students, so let’s briefly discuss how to deal with it.
IvyZen is dedicated to helping students with Ivy League Admissions. We offer the best college consulting service for students to get admission into top Ivy colleges across the United States. Set up a free consultation today! Let me give you some likely scenarios and, thus, give you clear examples of thinking strategically.
Don’t do more of the same activities. For example, many of the top students are part of Model UN. So the typical response of students is to do MUN better than their peers (by heading the school chapter, participating in the conference and winning awards there, etc.). There are many problems with that approach. Because the competition is so stiff with so many MUN students, trying to outdo the competition comes at a great cost. Also, because admissions officers spend so little time (15-20mins) reading an application, they may miss the finer points, e.g. getting a resolution passed at last year’s Harvard MUN conference.
The great risk here is that the admissions officers will see so many applications filled with essays about MUN, lump them all together and pass because they have too many MUN students already. Instead, students should avoid playing the same game and do something completely different. If your student cares about human rights, then they should start an Amnesty chapter at the school, a Human Rights Watch or get involved in Gender Equality issues or LGBTQ campaigns. With something different, it take far less effort for a student to stand out.
The simple truth is that a counselor will never have the opportunity to know a student as well as a parent does or as a well as a student knows themselves. Students who are interested in applying to top colleges need to assume responsibility for their own success. This responsibility includes preparing early, doing plenty of research, and accepting that the student’s fate largely depends on the student—not the teacher, counselor, or school.
Counselors can be helpful in many ways, the most important of which is resources. An average high school counseling office has access to information about almost every school and will frequently offer college visits with recruiters, financial aid workshops, and even college application workshops. If a student can benefit from any of these opportunities, though, it is one hundred percent up to the student to seek these things and stop expecting a counselor to do the work.
Do you want a second opinion on the advice that your son/daughter’s college counselors are providing? Then contact IvyZen, the best college consultants that offer a comprehensive plan for how to present the most effective college application.