The Ivy Coach Daily

September 30, 2023

How to Impress College Admissions Officers

Students walk up a columned building at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Many students think they know how to impress admissions officers at America’s elite universities. Maybe they’ll send them long-winded emails filled with not-so-subtle brags about their accomplishments. Perhaps they’ll include recommendations from influential politicians with their applications. Or maybe they’ll get involved in just about every club and sport their high school offers to demonstrate their commitment to their extracurriculars.

But, of course, that’s not how to impress admissions officers — quite the opposite. So how can students leave a lasting, positive impression on admissions officers? Let’s dive in!

The Five Golden Rules to Impress College Admissions Officers

  1. Showcase intellectual curiosity. Admissions officers at America’s top universities want to see students who excel in the most rigorous curriculums available at their high schools — and then some. They want to see that students don’t have to sit for the SAT or ACT four times to secure an excellent score since that shows they had to work hard to get that score. But admissions officers covet students for whom learning comes easily and who love learning for learning’s sake. This love for learning should shine brightly through the student’s activities, letters of recommendation, essays, alumni interviews, and every other component of the college admissions process.
  2. Be likable. It’s the knee-jerk reaction of so many college applicants to brag — in their essays, activity descriptions, alumni interviews, and more. So many students are inclined to sell in the highly selective college admissions process: “Admit me, admit me!” But when applicants sell, they actually severely hurt their case for admission since it undercuts their likability. The objective of every college applicant should be to inspire admissions officers to want to root for you. Writing about how much money your charity raised in the activities section or writing about how you were the only high school student to secure a certain internship in an essay will make you as unlikable as you likely fear.
  3. Demonstrate a clear, singular focus. Too many students present as well-rounded — as good at sports, music, community service, and more. But elite colleges don’t seek to admit well-rounded classmates. Instead, they seek to admit singularly talented students who form a well-rounded class together. A student’s singular focus — whether as an environmental activist, a historian, a psychological researcher, etc. — should shine through in their activities, essays, and the school counselor’s letter of recommendation.
  4. Share your story in a compelling way. Just because a student has done exciting things and even if they have showcased a singular hook through high school, they need to articulate that story in a powerful way to sway admissions officers. Writing college essays with the help of ChatGPT or starting every other sentence with words like “however” or “nevertheless” is not the way nor is simply asking your teachers and counselors for letters of recommendation. That’s how students end up with generic letters. Instead, they have to help their teachers tell their story. They can do so by sharing anecdotes with their teachers and their counselor to help make writing their letters easier.
  5. Show your love for the school to which you’re applying. Almost every college, except for Harvard University, is insecure. They each want to know you love them above all other schools. It’s why so many of them ask applicants to respond to Why College questions on their supplements. If applicants fill their responses with generic sentences that can apply to virtually any school in America or if they name-drop professors and list classes, it’s as good as any way to discern that a student cut and pasted that essay from another school’s supplement and then played a game of Mad Libs with the content. And it’s why so many schools record whether or not students physically visit their campuses.

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with Impressing College Admissions Officers

Our team at Ivy Coach is comprised of former admissions officers at the likes of Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Dartmouth College. So, we know a thing or two about how to impress them. If you’re interested in optimizing your case for admission and wowing admissions officers with compelling applications, fill out our free consultation form, and we’ll be in touch to outline our college counseling services.

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