Avoiding Rejection: How to Improve Your Fit with the School in Your Application! Often-Overlooked Application Taboos

Last Modified 2023/02/04

The college application process is an exciting time for high school seniors, but it can also be a source of stress and anxiety. The fear of rejection is very real, and students often feel like they are being judged on every aspect of their application. While grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities are important, there is one aspect of the college application that is often overlooked: fit. Fit refers to how well the student will fit into the culture and values of the school. Improving your fit can make a significant impact on your chances of acceptance, and here’s how to do it.

Understanding the Importance of Fit in College Applications

Fit is an important factor in the college admissions process because it is an indicator of whether or not a student will thrive at a particular school. Admissions officers want to ensure that the students they admit will be happy and successful during their college years. A student who fits well with the school is more likely to get involved in campus life, engage in academic pursuits, and make the most of their college experience. This is why colleges are interested in learning about your personality, interests, and values, and why fit is often a key factor in their admissions decisions.

Researching the School Before Applying

Before you even begin the application process, it is essential to research the schools you are interested in. This research should go beyond just reading their websites and brochures. You need to find out what the students and faculty are like, what the campus culture is like, and what the school values. You can do this by attending college fairs, visiting the campus, speaking with current students and alumni, and even checking out online forums and social media groups dedicated to the school.

Tailoring Your Application to the School

Once you have a better understanding of the school’s culture and values, you can start tailoring your application to fit with them. This can be as simple as mentioning specific programs or clubs that you are interested in or writing about why you are drawn to the school’s values in your personal statement. You can also demonstrate your fit by highlighting experiences or activities that align with the school’s mission.

Demonstrating Your Passion and Commitment

Admissions officers are looking for students who are passionate and committed to their academic and personal goals. They want to see that you are motivated and engaged, and that you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve. This can be demonstrated through your extracurricular activities, leadership roles, volunteer work, and even work experience. The key is to show that you are committed to making the most of your college experience and that you are eager to contribute to the school community.

Making a Strong Connection with the School

One of the best ways to demonstrate your fit with a school is to make a strong connection with them. This can be done through reaching out to current students, faculty, or staff members, and asking them about their experiences at the school. You can also attend events on campus, such as open houses, information sessions, or even sporting events. These interactions will give you a better understanding of the school and will also allow you to demonstrate your interest and commitment to the school.

Highlighting Your Unique Qualities and Skills

Another way to improve your fit with a school is to highlight your unique qualities and skills. This can be done through your personal statement, essays, and even your resume. Showing what sets you apart from other applicants can help you stand out in the admissions process and demonstrate how you would bring something new and valuable to the school.

Often-Overlooked Application Taboos

I discussed the “Overqualified myth” and how it is often not the reason for rejection when applying to graduate schools. Many applicants don’t carefully read the “threshold requirements” of the department they are applying to, or don’t “tailor” their application to the school’s preferences. In this post, I will discuss tips applicants can take before submitting their application to improve their fit with the school and avoid rejection. It is important to understand the minor differences between each program and the school to make changes based on the subject matter and to ensure you don’t commit any major mistakes. The following are some often-overlooked application taboos for you to use as a checklist:

Applicant lacks relevant experience

One common mistake is not having relevant experience for the program. In this case, applicants should identify relevant attributes and strengths from their previous indirect experience. For example, a student applying for business analysis whose previous internship was in HR or Marketing could mention the insights they generated from data, forms, and information using Excel or other data processing methods. This shows their skills and strengths related to the direction they are applying for, even if it is not directly related.

In addition, some departments may require the applicant’s academic background directly. There are two general categories: “students with xx backgrounds” require certain foundation courses, and for schools with these restrictions, you can demonstrate your academic performance in the foundation courses in your essay to show that you can handle the difficulty of advanced master’s courses; and “students without xx backgrounds” are designed for cross-disciplinary applicants.

Fit & Match!

Another important aspect to consider is “Fit & Match” with the school. Admissions officers often have to choose from thousands of applications, so it’s important for applicants to think beyond “Qualified” and consider how well they match with the school. Factors to consider include the school’s curriculum, location, industry strengths, alumni resources, professors’ research areas, and special programs or centers.

Read the Application Requirements & Features

It’s also important to carefully read the application requirements and features of the department on the official website. Many applicants don’t adjust their documents to the pathways they are interested in or that fit with their background. When writing the “Why School” section of the essay, it’s important to go beyond just mentioning the department or program name and discuss the resources, courses, and professors’ specialties offered by the school or pathway.

Although many applications now mention “Why School” in their essays, if you just copy the program description from the website, the school may have the following concerns about you and reject you:

  • Whether you are not a good fit or don’t even understand the program
  • Whether our school will help you with your goals or not
  • Our school offers these programs, but what is the relevance of these programs to you?


If there is no interview during the application process, there will be many people with similar profiles based on grades, resumes, work experience, etc., making acceptance or rejection a matter of choice!

A high GPA is not the perfect solution for study abroad applications. Top schools (especially U.S. schools) will conduct a holistic review to evaluate GPA, internships, leadership skills, research experience, personal attributes, volunteerism (diversity and inclusion), and future development directions. In general, because of the “holistic review”, the “holistic review” will be conducted to evaluate the “holistic review”.

In conclusion, it is not common to be rejected for being “overqualified.” It’s important to “go both ways” because most schools want to choose the “right” student for their school from among the best applicants, and the school wants its resources to be helpful to the applicant. Therefore, after reaching the basic threshold (e.g. average GPA, knowledge base…), “Fit” is much more important than “Qualified” or “the Best.”

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