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Create a Killer College Application
By: Gen and Kelly Tanabe

The college application is hardly sexy. It lacks the challenge of the essay, the stress of the interview and the personal touch of the teacher evaluations. For many it's a monotonous chore with an annoying number of questions, blanks, lines and boxes. It is precisely for this reason that many students make careless mistakes and do not consider carefully how to strategically present their information. These deficiencies, while they may seem small, are often magnified in the eyes of the admissions officers and can take the edge off an otherwise perfect application.

Don't fall into the trap of being complacent with the application form. In this Guide, we'll show you have to create a killer college application that will help you get accepted into the college of your dreams.

Save time with the common application.

Admittedly this is more of a time-saving tip than an actual strategy. However, any amount of time you can save will mean more time to put toward actually perfecting your application. The Common Application can dramatically cut the number of applications you need to complete and with over 290 colleges accepting the Common App, the chances are good that a few of your schools will be on the list. You can get the Common Application at

Now there have been some rumors of college's penalizing students who use the Common App. While this may have been true in years past, it is not so today. We have never met a college admissions officer who felt that using the Common App disadvantaged an applicant. After all, if a college really dislikes the Common Application, then why would they even offer it as a choice? There are many reasons that schools choose to use the Common App, but using it to penalize applicants is not one of them.

Make a list of your entire extracurricular and academic life.

The most important parts of the application form are the areas where you list your extracurricular activities, jobs, honors and awards. These are the sections that set you apart from other applicants. Anyone can take an English honors class, but not anyone can start an adult literacy program or become the assistant manager at Wayne’s Wiener World.

Your first task then is to make a list of all your extracurricular activities, summer activities, jobs, honors and awards. List everything big and small. Significant and insignificant. Although you are far from senility, you will still find that it is surprising what other people remember that you have overlooked. Be sure to show your list to parents, teachers, siblings, friends and advisors.

Prioritize your list of activities and accomplishments.

Now that you have a list, it’s time to select which activities and jobs you are going to highlight and in what order. You will not have enough space to list everything, and even if you do, you should only present those activities in which you made a contribution. You don’t want to give the impression that you did a little of everything without getting good at something or making a contribution to anything. You want to emphasize the depth of your participation in a few activities. Now is the time to grab a pen and rank your activities according to the criteria in steps 4, 5 and 6.

About the Author

Gen and Kelly Tanabe
Founders of SuperCollege and authors of 13 books on college planning.

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