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What do JU Admissions Counselors look for in a college application?

August 1 is a big day for high school seniors. That’s when Jacksonville University begins accepting applications for the 2020-21 academic year. 

Thousands of students will apply from all over the country and the world. So, how does a student stand out? WAVE asked JU’s own Admissions counselors what they look for in an application, and what students can do to become part of the coveted Dolphin family. Here’s their advice.

Write a memorable essay.

The essay portion of the college application is the student’s opportunity to showcase their personality. JU Admissions Counselor Kelly Cleveland recommends students write about something that sparks their passions and interests. 

JU Admissions Counselor Kelly Cleveland.

“Students should choose an interesting topic and put a spin on it,” said Cleveland. “I often remember details about students when I meet them in person because I remember their essays!” 

As a test-optional school, JU Admissions counselors also look for a strong GPA. Cleveland says test scores don’t always reflect a student’s work ethic or academic potential, whereas a strong GPA gives counselors a good sense of a student’s academic performance. On the other hand, it’s also a figure that offers little insight into the student’s life and identity.

“So much of a college application is sheer history of their past academic records. So, the essay should be a time to show some personality, while also showing us that you can clearly communicate your thoughts,” said Cleveland.

Be authentic.

While students should put their best foot forward in an application and essay, authenticity is critical. Admissions counselors are looking for students who are unafraid to be themselves and show some vulnerability.

Jessica White, Assistant Director of Admissions at JU.

Assistant Director of Admissions Jessica White says when she’s reviewing an application, she’s looking for details about who that student is as an individual, and what goals they have.

“When students are their most genuine and authentic selves in their applications, that really helps to show their commitment to the process,” said White. 

This often involves venturing beyond surface-level information, and sharing an experience that was deeply meaningful. For example, students can write about a personal challenge they had to overcome, or a heartbreaking disappointment, or the impact of time spent serving others in need. Opening up about personal experiences that shape a student’s identity and perspective will help that person stand out as genuine, honest and brave.

Attention to detail. 

Proofreading is critical. It’s a simple step that many overlook, according to White and Cleveland, who say typos and errors are major pet peeves for them.  

“Students often copy and paste their essays from multiple applications,” said White, who, along with Cleveland, says she’s seen essays that specifically mention other universities. “Make sure your essay is written for the school to which you are actually applying!” 

Cleveland adds that essays filled with grammatical errors significantly impact the decision to accept or deny a student. “So many of these could have been caught if the essay was proofread before submitting the application,” said Cleveland. She also warns against writing an essay on a cell phone and submitting a screenshot. “Not good!”