At Work

How to Best Market Yourself on College Applications

The act of applying to colleges can feel overwhelming—deciding which schools you’d potentially like to attend, considering scholarship and other financial aid opportunities, and exploring living options is a lot to consider. But once you’ve narrowed down your schools, you’ll want to give each application your all, which can require some clever marketing on your part.

Getting into college isn’t what it used to be—now, it requires a complete academic portfolio, a well-written essay, and a whole lot of creativity.

Evaluate your social media

College admissions officers are at least as social media savvy as you are, so you’ll want to prepare your accounts accordingly. First, make the profile image of yourself one that the general public sees a positive one. This might mean adjusting your privacy settings or even deleting pictures that might cast you in an unflattering light.

You might also curate your social media profiles to reflect your interest in a particular school—a photograph of you on campus, a picture of the school mascot, or sharing one of the school’s relevant posts can send the message that you’re committed to the school. Assume that admissions officers will be performing a Google search on you as well and make sure the results say what you want them to say.

Focus on creating a personal brand

A great way to market yourself to a college is by working to create a comprehensive personal brand. This helps ensure that the image you’re projecting on social media is consistent with your personality and also your academics. Your personal brand should make you a memorable candidate as well as tie every aspect of your college application materials together. It should present you as a student, a professional, and a contributing member of your community. A good personal brand should also show a school why you wish to attend—after all, they want students who want them!

Highlight your uniqueness

Colleges respond to people who demonstrate diversity in a number of ways. Before you even begin the application process, think about what makes you a unique and uniquely qualified applicant. Perhaps it is that you grew up in a foreign country or started a community garden—whatever the case, find ways to play it up.

Think outside the box when thinking about what makes you a unique applicant. Maybe you’re the oldest of ten children or hold a school record for the most spelling bee wins. Find ways to draw attention to these interesting tidbits.

You can highlight your uniqueness on your social media profiles, in your admissions essay, or through any other means that feels both professional and appropriate. Find a way to stand out amongst the thousands of other applicants and you’ll be much more likely to leave a lasting impression.

Think multidimensional

Most students are going to submit application materials that are relatively simple—typewritten essays that may contain great content, but lack visual interest, for example. To catch the attention of admissions representatives, you might try doing something more uncommon. Consider attaching links to your YouTube channel and submitting a visual essay, or highlight your podcast.

If you’re feeling slightly less adventurous, you may also try playing with the visual format of something, such as your typed college admissions essay. Something as simple as taking a conversational (but appropriate) tone can be just enough of a deviation in form to make you stand out.

Of course, you’ll want to check the school’s application rules (probably by calling them or thoroughly exploring the website). You’ll also want to make sure that your nontraditional application materials address everything the application asks for—and does so in a professional way. While you want to stand out, you also want colleges to take note of you in a positive way.

Nail the interview

A great way to market yourself to colleges is by way of the interview. While not all schools conduct admissions interviews, it is a great way to stand out. Make sure that you dress professionally and conduct yourself as you would during a job interview. Be conversational and friendly, but remember that you’re there to prove that you’ve got a place at their school.

Don’t underestimate the importance of eye contact and a firm handshake—and don’t forget to do a little bit of research on the school before you head in. Use the interview to prove that you’re the best student for this particular college.

Let your hard work pay off

Finally, let all of your years of hard work pay off. Chances are, you’ve put together an impressive academic and extracurricular portfolio, which does a lot of the marketing for you. Think about why you want to attend a particular school and you’ll be able to reasonably market yourself—let your passion do the work!
Heather Hamilton is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.