Over the next few months, millions of high school students will begin mailing in their college applications. While grades will be the main focus, many colleges make room on the application for students to write a creative, personal essay. In the quest to stand out and be noticed, some students go above and beyond the standard essay. They also show their creativity by creating extravagant, homemade gifts for the Dean of Admissions. According to a new report in the Boston Globe it’s mostly a big waste of time!

For instance, one student hoping to get into Smith College included a full Scrabble board with her application. The board had words glued on that trumpeted the girl’s strengths – like “smart,” “outgoing” and “optimistic.” Then there’s the Harvard hopeful who sent in a homemade replica of the school’s official seal – which she had carved out of a block of chocolate. The admissions office at Tufts University keeps a box full of paper origami that students have mailed in over the years. While M.I.T. gets a lot of unsolicited inventions from applicants.

So do any of these gimmicks actually work? The answer is “no,” according to Debra Shaver. She’s the Director of Admissions at Smith College and she says a lot of these gifts DO entertain the staff. However, they do nothing to help you get accepted! In fact, most of them get tossed right in the trash. If anything, a gift may HURT your chances – if you cross the line of good taste. Consider the Harvard applicant who mailed in a glossy photo of himself, superimposed over a fake Time Magazine cover. The headline on the magazine declared him “Person of the Year” – which the university found to be egotistical.

By the way, that student who sent in the Scrabble board WAS accepted, but the Smith admissions director insists it was because of the girl’s grades, essay, and her extensive list of after school activities. Bottom line: Save your time and avoid the gimmicks! The best way to get noticed by a college is to be a great “all around student.” Good grades help, but if you’re ranked high in your class AND play sax in the school band, that’s even better!