The College Admissions Annual Timeline—now updated for 2022 and 2023!  ACCESS FOR FREE

5 College Admissions Hacks You Need to Know

The other night I posted a candid shot of me sharing a kitchen stool with my eight-year old. She climbed up to snuggle with me as I ate another late dinner after a long day of work. In the post, I mentioned that no matter how hard my days may be juggling motherhood and a business, it is essential to take the time to share knowledge with others if you have it.

I have done that from the very beginning of my journey as America's College Counselor. I didn't have any college guidance when I applied to college so I have made it my mission to share what I know to as many families as possible. Sometimes, though, a family shares their knowledge with me. And that's when a community is built. We have that community in Application Nation, but we are always willing to impart what we learn and what we know.

In the spirit of sharing, here are five hacks to get you through this year's admissions process. If you have another hack, share it in the comments section below. Let's celebrate that college admissions secrets are meant to be shared!

1. Students now have 100 characters to list, and possibly describe, their awards in the Honors section of Common App.

Compared to the past, this is almost twice as many characters to work with. Students can explain an award or even bundle a few awards like honor societies in one line now.

2. When reporting your ACT scores in Common App, it will ask you for your highest composite score first.

This is supposed to be your highest composite score that you got on one test, not your superscored composite score. Common App confirmed this to us.

3. If you are a National Merit Semifinalist, use the main essay that you have already written for your college applications for the National Merit application.

I used to help my students fill out this application when I was a college counselor at a high school, but it never looked like there was enough room for the essay already written. But just this week, one of my Application Nation - Class of 2022 parents said that if you single-space the essay, remove the double return between paragraphs, and indent the first word of each paragraph to identify a new paragraph, the formatting allows you to fit your entire 650-word essay in the space!

4. Don't overlook a college's summer start, freshman fall abroad, or second semester start.

If you check off that you are willing to do an alternate start, you usually increase your chances of admission there!

5. Embrace virtual college tours.

I know that they are nowhere near as helpful as an in-person visit, but they can count towards demonstrated interest, help narrow down your list, and save you lots of travel expenses!

Free Download: College Visit Worksheet

The college admissions process continues to be filled with secrecy and mystery. It doesn't have to be. Colleges need to be more transparent about how they evaluate applications. They owe it to students. In the meantime, I'll continue to share my knowledge and encourage everyone else to do the same.

Remember, if you have a hack, share it below. Our community is stronger when you do.