Each year, admissions officers (AOs) from top schools reveal insider information about the admissions review process. Here are the seven pieces of information they have recently shared:

1. Every interaction counts – admissions officers take notes regarding every phone call, email, and in-person meeting, regardless of how arbitrary it may seem to you. Our advice: the student, not the parent, should always be the one to interact with admissions officers. Sometimes admissions officers think about an applicant in the context of whether or not they would mind sitting next to the student on a flight. Be polite, engaging, and conscientious.

2. 12 minutes, on average, to review an application. Our advice: develop a strategy for your application so that there is an engaging flow for the AOs to follow.

3. Aim for better than “standard positive.” This term means that an application is positive but comes across as standard. There is no hook, no differentiating factor, nothing that makes the student stand out as interesting and/or memorable. Our advice: you MUST have a differentiating angle for your application. Think about what makes you uniquely you. It could be an interest, approach, accomplishment, engagement, or a number of other factors.

4. Schools shape the class. Schools aim to create a balanced and diversified class; thus not all qualified students will be admitted. Our advice: submit a genuine application that showcases your unique strengths. Don’t try to play the numbers game and submit an application for a major that you think is unpopular.

5. Personality matters. This is one reason that schools utilize holistic review. Beyond your role as a student, your grades, and your standardized test scores, who are you? What makes you tick? How do you think? How do you interact with others and pursue your interests? Our advice: one of the biggest mistakes applicants make is not considering their tone and the overall feeling they are conveying through their verbiage.

6. Interview = advantage. An interview further humanizes the application process. Our advice: take advantage of formal interviews, alumni interviews, and informational interviews.

7. Ask questions. Be prepared to ask intelligent questions. Our advice: showcase your genuine interest through engaging questions that both reveal something about yourself and showcase your interest in the specific school.

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