Category Archives: Essays

Here’s Why it’s Best to be Likeable on Your College Application

If you brag about yourself now and then, you aren’t a braggart. But we all know some people who overdo it. It’s especially tempting for applicants to overdo it in the college admissions process of competitive colleges. Although understandable, bragging is harmful to an applicant.

In our society, excessive bragging is considered a negative trait. Narcissist, egotist, blowhard, conceited, and egocentric are just a few of the pejoratives used to refer to braggarts. This is not how you want to be perceived by others, least of all by admissions officials.

Successful applicants don’t brag, and for good reason. College admissions officers, like most people, consider modesty an admirable virtue. So you need to devise subtle ways to make your worthiness obvious.

It’s ironic but true that we readily recognize boastfulness in others, but we’re often slow to recognize it in ourselves. High self-esteem, normally a healthy attribute, often encourages us to think like baseball legend Dizzy Dean, who said, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.”  Even if you share this belief, don’t reflect it in your applications.

The trick is to display self-confidence but not vanity in making your best impression on admissions reviewers. This can make you distinctive and memorable. But if you cross the line into boastfulness, you risk turning them off. Many opportunities to strut your stuff present themselves on résumés, on the Common App, in interviews, and in essays. But you don’t need to blow your own horn.

Below are tips to help you avoid bragging while remaining upbeat about yourself and your qualifications:

  • Come across as likable. Although this shouldn’t be the case, an unlikable applicant will have difficulty gaining admission to a highly selective college no matter how good their academic record may be. Colleges have a profile of an ideal student that they use to size up applicants. The admissions committee has many applicants who are equally well qualified, so they’ll admit the ones who seem most likely to fit in with their fellow students.
  • Let others boast about you. Remember that teachers and others who write your  letters of recommendation can sing your praises. Take steps to assure that they do.
  • Describe what you did, not what you are. Which sounds better, “I’m a committed humanitarian” or “I set up a food bank in my town that helped many people in need”?  One of the problems caused by bragging is the question of whether something you say about yourself can be readily verified. How do admissions officials know you’re being factual when you claim to have a commendable personal characteristic? If you make such a claim but don’t provide  evidence, they must rely on your word alone. When a boast is based on your unsubstantiated self-report, you won’t be believed.
  • Share the glory. For example, regarding the above reference to a food bank, it’s recommended that you add something like, “…with the assistance of other caring people in the community”.
  • Be kind. Never say anything negative about a person or organization. The school prefers not to have judgmental people in their student body. There are other ways to convey an idea without disparaging anyone.
  • No showboating. Although you want to come across as confident of yourself and your accomplishments, avoid preening.

According to our culture’s social norms, people are expected to be modest. Those who aren’t modest upset the expectations of others. Impression management, an art practiced by many successful people, is all about subtly leading others to view you favorably. If admissions officials think you’re trying too hard, you may alienate them. You may accomplish the exact opposite of your intent, which is to get them to like you.

Parts of your application, especially essays, afford opportunities to reveal your best self. Design your message to appeal to admissions officers on two levels. First, grab their attention with story and style. Next, include verifiable facts that motivate them to advocate for you. Being likable helps win them over to your cause.

Who knows himself a braggart, let him fear this, for it will come to pass that every braggart shall be found an ass”.  — Shakespeare

 

 

Get a jump-start on your college essay and application in 3 days!

Worried that virtual learning has put your student behind during Important high schoolstudent preparing for college years?  Are you concerned about your student getting  behind on his or her essay, common application and resume? Our Summer Camps will give your student a jumpstart on key aspects of college admissions  in just 3 days!

You’ll also get the latest update of how the coronavirus is impacting college admissions.

DATES:  June 15 – June 17, 2021, 1 – 4 p.m. each day.

Co-sponsored by LOOM Coworking, Gallery and Event Space

Day 1:  Students, we’ll tackle the dreaded college essay, including how to find the right topic and how to structure it so that it reflects who you are and why you would be a great addition to the campus community.

Day 2:  Work on your resume and activities for your common application and continue refining your primary essay.

Day 3:  Complete your common application and do further work on your essay and resume.  Dr. Klaar will edit and send her comments post-seminar.

All 3 sessions (9 hours total are just $350! (You must sign up for all 3 sessions)

If groups of three sign up together, each student saves $50!

Sign up today – only 10 students will be accepted into the summer camp!

Payment is due upon registration.

[email protected],  803-487-9777

Webinar on Writing that Crucial College Essay

On October 6 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. I’m hosting a free webinar that will walk through the elements of writing your college essay, including how to find the topic that reflects who you are and why you would be a great addition to the campus community.

I know what admissions counselors are looking for in essays, and I help students ensure that their essay message will resonate with the rest of the application, and shows the student as a growing person.

Register here

Luck Plays no Role in Elite College Admissions

Luck can be said to hold sway over everyone’s destiny in matters large and small. All the same, it’s a mistake to view admission to elite colleges such as Harvard as a throw of the dice. Admission to a top-tier college is the culmination of a multi-year effort on your part to qualify academically and as an individual. This is the only way to achieve your goal if you aspire to attend such a school. If you think that the selection of applicants for admission is arbitrary, you’ll slip up in ways that may Yale Universityprove fatal to your effort.

The bewildering aspects of this year’s admission cycle, heavily impacted by the pandemic, have convinced many that even if you have the best of credentials, you’ll be reduced to crossing your fingers if you apply to an elite college. The fact is that the admissions process at these institutions remains rational and predictable.

One Real Disadvantage That You Will Face

There is one negative aspect of the 2020-21 admissions cycle that affects you and your peers in the Class of 2025. There will be fewer freshmen seats available to you. This past spring, a larger than normal number of students who accepted offers of admission chose to take gap years due to the pandemic. Because they could not travel, international enrollees were also granted permission to put off matriculation until the fall of 2021.

These postponements forced administrators to admit more applicants than usual from their waitlists so that they could fill out the planned size of their freshman classes. Applicants accepted from waitlists this year will continue to matriculate in 2021. The resulting scenario means that the seats that were not filled by those who postponed enrollment for a year will be unavailable to new applicants. This will make admission somewhat more competitive for you and your cohort than it would otherwise have been.

Keep in mind that the long-term impact of the contingencies arising from the pandemic are unknowable. You shouldn’t assume that time-tested methods of improving your chances of admission are no longer useful.

What’s Luck Got to Do With It?

There’s nothing new about skeptics saying that admission to elite colleges is arbitrary and unpredictable. One such skeptic is Michael Kinsley, a graduate of Harvard College, Oxford Early decisions at Ivy league schoolsUniversity, and Harvard Law. He has been editor of The New Republic, the host of a several public issues TV shows, and the start-up editor of Slate. A smart guy — but wrong about college admissions.

Although he’s an alumnus of Harvard, Mr. Kinsley doesn’t appreciate the sophistication of the admissions process at elite institutions. He wrote the following a while ago in a column for Vanity Fair magazine:

“The number of slots at highly selective College X has stayed the same or increased only slightly. When you put it all together, it’s amazing that anyone bothers to apply to College X at all. This may be of doubtful consolation to an applicant and his legacy parent, but it all really boils down to luck. Nobody ‘deserves’ a place at College X. The luck may be… in the dubious meatloaf the dean of admissions had for dinner the night before your application was considered.”

The dubiousness of meatloaf notwithstanding, let’s infer that Mr. Kinsley thinks that a college’s decision to accept or reject you depends on the mood of the individual who, through luck of the draw, reviews your application. So, what is it about Kinsley’s take on the elite college admissions process that misses the mark? Let’s consider what are referred to as the factors of admission:

  • Academic Index (AI): Your academic data is processed by a computer program that assigns an objective, quantitative score known as an AI. This program uses a proprietary algorithm developed by the college to calculate an objective measure of your academic success. The scores are ranked and only applicants with an AI score above a predetermined threshold are considered to be eligible for admission.
  • Soft Factors: Elite institutions have many more applicants with AI scores above the thresholds than they can admit, so they must apply subjective, qualitative measures to narrow the pool of applicants down further.
  • Essays: Essays, unlike academic records, are unique. The quality of the essays that you submit is one of the key subjective means that colleges have to identify the best applicants. Based on each school’s approach to evaluating essays, admissions officers are able to recognize the ones that are strong enough to make a case for an applicant’s admission. Elite schools also consider Letters of Recommendation, and, in some cases, Interviews as factors in admissions, although they carry less weight than essays.
  • Extracurricular Activities: This is another important subjective variable in admissions. Activities highlight the talent that you have developed and proven during high school and which you have emphasized in your application. Kinsley dismisses this factor too when he says, regarding luck — “Still other factors—the college orchestra needing an oboe player—are complete wild cards.”  Kinsley assumes that your highly developed talent can help you only if a college is looking for exactly that talent when your application is reviewed. Although colleges do consider student body needs, there is a wide range of reasons why they might reward your talent by granting you a higher probability of admission. A college seeks not only demographic and geographic diversity, but also diversity in the talents, skills, and interests of the student body. College administrators consider student diversity to be beneficial to the education of all their students.

You can’t defy the power of the pandemic to change the process of admissions, at least not this year. But for the purposes of gaining admission to elite colleges, you should approach matters as if this year were no different from any other.

And as far as luck goes… “Never give up and luck will find you.”