At the end of my last article, I wrote, “These first two steps of my self-marketing plan are the most detailed, so I’ll allow you to absorb them before my next article, which will cover the remaining steps: timing, intensity, additional recommendations, the marketing mindset and a consistent focus. See you then.” Well, “then” is now. I’ll conclude my discussion about your application strategy with steps three through eight...so take notes!
Step 3: Schedule Your Contacts And Updates
If you are deferred in December, you’re going to have about three months (give or take) to deploy your self-marketing plan. Let’s say you have 12 weeks. You’ll want to make about three-to-six contacts with your rep, depending on how much update news you can generate. You don’t want your rep to feel that you’re a pest. If you have something to say, then say it. However, don’t just talk to hear yourself talk (or type). On average, a brief email or phone contact every two or three weeks is about right.
Step 4: Turn up the Academic Heat
This is mainly for those who will have been deferred. After getting your deferral, you may think, “What else can I do? I’m already doing the best I can!” However, you will have submitted your application in early November and learned of your deferral in mid-December. There will very likely be an early-February mid-year report waiting to go in on you that will report on your academic progress for the first half of the school year. You’ll want to show some positive improvement, if that’s possible.
The first of the year, following winter break, would be an excellent time for you to consider entering or completing any competitions that involve your “specialties,” be they forensics, writing, poetry, speech, moot court or whatever. Your goal will be to position yourself as a strong finisher, someone who has not yet realized his or her full potential. Since you’re a quality, talented student, you will probably have some reserves that haven’t yet been tapped. That would be the time to call them into play. Don’t hold back! You’ll get one shot, and this will be it!
Step 5: Scout for an Additional Recommendation
As you begin to find ways to bump your academics upward, don’t forget your extracurriculars (ECs). These will weigh significantly in your college process. Think about an activity or work area where you might be able to make an additional contribution. I don’t mean starting a new club. That will appear as an obvious ploy. I’m talking about existing areas in which you’ll be involved. See if you can find a sponsor, supervisor or other lead person who will write an additional recommendation for you.
The only caveat here is that this person must know you at least as well as those who will be writing your initial recs. If you can find someone like this, ask him or her to mention specifics about your work or performance. As with your other recommendations, anecdotal information is crucial. Once again, the goal will be to reveal to the admissions committee more about who you are. An extra recommendation like this can sometimes prove to be crucial.
Step 6: Think Like A Marketer
Think of yourself as a new, unproven product that’s just been released to the public (your first-choice college). You’re an unknown quantity who will have to prove yourself beyond the confines of the official application. Anything that you can do to facilitate this proof will aid your cause. For example, has anything about your academics or EC involvement appeared in your local or school newspaper prior to mid-December? If so, get out the scissors. Have you been involved in any academic competitions such as Mathcounts or Odyssey of the Mind? Maybe you’ll be voted MVP on one of your school’s teams.
How about your hobbies? If you’re into photography, maybe you’ve got a page or two of especially stunning shots of your locale that would make a nice mail-in (or better yet, an email-in). Perhaps one of the school organizations you’re involved with will have just completed a highly visible and successful community project. You might be able to get a letter of recommendation from the club’s sponsor or even the mayor or someone on city council, if any of these people know you well (see Step 5 above). Are you getting the picture about what it takes to be a marketer? I hope so.
Step 7: Be Persistent in Your Passion
I’ve talked a lot about passion over the years because it’s an important part of an applicant’s profile. As you execute your self-marketing campaign, either to clinch admission after deferral or to get off the waitlist, don’t forget to show your admissions rep that you’re passionate about their college. How do you do this?
Well, you don’t do it by begging to get in. Don’t pander, whatever you do. It will make you look desperate and weak. The positive way to show your passion is to let them know that you know a lot about their school -- “your” school -- and you’re not afraid to show it. Take time to investigate the school’s website and student newspapers (both official and unsanctioned). There’s a huge amount of information available from these sources. Another source I’ve mentioned before is the students on campus. If you can establish contact with a few, ask if they know of anyone admitted after deferral or from the waitlist. If they do, find out what that person did to get in. You never know what secrets you might learn.
All this new information, then, can be worked into your regular contacts with admissions. The overall impression you’ll try to project is that you’re showing a lot of spirit, energy and intelligence during your pursuit of admission. You’ll stand out from the crowd because the majority of deferred and wait-listed applicants are content to just sit and wait, which often turns out to be the end of their chances. Persist in your passion; press for the payoff!
Step 8: Be Humble in Victory And Defeat
At some point, you will reach the end of your quest. For those who will be deferred, the final “Yes!” or “No” will come in late March or early April. For those on the waitlist, things are less specific. Sometimes, waitlisters can find out where they stand on the list, if the school ranks its list. You may be able, at least, to find out how many are on the list. Sometimes it’s many hundreds. Obviously, if you choose to hang in there indefinitely on a waitlist, you’ll have to enroll somewhere, usually by May 1. This can (happily) lead to the loss of an enrollment deposit if your waitlist marketing pays off.
You may get a “fat” envelope (or email) or a thin one next spring from your first-choice college. You may never hear from the waitlist. Any of those events won’t mean that you’re any better or worse than anyone else. Accept it all as good fortune and, if you come up short, don’t pout and go negative, blaming this person or that circumstance -- or worse, yourself.
On the other hand, if you do get in, don’t gloat and go around flaunting your success. It might have gone the other way just as easily. Be humble and gracious regardless of the outcome.
In either case, the best days of your life will be yet to come. Trust me on that!