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Making Your College Application Shine

Top tips from Agnes Scott admission counselors on standing out in the application process

The college application process is overwhelming. We’re not here to pretend that it isn’t. We do our best to make it as easy as possible, but when you are applying to multiple colleges and universities, each with its own application, required documents, and deadlines, it becomes a lot to keep up with.

That’s why we want to give you our top tips on the college application process. We’re going to be focusing these tips on the Agnes Scott College admission process, which means we will be primarily talking about the Common Application. However, keep in mind that many of these tips can be transferred and will be useful for all of your applications to colleges and scholarships.

We also hosted a series of workshops (there’s still some left!) on this topic earlier this fall; we’ll be including the videos so you can get a fuller picture if you want a little more help.

Preparing for the Application

  • Admission Counselor Tip: Be intentional about the schools you wish to apply to. Filling out applications takes time, and not every college is a good fit for you!” – Jade Domingue
  • Find a way that works for you (calendar, spreadsheet, elaborate post-it note creation) to keep track of your deadlines for applications and for scholarships. Note deadlines down as soon as possible to help you section out your time.
  • Admission Counselor Tip: “Start your application early so you don’t have to rush! Working little by little will make it much less stressful.” -Faith Rashidi-Yazd
  • Make a list of what is required from you from each school, and the people from which you will need to get or request information. That might include:
    • Your parents, guardians, or other supporters
    • Teachers (for letters of recommendation)
    • High school or college counselors or registrars (transcripts, letters of recommendation)
  • Request additional items early; remember that your counselors are sending in transcripts for everyone else in your class, and it may take some time to be prepared.
  • Admission Counselor Tip: You can submit the pieces of your application separately. Meaning you can submit your Common App, then have your transcript and test scores (if using them) sent in. You don’t need to have all these pieces on hand at once.” – Stephanie Molina

Breaking Down the Application

Profile/Information Sections

  • Not sure what a question means? Ask! The Common Application offers chat support, but you can also always ask your high school counselors or your admission counselors; find your Agnes Scott admission counselor here.
  • If you feel comfortable, let us know your pronouns. If it’s complicated (like if you use different pronouns with family than you do with friends), feel free to reach out to your admission counselor and let us know what you want us to do.
  • Double-check all your information; we have to send admission decision letters somewhere, and if your email address or mailing address is wrong it can be a long wait to figure that out!

Education/Academics Sections

  • If you can, make sure to give good information on your high school and counselor; if we have a problem with your transcript or another piece of your application, we’ll reach out to them directly.
  • Include your senior year courses, and let us know if you’re guessing on your spring courses! It’s important for colleges to know what classes you are taking in your senior year.
  • What counts as an academic honor you should include? That might be something like an award for your grade level, being inducted into an honors society like Beta Club or National Honors Society, or any other academic-focused award.
  • The application asks about your career interest. Answering this does not lock you in to any decisions at this point; it just gives us information on your interests so later we can connect you with good students, faculty, and alums for your current future plans.
  • Reporting test scores is optional for most students at Agnes Scott (with the exception of some international students showing English Language Proficiency). If you want to put your test scores into the application, you may, but don’t feel obligated to do so.
  • Admission Counselor Tip: “Don’t tell us things you think we want to hear; rather, be authentic!” – Irfa Hirani

Activities Section

  • Can’t figure out what activities to report? Think back to the activities that were most influential to your time in high school. Likely, the club or organization that you worked with weekly had a bigger impact than a one-time volunteer activity. Tell us those stories.
  • Admission Counselor Tip: “Remember that admission counselors don’t go to your high school, so we don’t know what acronyms or initialisms mean. Spell out the full name of the organization or explain what it is in your application.” – Emily-Davis Hamre
  • Tell us about any leadership positions you’ve held; we like to see how you’ve taken on leadership roles in the organizations about which you care.
  • Estimate the amount of time spent on each activity, but be honest; it’s important for us to know whether something was a high commitment (10 hours a week) versus something you do once a year.
  • Admission Counselor Tip: “It’s OK if you weren’t able to participate in extracurricular activities. If you have family responsibilities or part-time jobs, that’s equally important. Feel free to add it to your app in the activities section!” -Stephanie Molina

Essay Section

  • Choose a topic that tells us your story, and not something mentioned elsewhere in the application. The essay is the only place you are able to speak for yourself!
  • Pick something to write about that you are interested in or passionate about; research shows that you use better vocabulary and write stronger essays when you care about your topic.
  • Make sure your essay answers the question (implicitly or explicitly): “Why should this college want to admit me?”
  • Follow good basic storytelling structure: Have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Focus on having good structure and flow. Give good introductions and conclusions.
  • Admission Counselor Tip: “Have people who know you well read over your essay; they can make sure everything makes sense and that your voice comes through in your writing.” – Faith Rashidi-Yazd
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread! Let someone else read it and proofread it as well.
  • Admission Counselor Tip: “If you write your essay somewhere else and copy and paste it in your app, PROOFREAD and FORMAT it again in the Common App. Copying and pasting can mess up your carefully written essay, so always double-check.” – Anna Platt
  • You’re offered the chance to add information on how COVID-19 affected your high school experience, or on circumstances not included in the application. If you have something that happened to you that you need to explain, feel free to use that space! For example, maybe you went through a health issue that affected your junior year attendance. Or maybe there was a family issue that hurt your 9th grade grades. Everything is better with context!

The Agnes Scott College Supplement

  • Some of the supplement is very administrative: telling us whether you want to live on campus or not, whether or not you are going to submit test scores, etc. Please answer as much of this as possible, as we use it to get you information you need as you move through the process.
  • We ask for your major/minor interests, but again, you are not locked into this. You don’t have to declare your major until the end of your sophomore year, so you have time to consider all of your options.
  • There are a few short questions asking why you chose to apply to Agnes Scott and about your interest in ASC. Please answer these honestly- and again, make sure to proofread!

Before You Submit

  • Admission Counselor Tip: “Make your application unique to YOU. Be creative, but honest in what you write and provide materials that you feel best represent who you are beyond a student.”- Dory Berry
  • Keep a copy of your application; when you submit, it will give you the chance to save or print a PDF. In the future, you may be asked the same questions on another application, and if you have it saved it will save you some time!
  • Make sure to invite your recommenders with plenty of time. Thank you cards are always a great touch as well!
  • Admission Counselor Tip: “Though on apps like the Common App you can use the same information for each college, you also have the chance to make changes. Think about items you may need to change- like if you mention the name of the college in the essay!” – Emily-Davis Hamre
  • Admission Counselor Tip: “Before submitting, walk away from your application, then come back to it a few hours/days later. Once you have fresh eyes, it’s easier to see typos or errors you might have missed!” – Emily-Davis Hamre

After the Application

  • Keep track of your application and your missing materials; after you submit your application to Agnes Scott, you’ll receive access to a portal that will help you keep track.
  • Admission Counselor Tip: “For Agnes Scott, you are able to do an optional admission interview, which we HIGHLY recommend. Though optional, it’s a great way to get to know your admission counselor, and for us to get to know you!” -Irfa Hirani
  • Not sure what to do next? You can always reach out to your admission counselor to ask. They’re here to help!
  • Admission Counselor Tip: Filing the FAFSA is the most important thing you can do to get money for college. It’s the only way to qualify for the nearly $200 billion in grants, work-study funds and federal loans that are available to prospective college students through the federal government. It’s free and quick to complete- and if you don’t, you’re leaving money on the table.” -Aimee Kahn-Foss
  • Admission Counselor Tip: “Don’t wait until you’ve received acceptances to do the FAFSA!” – Stephanie Molina

We hope these application tips will help you as you work through your application. Remember, you’ve already done the work; your application is just telling us about it! We can’t wait to read your application.


Rachel West, Director of Enrollment Marketing

Aimee Kahn-Foss ‘08, Senior Director of Admission

Jade Domingue, Associate Director of Admission

Emily-Davis Hamre ‘15, Associate Director of Admission

Anna Platt, Senior Assistant Director of Admission & Campus Visit Coordinator

Irfa Hirani, Assistant Director of Admission

Stephanie Molina, Assistant Director of Admission

Faith Rashidi-Yazd ‘20, Admission Counselor

Dory Berry ‘21, Admission Experience Fellow

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