Applying to College and Dating—The Same Rules Apply
Updated: Nov 5
“Should I get a fourth letter of recommendation?”
“I submitted my application last week. Should I email my admissions officer a statement of continued interest?”
“My friend was admitted to Indiana last week, but I still haven’t heard. Should I send them a link to the video of my DECA presentation from last year?”
Now that we’ve passed the early application deadlines, a different type of anxiety has set in. Did I do enough? Should I do more? What have others done that I haven’t?
I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard, “My friend was admitted at [Fill in the Blank Top-Ranked University] because they sent a letter from a donor/ alum/ mother/ priest/ etc. My response is, “How in the world does your friend know that was the deciding factor? Just because it was the last communication before a decision was made?” Having worked in an admissions office, I can confidently say a decision is never based on one piece of information–especially if the college didn’t ask for it.
Currently, colleges are processing applications–matching letters of recommendation, transcripts, and (sometimes) standardized test scores to files. They don’t want additional information that makes processing applications even more cumbersome. Don’t believe me? Check out the final line from the University of Michigan’s website, “Do not submit any additional documents unless specifically requested, as this may delay your decision.” Or this excerpt from a Vanderbilt University blog, “Submit additional letters of recommendation with caution….Adding additional letters to your file simply for the sake of adding letters, however, will not increase your chances of admission."
Let’s consider another scenario. Imagine that Riley, an attractive person you’ve had your eye on for some time, approaches you after school. Riley says they’ve noticed you, think you’re funny, and would like to take you out. Riley ends the conversation with, “I know this is sudden, so I want to give you some time to think about it. I’ll text you tomorrow morning, and you can let me know your answer.”
But Riley doesn’t wait. An hour later, Riley snaps you, texts you a song they wrote about you, DMs you on Instagram, drives by your house four times, and emails you a list of references from past relationships.
Now, how do you feel? Riley appears a little desperate, right? Maybe not as attractive as you once thought. This is similar to how the admissions officer feels about the applicant who continues to email them with questions requiring a response, additional letters of recommendation, or unnecessary information that needs to be added to the application file (all of which requires extra work by a tired, bleary-eyed admissions counselor.) There are times when your college consultant will recommend that you reach out to an admissions office with new information or as an expression of continued interest, however, those will be at strategic times and serve to update your file with new grades, standardized test scores, or notable honors you have earned since applying.
You’ve worked hard for the past four years, and your transcript reflects that. You wrote, revised, and re-revised your essays. You chose teachers who sing your praises like a canary. Now, let those items speak for you. My friend and former selective admissions officer refers to this as swagger. Admissions counselors like a student who follows directions and is self-assured. They want to admit that student.
So, stop worrying and second-guessing yourself. Instead, be the applicant who carries themselves with confidence, pride, and, yes, even swagger.