Attention Class of 2009. It’s crunch time! The fact is - you’re the largest class of high school seniors ever, so competition to get into college is fierce. Be careful, it is possible to try too hard. In fact, many deans of admission say that the more you work on an application, the less they can tell about you as a person. So, here are some tips for putting the personality back into your admissions packet, courtesy of The Wall Street Journal:

  • Don't overdo it. It might seem like a good idea to let parents or even professional coaches help with your application, but it isn’t. Seth Allen, a dean at Grinnell College, says that makes it hard for the selection committee to get a sense of who you are. It also looks like cheating. Don’t think you can fool them! Allen says they can always tell the difference.  
  • Pick essay topics that inspire you. Even if you spent the summer hammering nails with Habitat for Humanity, writing about it won’t help if you just recite the facts. It needs to be personal. Jennifer Delahunty-Britz, dean of admissions at Kenyon College in Ohio, says she’d rather read essays about everyday topics, like changing a tire, because they reveal more about how you think and feel.              
  • Don’t be a stalker. Some applicants barrage the admissions office with emails, but that comes across as desperate. If you’ve had a personal visit with someone, send a handwritten thank you note. Otherwise, don’t correspond at all.
  • Take risks. Jean Jordan, a dean at Emory University, says that most students try to impress selection committees by sending in safe, cookie-cutter applications. Her advice? Be yourself. For example, if you feel strongly about a social issue, then make that the subject of your essay -even if you think the old fogeys reading it will disagree.

There’s always another student with a better GPA or more extracurricular activities, but there’s only one you. Focus on that, and you’ll have your foot in the door.