Undergraduate Admission Blog

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June 13, 2013

The Intangibles

Vacations, summer camp, and summer jobs; we know that this is a season packed with tons of fun activities. With your schedule recently opening up, consider setting aside time to start thinking about the college application. Many of you are aware that the college admission process is becoming more and more competitive. There are plenty of tangible things you can do to present your best self to the admission office. You can take part in academic research, hold a leadership position at school, and, of course, strive to maintain excellent grades. However, in addition to these qualities, there are the “intangibles” that can further polish your application’s presentation. These little things are not as obvious as the extracurricular activities you list, but they can help add a little more shine to your application.

Research the colleges you are interested in and the majors they offer. By taking the time to research different majors, you may be able to narrow your interests down to a few. Then think about how you are able to effectively display knowledge and curiosity about the major you want to pursue. Students who are able to explain why they have chosen their desired major, and give reasons as to why they are a good fit for the major, will stand out in the admission process. By the way, it’s also okay if you come to realize that you don’t know what you want to major in, that you are still undecided. If that is the case, then start thinking about how you can articulate your general interests and your desire to further explore a variety of subjects in college.

I know, we suggest this a lot, but we mean it! Reading improves your comprehension, critical thinking and writing skills. Get suggestions from teachers and peers about books that are both enjoyable and scholarly. By reading different types of literature, you expose yourself to various styles of writing. As a result, you are able to find a style that you gravitate towards and are able to exercise that in your own writing. One piece of advice I give students when they are writing their personal statement is to give themselves room to be creative. Think of reading as expanding the tools you have to be inspired in your writing.

Before writing great songs, Bob Dylan would sit for hours and write down all the memories, stories, and shared experiences he can think of. They don’t have to make sense or have any sort of organization. Essentially, he is just compiling material that he can come back to later on when he is ready to write his songs. Follow Bob’s method and spend a Sunday afternoon going down memory lane. Write down memories, conversations, text messages, e-mails, and gather them for your personal statement. You might find it easier to come up with a topic for your essay later on .

This advice might not necessarily relate to a college application but it is good practice in general. Take time this summer to think about the legacy you want to leave behind and the future you want to create. Think about the positive study habits you have developed and find a way to maintain them. Many of the decisions you make today will shape your immediate future.
Go to the beach, sit on a porch in silence, and have meaningful conversations. It is time to gear up for another school year especially if it is your senior year. You want to feel refreshed once the school year starts. Setting time aside for reflection can refuel you and prepare you for another long year!

When I was in high school, there was nothing I would look forward to more than summer break. After ten months of everyday routine schedule, I could not wait to sleep in and not have any commitments. I deserved it. I worked hard all year and I needed it. So I understand why a blog that suggests filling your summer with more potential work can be unappealing. But the “intangibles” should not take too much of your time this summer. Remember that the little things can, if utilized properly, can add a bit more value to your application. It might be a little more work but the ultimate reward could be that big envelope next spring!