Admissions Officer Insight: Five App Tips from Amherst College

Looking for insiders’ tips about the college admissions process? Sara Cohen, Former Assistant Dean of Admission at Amherst College, shares her top five application tips to help you fill out the best possible National College Match application!

Sara-Cohen-Amherst
Sara Cohen, Former Amherst College Assistant Dean of Admission

1. Organize the “Activities” section of the QuestBridge or Common Application to list entries in descending order of importance to you. In other words, start your list with the activities that you spend the most time doing, have been involved in for the longest period of time, or have developed leadership roles within, so that admission counselors will see your most important activities first.

2. List all your activities, even those that might not seem like “traditional” extracurriculars. If you work at a part-time or full-time job during the summer or school year, tell us. If you spend time taking care of a family member, caring for younger siblings, or maintaining responsibilities at home, tell us. We want to know all the ways that you spend your time when you’re not at school. If you employ acronyms in describing your activities, please spell them out fully. Remember, if you don’t tell us, we won’t know!

3. Treat your essays as an opportunity to tell something about yourself to someone who very likely has not met you. What do you want someone who is interested in your potential as a future college student to know about you? Of all the parts of your college application, your college essay is where you have the most control over the finished product. Be thoughtful, spend time editing, and ask a friend, teacher, or parent to read it and tell you what they think.

4. Take care when filling out the “basic” sections of the application, such as biographical, family, and school information. Correct capitalization, appropriate punctuation, and proper spelling and spacing go a long way in giving your application a professional look and making a good first impression on a reader. Paying attention to the small details shows you took this process seriously.

5. Write thank-you notes to your teachers for writing your college recommendations. Email is nice, but handwritten is better!

– Sara Cohen, Assistant Dean of Admission, Amherst College