The first thing you need to do is take the same holistic view of your application that the school’s admissions committee will take. Inventory your strengths and weaknesses and determine their priorities. You have limited space and can’t afford to take a “shot gun” approach by trying to cover everything.
The next step is to strategize how you want to cover these between the various college application components, i.e. essays, letters of reference, resume, interview, etc. Does that prioritized strength directly answer one of the admission essay questions? If so, you found its natural fit. Otherwise, it might help to think of the application as a puzzle and you are tasked with determining the best way to fit your story to the the college application in front of you.
College Application Order
“What?,” you think. Yes, you read that correct. In a perfect world, you will get an early start on your application and complete it in the proper order. This means:
- Start with the essays — At a minimum, get a good draft. Ideally, have them polished to perfection. And, before proceeding further with the college application, look critically at your essays to gauge where you may need additional detail, substantiation or perhaps even further mitigation of a weakness.
- Move to your letters of reference — Even though this is often a critical time path, having your essays set will let you see if anything needs to be further substantiated or emphasized.
- Finish your resume/cv/activity statement and the body of the application — Use these to fill in any gaps or otherwise strengthen the story themes and wow factors you have chosen to highlight. Don’t neglect the short answer questions and lists. They will be reviewed as part of the admissions committees’ evaluations.
A Last Bit of Caution
Be sure to save your on-line work frequently. You don’t want to invest 45 minutes on your applications just to lose your Internet connection and have to start all over again.
Be sure to also save your same work to your hard drive. Every year some school’s server crashes and applicants lose their on-line applications. Safeguard yourself with periodic saves. If you can’t save it someplace, once and a while print your work. By doing this you will at least have all the information you need to re-enter right in front of you if something goes wrong.