Enter Store - AP Online Classes - Who We Are - Volleyball - PHAA diploma Program


Move From Impressive to Intriguing in your College Applications
Jeannette Webb, 12/3/2012

Jeannette Webb is founder of Aiming Higher Consultants, a high school planning and college consulting firm dedicated to helping homeschooled students reach their potential and successfully apply to their dream colleges.  Learn more at aiminghigherconsultants.com. Jeannette is also the mother of two homeschool graduates who both went on to highly selective colleges, and she was our keynote speakers two summers ago at our PHAA High School at Home summer conference. We know many very happy families who've worked with her closely during the college application process, including many of the students in our Advanced Placement online courses (including international homeschoolers) as well as students in the PHAA diploma program here in PA. She's terrific!

israel rocks photo.jpg

[photo by Susan Richman, taken on Nov 2012 trip to Israel... what makes one rock more interesting than the next?]

It is autumn and my clients from around the world are working hard on presenting a winning application to the college of their dreams.  And, some are shocked by the advice I give them.

If you want to catch an admissions officer's attention, seek to intrigue rather than impress.

What do I mean by that?

Your story (the compilation of essays, short answer questions, activity profile, counselor letter, teacher recommendations, school profile, transcript legend, and interviews) needs to be seamless.  They should all agree with each other, but each piece doesn’t highlight the same things.  It should give colleges a glimpse into your life that catches their attention and we do that by making it interesting, not by pounding them over the head with your accomplishments. 

It’s amazing how often I have to rein mothers in!  I totally understand because after 12 years of catching flack for homeschooling my kids I wanted to brag too!!  But, we can’t go there.  Trust me.  Over and over again, I have to tell moms to tone down their counselor letter, to take out the 12 URL links to videos of their child’s activities, to NOT upload a 15-page resume to the application, and to certainly not expect admissions officers to read through a scrapbook of ribbons and newspaper clippings.  Essays deteriorate quickly when parents are pushing for a resume in prose – putting in all accomplishments in some form of narrative.

Don’t get me wrong.  For competitive colleges you need stellar test scores.  Your GPA needs to be superb.  You must have a strong activity profile described in powerful words that showcases leadership acumen, community spirit, or entrepreneurial panache.  

But, you have to present it in the right way.

Where to Brag

If we select our recommenders carefully, their letters will be filled with over the top bragging about how amazing you are.  Let them do it, not you.  We want to present an accurate, comprehensive list of your most important activities via the college application on the Activity Section and sometimes attaching a more thorough resume in the Additional Information Section.  However, it is sometimes wise to eliminate some minor activities that just confuse the issue.

Where NOT to Brag

Student’s essays need to be winsome and catch an admissions officer’s eye.  Good ones normally deal with a very limited topic, are incredibly well written, very interesting, and insightful.  They show a unique vantage point, a lesson learned, a growth experience-- all in a way that is humble and touching. 

A homeschooling counselor’s letter need to show development over a lifetime, put the student in context for the college, talk about growth through weakness, and can even share comments from others.  It tells the back-story of success, but doesn’t list the successes too much.

The interview needs to show that you are an interesting, engaging person, able to laugh at yourself and understand your experiences.  It is fine to carry a copy of your resume into an interview for their reference point, but let it speak for itself.  You are there to confirm that the paper version of you is true.  They will probably ask about some of your activities, but you would be wise to share what you learned about yourself as well as the facts about the activity. 

Remember, competitive colleges see literally thousands of impressive kids.    Catch their attention by being intriguing!

Jeannette Webb is founder of Aiming Higher Consultants, a high school planning and college consulting firm dedicated to helping homeschooled students reach their potential and successfully apply to their dream colleges.  Learn more at aiminghigherconsultants.com


  • AP Online Classes
  • Blog RSS
  • Enter Store
  • Evaluators
  • High School Conference
  • Homeschool Law Guide (pdf)
  • Online Classes
  • Magazine Archive
  • PA Dept of Education
  • PA Support Groups
  • PHAA Diploma Guide (pdf)
  • PHAA Diploma Program
  • Volleyball
  • Who We Are

    February 2017
    July 2016
    February 2016
    September 2015
    March 2015
    January 2015
    November 2014
    October 2014
    September 2014
    August 2014
    July 2014
    June 2014
    March 2014
    February 2014
    January 2014
    November 2013
    October 2013
    September 2013
    August 2013
    July 2013
    May 2013
    April 2013
    March 2013
    February 2013
    January 2013
    December 2012

  • Move From Impressive to Intriguing in your College Applications November 2012
    October 2012
    September 2012
    August 2012
    July 2012
    June 2012
    May 2012
    April 2012
    March 2012
    February 2012
    January 2012
    December 2011
    November 2011
    October 2011
    September 2011
    August 2011
    July 2011
    June 2011
    May 2011
    April 2011
    March 2011
    February 2011
    January 2011
    December 2010
    November 2010
    October 2010
    September 2010
    August 2010
    July 2010
    June 2010
    May 2010
    April 2010
    March 2010
    February 2010
    January 2010

    AP Online Classes
    College Preparation

    Community Service
    Contests and Scholarships
    Co-op Learning
    Curriculum Reviews
    Evaluations & Portfolios
    Family Life
    Getting Organized
    High School Conference
    Math by Kids
    Museums and PA Resources
    PA Cyber Charter Schools
    PHAA Diploma Program
    PreK - 6th grade
    Special Needs
    Sports and Fitness
    Test Taking
    Writing Club Ideas