“Wow, I thought my essay was clear.
We have created sample admissions officer feedback (for Mike Che, a fictitious student) to show you the kinds of insights you can expect in our admissions critiques. Our admissions officers hold students to a high bar. While positive admissions feedback is easier to hear, it is the negative feedback (and what the student chooses to do with it) that makes the difference.
Admissions Review Critique for Mike From Former Admissions Officer #1, Princeton University
Quick notes about the file:
- First name is Mike but gender says female; I can’t tell if this is a typo since the transcript doesn’t specify applicant’s gender.
- Though it doesn’t really matter if parents are married, app states “never married” yet parents have the same last name … not sure again if “never married” is a typo.
- For father’s occupation – capitalize VP
- A sister is listed but you mention a brother in essays. You need to include him and indicate that he attends Stanford.
Under Current Year Courses: You need to state specific classes. For example: Instead of Math, state Calculus BC – (AP)
I cannot see test scores but make sure to include them on the Common App; don’t rely on scores only being sent through College Board. Include SAT/ACT, Subject Tests and AP Exams. If you only took one AP senior year, then list Calc BC May 2016 and don’t list a score.
Under Activities: These need more detail, and I would change the order to be:
Cross Country, Euro-Challenge, Guitar, Special Services, Debate, Counselor, Bible School, Babysitting, Turki Drive. Only after reading the additional essay did I learn that you attended Young Scholars, Chicago and Young Scholars, Knoxville– these need to be listed in the Activities section, probably in the top four of your activities if not as the top two.
Cross Country – indicate which years you played Varsity and which years you were Captain. Also include any races won, team rankings and/or your fastest time.
Babysitting – should be one word, capitalize “i” in the description, and — since it was only in 9th grade — use past tense: “I took care of.” This should be placed very low on the activity sheet since it took place in, and only in, 9th grade.
Guitar – where do you play, have you performed in front of an audience, how many people are in your band? These are questions you need to answer. Also, how long have you played guitar?
Debate – needs a longer sentence, such as stating you were a “member of a forty-person debate team…”
Vacation Bible School – what age group did you teach?
Special Services – by “adopt” do you mean the students lived at your house or that you were their pen pal? Describe what you mean and what your participation entailed.
Turki Drive – needs a longer sentence.
Essay: The general idea of what you learned in this essay is great, though I found the essay itself a little confusing. Happy and Harvey are very close words. During my first read-through, I was confused as to who was who…can you change Harvey’s name to John, or another name? What are your physical limitations; what happened to you? You run cross country but can’t play soccer, so I’m not sure really what happened … but it sounds serious when you mention “physical limitations.”
Additional Information Essay: I would think that Stanford’s application would have a place where you can express your interest in economics. If not, then feel free to include it here. However, if there is a space on the supplemental application to discuss your interest in economics, put this economics essay there instead. Is this application for UConn or Stanford? Good luck!
Admissions Review Critique for Mike From Former Admissions Officer #2, Bowdoin College
Current or Most Recent Year Courses List: Specify. For example. — What is the name of the social studies course you are taking? Math course? Science course?
- Rank activities in order from most to least important. Ex. – Babysitting at the end (Also in that entry, capitalize “i”).
- Cross country, Captain of the Team – description line should read: Captain of the team, Varsity
- For description line — rather than repeat what is already in position line, use these 150 characters with spaces to say something about your experience/record/leadership.
- Debate Team, Member – description line … “I debated” …
- For description line, rather than repeat what is already in position line, use these 150 characters with spaces to say something about your experience.
- Community service – Vacation Bible School, Special Services Club, Turki Drive: Same advice as I gave above – use the available space to say more.
Common App essay: Unusual, a bit disjointed with regard to its relationship to other parts of the application. Additional info:
- First paragraph feels like it is part of a different essay. I didn’t understand its connection to the rest of the piece.
- I’d take out the references to Stanford and make it more general, as you are applying to several colleges.
Prospects? Mike’s admissions review file feels incomplete for all the reasons above – senior course list, activities lacking details, essay.
Thanks for the opportunity to read Mike’s file.
Admissions Review Critique for Mike From Former Admissions Officer #3 from Williams College
Mike is a female, dual-citizen (US/Netherlands), born in US, (Mother b. Netherlands). Parents never married and have not attended college. Mike would be a 1st-gen college student.
Half of Mike’s life has been spent outside the US (Netherlands?).
Attends public school in CT. Common App states future career in Engineering. One essay highlights interest in studying Economics at Stanford. UConn Member page of Common App states Geography major??
This student has not waived FERPA. May need some counseling on this.
Mostly B+ record in very demanding academic program. A few APs on transcript. Strength in Science and Math. Completed Spanish V in 11th grade.
Common App list of senior courses is generic (i.e., Math, Science, English, Social Studies) and should be corrected to list actual course titles and level.
Summer coursework at Oxford for college credit but … what courses? Is there a transcript? A scholarship?
No testing included in this application.
Interesting mix of activities, and solid evidence of engagement in school life.
Paid camp counselor four summers.
Captain, Cross Country team.
Lead guitar, punk band.
The essay is confusing in light of the rest of the application. The application just leaves me wanting to know something more—and not about the hospital incident.
Extra essay about interest in economics (sparked by personal observations and a class visit at Stanford) would even be effective as a personal statement.
As a first-generation college student, Mike has some great possibilities for her education. Maybe not Stanford, but certainly some of the liberal arts colleges in New England. UConn is a great choice for her as well, but a smaller college will be more supportive. Application needs a bit of work to fill in the missing pieces.
Best of luck to Mike.
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