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5 Common and Helpful Tips to Spruce Up Your College Application

5 Common and Helpful Tips to Spruce Up Your College Application
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Every college career starts out with an application, and applying to college can be both exciting and scary as the applicant competes with others for a limited number of spots. The applicant will want their application to stand out from among the rest, which means that a lot of thought and effort must go into crafting it. While each school will have its own criteria for assessing applicants, it is still possible to improve an application so as to maximize the applicant’s chances of being chosen; factors like correctly timing the application and researching the institution can greatly affect an individual’s prospects. Below are a few bits of advice for successfully applying to a college.

1. Write an Excellent Application Essay

In other words, applicants should avoid writing the safe and generic essays that admissions officers see on a daily basis. They will need to be creative and original; most importantly, the applicant will need to reveal something about themselves that sets them apart from their competition. The admissions staff will want to know how the applicant thinks as well as how they handle certain situations. The application essay should be expressive of the individual’s own thought process and ideas, and it is best to have it proofread by an English teacher or someone with strong English language skills to eliminate any errors. Applicants should remember that the admissions officers want to know about them, their thoughts and ideas; any editorial alterations to the essay should be minimal. Applicants should note that admissions staff are experienced at ferreting out work written by others.

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2. Apply Early

Admissions departments at many schools report having to cope with a slew of applications on the deadline day, which makes it difficult for them to single any one student out from the rest. By sending in an application early, a student can separate themselves from the pack and signal that they are serious about attending the school.

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3. Avoid Ignoring Clearly-Stated Instructions

Admissions staff may take this as a sign that an individual is unprepared for the complexities of college life. Students often fill out online forms incorrectly because they have failed to thoroughly read instructions; this makes the work of reading their application more difficult. Other signs that a student is unable or unwilling to heed instructions come in the form of asking questions when the answers have already been given or are readily available on the school’s website. College life requires a certain amount of independence and self-guided learning, so applicants should read materials carefully and strive to find answers themselves before needlessly spamming a school’s admissions department.

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4. Use Letters of Recommendation Carefully

Applicants should ensure that the person referring them is capable of expressing their endorsement properly and has only positive things to say about them. Also, it is best to use a letter of recommendation only if its contents are different from those of the application essay. Applicants should note that the source of the letter is sometimes as important as its contents—a recommendation from a teacher in whose class the applicant has performed well is not quite as impressive as one from the teacher of a class that they struggled to pass. Just like the application essay, letters of recommendation should feel heartfelt and honest.

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5. Avoid Being Disrespectful to Admissions Staff

While this may seem obvious, applying to colleges is more stressful for some than for others; not everyone is capable of managing that stress well. It is important that applicants avoid letting their emotions overcome common sense and derail their attempts to get into a school. They should always be well-mannered and courteous to admissions staff.

The most important thing to remember when applying to college is to always be honest and open. The goal is to find a college that is a good fit for the applicant, and this cannot be done if they are not candid and forthcoming.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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