Crafting a Standout College Application: Dos and Don’ts

As high school seniors prepare to take the next big step in their academic journeys, crafting a standout college application becomes paramount. The college search process can be both exciting and daunting, requiring careful planning, organization, and attention to detail when submitting an application. The following article highlights essential dos and don’ts to help students present themselves effectively to their dream colleges.


Start Early

Begin the application process early to avoid last-minute stress and ensure all components are completed thoroughly. Give yourself ample time to brainstorm, draft essays, gather recommendations, and review application requirements for each college.

Research Colleges Thoroughly

American university tours can help prospective students in identifying colleges that align with their academic interests, career goals, and personal preferences. Consider factors such as location, size, academic programs, campus culture, and extracurricular opportunities to ensure a good fit.

Highlight Academic Achievements

Emphasize your academic achievements, including GPA, class rank, rigorous coursework (such as AP or IB classes), and standardized test scores (SAT or ACT). Provide context for any challenges you may have overcome academically.

Craft Compelling Essays

Write authentic and compelling personal statements and supplemental essays. Share meaningful experiences, reflections, and aspirations that showcase your personality, values, and unique perspective. Demonstrate self-awareness and maturity in your writing.

Obtain Strong Letters of Recommendation

Request letters of recommendation from teachers, counselors, or mentors who know you well and can speak to your academic abilities, character, and contributions. Provide them with ample time and information to write detailed and personalized letters.

Highlight Extracurricular Involvement

Highlight your involvement in extracurricular activities, clubs, sports, volunteer work, part-time jobs, or leadership roles. Colleges value well-rounded applicants who demonstrate passion, commitment, and initiative outside of the classroom.

Proofread and Edit Thoroughly

Proofread your application materials meticulously for grammar, spelling, and clarity. Ask a trusted adult, teacher, or counselor to review your essays and application before submission to catch errors and provide feedback.

Follow Application Instructions

Carefully read and follow each college’s application instructions and deadlines. Submit all required materials, including transcripts, test scores, essays, and application fees, in accordance with the college’s specifications.



Avoid procrastination when it comes to completing your applications. Waiting until the last minute can lead to rushed essays, incomplete applications, and missed deadlines. Start early and pace yourself throughout the process.

Submit Generic Essays

Avoid generic or clichéd essays that do not effectively convey your personality, experiences, or aspirations. Personalize each essay to reflect your individuality and what makes you a strong candidate for each specific college.

Exaggerate or Fabricate Information

Be truthful and transparent in your application materials. Exaggerating accomplishments or fabricating information can damage your credibility and jeopardize your chances of admission if discovered.

Neglect to Proofread

Do not overlook the importance of proofreading your essays and application forms. Typos, grammatical errors, or unclear writing can detract from your application and give the impression of carelessness.

Miss Deadlines

Missing application deadlines can result in missed opportunities for admission consideration. Use a calendar or planner to track application deadlines for each college and submit materials well in advance of the deadline.

Disregard Optional Components

While some application components may be labeled as optional, take advantage of these opportunities to provide additional context or showcase strengths not highlighted elsewhere in your application. Optional essays or portfolios can strengthen your candidacy.

Overwhelm Recommenders

Do not overwhelm your recommenders with last-minute requests or inadequate information. Provide them with clear instructions, deadlines, and background information about your achievements and aspirations to help them write strong letters of recommendation.

Underestimate the Importance of Fit

Do not underestimate the importance of finding a college that is the right fit for you academically, socially, and personally. Focus on colleges where you can thrive and contribute positively to the campus community.


Crafting a standout college application requires careful planning, self-reflection, and attention to detail. By following these dos and avoiding these don’ts, you can present yourself as a strong and compelling candidate to college admissions committees. Remember to start early, research colleges thoroughly, highlight your strengths effectively, and submit polished application materials that showcase your unique qualities and aspirations.

As you embark on this exciting journey, seek guidance from teachers, counselors, and mentors who can provide valuable insights and support throughout the application process. With diligence and preparation, you can confidently navigate the college application process and position yourself for success in achieving your academic and career goals.