Book Review: How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Instead of Like Many Others)

Standout college application coverWhether you’re the parent of a teen or have to think back to your own high school days, we’ve all heard this scenario: there’s a kid at school with great grades, great test scores, and great extracurricular activities. There’s no doubt this student will be accepted to college, even top schools are sure to clamor for him or her.

But the A-list student doesn’t get accepted, in fact, he or she gets denied by all of the elite colleges. That “great student” was even wait listed by one of their safety schools. What gives?

This is not a sponsored post, but watch out for the affiliate links. They may lead to books that will enlighten and inspire you.

What this book is about

Do you want to pull back the curtains on the college admissions process? Authors Anna Ivey and Alison Cooper Chisolm distill years of experience as college admissions officers at top universities in their new book How to Prepare a Standout College Application–Expert Advice that Takes You From LMO to Admit. LMO stands for Like Many Others. As the authors, and the scenario above point out, there’s more to getting into college than great stats.

Standout College Application is written primarily for students, though it also contains tips specifically for parents. The book is divided into three major parts.

Part 1 Getting Started. This section challenges students to make the big decisions, such as creating their list of colleges, designing a plan to complete applications, and discovering the student’s unique story.

I was shocked to read that students can expect to devote 100 hours to complete 8 to 12 college applications. But the timeframe makes sense when you consider the time it takes to complete forms, request transcripts and recommendations, and let’s not forget about those all-important essays.

The authors suggest that students work on applications the summer before their senior year of high school.

Part 2 Completing the Application. As the heading suggests, this is the real meat of the book. Without giving too much away, here are some things I learned (and wish I’d known back in the day):

  • Don’t approach the application like a to-do list, instead, tell your story
  • Look at the application through the eyes of an admissions officer
  • Aim for quality over quantity when it comes to listing extracurricular activities
  • Ask yourself why the school asks certain questions in order to develop a powerful response (e.g. Why choose X College?)

Interestingly, Part 2 also helps students with disciplinary issues get back on track.

Part 3 Crossing the Finish Line. This section not only shows students how to hit submit on their applications, but also how and when to update their application, such as with new test scores.

As a parent, I found the advice to prepare for your child’s worst-case scenario to be invaluable. If you know that being wait listed or denied at College X will be hard on your child, you can plan ahead to help your child cope. Queue the strawberry ice cream, Kleenex, and that movie that always makes them laugh out loud.

So, would you recommend to a friend?

I would recommend this book to any high school student interested in creating an effective college application, and their parents. The information is well-organized, comprehensive, and interesting. There’s also someone I would not recommend this book for.

Parents, Standout College Application is a worthwhile guide through the college application process. But it is not a silver bullet for a student who doesn’t want to put in time and effort to create a standout application.

Readers: What do you remember about applying to college? How does college admissions make you (and your child) feel…on the inside?

Just the facts, Jack: I received an advanced copy of How to Prepare a Standout College Application in order to facilitate this review. I received no compensation.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

About Nicole Robinson

Nicole Robinson is a Dallas-based freelance writer who specializes in college planning, parenting, women’s lifestyle, education, and self-help. But she's always hungry to munch on new topics. In addition to writing for The BookWormMama blog, Nicole provides content, copywriting and proofreading services for various publications.


Book Review: How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Instead of Like Many Others) — 21 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing. If I could make a recommendation, if you live in the South, make sure that your child has prepared and taken the ACT and be aware of deadlines. My child took it 5 times, and the last time she scored high enough for full tuition, but it was three weeks after the deadline. :(

  2. This sounds like an awesome book to get for my cousin. He’s a hard worker, but his grades are so-so. He needs to work hard to make sure that he has top notch applications with good essays and everything. I think that this book sounds perfect for him.

  3. This sounds like a book all high school students need in their hands. You need to link up to my Relaxing Sunday Book Blog Hop.;) I would love to get to know you better. We share a love of books. ;)

  4. This is great timing because we’ll be going through this process with our oldest next year, so we have started to think about it. We also have our Ladies Only Blog Share Link Party tomorrow on Back to School…we’d love to have you link up!

  5. My two brothers and I were all lucky enough to be accepted early decision into our first choice schools. It was such a relief. I can’t imagine what it’s like coping with the rejections and having to wait all those extra months for responses. I think if there’s a clear top choice. Early decision/action is the way to go!

  6. Pingback: Giveaway: How to Prepare a Standout College Application |

  7. Pingback: You Asked, They Answered–Expert Advice for Your Child’s College Applications |

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge