Tip of the Month: Polishing your application and why you shouldn’t panic…

I admit that November has snuck up on me, as it always does.  In the rush of conferences, college fairs, visiting high schools, trustee meetings, and speaking engagements, I find myself almost at our Early Decision I deadline (November 15th!).  I would imagine that many of you are either putting the finishing touches on your applications (if you’re applying early somewhere) or (more likely) realizing exactly how much you have to do before the end of the year.  In this month’s tip, I wanted to give you a few suggestions as to how best to present your application to an admission committee.

First, there are a few things to keep in mind which I hope you will find reassuring.

  1. Human beings will be reading your application.  While at HMC we read applications online, we also read, page by virtual page, every application that comes to us.  Pieces of your application will be scanned to get them into our system, but you as a person will not be.
  2. Despite our careful reading process during which most applications will be read by two members of our admission committee, we will never get to know everything there is to know about you, and that’s OK.  If you’ve taken the time to thoughtfully present who you are through your application, you will have the same opportunity as everyone else.
  3. At HMC, we read regionally, meaning that each of us is assigned an area of the country and the world for which we are responsible.  If we are your first reader, you become ours in the best sense of the word.  We are your advocates in committee, we learn about your school and your world, and we convince everyone else what you will add to HMC.
  4. Simply by giving us exactly what we ask for, you are already ahead of the game.  We spend a good part of the winter chasing down missing pieces of students’ applications.  We only ask you to submit what we really need to make an informed decision, but we need all of those pieces.  This means making sure that you’ve met our requirements – both a math or science teacher AND a humanities or social science teacher recommendation, all necessary testing, our two additional essays.  Don’t worry about submitting any additional materials. Focus on what we require. That is enough.
  5. We are well aware potential technical and non-technical issues may arise. If, for some reason, you cannot get everything in on our deadline, don’t panic.  We are prepared.
  6. We like you.  We start reading every application with that thought in mind.

And then there are the more specific –some would say nitpicky-tips.

  1. Check the spelling and grammar in your essays.  While we don’t sit down to read with a red pen, we want to follow your ideas start to finish without the distraction of errors.
  2. If you have used the name of a college anywhere in an essay that will be sent to more than one college, remove it. There is nothing more demoralizing for an admission counselor who has become very attached to you in the process of reading your application to learn that you want to go somewhere else.
  3. Take time on your answer to the question, “What about the HMC curriculum and community appeals to you?” It doesn’t have to be long, but given that we are deciding among highly talented students most of whom would be strong HMC students, this question becomes central to our committee discussion. As we hope you’ve heard several times throughout this process, it’s all about the fit between a student and a college.
  4. Make sure that your recommenders have all that they need to submit a recommendation for you and plenty of time in which to do it.  If possible, provide them with a brief paragraph describing what you want in a college and why you’ve chosen the colleges you have.  They will not be able to write individual recommendations for each school, but this will help them in talking about you as a student. Thank them often and let them know where you will end up next fall.
  5. If at all possible, do not wait until the last minute to submit your application.  First, we want you to enjoy your winter break and feel re-energized as you begin your next term.  Second, you never know what can go wrong in the process, and you should give yourself the time to handle any mishaps without pressure.

My final tip as we enter this stage of the application process is to always keep in mind that this works out—not always as you think or hope it might, but it does work out.  Trust in yourself and in the choices you have made, and if you have been honest in describing who you are and what you want in a college, you will end up precisely where you are meant to be next fall.  My staff and I look forward to learning more about you.

Thyra Briggs

HMC VP for Admission and Financial Aid