Hi, all! We’re here again for another installment of our College Counseling blog. As y’all know, the college admissions process has become increasingly digital as the years go on—it’s an open secret that colleges track users’ email addresses and collect other data when students click on the college’s links, sign up for virtual information sessions, etc.—and students have been forced to become increasingly tech-savvy as a result. In short, a mastery of social media and an awareness of one’s digital footprint has proven to be a significant factor when it comes to a student’s chances of being admitted to elite colleges. We’ve seen plenty of examples of colleges rescinding their offers when students post inflammatory comments online, for example. But the opposite is also true: a student who is able to network and create an impressive digital profile has an increased chance of making a needed impression on an Ivy League college admissions committee.

One of the easiest ways to stand out as an impressive applicant is to create your own personalized website. While they’re entirely optional, according to a recent college counseling blog, at least ten college admissions officers that were interviewed have mentioned that a personalized website is often reviewed as a factor of admission by the most selective colleges. It could be the “extra factor” a student needs to beat out the competition, and gain entry to some of the best universities in the nation.

So what, exactly, is a personalized website? It’s ultimately a chance for students to upload an “online portfolio,” or an easy way to show off photographs, videos, published articles, and other visual materials that highlight your experiences and accomplishments. While this sounds like a daunting task, there is plenty of online software (such as Squarespace and Wix) that offers easy-to-manage platforms for students to design their own websites. And, of course, we at Excel Academy are proud to offer the chance to help you create your own personalized website—all we’ll need are the materials you want to show off to your prospective colleges.

Still not convinced? No worries: here are five more reasons why a personalized website is recommended by counselors as a critical advantage when it comes to your college applications.

  1. It’s the easiest (and only) way to directly show off your accomplishments. While the Common App has an “Activities List,” and a few select colleges are allowing you to provide a brief introductory video in which you talk more about your personality and passions, there are no other venues or platforms offered by a majority of colleges for students to show off their award-winning artwork, for example, or provide a brief clip in which they scored the championship goal. While you can certainly write about these things in your resume or essays, it quite simply won’t make the same impact as a photograph or video. (A picture is worth a thousand words, after all!) Furthermore, if you’re attempting to apply to a specific major or program, it is critical that you prove you have extensive experience in your chosen field of study. Often, it’s not enough to simply say you did field research in Honduras, for example, if you’re applying to be a Biology major; you need to prove it, through published articles, projects, or any other evidence you can upload to your personalized website.
  1. It’s one of the few opportunities you get to highlight your personality.Beyond the main and supplemental essays, there are exceedingly few ways that students can illustrate their personality and passions to a college admissions committee. The website is a great opportunity to do so. By personalizing the overall “look” or “aesthetic” of the website—by customizing the background and color palette, for example—your website will highlight a much warmer, more personable side of yourself. So don’t be afraid to throw in some jokes in your biography! Write a brief paragraph about why everyone needs to listen to your favorite album! Make the most out of this incredibly rare chance to allow college admissions committees to get to know you better.
  2. It’s a great tool for networking. This is a bit obvious, sure, but at a time when “demonstrated interest” is key, your website will provide a great way for people associated with your preferred colleges to reach out to you directly. By providing your email address, for example, you’ll allow college students and coaches and admissions officers to be able to contact you directly, thus making it easy for you to form important relationships with people who could directly improve your chances of getting accepted to your favorite college.
  3. It illustrates just how “tech-savvy” you are. Creating a website can be a complex, highly involved task, which requires a lot of knowledge and talent in writing, multimedia design, marketing and platforming, and a variety of other skills that are becoming increasingly essential to learn in the 21st century. By creating your own website, you’re proving to your college (and future employers) that you’ve developed the skills needed to succeed in a digital world. In essence, the website itself is an accomplishment you can show off to admissions officers, and demonstrates your work ethic and ability to focus on a sophisticated project.
  4. It’s a platform you can use for internships , jobs,and other professional opportunities both during and after college.Most students believe this personalized website will only be used for college applications, so why bother? This simply isn’t true. More and more employers are looking at potential employees’ social media and digital footprint in order to assess whether or not the employee will be a good fit for their company. By developing your own website, you can directly market yourself and your brand, which will significantly aid you as you look for jobs, internships, volunteering gigs, and other opportunities to gain professional experience while you’re in college. If you continue to develop your website throughout college, you’ll be able to have an excellent platform to launch your career as soon as you graduate.

Sounds good yet? We promise it’s not as daunting as it looks! Again, if you need any assistance whatsoever in creating your own website, feel free to contact us, and we can help you get started right away.

Stay safe, y’all. We’ll be back soon with another update on the best ways to get ahead during the college application season.

Best regards,

Jordan Sutlive

College Counseling Strategist