Lifelaunchr is a regular contributor to the Edmodo Blog. With articles written by Venkates Swaminathan, Founder/CEO of LifeLaunchr, the site provides parents and students with virtual and in-person coaching for all aspects of college planning, starting as early as freshman year. Watch for a new post regularly on the Edmodo blog and find out how you or your student can better prepare for a life-changing experience in college.
The phrase brand-building conjures up images of Mad Men, and ad executives coming up with schemes to convince people to buy things they don’t need. It doesn’t seem related to the serious process parents and students go through to find and get into college. And yet, given the complex college admissions process students face today, building a coherent identity is critical for students applying to college.
As college application coach Sharon Genicoff says, “In today’s competitive college landscape it is important for applicants to stand out among their peers. By defining a personal brand identity admissions officers can clearly understand who you are and how you will contribute to and fit within their school community, both academically and socially. Remember that your application is one of thousands, so use this platform to effectively ‘sell’ your brand to the committee.”
Brand-building for college isn’t about creating some fake identity that you use to get in. After all, once you get in, you have to do the work to thrive. Your “brand” is about finding a way to express your authentic self-consistently, not just in your application, but in email and on social media.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
- Schools are looking to find students that fit their campus community and culture. If you’re a buttoned-down, hard-driven student, you might not be a great fit at a school that values cultural non-conformity and exploration. Or vice versa.
- Admissions officials really want to get a sense of each student as they go through the process. What makes this student really tick? Are they driven to be creative? Focused on community and family? Motivated by service and social good?
- There have been instances of students losing admissions into excellent schools based on information in their social media. It isn’t clear how common this is, but you really don’t want to be the one this happens to!
SO WHAT SHOULD A CONCERNED PARENT OR STUDENT DO?
- At the beginning of the process, do a thorough evaluation of your social media presence. Are you using an email address that would raise flags? What social media information is out there about you? Getting an admissions expert to look at your social media may be a useful and important thing.
- Make sure all your application materials (essays, résumé, supplemental answers) share a consistent message. Tell the truth, of course. But make sure you emphasize what you’re really about in a consistent way. Whether that is a passion for animal welfare, feminism, or sports, showcase your most important qualities, and downplay the rest.
- Show interest. One of the most important qualities schools look for in deciding whom to admit is “demonstrated interest.” In a crowded field of applicants, choosing applicants who show interest is a good way for schools to boost their “yield” (the percentage of admitted applicants who accept in return).
College admissions is getting more complex each year. It’s starting to resemble a job search. For parents who fret “this wasn’t so hard when I was a kid,” it can be a frustrating feeling. But embrace the complexity. The rewards are worth it, and fretting won’t change the truth.