Everyone wants to get into their reach school, but it’s called a reach school for a reason. It’s not a guarantee. And sometimes you might feel like you’re getting onto your tippy toes to get to a book even thinking about applying. That is why we’re here. We’ve helped so many students apply to their dream schools, and more than that, we’ve helped them come up with reaches they hadn’t previously considered. We want to give a rundown of what we’ve learned about how to get into your reach school(s). We advise all of our students to abide by the following 4 guiding principles when putting together their application and writing their essays:
- Be creative
- Showcase your unique talents
- Highlight your quirks
- Go the unexpected route
Here’s why each of these components are important:
1. BE CREATIVE
The essays are the biggest part of your application in terms of personality--it’s your chance to shine, and show the admissions readers what is going on in your brain. Creativity is a huge part of the college application process, in our opinion, and a lot of people forget about that. Why would anyone be excited to read something run of the mill? Make sure your essay is incredibly dynamic and colorful in terms of language, content, and structure.
2. SHOWCASE YOUR UNIQUE TALENTS:
Dig deep when thinking about what you want to tell with your stories. What is something that you can do better than anyone else? It might be a ratio of butter:cinnamon:sugar for cinnamon toast that you’ve perfected because it’s your favorite study snack while you study Calculus. They know you excel in Calculus because they see your report card. That’s repetitive information. Tell them something new. The fact that you’ve honed a recipe for something people don’t think about speaks volumes about your character. What do you do to relax? Do you knit? Do you go and sit on the corner and people watch? Think about your daily routine and pick something that you’d describe as truly “you” and run with that.
3. HIGHLIGHT YOUR QUIRKS:
Your quirks are what make you, you, and admissions readers DO want to know about them. Remember the goal is to paint an authentic and layered picture of who you are. It’s challenging to do this on paper, but an easy way to humanize yourself is by revealing aspects of your personality and certain preferences that make the reader feel like you are giving them a glimpse into your mind. We help our students make mention of these quirks in creative and logical ways to maximize the effect. You should absolutely do this, but be careful. There is a fine line. Do you and your best friend geek out together over the culture of the 1920s when you’re hanging out after school? Though that might not be an academic or extra-curricular component of your application, there is something to be said about the nerdiest, most niche interest of yours that has no bearing on the rest of your life. What you execute and think about behind closed doors, or the logic behind how you choose your music for your morning walk to school says so much. It makes you who you are. Don’t shy away.
4. GO THE UNEXPECTED ROUTE:
Use this as an opportunity to let the admissions readers into your brain in an intentionally creative way. Think outside of the box with some of these essay prompts, and think about how you can stretch the limits of the prompt. We had a student respond to a prompt with a series of haikus. It got him into Berkeley. We ask our students to think long and hard about what and HOW they are going to write about before they create 300 words on a topic, because there might be something worth exploring. Write about something completely unexpected in a way that the admissions readers have never seen.
The thing about reach schools is that they are no different than any other school. There are just higher barriers to entry and they have a finer filter system. As such, make your application so dynamic that they can’t put it down. Make the reader want to meet you. Make them envision you on their campus making your cinnamon toast for your dorm-mates, waxing poetic about 1920s culture, helping enrich the community in a unique and incredible way. If you need any help, let us know. We’d love to help you make your inner quirks shine and the admissions reader feel that your talents are necessary at their school.