Hey Class of ’18 - Some of you have already sent out ED and EA applications to meet 11/1 and 11/15. I hope the rest of you are closing in on the target date I suggest of December 1 to get all your regular decision applications out by. (* and ** - see below)
I've mentioned to many of you the idea of sending a cover letter along with your applications. Here’s an explanation (and opportunity to see an example) of what this is.
A cover letter is your "users guide" to your application. You send it to your college shortly after you apply (ideally within two weeks).
The cover letter's sole purpose is to subtly, gracefully and humbly communicate the following:
"TA DAAAAA! Here I am! I'm psyched and hopeful that you're going to accept me! How could you do anything but???!!!"
The cover letter is an opportunity for you to present any additional things you’d like the college to review (such as a resume, an extra essay, additional letters of recommendation, a 'show and tell piece', etc.)
The cover letter also allows you to address anything you want to emphasize or explain, such as a contact you’ve made with a coach or a professor; the fact you’ve just retaken the SATs and the scores will be forthcoming; a nobel prize for literature you’ve just won, or an especially high (or low) first quarter grade, etc.
Because the cover letter is a separate, optional addition to your application, there are no rules you need to follow. It’s up to you to decide what you tell and send them, and how you go about it.
Some will say that colleges don’t want extra material – that it takes them time and resources to review, and you run the risk of them thinking poorly of you if you make more work for them.
Unless a college states in writing that: “We don’t want you to send extra stuff!”, I think it’s a good idea to send more (assuming it’s GOOD extra stuff, naturally). It can be especially effective at small and mid-sized colleges (don’t waste your time at Universities with over 15,000 enrollment).
IMHO if you send material that will help admissions counselors get to know you more comprehensively, such supplemental material can help you. Only if you send weak or poorly conceived material will colleges be unimpressed.
Get the idea?
So to summarize, your cover letter is a brief 'schmooze' piece designed to make the reader, just prior to or after launching in to a thorough evaluation of your application, say to him/herself:
"Hmm, I'm impressed. This young person has got it together!!"
I've listed an example of such a letter on my home page under "Interesting Links". I can also share with you via google docs or email if you email me and request it.
Work up your own version of this letter for each application and send it out after you apply. Remember to make sure you've got the right school's name in it (don’t laugh – every year a student or two makes that gaffe.) If you want me to take a look at your “cover letter package” before you mail it, send me a draft of what you come up with.
From your Crafty College Counselor…your Accomplished Advisor…your Masterly Maharishi of Matriculants…oh enough already!
*Remember, Dec. 1 is a FAKE DEADLINE - with only a few exceptions (I’m talking to YOU, University of California Schools!) the earliest regular decision deadline you have to meet will be January 1. But I think it’s smart of get things done and over by early December. Think “Blissful School Vacation” when others around you are going MAD with last minute anxiety!! You’ll thank me for this advice if you get ‘em done early!
**Also remember that if you have applied Early Decision you will hear from your schools by December 15 - 20 so DON’T send those other bad boys out till you’ve heard. In the event you are successful you don’t want to have spent the additional application fees when you’re just going to have to withdraw those applications.
P.S. Got questions? Call or email me. Know seniors behind the proverbial 8 ball? Parents having trouble figuring out the FAFSA, CSS PROFILE or IDOC? Send ‘em my way. That’s why I’m here! Rather not get these occasional missives? Let me Know, and you won’t.
Gary L. Canter
College Placement Services
210 St. John Street
Portland, Maine 04102
College Placement Services provides high school students and their families
assistance with all aspects of the college search, selection, application
and financial aid process.