Tools for a Successful Application

Marketing Yourself to U.S. universities

Ten Tips for Successful Recommendation Letters If You Want to Study in the USA: UG volume

Marketing Yourself to U.S. universities

Self-marketing is a concept that confuses many Romanian candidates. Why should you do it? Your objective is to convey a complete image of your abilities and aspirations, so it’s a wise approach to highlight your accomplishments and market yourself. After all, who knows better than you that you are far more than the sum of your grades and test scores?

An interesting point here is that you’re not alone in this effort. Your recommenders, for instance, should be advised to mention certain key features about you and your education and include some realistic, contextualized appreciation in their letters (would you say a statement like  “with a GPA of 9 out of 10, he is the best at physics in his competitive group of 25” will ever hurt?).

Wondering how to connect with your chosen schools to make sure they notice you in the crowd? There are no specific marketing strategies to help you get into your desired university, but there are a couple of options that might increase your chances, especially if you are heading for schools with a smaller number of applicants and more opportunity for individual, personalized support.

1. After thoroughly researching the university website, write to the admissions personnel to clarify issues you may not be 100% sure about based on the information on the university website. They will be glad to answer your questions. Be positive in your approach and emphasize your interest in that specific university and, ultimately, how well it matches your interests. Here, your thorough research and previous documentation will come in handy. Make sure you highlight your abilities and experience if they relate to the topic discussed.  The right time to start writing to the admissions office is after the busy admissions season. Do not start with a message covering your full academic experience and all your questions. Make your messages short and specific so that you start a dialogue with the university.

2. Make the most of the admissions essay! The essay is a reflection of your character, life experience, and knowledge. As such, it can basically “make or break” your application. You should be honest and realistic in your self-assessment. Strive to answer the essay topic so that the essay captures your passions, interests, values, and maturity and makes you memorable to the admissions counselors. Put your sparkling, unique personality into it!

The marketing exercise below could be a helpful starting point:
a)     What can you bring to the campus that is unique about you?
b)     What can you bring to the department you are applying to?
c)     Develop a personal writing worksheet:
1.    5 adjectives that describe you best:________________________________________________________
2.    3 of your strengths: ____________________________________________________________________
3.    3 of your weaknesses:__________________________________________________________________
4.    3 major experiences that have shaped you:__________________________________________________
5.    What do these experiences reveal about you? ___________________________________________________    
6.    3 individuals that have strongly influenced you:________________________________________________
7.    The most important point you want to make in your essay is: ________________________________________

My journey to Grinnell College started in the 11th grade. As an aspirant to U.S. education, I would frequently visit the Fulbright Educational Advising Center/FEAC and participate in their events. That was where I met Jon Edwards, Grinnell’s Dean of International Admission, and I got the first glimpses of Grinnell life. His presentation organized by FEAC convinced me that Grinnell could be a place for me: a vibrant community of academically ambitious students. Therefore, when it came to applying to U.S. universities, Grinnell was among my first choices. In March, I got a phone call from Jon telling me that I had been accepted and gotten a scholarship covering my full need, which literally made me cry with joy. As you may know, last year was one of the worst times for applicants in financial need - awards were scarce and undersized. The problem, often, wasn’t getting admitted – it was getting sufficient financial support. Grinnell was the only college that personally contacted me; I would get a call every couple of days either from Jon or a current student with whom I’d discuss. They sent me a postcard signed by current international students. I felt so wanted; I felt like that was where I would most feel at home. Even though I was reluctant at the thought of living in   Iowa, far from a major city, I accepted their offer, and I do not regret my decision.
Corina Varlan, Grinnell College, class of 2014


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