I've come home every summer from school to hang out with my family and work. It's a far trip, and I don't really like being in Hawaii, but I miss them, so I come home.
The last two summers, we've had brief excursions to the mainland for weddings, and my family planned some college visits with my brother when we were there. Last summer, when in California, I got to join them on a tour at Stanford, among other places.
I was totally overwhelmed with the university, in a good way. The best things that I took from that visit, though, were in the question and answer session, which seems to be standard issue at the end of college tours. I really wish I had experienced the college tour, but I guess that just made me all the more excited for college in general. An air of mystery didn't seem like a totally bad thing at the time, but then again, I might have fallen in love with Oberlin much earlier on.
Maybe it's because I'm seeing these parts of the application process in retrospect, as a current student who has already gone through the papers and the waiting, but a lot of what was covered in the question and answer session seemed both distant and recent, and significant enough that I wish to impart to you, dear future application writing machines.
These aren't secrets to getting into your dream college, I apologize. I don't think there is a formula for that. What I'm offering in the following post is an approach to making your application a solid representation of yourself.
The Stanford admissions officer mentioned the application as a strategically subdivided case for the person in question: you. You only have so many pages to tell the application review committee as much about yourself as possible, so his proposal was to make sure that you didn't repeat yourself, because repeating yourself is a repeated waste of precious time and space, so repeating yourself seemed like a repeat of paper. And your message can get lost, too.
His suggestion was to make a list of 30 or so things that a student would like to share about themselves, things that were important to them, showcased their accomplishments, or that were things they wanted to continue pursuing in life. Many of these things will be covered on a transcript and in the various student activity listings. Some of these things might be best demonstrated by the supporting letters from your teachers and counselor. Some of the more personal things might be covered in your application essay. If there's something missing from your application at this point, consider supplementing your application with an additional recommendation or something personal that speaks about you.
An application is one of the ways to represent yourself, so make every little bit count. I think in terms of organized lists and schedules, but I didn't think to do my application this way. I just worked my way through the entire process, but without cross-referencing. And even though I like to repeat myself (like I said earlier :P), it probably wasn't the most effective way to approach my application.
Regardless of my possible application shortcomings, I got into college, and I'm so happy that I did. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. And remember to take everything I've written with a grain of admission officer salt and a smidge of college student sugar. The college umami, if you will.
I wish I could talk about Oberlin's version of the campus visit, tours, and q&a sessions, but I have no clue... It's something I wish I knew more about, but check out the Applying to Oberlin part of the Oberlin website for more info on who to contact with questions. They're the experts, and rightfully so.