3 Tips To Ace The College App Process

TSL Guest Bloggers Tia & Tyra Smith

Guest bloggers Tia and Tyra Smith recently made national headlines when they graduated from Chicago’s Lindblom Math and Science Academy as co-valedictorian for the class of 2019. The twin sisters wanted to share some words of wisdom with our TSL fam.

Throughout our senior year, we learned a lot about applying to colleges and scholarships. The next college admission cycle is about to begin soon, so here is some advice we have for rising seniors for the class of 2020 who want to apply to college.

*Communicate. Research. Read.

While many schools use to Common Application as a platform for students to submit their applications, several schools require additional application materials needed in order for your application to be considered complete. By looking up a college’s undergraduate admissions website or page, you are able to see what tests, numerical data, and letters they request.

One college (or even major) may need only one teacher letter of recommendation, while another school may want two. Some schools may require SAT Subjects Tests for admission, which are multiple choice tests that cover a specific subject (Math, Biology, US History).

It is important to submit all requested application materials on time, so that you will have your full chance of admission. Also note, that applying to a school in a college or a specific major may mean that you have to submit more application materials than students applying to another program in the same college.

Part of the college admission process requires participation from parents, guardians, counselors, teachers, and mentors. It is your job as a student to communicate precisely want you need from these people and important deadlines.

*Write. Edit. Proofread.

One of the most important pieces of your college application is your personal statement and supplemental essays. Your personal statements is a short essay (typically 500 to 600 words). The purpose of the essay is to introduce yourself to admission officers beyond your GPA, test scores, and resume. It is your chance to let the college know who you are as a person and why they should admit you.

Your personal essay should be simple, but engaging. It should first, tell a story and second, promote positive qualities that colleges want to see. You do not have to had traveled the world to have an interesting story. You could write about working at your job, or a book you read and its impact on you. Make sure to write about something you are passionate about. Therefore, it may be easier for you to generate content about it and you will be more willing to revise the essay to the best it can be.

The Common Application has a list of prompts you can respond to for your personal statement, but you also have to option to create your own prompt, so the possibilities are endless.

As previously mentioned, some colleges also have supplemental essays. These are specific prompts that colleges will ask. Colleges may ask about what you consider to be your home, how faith has played a role in your life, or what you hope to get out of your college experience. While it may seem like a lot of work to write multiple essays for one college, many times you can use elements or pieces from one essay to another one.

At the very least, reread your essays for grammar and clarity. It is also helpful to have other people read your essays. While reviewing your essay, constantly ask yourself and others, “Am I answering the prompt?” and “What does my essay reveal about me as a person?”.

*Professionalism and Documentation.

-Make a resume.
 Several scholarships ask for resumes from students. It is important to have a resume as it is a snapshot of your academic, extracurricular, and work experience over the past years. Additionally, colleges allow you to submit your resume as well.

-Take a headshot.
 A headshot is a photo of you from your shoulder upwards on a white or light cream, clean, smooth background. You can wear professional or black clothing in the picture. A professional photographer is not needed to take the shot. You can use a good phone camera or borrow a friend’s to take the picture. While colleges normally do not request headshots, some scholarships may.

-Create a personal email. Having a personal email that has a professional address is important. Many of us use email accounts given to us by our school district. However, we are not guaranteed access to our high school emails after we graduate.

-Utilize a voicemail. 
Colleges, scholarship representatives, and interviewers may call you to schedule an interview, conduct an interview, or to give information to you. It is important that you are able to listen to their messages in case you miss their calls.

These three pieces of advice, are information as we wished were we told or that we actually did earlier in our application process. Though this is just the tip of the iceberg, we hope this information helps you as you start your application cycle soon.


By Tia & Tyra Smith


Tia and Tyra Smith are both proud alumni of the True Star program. This fall Tia will attend Duke University while Tyra will attend Northwestern University.


Written by TrueStar Staff

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