The Race from Disgrace: How to Get to College

Six tips to craft a shining college application


Cartoon by Liz Nedelescu

A college admissions decision is arguably the most important moment in a person’s life. As the 2022-2023 college admissions cycle draws to a close and we enter a new season of sleepless nights and seven-shot espressos, here are six ways you can become an outstanding applicant in the college admissions process. 

  1. Have a 5.0 unweighted GPA and a 1600 SAT. 

One way to achieve this is to take as many APs as humanly possible. If a cramped schedule is the problem, reduce the hours you sleep every night! Envisioning your future life where your only responsibility is to feed your fat cat should motivate you to pull the required all-nighters. 

  1. Play six varsity sports and be the president of 15 clubs. 

Colleges want to see that you have a leadership role outside of school hours. Take up sports you haven’t played since the second grade and figure out how to introduce oddly specific clubs into your school so you can run them. Take the Analyzing Modern Music for Toddlers Club as an example—that would serve as a unique club on your resume. Too bad you’re the only one who attends the meetings. 

  1. Figure out your “spike.”

A spike is the thing that makes you unique to colleges, such as a special passion or extracurricular activity. You need to do something big to set you apart from every other applicant. Colleges don’t care that you’re the founder of a nationally recognized nonprofit or that you’re the captain of the football team—there are already a million of those kids out there. No one is applying to an Ivy League with “embezzlement and fraud” on their resume. 

  1. Have a good recommendation letter.

Making sure your teachers know your name is the key to a good recommendation letter. These provide colleges the opportunity to learn about the student beyond their test scores and achievements. Answer questions in the class, even the ones you don’t know the answers to. Sit at the front of the class. Visit your teachers every lunch period and every day before and after school. Don’t worry, many colleges may be willing to look past the restraining order.

  1. Write an inspiring essay.

Weave a narrative that emphasizes your interdisciplinary capabilities. Colleges want to see that you can make connections between what you’re learning in school and what is happening in your life. For example, if you see someone getting mugged on the street, stop and stare at them for a while. How does their desperation and pain connect to the interests you’re planning on pursuing in college? 

  1. Dress to impress.

For alumni interviews, it is imperative that you look professional and put together. In these types of situations, it’s more important to be beautiful on the outside than on the inside. Instead of worrying that the interview won’t last long and scrambling for random topics of conversation, stick to the basics: politics and religion. These thought provoking subjects will definitely hold your interviewer’s attention.