In my very short time as a senior admission counselor the single most frequent question I receive from parents, high school counselors, and students alike is, “What can I do to make myself stand out?” The truth is, many qualified students apply every year; I believe the best way to stand out is to make the most of the sections of the application that reflect your personality like the activities report and essays. Everyone who is applying to school has taken the SAT or ACT and has a GPA. Those are certainly important but they are also just numbers. What makes a real difference in deciding between qualified candidates is getting a sense of who they are and how they would fit into Northwestern’s vibrant and dynamic student body. The essays in particular are a great opportunity to show off your personality and not just write about things that have happened to you but also how those things have shaped you as a person. My essay, which I’m sure I would be embarrassed to read now given how much college has improved my skills as a writer, was about how I learned how to manage my time in high school- it wasn’t easy! Use unique personal experiences as a background to talk about who you are as opposed to just talking about the experiences themselves. Of course, it’s easier to be more evaluative now that the stress of the application process has worn off. I can say though, the stress that causes you to work harder on your application and spend more time editing and revising is good stress. The stress that just leaves you worrying is not. Some of the best advice I could possibly give is once those applications are sent in is to take a deep breath and enjoy senior year!

–Brendan Flynn

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