5 Tips For Cracking College Applications

Cracking college applications is a lot about telling your story in a way that showcases who you are, and catches their attention.

The graduate school application process can be nerve-wracking, leave along cracking college applications. It’s even harder when you are managing applications along with a full-time job, providing for the needs of your dependents, or if you are just wrapping up your thesis for your college finals. I remember slumping onto the sofa after a long day of work and staring at the screen. The clicker on Google Docs was blinking as if beckoning me to begin.

And what a journey it has been since that evening. I have received offers of admission from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, New York, the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK, and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). And I have guided aspiring students as a mentor, editor, and coach, as they secured places at leading universities in the UK and the US.

So here are the top four tips to help you on to cracking college applications.

Embrace your identity

The admissions teams across universities receive overwhelming submissions each year. It is your job to make them excited about your journey. So embrace your identity. Tell your story. Show your vision. Be bold. And keep it crisp.

Sexual violence against women is pervasive. Globally, 1 in 3 women – around 736 million – are subjected to physical or sexual violence. I have experienced sexual violence in school, on public transport, and on the streets. I am driven to use my degree in human rights to advocate for where women are equal and safe. And their voices are heard.

Demonstrate your impact and keep it short

Application processes are competitive. More than anything else, you are competing for the selection committee’s attention.

It is essential then that you hook them in right from the start. Short sentences and numbers can be powerful tools in this endeavour. Shorter sentences help hammer the impact and numbers help demonstrate you are aware of the global context within which your learnings can be applied.

Curate your experiences

Applications are about storytelling. It is important then to pick the strongest examples that reflect your fit for the program. This can be hard. I made a list of poignant stories that had shaped me. I spoke with friends, colleagues, and mentors, collecting their recollections. I reviewed success profiles of past candidates, looked at research published by professors leading the department, and analysed the course description. This exercise helped me cut the fluff.

Never miss real stories from India's women.

Register Now

In a well-written story, the experiences you include are as important as the experiences you choose to exclude.


Be intentional about who you seek feedback from and their expertise. If you try to incorporate everyone’s views, you will be confused. And it will show in your writing.

As I wrote my essays for top colleges in the US and UK, I picked three people to review my essays and stuck to their strengths. I sought feedback on the strength of my arguments, the curation of personal anecdotes, the context setting for a global audience, and the feasibility of my hypotheses.

But remember, it is your essay. And you’ve got this.

Image source: Group of College Students on Campus by Monkey Business Images, Free for Canva Pro

Liked this post?

Join the 100000 women at Women's Web who get our weekly mailer and never miss out on our events, contests & best reads - you can also start sharing your own ideas and experiences with thousands of other women here!


About the Author

Cherry Agarwal

Cherry Agarwal is a media literacy expert and journalist writing at the intersections of gender, social justice and youth advocacy. She is the Asia-Pacific Coordinator for UNESCO Youth Committee on Media and Information Literacy read more...

1 Posts | 1,934 Views

Stay updated with our Weekly Newsletter or Daily Summary - or both!

All Categories