Profile Marketing: Speak for Yourself on Your College Application
I’ve coined this term: “student profile marketing.” Many high schoolers feel that promoting themselves on a high profile is bragging, and they feel uncomfortable about it. That’s a natural, if not noble, sentiment, but it’s completely misplaced in this arena. One of the (rhetorical) questions I ask these humble students is: “Do you think any other applicants out there this year are submitting extensive information packages about themselves?” You can bet the farm that most applicants are looking to gain an advantage by emphasizing his or her “special” aspects (sometimes known as hooks).
Speaking of hooks, this is where research can make a big difference. By pooling the rich variety of resources available these days, an applicant can find out what particular marketing aspects might pay some dividends. Say, for example, that you’re a female interested in the physical sciences and that you may be thinking about some kind of engineering major. You may discover by searching your candidate colleges’ Web sites, student newspapers, alumni newsletters, or College Confidential’s discussion forum that one of your candidate colleges is looking to increase female enrollment in its engineering physics program. Pay dirt! If your general qualifications are in the ballpark, you should absolutely emphasize the fact that you are a female interested in engineering physics. How do you do that?
Well, remember my phrase “student profile marketing”? This is your chance to exploit its power. Survey everything in your files (that includes asking mom and/or dad to see all the scrapbook items they’ve kept on you over the years) for anything in your past that relates to a connection between you and the hard sciences and/or engineering. This might include documentation of some great science projects or research you’ve done or some hands-on team stuff such as Odyssey of the Mind. OM has a great series of problems every year for all grades to solve. Maybe your 7th-grade OM team made it to the state or national championships and you helped design and build a balsawood structure that supported six tons (or whatever) of weight before it broke. Maybe your team built a robot that negotiated a treacherous obstacle course in record time. Think about it. These are all superb examples of hands-on success in an engineering-related area. Include this information as part of your profile marketing.
Don’t be shy or sell yourself short. When evaluating the stats of some students, I notice that they sometimes submit very little in the way of profile marketing or hook-type information. Invariably, after I go back and question them in detail about their accomplishments and involvements over the years, they come up with excellent information that enhances their overall profile and, consequently, their admission appeal. I call this “Achievement Dentistry” because getting students to laud their accomplishments is sometimes like pulling teeth!
The lesson for you here, then, is to examine your past carefully. What kinds of things have you done, while winning honors or awards along the way perhaps, that relate to your goals for college? Gather this information and prepare it for submission in your applications. If you haven’t already done so, you should start putting together a summary of your awards and honors, something that can be attached to your applications. College applications most times don’t allow room for applicants to detail their accomplishments. Keep it simple, direct, and chronological. You can go back to your elementary years, if you want, as long as the awards and honors are significant. A summary like this will establish the pattern of excellence that, no doubt, has been a hallmark of your school career so far.