Why College Application Essays Matter

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Why College Application Essays Matter
by Vera Murphy Trayner, Co-Founder of Veritas College Counseling

Imagine YOU are the college admissions rep at a university. You have hundreds of applications to review each week. You have to recommend to Admit…Defer…Decline. The applications you are reviewing have similar test scores, similar GPAs, and similar activities listed. What aspect of the application will set a student apart? It’s the essay.

Through the application essay, students are able to communicate directly to the college
admissions rep about who they are, what is important to them and why, what values they hold important, and what experiences they have had that has helped them grow into the young adult they are today. What skills, talents, values, interests, and experiences will this student bring to campus? How will this student build and complement our student body?

Now imagine that you are the high school senior applying to colleges. You’ve decided which colleges will be a good fit for you. The colleges have your desired program of study, are in the location where you would like to live for the next four years, have the student life options that would inspire your passions and growth, and have the students on campus who would be your friends for life and future professional contacts. The admit statistics are similar to your academic profile…plus or minus a little. It’s time to write your essay to secure your admission to the colleges of your choice.

Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has a passion, an experience, and a unique perspective on life. How do you communicate that through the college essay? Let’s take a look at how to paint your own unique picture through your words.

  • If you have a choice, read through the essay questions and pick the question(s) that stand out to you as “easy.”
  • Take time to think about important experiences or people in your life who have changed the way you think and the way you view the world. Who is your mentor, your inspiration? What was that experience that made you stop and think?
  • Write down your ideas. Then look at your ideas and write a sentence or two about why the person was so important and how that experience changed your view? What did you learn about yourself?

You can use this outline to build your essay. Use vivid verbs, descriptive words, refer to a list of characteristics and values, and pick those that identify YOU! Speak from your heart. Take your time, leave your drafts and come back to re-read, edit, and build on your ideas. When you finish, ask a parent, teacher or counselor review your essay. Listen to their feedback and refine your work.

Your essay is a portrait of you, your values, and what you can uniquely bring to the college campus. THIS is what a college admissions rep is looking for! This is how your application will stand out from the crowd.

Vera Murphy Trayner is an Independent Educational Counselor based in Lutz. Veritas College Counseling offers individual counseling for students and parents to facilitate the college application process. Veritas also hosts workshops to highlight best practices for college search, applications and essays. Contact: info@veritas-college-counseling.com; call or text 813-545-8178 or visit www.getcollegeadvice.com

Attention Seniors! Three Tips for Minimizing Stress When Applying for College


by Vera Murphy Trayner, Co-Founder of Veritas College Counseling

Welcome Back to School, seniors! This is your big year to shine. You’ve worked hard and played hard, and now it’s time to get down to the business of applying for college admissions. Once your “job” of applying to college is finished, you can relax and bask in the glory of your most memorable year.

August 1st marks the beginning of the college application season. The Common Application, the Coalition Application, and the many institutional (individual college/university) applications will be available. If you play your cards right, you can get a jump on the application process and finish strong (read: EARLY)!

Here are the Best Practice tips to help minimize yours (and your parents’) stress level. Give these ideas a try and you will be celebrating like a rock star rather than pulling your hair out on December 31!

  1. START EARLY:  Have you ever heard the phrase, “The early bird gets the worm”?  It’s never been truer than in the college application process.  State universities fill their freshman classes on a first-come, first-served basis.  Selective private colleges report a higher acceptance rate for those who apply Early Decision or Early Action.  Start working on your college applications over Labor Day weekend.  You can check college admissions’ web pages to see if their essay prompts are available NOW.
  2. ESTABLISH AND STICK TO A ROAD MAP:  Studies show that a person is more motivated and focused on a goal when a well thought out plan of action is in place to reach that goal.  Get out your calendar and write down the due dates for early action applications (or binding early decision, if you so choose). Work on ONE application at a time, and apply first to those schools highest on your interest list.  Work methodically and stick to your plan. Plan to submit all applications by Thanksgiving.
  3. STAY ORGANIZED!:  This item is key for your sanity. Keep track of the details in a binder, keeping tabs for each school, and create checklists for each required item you need to do to complete the college’s application.  Your checklist should include each college’s due dates for the admission application, financial aid and scholarship applications.  Every college will want one or more essays, your transcript, a teacher recommendation, a counselor recommendation, and a copy of your standardized tests, so begin gathering these items early. Make an appointment with a college counselor at the beginning of the school year to learn the process you will need to follow to request all of the paperwork needed. If you are applying to a specialized program, you may also be required to submit a portfolio of your work or additional recommendations.

Following these tips will give you the opportunity to reduce stress and anxiety, keep your parents’ questions to a minimum, and most importantly, to give you the peace of mind to sit back, relax, and watch the decisions roll in before you need to begin studying for finals!

Remember, your ultimate goal is to ring in 2019 with many college acceptances!

Vera Murphy Trayner is an Independent Educational Counselor based in Lutz.  Veritas College Counseling offers individual counseling for students and parents to facilitate the college application process.  Veritas also hosts workshops to highlight best practices for college search.  Contact:  info@veritas-college-counseling.com; call or text 813-545-8178 or visit www.getcollegeadvice.com.

Summer is a great time to visit colleges!

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Combine a campus visit while traveling on vacation – that way your college-ready child AND your younger children can get an idea of colleges.

Choose schools that will give you a sense of different types of colleges – big or small campuses, near a city or more rural, state university or private college…you can decide.


  • Before you go, register for your visit at the college’s admissions web page.
  • Plan to spend two hours at the college to attend the admissions overview group meeting and the walking tour of the campus.
  • Remember to take pictures to remember the school!
  • Pick up the college’s ‘viewbook’ to read later. You will learn what makes the college truly unique.

You and your child will enjoy your time AND you will both learn a lot about the school.  Most importantly, you will get a first-hand vibe of the school.

If we can assist you in any way, don’t hesitate to contact us!

Seats are still available for our “Summer Boot Camp: Get Ready for Your College Search!” the weeks of June 11-15 and July 23-27.  This one-week camp will be held on the campus of Corbett Preparatory School in Carrollwood from 3:30-5:00pm each day.  To register, go to https://www.corbettprep.com/community/camp-ids?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI6JbIpuO_2wIVUT2BCh079gaJEAAYASAAEgJpkfD_BwE