Preparing for College

Sending Extras With Applications

Question: I am the editor of my high school newspaper, I would like to send clippings of the paper with my applications. Will it hurt or help? How do I do this in a professional manner? How do I know which schools except "extras"?

First of all, you say that you are the "editor" of your school newspaper. Are you, in fact, the editor-in-chief? If you are, be sure to say so on all your applications. Often high school newspapers have many editors--the arts editor, the sports editor, etc., and students describe themselves as "editor" even if they're not the biggest cheese. If you are the head honcho, make certain that it's clear.

Secondly, we would only suggest sending individual clippings from the paper if the articles or editorials you select are those you actually wrote yourself. Otherwise, send a copy or two of the entire paper so that admission officials can get a gander at what you oversee. (A small handful of colleges clearly specify that they don't want these sorts of extras, so read instructions carefully. At most schools, it's fine, but just don't go overboard. More on that in a minute.)

Sending newspapers or clips is usually a plus and can rarely hurt. Rarely? Occasionally, if the newspaper is especially sophomoric or crammed with grammatical and spelling errors, it's not going to be a big plus when it comes to displaying your editorial skills. Likewise, if you send copies of your own articles or editorials, and admission committees find them less than impressive, it won't help your cause. (Sometimes applicants work very hard on their application essays and/or get some outside editing assistance along the way. When the newspaper clips they submit aren't as finely polished, admission officials can't help but wonder which is the writer's "real" voice.) However, unsolicited submissions can work in your favor indeed--especially if the format or content are innovative or unusual.

Whatever you do, don't send more than two or three unsolicited submissions. If you're sending articles you wrote yourself, select those that you not only believe represent your best work but also demonstrate your range of styles, interests, views, etc. If you're sending an entire newspaper, one or two issues will suffice. (And only send two if there are significant differences--for instance, one issue might focus on school or local concerns while the other might deal with more global matters.)

Don't worry about presenting your submissions in a "professional manner." Obviously, you want to clip articles neatly, and if you're sending photocopies, they need to be clear. Put your name and school name on each document you submit. Avoid plastic folders or other unnecessary paraphernalia, and make sure that everything you send can fit into an 8.5 x 12-inch folder so that it can be stashed with your other application materials and won't end up on some dusty admission-office shelf unnoticed.

Finally, keep in mind that college admission officials will definitely be impressed that--as editor-in-chief--you hold an important leadership position in your school. You'll win a lot of " Brownie points" with them for that. Thus, you might want to get a couple objective outside opinions from adults whose insights you value as to whether submitting the actual paper--or samples of writing you've done for it--will add to those points or diminish them.