How tailored to each school should an application be?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

How tailored to each school should an application be?

Jane McClure
Partner McClure, Mailory & Baron Educational Counseling

How tailored to each school should an application be?

Here is my video response to the question.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

How tailored to each school should an application be?

You should complete the best application you can for each school. You do need to demonstrate why you would be an asset to that particular college or university. If you are asked the "WHY do you want to attend this school" question on a supplement, you should be able to answer with specific instances.

Suzan Reznick
Independent Educational Consultant The College Connection

How can you show the love?

Given that The Common Application is used now by 456 schools, it has become progressively more difficult to “tailor” your college applications. While the Common AP is a great time-saver and many colleges use it as their only application; it definitely does homogenize the applications. So it becomes even more important for a student to try to stand-out in their essays. It is in the supplements however, where one is often asked “Why do you want to attend our college” (what I refer to as “The Love letter” essays) which offers the best chance to focus on the individual schools. You need to make those essays as specific as possible- try to focus primarily on why exactly each school matches you! And try to avoid crafting generic essays that might fit a hundred colleges.

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College Guidance Coach

Tailor Applications to You

Trying to figure out 'what they want' is one of the most common mistakes that students make on the college essays and short answer responses. When you write, focus on your strengths (not the attributes of the institution) and tout your talents and accomplishments (not theirs). You should be able to use the same personal statement to fulfill each college's longer essay requirement. And, when you write about "Why Fill-in-the-Blank University?" your response should reflect the way your goals and talents align with the learning environment (do not list accolades of which the school is undoubtedly aware). In some cases, tailored responses occur because the college's application is devised to reflect the institution (ie Wake Forest University, College of William and Mary, University of Chicago).

王文君 June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

different essay

I don't believe it is necessary that students should consider to submit different applications to each school. applications are data collections about persnal profile and school profile. however, essay is different and should be considered unique and customized for each school. it is time consume and requrie a lot of practice.

Karen Ekman-Baur
Director of College Counseling Leysin American School

Tailoring the Application to the School

Some parts of your application are going to be generic; the information you enter will be applicable to all of the institutions to which you're applying. That's why it was possible to develop the Common Application, which is accepted by many schools. But that is also why some schools have Supplements to the Common Application. Those Supplements are specific to the institutions requiring them and will ask for information which, in effect, is tailored to the school in question. The Common Application essays should not refer directly to any particular school because they are probably going to several different colleges/universities depending on where you have chosen to submit your applications. Additional essays may be required by a school along with its Supplement, and in that case, you should very much consider the qualities of that specific institution and formulate your essay with thought being given to what you can offer that school and what it can offer you. As always, everything you submit should be authentic and should represent you, your values, and your interests as they really are.

Mollie Reznick
Associate Director The College Connection

How tailored to each school should an application be?

It isn't so much the *application* that should be tailored, as each application should represent you honestly, but if a school has supplemental essays asking you to describe why you are interested in that school or why you are a *good fit* you should strive to answer those questions as specifically as possible. If you have visited the school, try to cite instances on your tour that made the school stand out for you. Failing that, do some research about the school on their website to be able to discuss the uniqueness of that school and why it appeals to you.

Patricia Krahnke
President/Partner Global College Search Associates, LLC

Don't Be A Number

Short Answer: If you don’t want to be treated like a number, don’t behave like a number. Detailed Answer: It’s your life, and it matters, so be conscientious and purposeful about your college search. If you complete the Common App and submit it to several colleges without really knowing those colleges, you are simply a part of their numbers game. If that’s good enough for you, then it doesn’t matter where you go to college. One of the ways you will be judged by an admissions officer is whether or not you understand and follow their application instructions. 1. Research what makes the college unique and do some deep thinking about why it interests you. Colleges with a specific ideology or philosophy want students that will contribute meaningfully to their community and thrive, so you should read their mission statement and strategic plan on their web site. Those will tell you volumes about whether or not you will be a good fit for the college and whether or not the college is a good fit for you. 2. If they don’t request an essay or personal statement, do not submit one. 3. If they request an essay, do not submit a generic essay. Anyone can buy an essay off the Internet or let their Mom write it for them. Seasoned admissions counselors can tell from a mile away if you did either of these things. If the college requests an essay, do some digging to discover exactly what they are looking for in the essay and write specifically to that.

Margaret Tung
Strategist Yale University

If you want them to think you're special, make them feel special

Schools around the country, especially the most competitive top tier schools, know that there are thousands of kids dying to get an acceptance letter--or even a spot on the waitlist. In this day and age, the Common Application is a misnomer. It's an easy way for schools to screen your profile for data, to see whether or not they want to read your application further. As that's the case, you should always include and emphasize the parts of your CV that you really want your top schools to see. In any supplemental materials that you might send, make sure you're highlighting skills or passions of yours that you think could really flourish or contribute to the campus community and to your own college experience.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

How tailored to each school should an application be?

In general the application should be about portraying as fully and as effectively as possible who you are, what you have done, and what you have to offer that school community. That being said, there is not massive room—or need—for variation. However, there may be places where what you offer will be viewed differently depending upon what the school may “need,” and so you should present it that way. Too, there should certainly there should be differences in the essay in response to the often asked question, “Why do you want to go to “insert school name here”? In the end, the key is to let them see who you are. It is then up to them to see if that person fits their institutional needs. Sometimes, it will and sometimes it won’t—but regardless of the definitive answer, it says more about the school than about the applicant.