The one edge you can give yourself in the application process

What can give you added strength in your college application? Strength that allows an admission officer to pause on your app, and not pause because they caught something to question, but because after pages of reading they’ve come across something special.

What can give you more admissibility power when your applying to a selective admission pool? What can have the power to help you hit submit and feel pretty dang confident in yourself?


What? That’s it?

person doing thumbs up
Photo by Donald Tong on

Yes. Authenticity.

The ability to present your story in a way that isn’t forced.

The ability to apply to a university that makes sense for you. Not anyone else, but for you.

The ability to articulate why an institution ended up on your application list.

The ability to own your academic strengths and show them in a way that makes sense for you.


As early deadlines approach, it’s more important than ever to remind yourself to own your application and your process in a way that is unique and specific to you. You’ll second guess every decision, your college essays and your application in general. It’s a product of human nature.

The college admission process is a vulnerable self-reflective one that we do our best to present strong odds, but at the end of the day is a human process one that’s not 100% predictable. So of course, we compare ourselves, we look for outside opinions, we get fancy and crafty in our apps to “stand” out. But what ends up happening is an altered application inauthentic to your highest version of yourself. Maybe you feel pressured to apply early. Maybe you re-write your essay even though your gut is telling you otherwise. Maybe you apply to a school because it’s what you’ve heard of or what you’ve been told is the “good” option for you.

If you can take a break and pause. Just pause. And really think about the colleges your applying to by considering the following with EACH school you apply to:

The academic curriculum that will offer your learning style the best environment

The program that will provide coursework, intellectual curiosity and research to allow you to grow in your knowledge and skill set within the field

The social groups on campus that you can see yourself joining placing yourself in experiences that will last you a lifetime of networking, connection and self-discovery 

The location that allows you to feel comfortable and access opportunity within the surrounding community

The career offices that will allow you to gain experiences throughout college so you graduate with not only a degree but a full resume with meaningful internships

The professors that will ultimately write you a letter of recommendation 

The university that will offer you funding and supportive financial services to graduate with an optimal financial situation (check out this article on COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY for more resources) 

All the WHY’s of applying to a university that don’t include acceptance rates, the name of the university and sentences that begin with “I heard…”

The truth is you are the only person that knows the best academic, social and financial fit for your next move. And at the end of the day YOUR the one going to class, sitting in your dorm, building friendships, attending the job fairs and meeting with the college advisers as you make your way throughout your undergraduate experience.

So when the application buzz dies down and it’s about this time next year, most students will drop the judgement act steeped in comparison and terror. So own your application and your process and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Ask yourself….”Am I being authentic?” (in this essay, in applying to this university, in this interview, etc.) and use that as your starting question. It’ll do wonders for your confidence AND your application. I promise.

Extra tips because I care about this process THAT much!! 

Websites that help rank schools by student perspectives and vibes on campus

Princeton Review Ranks & Ratings

Collegexpress (view lists and rankings)



Published by Casey Barneson

Author of The College Wellness Guide. Beverly Hills High School College Counselor.

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