Myth: My College Application Needs to be Super Quirky to Stand Out

You need stand out from the crowd to get into college, right?

Flickr user Sally Crossthwaite

If you’ve been reading up on college application tips, most of them say that you have to find a way to stand out from the crowd. Being different, having experienced–it’s finally time to use these things to your benefit. There are plenty of tips on how to stand out in college applications. However, there is a line. Well, there are a few. You don’t want to stand out from the crowd in the wrong way. Here is a list of things to avoid.


As with most things in life, using bribery to get into college is not a good choice. You might have stellar baking skills, but it is not is good to try and send cookies to the application committee. Seriously. It will only hurt your chances–no matter how delicious they are. Your application should be able to stand on its own without sending in gifts.

Extravagant Answers

While thinking out-of-the-box is encouraged, you don’t want to stray too far. If you are applying to a university that employs “normal” questions (i.e., “Who is the person who most inspires you?”), you can probably write a really great essay on why your favorite superhero, lesser-known famous person, or your sibling inspires you: So long as you legitimately are inspired by such a person, you have already deviated from what a “typical” answer might be. Just make sure you actually answer the question; much as you might look up to your goldfish Nemo, writing about it might go a little too far off the beaten path.

Some colleges ask non-traditional questions for their applications (the University of Chicago is a prime example of this). This really opens up the playing field for “stand out of the crowd” – esque, quirky answers. However, you don’t want to strain yourself thinking up the “perfect” answer. Go with your gut instinct because you’ll probably be able to write a good essay about it.

Involving Your Parents

While mentioning your parent or other relative is an alumna (some colleges specifically ask about this) is never a bad thing, you really want to leave it at that. Your parents can read over your essays; they shouldn’t be writing them. There are stories of parents who sent gifts to the Admissions Officers at schools (going back to the point on bribery, it’s still a bad thing if it’s someone else doing it on your behalf). There’s even a story of a guy’s mom going to an interview for him because he was “so busy” with sports and studies. Parents are useful advisors, but they are not you and therefore should not be overly involved with your application.

Mailing Things In

In this day and age, most college applications are online entities. There’s not much reason to be mailing something to the Admissions Office. Unless the application actually says it must be mailed in, you shouldn’t send in anything extra. The Admissions Committee doesn’t need a book of all your accomplishments from the time you were little. The committee doesn’t care about your report cards from first grade.

That being said, sometimes you might have to mail in a portfolio or other supplement to your application. Try not to go too overboard on what you send in. You want to convey your artistic ability or personality, true, but sending anything covered in glitter is probably only going to hurt your chances. No one wants glitter all over them. It never goes away.


Being Obnoxiously Persistent

Persistence is good, badgering the Admissions Committee about your application is not. Neither is stopping by the Admissions Office every day. You might think that being more visible or persistent about your application is beneficial, but college admissions have to handle a lot of content in sometimes very short amounts of time. It’s best not to annoy them. Perseverance isn’t always the key.

Another thing to keep in mind is that even though there are stories around the internet of students “rejecting” rejection letters and getting into the college, these are few and far between. You can always appeal a decision, but there is a good chance that it will not change anything. Sometimes it is best to let one college go and focus on a different one.

Showing Up to Interviews in Costume

Unless you are applying for a theatre program or using yourself as a display of your artwork, you really want to keep your interview dress and demeanor semi-professional. Remember, you should be serious about your higher education. The school you are interviewing with is somewhere you are seriously considering. That means you should definitely not forget the name of the institution hosting the interview. You also shouldn’t mention any other schools you have been accepted to unless specifically asked. It is not in good taste.

The point is, you don’t have to go to extreme measures in order to make yourself stand out from the crowd in a college application. Keep the quirks and gimmicks out of the admissions process, you’re strong enough to stand on your own.

Interested in seeing what your admission odds are at a certain school? Use our free college match tool to see your chances!

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