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Articles / Applying to College / What to Tell Your Top-Choice College

What to Tell Your Top-Choice College

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Feb. 10, 2004

Question: In my application, should I let my first-choice school know that they are number one?

Yep. Absolutely let your first-choice college know the good news. It may not help your chances of admission, but it might. Everyone likes to be loved--even colleges--and it certainly can't hurt.

You don't have to worry about your other target schools finding out that they're not equally adored. Admission folks don't share that kind of information. (However, just as a matter of principle, it's not a good idea to tell every school you apply to that they're number one.)

While you can always find a spot on an application form--or in a supplemental note or essay--to express your interest, sometimes a good way to truly impress admission officers with your enthusiasm is by providing compelling reasons to explain why their college is the right place for you. In other words, don't merely proclaim your devotion to Dartmouth or Denison, Princeton or Purdue. Instead, explain why you feel the match is perfect. Some colleges require entire "Why us?" essays. Others ask the question more briefly on their application forms. Almost every interviewer will ask, too. Make sure that your reasons are more substantial than, "The campus is beautiful and I know I'd love it."

Of course, the best way to tell a college that you really want to go there is to apply early decision, if the option is offered and if your family finances make it feasible.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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