The sage advice “be yourself” is now being echoed by college admissions officers across the country. Too many formulaic and passionless personal essays are leaving top-tier colleges and universities disappointed. The class of 2009 was expected to be the most highly qualified yet, but the run-of-the-mill “professionalized” applications were viewed as too perfect and robotlike to get to know the students, leading to a difficult admissions year. Admissions officers advise that not allowing a student’s personality to shine through during the application process is making the entire process fall short. They are calling for students to quash the desire to over-polish their applications or allow parents or other admissions consultants to “spin” the application beyond personal recognition, essentially leaving the student and the student’s personality out of the process entirely.
Admissions officers cite the lack of authenticity and sincerity to overanxious students and parental meddling that leach the soul out of an application. Also, an over-polished application is not the only problem admissions officers are seeing in the application process this year. Another issue is that students are not taking the time to find the school that best accommodates their needs. The growing number of highly competitive high school students vying for selective early-decision spots is setting aside the idea of a “good fit” and settling for the biggest name school that gives them the fastest decision. Another symptom of the overzealous application includes the actions which some admissions officers are now calling, “admissions stalking,” during which the candidate and/or candidate’s parents barrage offices with calls, letters, and visits. The overbearing student and their parents wear on the nerves of the admissions staff, but to no avail, as many have gone on record as saying no such efforts have any bearing on the applicants’ enrollment status.
The best advice admissions officers have to offer applicants looking to move ahead of the pack is for the student to add their personality back into the application process. Picking essay topics that interest the student and not writing an essay based on what parents and counsellors think the school wants to hear offers admissions officers a look into who the applicant really is. In addition to picking essay topics that are individually inspiring, advisors encourage prospective students not to be afraid to take risks in their overall applications. At the end of the day, colleges are looking for people that will best enrich the campus community with skills and traits that will set them apart and help develop the school as a whole. Thus, the application process should be one of growth and development, as each student finds their niche university – a place where they can prosper, belong and most importantly, be themselves.