If your attempt at writing a strong college application essay is failing, you very well could be making this major mistake in the drafting process. Fix it and you will give yourself a fighting chance to write an essay that is actually decent. We gave the first reason your college application essay is so bad back in 2016, and it can be found here.
Your story matters.
During the college admissions process, sharing your story as part of your application provides context and gives you the opportunity to introduce yourself. In the past, this has been accomplished by submitting at least one essay with your college application and at some schools, scheduling a personal interview.
ZeeMee’s smartphone app helps you create a three-part video that can be viewed in a minute or two. It’s free of charge. Students own their content. Privacy settings prevent a student’s video from being searchable. And no special equipment is needed to make the video beyond access to an iOS or Android smart phone.
“Selfie-style is genuine and real,” says Courtney Vaughn, an admissions officer at Elon University in North Carolina. “Don’t hire a professional — keep it casual.”
Vaughn credits the ZeeMee videos with helping her “connect with applicants on a deeper level.” When she can glean additional knowledge about an applicant from their video, she says she will “take that nugget of information to the admissions committee” to advocate for the student.
To be clear, Vaughn says that “the students who are in the middle of the applicant pool at Elon benefit the most” from submitting a ZeeMee video. Providing the additional information, as well as taking the time to show interest and effort, says Vaughn, contributes another positive layer to an application that might need the extra boost.
Other ZeeMee partner schools may also consider a student’s submission to help them create a well-rounded class; or to select among applicants for competitive honors programs or majors. If you are applying to a school that encourages submission of a ZeeMee video or you would otherwise like to create one, here are some additional tips.
There are three parts to a ZeeMee video: your Profile Information, the Video Feed and the Photo Album.
Your Profile Information features a snapshot of you with your name, high school, and graduation year, superimposed on a default image. (Later, you can select the photo you want in the background.)
The Video Feed gives you the opportunity to tell colleges, in your own words, what you want them to know about you. You have the option of recording a brief introduction, for example, and/or speaking about a topic of your choice. Optional question prompts on the Chat tab can help you decide what to share. Some examples of ZeeMee question prompts are Describe your high school and what you like most about it. Or, Who would win, Batman or Spider Man? Or, How would your friends describe you?
These prompts can get you thinking more about how to best showcase your character and values. Are there certain topics that resonate with you? Do you have a compelling anecdote to share? What motivates you; or challenges you; or captivates you? Take some time to think about what you want to say. And if you change your mind and want to delete or rerecord your video, you can!
Videos (whether your own, or responses to prompts) are limited to no more than 26 seconds each — but you can record as many as you like. You’ll make your own decision about how many videos compose your Video Feed; just remember that a shorter one is more likely to be viewed in its entirety, so try to keep your points succinct.
If you are camera-shy, no worries — not only is ZeeMee always optional, there are a variety of ways to tell your story — for example, a teacher, friend or slideshow can serve as your introduction.
Use the Photo Album section to bring your activities to life with images that showcase who you are and what you do. These images can spotlight your athletics, talents, hobbies, projects, skills, jobs, ideas, interests, family, and more! You’ll add captions of up to 5000 characters to describe what is happening in each photo to help the reader get to know you better.
Details and Dimensions
Once you have the basics in place, continue to refine your presentation. Layer your Photo Album with a variety of images to tell your story, not just the ones that show off your accomplishments.
For example, if you have discussed several types of art mediums you enjoy, include photos of each, as opposed to five pictures of your watercolors, even if watercolors are the only ones that have earned you accolades. (Because your whole story includes your efforts with chalk and charcoal, too.)
If you love soccer, five images of yourself scoring goals will be redundant. Consider adding a photo of you working out with your teammates; or of your soccer jersey collection; or of whatever conveys more facets of your story. (After all, your ten-year relationship with soccer surely isn’t primarily about the goals you’ve scored…)
Students with just one or two activities can showcase those activities more deeply. If you do only make drawings in watercolor, for example, feature images that express variety another way, such as subject matter or color choice or even a progression of your art throughout high school, as opposed to five similar watercolors you produced for the same project with the same theme.
Or, if baseball is your thing, include all of the ways you express your passion — sure, you have some great photos of yourself in action as your high school team’s shortstop, but what about all those impromptu neighborhood street games you started in the summer and the trips to your favorite professional team’s stadium and the hours you spend playing catch while chatting with your best friend? Those are part of your story, too.
(Note: If you plan to use photos that feature friends or family, get their permission first.)
Prepare, then Share
If you open your ZeeMee account early in high school, you can upload possible content to your Photo Album as soon as you want. Later, when you are ready to put your video together for college applications, you can select the best photos, add captions and record your video responses.
To share your finished ZeeMee video with colleges, you’ll paste your video link on your applications ‘s ZeeMee field for partner schools. For other schools, you can add the link to the Additional Information or Anything Else You Want to Share section. Other options for sharing your ZeeMee video with colleges include adding it to your resume; mentioning it in a thank you note to the college; or emailing it to your regional admissions rep. Also consider providing your ZeeMee link to your school counselor and anyone who will be writing you a letter of recommendation — it can help them get to know you better, too!
Short and Sweet
The last tip is to make every second of your ZeeMee video count by targeting the things that are most important to your story; be thoughtful about every image, caption or video you include. And again, welcoming the viewer to your world from a more informal, homey, casual perspective will help you connect more authentically with your application reader. Think: heart and soul, not perfect and polished.
Will a well-done ZeeMee video alone get you admitted to a school? No, but it won’t hurt, and could help boost a borderline candidate’s admissibility or increase the odds for selection to a more competitive program.
It will also be good practice — it is highly probable that this college admissions video will be just one of many personal digital portfolios our technology savvy Snapchat Generation will create during their lives. In today’s world, says ZeeMee director Ethan Lin, “a digital identity is no longer an option.” Lin points out that students already have a professional side that their activities and academics and experiences all speak to; with ZeeMee, they can showcase their story in an easy-to-use smartphone app where they are in control of what they share.
We’re not talking about servers at restaurants or performers on the stage. Instead, we’re focusing this pretty important pep-talk on students who WAIT to be asked to join a group or activity versus students who ACT on their passion without needing an invitation. Get more expert undergraduate admissions advice at https://admissionsintel.com.
If your school uses Naviance Family Connection, your college counselor may be encouraging you to start keeping track of your extracurricular activities by using the Naviance Family Connection Résumé Builder. Here is a simple word of advice: Don’t. Unless of course you want to spend more time than necessary drafting a pre-fab résumé that won’t impress admissions officers at America’s most selective colleges and universities.
Learn more by listening to this week’s College Counseling Tonight podcast below.
While colleges increasingly emphasize the value of “experiential” or “hands-on” learning within their own communities, high school students are discovering real benefits in setting aside time during their high school careers for internships or other out-of-classroom experiences. In fact, they are finding that internships provide amazing opportunities to gain significant work experience while exploring long-term career options.
But these opportunities don’t magically appear. You have to plan ahead and do a little networking.
And believe it or not, now is a good time to begin nailing-down plans for next summer.
Although college students usually stand at the front of the line for internships, businesses and nonprofit organizations are increasingly holding positions open for students currently in high school or those transitioning to college. But make no mistake—these positions are getting increasingly competitive. And many application deadlines are coming significantly earlier than in past years.
It may take advance planning and persistence, but opportunities are out there.
Going through the internship application process teaches much-needed job search and employment skills. Preparing a résumé, asking for recommendations, landing an interview, and understanding what it means to be a responsible employee are all skills that give high school students an edge in college and beyond.
And it’s no secret that internships strengthen college applications, as these opportunities introduce students to career fields or potential majors and reinforce valuable research or lab skills.
An internship helps students understand how professional organizations function in the real world. While learning and working, interns have the opportunity to refine career goals. In fact, a summer internship can serve as a “trial period” to test ideas about professions and industries without making any long-term commitments.
If you’re especially lucky, these kinds of opportunities can also lead to award-winning science fair projects, journal articles, or patents.
Where are the internships?
Local businesses and organizations sometimes have formal internship programs designed specifically for high school students. But for the most part, these programs do not offer housing and are usually limited to students able to commute or living in the immediate area.
For example, here is a sample of the many organizations making internships available to high school students in the Washington, DC area:
- American Fisheries Society Hutton Program (due January 31, 2017)
- Bank of America (due January 27, 2017)
- Department of Defense/Georgetown University Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (due February 28, 2017)
- Department of the Navy Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Federal Highway Administration 2016 Summer Transportation Internship (applications due January 20, 2017)
- George Mason University Aspiring Scientists Summer Internship Program (ASSIP) (applications due February 5, 2017)
- Geosciences Bridge Program (applications due March 31, 2017)
- Goddard (applications due March 1, 2017)
- High School Diplomats Program (applications due January 8, 2017)
- J. Craig Venter Institute, DiscoverGenomics Science Education Program
- Library of Congress (applications accepted any time)
- The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore
- Montgomery County Police Department
- National Aquarium
- National Archives
- National Air and Space Museum (application window: January 15 – February 15, 2017)
- National Eye Institute (applications due March 1, 2017)
- National Human Genome Research Institute (rolling application process but all due March 1, 2017)
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (applications due March 1, 2017)
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (applications due March 1, 2017)
- National Institute of Health Summer Internship in Biomedical Research (applications due March 1, 2017)
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
- National Institute on Aging
- National Institutes of Standards and Technology (applications due February 1, 2017)
- National Marine Sanctuaries
- National Science Education Center (Application window: January 1-March 15, 2017)
- National Security Agency
- Research Science Institute (applications due January 12, 2017)
- Rosie Riveters (spring internship)
- National Security Language Initiative for Youth (Department of State immersion program for less-commonly taught languages)
- NASA (applications due March 1, 2017)
- Northrop Grumman
- The Smithsonian Institution
- Uniformed Services University Summer Research Training
- US Department of Agriculture
- US Department of State Pathways Program
- US Secret Service
- Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars
- Werner H. Kirsten Student Intern Program at the National Cancer Institute (applications due December 16, 2016)
For a great list of opportunities outside of the DC area, check the webpages maintained by the Rochester Institute of Technology (scroll down for high school students and note that while the dates may not be updated the links are).
Be aware that some internship opportunities are “salaried” positions, some have stipends, and some are strictly volunteer. Again, they are generally highly competitive, and some deadlines may already be past. So make note for next year.
Also, many organizations don’t advertise the availability of summer internships. This is when you have to do a little investigative work on the internet and through other kind of public job listings. Use your networks—parents, relatives, family friends, teachers—anyone who may have contacts in businesses or organizations of interest to you. Internships, particularly for students at least 16 years of age, are great ways to get to know yourself a little better while building skills that will make you competitive for the future.
Nancy Griesemer is an independent educational consultant and founder of College Explorations LLC. She has written extensively and authoritatively about the college admissions process and related topics since 2009. Never miss one of Nancy’s articles – subscribe to her mailing list below.
It’s late May, which means that many high school seniors are just days away from graduation. Other students have just graduated. The natural impulse for many students is to turn a page on all that happened in high school and have a lot of summer fun before college. Lost in the transition is often the résumé students write for their college applications. It’s so important that students moving on to college not let their college applications’ extracurricular résumés die! This video explains why.
If you didn’t put together an extracurricular résumé for your college applications, start one now using our online course, which will give you the perfect format to start organizing your extracurricular, and eventual professional, resume.
If you don’t communicate to colleges the depth and breadth of what you have accomplished outside of the classroom, admissions officers will never know how awesome you really are because your teachers and college counselor are not responsible for relaying your extracurricular prowess in their recommendation letters.
After getting comfortable in high school during freshman year, students need to take a serious look at their extracurricular interests, output, and goals during the first half of their sophomore year.
Learn how to select pre-college programs or other summer activities that will help your chances of college admission.
Many high schools don’t provide proactive college counseling to students until the end of eleventh grade. Don’t wait until your school gets around to it. Find out when to assertively approach your counselor.