Senior year is well underway and many students and parents have turned their attention to the world beyond high school.

Perhaps you’ve always had college in your sites for your child. Maybe you have been encouraging extra-curricular activities since middle school. It’s finally time to start compiling all that work and play into a brag packet so applying for colleges and scholarships is a snap.

Most college applications and scholarship applications request three things:

  • A personal statement
  • A transcript
  • A letter of recommendation

The personal statement may be a question your student answers in an essay or it may be a few sentences—like and elevator pitch—including an introduction and purpose statement. This is your student’s chance to demonstrate her unique personality and accomplishments that don’t show up in academics.

A transcript is pretty straightforward. It is issued by your child’s high school and shows the classes they have taken and the grades they got. This demonstrates the rigor your student engaged in during their high school years. Tougher classes may make more of an impression than straight A’s.

The letter of recommendation is a third voice that emphasizes your student’s strengths and abilities. But this time it’s from the viewpoint of someone who knows him and has worked with him. These are highly prized by the review committee.

Now that you know the basics of the brag packet, here are some tips to make your child shine using these three building blocks.

  • Get started early

Rushing tends to make both the personal statement and the letter of recommendation a bit generic. If you want these elements to reflect all your student has to offer, give him plenty of time to go through several drafts and ask for feedback from teachers.

Teachers or other youth leaders your student works with need several weeks to craft a letter. However, giving them too much time can be detrimental—about a month is plenty of time. Have your student ask for the letter from someone who knows her well.

  • Personalize your essay

The personal statement should be a glimpse into who your child is and what drives him. It should show passion and demonstrate interest, uniqueness, and her impact on the world around her.

One way to capture your child’s unique voice and experiences is to record him answering the question out loud. Transform this into an essay filled with examples and specifics and she’ll be well on the way to producing a statement that will be noticed.

  • Pay attention

It’s the little things. Proofreading errors have cost plenty of students a scholarship. The more people who look at your student’s personal statement and even letters of recommendation, the more likely you’ll catch errors.

Print out a hard copy to look over and mark up an essay for changes to wording and to correct errors. Read and reread application instructions to make sure your student has not missed something.

Want more tips? Check out other posts on our blog for more info on all things college.

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