Posted by: Maurice Jackson on May 12, 2023
“This is it. I’ve found my dream school.” As a parent, these words are likely golden in your ears. After many conversations about fit, countless road trips or flights to do in-person visits, virtual tours, and talks with admissions counselors, alums, current students, friends, and even family, your student has finally found their dream school. So, the next step is to apply and be accepted. Well, not quite.
As of 2022, there were 16 million students enrolled in degree-granting colleges or universities in the U.S. While that is a significant number of students, it is far fewer than was predicted years ago. Fewer students are applying to college, which might lead many to assume getting into college is more accessible, but this is far from the truth. College admissions have become more competitive than ever, with applicant pools increasing by double digits at some schools and admission rates dropping to single digits at others. Applying to one’s dream school is complex and full of competition, but you can do a few things to aid you in the process.
First, I encourage your student to be intentional about this process. Every part of the application counts, so it ensures your student gives themselves plenty of time to complete each part of their application, including the essays. Most schools will require at least 1 –2 supplemental essays. If your student is applying to ten schools, that could mean they will be required to submit nearly twenty additional essays.
For supplemental essays, lead time is essential, as is research. For some supplemental essays, the answer requires deep thought and introspection. Most schools will ask, “Why Us?” Though simple, this question will require your student to do additional research to explain why that college or university is right for them. Simply put, the more detailed their essay is, the more they stand out as students who know the institution they are applying to and want to be there.
Finally, after your student has found their dream school, there is an additional step they can take to stand out from other applicants. Every college or university has regional representatives who travel within their territories and visit high schools. An admission representative will likely visit your student’s school; if they do, your student should be ready to engage and ask thoughtful questions. For example, questions like “If you could describe your students in one word, what would it be?” or “How engaged are alumni after they leave campus?” Whatever questions they ask, ensure they match your student and the experience they hope to have at this school. Doing so will help them stand out to the admissions representative who will read their application.
If this sounds like a lot of effort, candidly, it is. The Educational Planning team at PrepMatters has worked with thousands of families to develop a strategy and actionable plan for college admissions.