Imagine you’re a college admissions officer at a state university.
You’ve spent the morning reading essays from high school students about the ways your school’s mascot, the Sleeping Goat, means something very personal to their lives.
You’re about to take a well-deserved lunch break when you see a package on top of the next round of submissions. Opening the box, you find a single dirty sneaker with a note attached to the shoelace.
“I figured this was the best way to get my foot in the door,” the note reads.
It seems crazy, but unique college admissions tactics are no joke among students who are desperate to make a good impression among admissions officers. Check out our list of crazy admissions tactics that have actually worked, and find out how you can use these brilliant strategies for your own application process.
Bring the big top to the interview room
Crazy tactic: In one memorable interview, a student applying to the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering set a few tiki torches ablaze and began to juggle them while talking to the admission official. It’s one way to prove you can juggle schoolwork and your performing duties in the circus. The shocked admissions rep recalled that the student’s ploy worked and he was admitted…but mainly because he had the good grades to back up his antics.
Make it work: Feel free to be unique and memorable with your essays, application and interview, but make sure you realize that in the end, your GPA will matter more than the jokes you tell. Unless you’re applying to clown college, keep the juggling to a minimum.
Get friendly with the admissions board
Crazy tactic: Using social media such as Facebook as an application tool is a recent trend. A survey by Kaplan, Inc. found that 71 percent of admissions officers at top schools reported that they had received a Facebook or MySpace friend invitation from at least one applicant.
Make it work: Remember that social media can be friend or foe. While an admissions rep can check out pictures of your recent volunteer work at the local shelter, they can also see your friends teasing you about ditching class to watch Twilight three times in a row.
Skip the stress by leaving the country
Crazy tactic: A proven solution against college application stress is to get your passport stamped overseas. One prospective student, who wasn’t accepted the first time around to Grinnell College in Iowa, reacted by leaving the country. She taught English in Germany and vowed to not return stateside until she was coming home to an acceptance letter.
Make it work: Taking a gap year can be great for your stress level and, ultimately, your application strength. Just make sure you’re doing something smart with that time off. Teaching, extracurricular study and volunteer work are all good additions to your college application–wearing a butt-print into your mom’s couch is not.
Start your own business
Crazy tactic: Another prospective student, who had grades and test scores that were more state-school than Ivy-league, still had a lifelong dream of attending Stanford. His saving grace was that he just happened to have started a small business, building and testing skis at age 16.
Make it work: Not ready to take the plunge into entrepreneurship? Start small with volunteer work, heading up clubs or taking on management responsibilities at your hourly job. And of course, be careful to maintain a good work-life balance if you choose to continue any of these responsibilities while you’re in school.
When in doubt, puzzle it out
Crazy tactic: A candidate to Pomona College breathed new life into the school’s essay by literally cutting his admissions essay into puzzle pieces, challenging admissions officers to piece together the puzzle of his life. It was another risky strategy that came across as creative because the student also had strong grades.
Make it work: Remember that admissions boards have to read hundreds—if not thousands—of application essays. While it’s important to stand out, big risks like the crazy suggestions above are best reserved for those with good grades and a willingness to apply to multiple schools if your plan doesn’t work out.
Get creative with your college application
Take the stories above to heart and have fun with your college applications. Surviving the college admissions process is arguably one of the toughest challenges of your life so far, but keeping a sense of humor about it can help you through. In the end, you might lose a shoe in the college applications process, but you shouldn’t lose your mind.
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