THE BLOG
09/29/2015 06:00 pm ET Updated Sep 29, 2016

The Perfect Position to Get into Top Colleges

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For many college-bound seniors, September is a month filled with writing college essays. However, few students realize that their answer to each question should accomplish much more than just responding to a prompt.

Nearly all students who apply to a college meet the academic criteria to be admitted, and students select colleges in which they believe they have a chance of being accepted.

Since most students are well-qualified, colleges are faced with using other tools and aspects of the application to make the difficult decision of who to accept and who to deny.

Therefore, every essay should creatively--and strategically--convey a unique quality that you will contribute to the college, making you a desirable candidate to fill one of the few positions on their campus. Colleges do not seek a well-rounded student who has done a bit of everything without delving into anything deeply. Your goal should not be to provide a laundry list of everything you have done. Colleges wait to assemble a well-rounded class. Each person adds an expertise in a singular and special manner. Finding your unique position will convey how you will enhance their campus, what you will add to their entering class and why you should be accepted.

For this reason, at The Ivy Dean, we apply a process called Application Positioning™ to help students find their noteworthy talent, skill, interest, or experience. We uncover the quality that is the most likely to catch the attention of a college and maximize your chance of acceptance.

We would like to share part of our framework, so you, too, can increase the strength of your essays and have the necessary tools to get accepted.

First, you must identify your "position." To do so, you must be extraordinarily insightful and identify a unique talent, skill, interest, or experience possessed by few other students, as this will to catch the attention of the admissions committee and make you more desirable. The degree to which what you convey is truly unique is the degree to which you improve your chance of admission.

While you may not think you have a quality that is extraordinary, you actually do. No two students are the same; every student has something special and different to contribute to a college. It just is a matter of discovering what that is for you.

To find your unique Positioning™, answer the following questions:

  • What are your strongest academic subjects?
  • What are all your hobbies?
  • What talents do you possess?
  • What are all your interests?
  • What have you contributed to your school and community?
  • What do you hope to accomplish in college and your career?
  • What about your background do you find different and interesting?
  • How do you spend your time outside of the classroom?
  • What challenges have you faced?
  • What experience(s) changed your perspective regarding a topic?

Now, from your answers, think about which of your characteristics you believe few, if any, other students possess. This is not always easy. I encourage you to look at your friends and classmates if you need further insight into what makes you special. Once you have some answers, review them with a teacher or counselor to help you identify the answers that stand out compared to other students.

After you have gone through this process and identified all the characteristics that make you unique and different from other students, select the sole characteristic (or topic) that you feel best defines you. This should be what you write your main essay on for each college. This will be the position you--and only you--can fill on their campus.

Then, for colleges that require additional essays, you can select from your other unique qualities, as appropriate, to answer the questions. It is important to keep in mind that every essay--down to each sentence--should always convey new information about you. You have very limited space to convince a college to accept you, so it is essential that you take advantage of every word.

Above all, you should express confidence in your future spot on your college's campus, and you should write with confidence, powerfully conveying what makes you unique compared to every other applicant.

If you are interested in more helpful tips to complete your applications, check out our blog.

Drusilla Blackman is affiliated with The Ivy Dean, Inc., an independent college consulting firm.