Application Advice

TIPS AND TRICKS FOR PUTTING TOGETHER YOUR COLLEGE APPLICATION

If there’s one question we hear a lot from students, it’s “how do I make my application stand out?” The truth is, there’s no easy answer to that question. Sure, academics are important: we want to see that you’ve challenged yourself with rigorous classes, but we care more about what type of person you’ll be when you arrive on campus. How will you impact our community, and how might being at Pitzer change you? Because our counseling staff won’t be flying around the world to talk about Pitzer like usual this fall, we wanted to bring our application advice to you. Check out our new collection of tips and tricks, directly from the folks who read thousands of applications per year.

Essays

  • There is a common misconception that you need to have lived a life worthy of the Hallmark Channel in order to write a slam dunk college essay. Not so! Memorable essays typically stand out either because they take a creative approach or because they contain compelling content.
    • Creative essay example: a persuasive essay about the superiority of Tostito’s Hint of Lime (HOL) chips
    • Compelling content essay example: from growing up in a patriarchal society to becoming the head of the Feminism Club
  • Some essay topics are just overdone. Plain and simple. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t write an essay about your torn ACL or mission trip to Honduras, but please think long and hard before you do. Ask yourself: is this an essay anyone could write? If the answer is yes, you may want to reconsider.
  • Proofreading is an easy way to make sure your essays don’t stand out for the wrong reasons. A typo isn’t going to send you to the deny bin, but do take your editing seriously!

Activities

  • This section isn’t just meant for those formal clubs and organizations you’re a part of in school. We want to know how you spend your time. Caring for an elderly family member? Write that down! Practicing your knitting skills? We want to hear about it! Make sure that you also include any leadership experiences that you have in a club/organization or on an athletic team.
  • The Activities section also requires you to say how many hours per week and weeks per year you do a certain activity. Pay attention to this piece of it–if you add up the hours per week yourself, does it seem reasonable to the time you are actually spending? Students can either sell themselves short or oversell themselves (there’s only 168 hours in a week, so 110 hours of activities will read as ingenuine!) with this portion of the Activities list, so make sure to look it over.
  • Some students will choose to make their Activities list a little lighter or less descriptive, and then include a more detailed resume. For Pitzer and many other colleges, this is not recommended! Since a resume is not required, it is not guaranteed to be reviewed. Only the Activities list of the Common App is guaranteed to get a good, hard look from admission readers, so make sure to put your all into that as opposed to a resume that may only get a glance.

Recommendations

  • New this year, only one teacher recommendation from a core subject is required to complete your Pitzer application! Try to choose the teacher who knows you best — not just as a student, but also as a human being. If that teacher happens to have taught you early on in high school, so be it!
  • The recommendation should be written by a teacher from a core subject (math, English, science, history, foreign language).
    • If you have other teachers or mentors you would like to submit a recommendation for, consider submitting them as supplemental recommendation letters! You can submit as many supplemental recs as you like, however, keep in mind that we only have a limited time to review your application so they may not all be reviewed, or be reviewed as thoroughly, the more you submit. One supplemental rec (or two if you really need to include it) is plenty.
  • Do you go to a large public school with a lot of students and not a lot of counselors? We get it. Counselor recommendations, while helpful to round out your application, are completely optional.

Transcripts

  • Your transcript will play a central role in your application. We evaluate your academic achievement from all four years of high school. Although grades are an important piece of transcript review, we also take into account trends over the years and the content and rigor of your curriculum, all while keeping the context of your school’s specific curriculum in mind. For instance, what types of classes are offered at your school? How have you taken advantage of rigorous courses available to you? The rigor of the curriculum at each school will vary, as will grading structure and GPA calculation.
  • Part of our job when we read applications is to get to know your school as well as we can to ensure we are evaluating your achievement with context in mind. The School Report, sent to us by your counselor, is helpful here.
  • Finally, don’t feel intimidated by our average GPA. It’s a number we have to report, but it actually reflects an aggregate of the weighted and unweighted GPAs we receive, so it’s not a great indicator of our student body’s actual academic achievement.  As and Bs will get you in the door, and the occasional C isn’t the end of the world. Pitzer is a rigorous place, and we want to make sure we are setting you up for success when you arrive here, but we are much more interested in who you are as a whole student rather than your GPA alone.

Testing

  • Pitzer has been test optional since 2003! We’ve never believed that ACT or SAT scores tell us what we really want to know about a student: what kind of community member you’ll be when you arrive at Pitzer. Last year, 42% of our applicant pool chose not to submit test scores. Nothing is required in lieu of scores, either! We’re truly test optional. As each counselor has 1000 applications to evaluate every season, we don’t have time to speculate about why you’ve chosen not to submit scores.
  • Of course, if you do submit scores, they will be evaluated alongside your application. If you’re waffling on whether or not to submit, we recommend taking a look at our middle 50 SAT/ACT scores (but keep in mind, those are skewed because typically folks with higher scores are the ones who choose to submit them) and if your scores are at or above the middle, submitting them for consideration may make sense for you.

Demonstrated Interest

  • Demonstrated interest tells us how much you’re interested in Pitzer. Things like information sessions, campus tours, interviews, virtual events, or emails with your regional counselor all count towards your demonstrated interest!
  • We understand that with colleges being closed to visitors, demonstrated interest may look a little different this year. However, our office is offering a wide variety of virtual events for the Class of 2025 and each of them are a chance for you to engage with our office!

Supplemental Material

  • Interviews: 
    • Interviews are completely optional at Pitzer and are viewed as supplemental pieces of your application. Seeing as our office is so small, interviews are not required as there’s no way we’d be able to offer interviews to all 4,000 applicants. If you feel that speaking with an admission representative in an interview setting would benefit you, you can sign up for one here! With that in mind, don’t feel pressured to complete an interview if you’re not comfortable doing so. Interviews are evaluative, and count towards demonstrated interest, but there are many other ways that you can show your love for Pitzer.
  • Additional Information: 
    • The Additional Information section on the Common Application is a powerful section that most students tend to overlook. If you feel that there is any contextual information that is vital to your application that just doesn’t fit elsewhere, use this section to explain. Examples include: medical concerns, academic changes, media appearances, etc.
  • Resumes:
    • As we mentioned in the Activities section above, a personal resume is optional in our process, but students are welcome to submit one if they would like. We recommend keeping your resume to one page, and keeping in mind that admission officers will not always be able to spend as much time on optional materials. The required Activities list will always take precedent and be the main place to learn about your extracurricular and personal involvements.
  • Portfolios:
    • If you have an art, music, performing, or other creative portfolio you’d like to include in your application, you are welcome to share a link to a personal website, Google Drive, Dropbox, or another platform in your file. Typically, students share these links in either the Personal Website or Additional Information section of the Common Application. Please note that portfolios do not play an evaluative role in our process.