Getting into your top choice isn't impossible, but it will be challenging. To make the process easier, read this post to improve your odds of getting into your dream college or university. Having aced the entrance examinations such as TOEFL, IELTS, SAT, ACT, GMAT, or GRE, you now need to invest much of your time in gaining impactful recommendation letters and in writing empowering essays and personal statements.
First, you need to understand that gaining admission to top schools in the US is vastly different from the application process to institutions of higher education in Israel. This process can take quite a long time, and you need to begin early, as to not get bottle-necked close to the deadlines.
College and University Admission in a Nutshell
Admission is all about FIT. Schools want “good” students, just as students want “good” schools.
For schools this translates to a strong academic background, a clear idea of why you are choosing specific schools, and a clear idea about your academic goals and - in the case of graduate education - your professional goals.
As an applicant, you will want to learn as much as you can about the school’s institutional priorities and campus culture, to find out if the school will be a good fit for your personality, abilities, interests, and aspirations.
The schools are not looking only for the student with the highest test scores, the most impressive talents, or the best writing. They are looking at what students have done with what is available to them, in order to identify young people who have committed themselves to one or a few things in which they have achieved some level of success – whether it’s taking part in high school musicals, a certain academic subject, soccer, or a part-time job. Furthermore, volunteering is a strong value in the American culture, and if you have volunteer experience such as Scouts, “Magen David Adom” or anything else that you were passionate about, schools will want to read about it.
The application process usually includes 2-3 recommendation letters from teachers who can evaluate the student’s academic ability and potential as a scholar. The letters count heavily towards deciding on whether to accept the student, and the more selective the school is, the more important your letters are in the admission process. To that end, it is important that you provide the admissions committee with the kind of information that is most helpful.
Your recommenders should keep the following guidelines in mind:
Discuss growth and development of student
Do not repeat what is already known from the transcripts
“Tell a story” about the student. Admissions people remember stories.
A good letter includes qualities that make the student stand out - qualities such as a winning personality, resilience, intelligence, curiosity, empathy, leadership skills, and portrays these qualities through specific examples.
A recommender should write from the mindset of what impressed him/her about the student and not from what will impress the schools.
A recommender should have a strong sense of what the applicant will contribute to the college campus.
The essay is an opportunity for the student to tell their story. Stories can be life experiences, challenges, visions, or anything else the student feels passionate about.
The essay should not read as a list of every accomplishment that the student has achieved. Think of the application from the selection committee’s point of view. The committee members have about 10-15 minutes to become familiar with the candidate, and therefore, the job of the writer is to help the readers focus on those elements that best relate to the essay question and the school’s fit.
Do’s and don’ts for your university admission essay
You can write about ordinary topics – but make them interesting.
Do help the admission committee understand why they should want you at their university.
Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks with your essay topic.
Do carefully consider the topic you choose and the tone of your essay. If you write about past mistakes, be sure to address what you learned or how you have changed since that mistake.
Don’t write about inappropriate subjects that may lead the committee to question your character.
Remember that your opening paragraph will either sell you or kill you!
That is where we come into the picture! With 20 years of experience in application consulting and hundreds of success stories, we will gladly guide you through the entire application process. Together with you, we handle all aspects of the application adventure, including:
Creating clarity on what colleges and universities are looking for in an applicant.
Facilitating the logistical aspects of the application, such as navigating the common application and school specific applications.
Explaining the intricacies of gaining impactful recommendation letters.
Brainstorming on essay topics and facilitating understanding of the American cultural mindset on what constitutes a unique, focused, and insightful essay.
“Bagrut” document translation
Explaining the framework for receiving scholarships/grants.
Helping to fill out the FAFSA (Financial Aid forms for U.S. citizens)
Helping in navigating the student visa process.
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This post was penned by Arona Maskil, a pro college and university application consultant. For over 20 yeas, Arona had managed the Israeli branch of EducationUSA. She offers accurate, comprehensive and current information on post-secondary educational opportunities in all fields of study, from short term courses to PhD programs, and provides unbiased advice aimed at helping prospective students choose institutions from among the 3,600 American universities and colleges that are best suited to their goals. Arona is also the founder of TrainingCQ, building global virtual teams and training leaders on managing remote teams.