College applications: how to effectively showcase yourself

Emma Adebayo
Emma Adebayo
October 21, 2021

Applying to your dream college or university is a very exciting time. While it may seem like a simple process, you should spend some time working through the application process of the schools on your list.

You'll have to devote time and energy into creating an application that showcases who you are and why you're a good candidate. Here are some tips on how to build your college application from someone who reviews each and every accepted student at Augustana. 

Stay Organized

Staying organized can make the process 10 times easier. First, gather all the necessary documents and create a checklist of what must be done. 

The Common App includes a checklist for students and the requirements for all the schools that accept it. Having all these documents organized allows you to focus more on the essay and less on pre-work. 

Every school you are planning to apply to should also have a checklist. Browse their website or reach out to your admission counselor if you want to be sure. 

Reflect on your experiences

For the essay portion, think before you write. 

Start by reading the essay directions for each school. Trust me, it'll be very clear if you don’t read the question thoroughly. Glaring mistakes may hinder your opportunities if you're not careful.

Consider creating an outline of what you want to include before you start writing. Outlining can make it easier to recall all your accomplishments, and help you get through the writing process faster.

Colleges want to know what kind of person you are, not just what you’ve accomplished. Giving thought to your time in high school and how your experiences shaped you as an individual help add substance to your essay. The best essays give an opportunity for our admissions team to know you, not just hear what you have done.  

Think back to the many achievements, honors or awards that highlight your strengths and goals and help tell your personal story. Also include any job, internship or community service experiences you may have. What did you learn? How did you grow? 

Don’t write a novel about yourself, but make sure you highlight your biggest strengths and greatest achievements. Choose your words carefully to avoid repetition and make sure your essay doesn’t sound too rehearsed.  

Ask for personal recommendations

Including recommendations in your college application is a good way for colleges to see your strengths from a different perspective. Ask teachers and counselors who have been part of your journey for letters of recommendation. 

It’s important to ask mentors with whom you have a good relationship. Even if you have 10 letters of recommendation, they won’t mean much if they’re generic and lack substance.

Overall, be confident in your ability to showcase yourself. Give individual attention to each institution you apply to and make sure you answer every question thoroughly. 

Make sure to have multiple people read over your essay as well to find any grammatical or syntax mistakes. Having to write and rewrite this essay will guarantee your final product is your best work. 

The process may seem daunting now, but if you stay organized and take the time to really work on your college application, you will succeed. 

If Augustana is on your list of dream schools, learn more about the skills and traits we look for in future Vikings.

If it’s not -- find out why it should be!

Emma Adebayo
Emma Adebayo
Executive Director of Admissions