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Applying for college: Be authentic, not bizarre

Email|Print| Text size + By Linda K. Wertheimer
Globe Staff / January 15, 2008

Application deadlines for most colleges arrive this month and next. Students vying for a spot at a particular college may try to dream up inventive ways to stand out from the pack, but college admissions counselors and high school counselors advise proceeding with caution.

Here are tips to consider while polishing your application:

-- Show each college that you are a bona fide applicant and that you are not simply using the school to beef up a list of 20-odd possibilities. If you visited the campus or had an off-site interview, mention that and its effect in your essay. Prove why you’re a good fit, and it’s the right school for you.

-- Resist the urge to send in baked goods to the admissions committee. Cookies and brownies often come across as a bribe, and it’s more likely that student workers will eat the goodies, not the admissions counselors.

-- Unless you are applying to music school, do not send a CD of your violin playing or rock composition to the admissions office. Most admissions officers are not music experts and do not have the time or inclination to listen. Determined to show off your musical talent? Send the sample to the college music department.

-- Follow the application instructions, and send in only what is required. You can and should let your individuality show, but use the set parameters.

-- Humor in an essay is ok ifyou are funny. Run your attempt at levity by friends, teachers, and others. Creativity and humor are not always synonymous.

-- What may count the most? Earning the best grades you can in the toughest courses offered at your high school, and showing a great attitude, good work ethic, and leadership.

-- Be yourself, and you may be that lively, intelligent, and interesting 17- and 18-year-olds that the college of your dreams wants.

Want more guidelines? Check out “Steps to College” by the National Association of College Admission Counseling at: www.nacacnet.org/MemberPortal/News/StepsNewsletter/default.htm

Sources: Admissions officials at Harvard University; the University of Massachusetts-Amherst; Smith College, and Duke University; directors of guidance at Framingham and Wellesley High Schools; and the National Association of College Admission Counseling.

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