How to Showcase Character in Your College Application
UFit College Consulting
There are many parts that sum up a college application: personal statement, essays, activities, awards, academic profile, recommendations, and test scores. From all these tangible pieces of your application, admissions officers read, evaluate, and form opinions about who you are, not only as a student, but as a person. What can you do to make sure that you are represented not only by your academic record, but also by your character?
A student’s character assessment has increasingly become an important part of the college application process. Admissions officers want students who will be contributing members of their college community, will uphold the values of the university and its mission, and exhibit traits such as kindness and compassion. They are looking for students who will be a good friend and a source of inspiration for fellow students.
A person’s character can be stratified in many layers. Most admissions officers look for evidence of the these four types of character.:
It is important to exhibit these strong character traits in your application without spelling them out. Usually, character assessment tends to be an inference-based exercise. It is something that should be inherent in your application and easily revealed to the reader.
There are several ways in which your application can reflect your character and who you are as a person:
Demonstrating character in a college application is not about creating a checklist of items to draw attention to your qualities, but more about being true to yourself and to your commitments. Your accomplishments, interactions, interests, and passions will be the gateway to illustrate your multidimensional strengths and character traits.
At UFit College Consulting, we can help you develop an application that will bring your innate qualities to the surface and accurately represent you and your character, beyond the quantitative aspects of your application.
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Are Letters of Recommendation an Important Part of the College Application?
Many colleges require students to submit letters of recommendation from their high school counselor and two teachers. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that admissions officers won’t look at these letters or that providing them do nothing more than check a box. If a college wants you to submit these letters, it is because they use them in their holistic evaluation of your application. In fact, admissions officers say that in the absence of test scores, the letters of recommendation have become an increasingly important factor in their overall evaluation of you as a student and a person.
Who Should Write the Letters of Recommendation?
Apart from the required letter of recommendation from the high school counselor, students need two recommendations from teachers. Ideally, you should ask your junior year core subject teachers (English, Math, Science, Foreign Language, or Social Studies). Ask teachers you feel know you well, you have a rapport with, and in whose classes you did well. If you are going to be pursuing a STEM major in college, make sure you ask at least one math or science teacher to write your recommendation. Similarly, if you will be studying humanities in college, ask an English or social studies teacher to write one of your recommendations. If you will be studying fine arts or performing arts, those majors may have a supplemental application that requires an additional recommendation from a teacher or mentor who knows you and your artistic endeavors.
In addition to your academic recommendations, some colleges will allow you to submit additional letters of recommendation. If you have had a job or internship, do community service work, or are involved in any social, religious, or political organizations, you should consider asking your boss, supervisor, mentor, or peer leader to write you a recommendation letter. These letters can add dimension to your application and provide further evidence of character, responsibility, and leadership.
When Should You Ask for Letters of Recommendation?
The ideal time to ask your counselor, teachers, and others to write your recommendation letters is in the spring of your junior year. Don’t wait too long, as some teachers have to limit how many letters they are willing to write, and you are not going to be the only one asking this of them. Some teachers like to write these letters over the summer when they are less busy, so if you are a junior and haven’t asked your teachers yet, do it as soon as possible!
Be mindful that teachers are not required to provide letters of recommendation, so be respectful and courteous when making these requests. If it makes sense, set up a virtual call or an in-person meeting to discuss what you would like them to highlight in your recommendation. Such a meeting will go a long way in securing a strong letter of recommendation. It may also make sense for you to create a resume that you can share with your teachers. Don’t forget to thank your recommenders after the application process is complete with a nice handwritten note.
What Should You Ask Your Recommenders to Write About You?
For many of you, your counselors and teachers don’t really know you that well and because of Covid, they may not have even taught you in person this past year. Therefore, it is your job to provide them with the information they need to know in order to paint you in the best light possible. Luckily, this also provides an amazing opportunity for you to determine what it is you want admissions officers to know about you. For some of the most competitive schools, getting a resounding recommendation letter that states that you were “one of the best” students the teacher has ever taught or a sentiment along those lines, will serve as a differentiator for you as an applicant.
Here are some examples of information you can provide to help your counselor, teachers, and others write a positive, anecdote-filled letter that goes straight to the college admissions officer who reads your college application:
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This college application season, we are expecting to see longer waitlists as colleges try to predict yield rates in an unprecedented time. Not only did many colleges receive a record number of applications, but they are also confronting an influx of gap-year students from the previous admissions cycle. This situation has created more noise about how applications are evaluated and how many students are ultimately admitted. Decision deadlines have been pushed back and students are feeling more anxious than ever.
As decisions roll in, take a deep breath! There will be excitement and disappointment as you receive these decisions. Through it all, remember that there are multiple colleges that will be a good fit for you. If you get waitlisted from one or several of your top choices, don’t lose hope. Although frustrating, being waitlisted indicates that the college did consider you to be a good fit for their community, but the admissions committee needs to see how their incoming class will ultimately take shape to make a final determination on your candidacy. It is not a rejection, which means there is still a chance you could be accepted to that college.
What should you do if you are waitlisted?
Since most colleges do not move students off their waitlists until after college decision day, which is typically May 1 or May 2, you should absolutely commit to attend a college that has offered you admission, before their deadline.
Make sure you are excited about the college you are committing to because a waitlist option may not work out. Despite the pandemic, some competitive colleges may not see much movement in their waitlists because they continue to enjoy very high yield rates. Others might see significant movement in their waitlists because of the uncertainty Covid has caused.
Next, you need to assess whether you want to remain on a waitlist.
How do you decide if you should remain on the waitlist?
You should consider all of your acceptances to determine if you truly want to invest your time and emotions by remaining on a waitlist. Many students prefer to commit to a school that they have been accepted to, so that they can start getting excited about their college years and start building friendships and connections with that college, instead of adding the stress of being on a waitlist.
Remaining on the waitlist means that, if accepted, you will be faced with changing your college choice later in the summer, perhaps after having invested a significant amount of time in the college where you have accepted admission. Students need to evaluate whether changing their decision would be worth it, depending on their academic goals and finances, especially, if financial aid is involved in the decision.
Therefore, it is very important for students to reflect on why they would want to stay on a waitlist. Perhaps the college that has waitlisted them provides a greater breadth of academics, or it has a particular location that is more appealing, or the college has greater proximity to close family, etc. All of these factors need to be considered and weighed.
If you have decided to stay on the waitlist, how do you remain visible?
What should be included in the Letter of Continued Interest?
By communicating with your regional admissions officer, you are reiterating your interest in the school. Your letter should include any updates, honors, or awards you have received since the time of your application.
Here are some suggestions for when and how you should correspond with your regional admissions officer after a waitlist decision:
If you would like help with crafting a Letter of Continued Interest, or general guidance as you make your college and waitlist decisions, please reach out to our certified college counselors at UFit College Consulting.
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If you are planning to visit colleges this spring or summer, you will want to get the most out
of each visit, whether it is in person or virtual. While taking a campus tour is an integral part
of every college visit, there are other important factors you should also consider in order to
gain valuable insight into each school. After all, you are thinking of spending your next four
years there! If you were looking to buy a car, you wouldn’t just look at the car’s interior and
exterior. You would take it for a test drive, read the reviews, and talk to current and previous
When it comes to looking at colleges, there are many factors you should consider and
explore before, during, and after your online or in-person college visit:
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The weather is warming, the snow is melting, and spring break is right around the corner. If you are the parent of a high school junior or senior, spring break has always been an ideal time to visit colleges. Like everything else in this crazy COVID year, visiting colleges right now is less than ideal. It is, however, doable. Although very few colleges are offering in-person campus tours, some are providing maps for self-paced walking or driving tours, and all colleges are making a plethora of virtual visiting opportunities available from the comfort of your home.
We have compiled a list of the colleges we are aware of that are offering in-person visits and tours. This list is fluid since colleges are modifying their policies every day. As always, we recommend that you check the colleges' websites or call their admissions offices to receive the most up-to-date information. Also, some colleges are only offering in-person visit opportunities to admitted students, so we have not included them in our list below. As summer rolls around, there will likely be more colleges offering in-person visits.
Here are some colleges that are currently offering in-person visits and tours to high school students:*
You are not alone if the colleges your student is considering is not on this incredibly small list. Luckily, many colleges have gotten creative with virtual options. There are many other ways for you and your student to explore college campuses.
Here is how you can learn about colleges that are not offering in-person tours: