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Ask About Written RecommendationsThis tip cannot be stressed enough. If there is one task you complete, choose the mentors and teachers who will write your recommendation letters. They undoubtedly would like to get a head start, too.
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Write a Mock RésuméA surprisingly time-consuming process on the Common Application involves listing every award you have earned, club or group you have participated in, and job or volunteer position you have held. Building a list of these achievements can take much longer than students often expect it to. Finishing this task before school begins again means that once the Common Application is live (which typically occurs in early August), you can simply copy and paste the information into the correct electronic field. Often, students leave this section until the end, and as their deadlines near, they become increasingly stressed. Do your best to avoid this outcome. The Common Application was originally developed to make students’ lives less stressful, despite the pressure it adds to a single document. If you are concerned that the Common Application does not fully showcase why you are the ideal candidate for a given school, reach out to the admissions office before the application process begins to learn what else you can do to stand out. Most schools offer other options—such as an in-person interview either on or off campus—that may better show your specific interests or better showcase why you would be a positive fit at that institution.
Andrea Deck is a professional GRE tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She is a graduate student at Columbia University in the class of 2015.