College Applications: It’s All in the Details

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College applications take a lot of work. You’ve got to fill out the form in addition to writing essays and getting letters of recommendation. You’ve got to manage deadlines and document your activities. Almost everyone is aware of those requirements, but what’s often overlooked—due to either carelessness, hastiness, or laziness—are the little details. For example, the application will ask for your counselor’s middle initial. You have to answer how many weeks per year and hours per week you participate in, say, Model United Nations. You need to know the exact name of each class you’re registered for in senior year, including spring semester. Sometimes students look at me with a “Really?” face when I demand that they find out what the heck that middle initial is, but to me, it matters. Yes, really!

In admissions, just as in any application process, a large part of your job is building an impression. Maybe it’s an impression of being academically sophisticated, morally whole, or deeply contemplative. Maybe it’s all three. One impression you’ll surely want to make is that you are thorough in your work. You want to show admissions that you care enough to address the smallest details and that their application is worth the time and attention it takes to make sure everything is filled out completely and accurately. Investing time in each application also helps you avoid submitting a slapdash result which could lead the reader to think that you are just going through the motions and indifferent to the outcome—certainly not the impression you want to create.

Will you get rejected because you neglected to add what school your three-year-old brother attends? Of course not, but why not show admissions that they can count on you to be meticulous? Review every field, required or not, and check every space and each punctuation mark. Leave nothing blank if you can help it (unless it’s not applicable of course). Turn in an application that makes you proud—not just for its content but for the care you took in completing it.

Jeff Knox

Director of Educational Planning

With more than a decade of experience in education and admissions counseling, Jeff Knox is a trusted adviser for students and families, both in the DC Metro Area and around the globe. As Director of Educational Planning, he manages the pedagogy, curricula, logistics, and quality of PrepMatters’ Educational Planning Department range of services, including application and essay assistance, inte...

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