How to Get Into College Without Being Perfect (or, why applying to college is a lot like dating)

getting into college is like dating flowers and chocolates

If it feels like you have to be perfect to get into college, you’re putting too much pressure on yourself.

The point of college is to gain knowledge and experience, not only about your chosen field, but also about your own strengths and weaknesses.

The only way to get an authentic experience that serves you as a whole person is to be accepted to a college that is right for you. One that offers the kind of academic and social atmosphere where you’ll thrive.

If you spend all of your energy trying to attract schools by being a larger-than-life super-teen, you’re missing out on the chance to find the college that would fit your true, imperfect, quirky self.

Applying to College is a Lot Like Dating

When we’re looking for a life-long mate or just a Friday night date, we all want to appear our best. It’s natural to want to stuff all our weird quirky parts deep down inside and to talk up our best features.

This might get us an “in” with someone for a few hours. But eventually we’ll get bored and wish we could just let down our guard and geek out about the underlying philosophical implications of Dr. Who, or the subtle differences between store-bought pizza dough and the homemade stuff.

If you’re applying to colleges by putting forward what you think they want to hear and burying your inner weirdo, you’re not going to attract a long-term (four-year) relationship that works!

Don’t give the best years of your life to a college that doesn’t love you for who you are. [Tweet that]

Somewhere out there is a school that wants you just the way you are. It wants your passions, your personality, and, yes, your inner geek. And you’ll only find it if you put yourself out there.

Your Quirks Can Help You Get Into the Right College

Get Clear on Your College Priorities

Sure, Harvard is a total hunk, but if you think you'll thrive in a self-directed environment where you can design your own projects and really make a difference in the world, maybe you’d be a lot more compatible with a soft-spoken, sensitive school like Hampshire College or Olin College of Engineering

You need a school that will be right for you. Where will you thrive? Do you have special learning needs? Would you prefer to be close to home? Will you go crazy without a dance studio? Have you been waiting years to study abroad?

Sit down with yourself and think long and hard about...

  • Your goals for the future
  • Your educational needs
  • Your learning style
  • Your physical, social, and emotional needs

Stop Trying to Please Colleges

Just like the popular-but-secretly-deep heartthrob in a cheesy rom-com, colleges are soooo over all the vapid sycophants trying to get close to them without offering any substance!

You application isn’t about the college; it’s about you. Yes, there’s definitely room to talk about how the school’s resources and opportunities will be part of your educational plans and goals.

Mainly, though, your job is to put yourself out there and give colleges the chance to see the real you. (And unlike the popular kid in the movie, a college won’t snub you when its friends are around.)

Use your application to show colleges…

  • Your dedication to your interests
  • Your passions and talents
  • The way you contribute to your community
  • The experiences that have shaped you
  • What matters most to you  

Be Yourself. No, Seriously, Be Yourself.

You can be yourself and still be impressive, just as you would on a date. You might tell the endearing story about the time you and your little sister got locked out of the house and you kept her from crying by performing Hamilton in its entirety.

But feel free to skip the story of the time you got food poisoning and had explosive diarrhea for three days. Your job is to make a connection. You want to offer a glimpse of all the great stuff that makes up your soft, gooey center. (But not literally!) 

Show colleges what motivates you and what you think, feel, and get excited about. Use your personal statement as an opportunity to show how you think and respond to the world. The what is only part of it; the how is the real key. Your essay needs to show colleges how you think so that they understand the real you.

Give yourself enough time to dig deep and consider…

  • How you handle challenges
  • What trait you’re most proud of
  • How you’ve changed as you’ve matured
  • Who you are and who you want to be
  • How well you know yourself
  • What your natural writing voice sounds like

How Will You Be Your Best Self?

It’s definitely important to make a good impression on colleges. But it’s equally important to make a genuine impression. Getting into college isn’t about tricking admissions offices into accepting you even though you’re not a good match. Why would you want to be miserable at college?

If you focus on being—and writing as—yourself, you’ll attract colleges that will value your contribution and that will have a lot to offer you in return.

Take the first step toward attracting the colleges of your dreams by giving some serious thought to how you present yourself. Who are? Where do you want to go? What should colleges know about you?

Want some help with asking the right questions and getting your creative juices flowing? I've designed the Strategic Planning Session to be the perfect catalyst for college essays. Through interview-style questions, outside-the-box thought exercises, and creative freewriting activities, we'll uncover your best stories. 

We'll start with the "Know Thyself" Questionnaire, full of fun ways to get your brain revved up. Then, we'll have a 90-minute private coaching session where I take you through your story from my POV and guide you in choosing the writing topics that will make you really shine. 

You'll leave with a Success-without-Stress Writing Plan so you know how to move forward with confidence and keep writing from your inner passions—instead of your inner BS factory. ;)

I know every student has a unique story to tell. My goal is to help you make your story compelling to colleges while also leaving behind the stress and having fun while you write. Sound like something you want?

LEARN MORE about a strategic head start for your college essays.