The Perfect Approach for Getting Accepted

By Jessica Brauser, M.A., LSW

If you or your teenager is a rising junior, senior or you are anyone who runs in a network where college admissions is a topic of discussion, you might be hearing a lot of chatter about what it takes to get accepted. It is this time of year that I most frequently have to remind students and parents to put on their blinders and listen to what the perfect approach for getting accepted might be. Quite literally, like a horse that pulls a carriage and wears blinders to stay focused on the road ahead, you too have to block out the distractions and focus only on your future course. You will hear a lot of information from other people about what it takes to get accepted and simply put, what works for one person might not work for you.

Just recently, I heard from a student who had heard from a friend that to get accepted to selective universities you need to modify your personal statement for each school to be the type of student that they want. Simply, this is not true, and I corrected my student. Colleges are seeking to admit students who are passionate and can contribute unique perspectives. There is no model student for any school, regardless of the school’s selectivity. But I digress.

What works for one student might not work for the other because there are a plethora of factors that contribute to an acceptance. GPA, test scores, letters of recommendation, resume, ranking… there are too many factors that play into a decision, and each student’s profile is entirely different, making no applicant like any other.

When I work with students to build their application, I develop a strategy to increase their chance for admission. If a student has a lower GPA, I might try to help the student communicate their intellectual abilities through creative essay storytelling. Through this approach, the admissions committee might not think so critically of that student’s ability to succeed in the classroom.

A few years ago, I worked with a student who had trouble with the SAT. By September of her senior year, most of her peers had submitted their college applications and were receiving acceptances from some of the programs with rolling admissions. This was stressful for my student because I had advised her NOT to submit her applications until after she could retake her SAT during the October and November test dates. “Put on your blinders,” I warned. Don’t worry about what your friends are doing.”

A few months went by, she submitted a little late but was accepted to her schools. Her perfect approach for getting accepted used a strategy that required patience and a bit of blindness to what was going on around her. I advised her about what would work for her and encouraged her to focus on herself. If she rushed to apply — simply, it would not work.

Creating your college list takes time

Friends and family do not always have the best advice, and it might be tempting to follow the path of those around you. In all the excitement of college admissions, it is easy to get caught up in the frenzy of success. Just remember, there is no formula to achieve success, and if you pay careful attention to your particular needs, you might find the perfect approach for getting precisely what you want.