Admissions Blog Posts

Tips and Tricks from an Admissions Counselor: Application 101

Last updated June 10, 2024


Hi y’all! My name is Caitlin Kirby and I’m an Admissions Counselor at Furman! Being in this role for two years now, my eyes have read over thousands of different applications that have filtered through our office. As a first-gen student myself, I know that the application process in college admissions can be tricky and has many grey areas of confusion. It is my hope that, throughout this blog, I can share some tips on how to send the strongest possible application to all the colleges you are interested in. Let’s dive into it!  

Transcripts and Test Scores 

The piece of your application that holds the largest impact in your acceptance is your transcripts, grades, and test scores. Admissions Counselors will be looking for applicants who have maximized their educational opportunities in high school when selecting those who may be admitted to their institution. This means that students who have taken the highest-level courses (AP, IB, Honors, or Dual Credit) offered at their school, have succeeded in those courses, and have continued to show interest in their educational pursuits will have a stronger chance of admission than applicants who may not have. With that in mind, I encourage you to push yourself to get involved with these higher-level courses if it will not negatively affect your grades or personal mental health. While these higher-level courses are strong for an application, weak grades in them can prove to discredit your eagerness to be in those courses to begin with. It’s important that you find that balance of good grades in the highest-level courses that you can succeed in.  

Beyond that, test scores can also play a large role in your application to a college. Some institutions offer a test-optional/test-free policy where you will not have to submit them in your application. If not required, the decision-making process in submitting those test scores may be a difficult one. I would encourage you to check in with the individual admissions teams of the colleges you plan to apply to so that you can find the most up-to-date information on what their test score policy is and, if optional, what the range of test scores submitted for students who were previously accepted looks like. For a reference as you reach out to other colleges, this is where Furman stands on those metrics as of 06/2024: 

  • Test-Optional Policy (test scores can be submitted or not submitted) 
  • Typical ACT Scores for admitted students: 29-33 
  • Typical SAT Scores for admitted students: 1290-1420 

In asking these questions, you can find information that will help you choose whether submitting that test score can help or hinder your application to that institution. If you do decide to not submit that test score, know that Admissions Counselors don’t see that as a bad thing, but instead will review your grades, GPA, and course rigor a bit more in depth when looking over your application.  


When it comes to the activities section of your application, I encourage you to be thorough in what you list. This is a chance, beyond numbers, to advocate for yourself and your abilities to each college you apply to. With that in mind, it’s important to put your best foot forward in this section by giving detailed descriptions of your involvements, listing any leadership experience you’ve had with them, and double-checking your spelling and grammar. Further, don’t shy away from including activities outside of your involvements at your high school. Volunteer work, community sports, religious involvement, and family responsibilities are all activities that you may be involved with that highlight well-roundedness and a strong sense of community that Admissions Counselors like to see when reading an application.  


Even if optional, I always encourage high school students to take the time to submit an essay in your application. It allows us as Admissions Counselors to get a true glimpse of who you are and, since we are often reading hundreds of applications a day, it’s the place where you can catch our attention the most. It’s important that you use this space to your advantage and differentiate it from the other areas of the application. This means that, while you can write about your activities here as well, use them as a springing board into how they have shaped you as a person, have affected your morals, and/or drive your future goals and ambitions. Creativity in this section is celebrated and the most memorable essays are the ones that are on topics we rarely see. Finally, while it may be a given, make sure to triple check your spelling and grammar on your essay. If those areas of your essay fall below, it is something that can hinder your application. 

Letters of Recommendation 

Once again, while it may be optional, I would suggest submitting at least two letters of recommendation for your application to any institution you may be considering. Letters of recommendation give Admissions Counselors a third-party glance at who you are as an individual and often help shed light on pieces of the application that we may be questioning. The best contributors to your letters of recommendation are going to be the people in your life who have seen you grow over time. This could be anyone from athletic coaches, teachers, college counselors, worship leaders, volunteer coordinators, music teachers, etc. that have played an important role in your life. If applicable, having a recommender who is an alum of the college you are applying to is also a great person to have supporting your admission to that institution. Overall, having people in your corner supporting your admission to each institution you apply to will only help create a stronger application for yourself in your college admissions process.  


A resume is likely going to be another optional piece of the application for the colleges you plan to apply to. If you feel like there was not enough space on the application, activities, and essay to share all that you do, I recommend submitting a resume to further go into detail on what those involvements may be. If you don’t already have a resume template to go off of when making your own, I would encourage you to check out the career center for the college you are applying to and see if they have a resume template they recommend to their current students. It is always a nice nod of interest on your part when Admissions Counselors see that you are showing interest in the different areas of their campus prior to being a college student there.  

Additional Information Section 

Most applications provide an “additional information” section where you can share any pieces of information that you feel are important for an Admissions Counselor to know. I would highly encourage you to use this space to be vulnerable about the pieces of your application you are uncertain about. Talking us through any grades you’re not proud of, sharing a struggle you may have had with mental health (if you’re comfortable in doing so), or explaining any familial situations that may be impacting your status as an applicant are all helpful for Admissions Counselors to know as they review your application. In the end, it helps us advocate for you and see how strong of an individual you are on your own accord.  


After You’ve Hit Submit 

Once you’ve hit submit on your application, here are a few final tips as you move forward: 

  • Login to the application portal they provide and ensure that you have submitted everything the admissions team needs to review your application. If you haven’t, make sure to get any additional information in prior to the deadline they have for you.  
  •  Stay organized in your college application process. If you are applying to more than one college, it is important that you stay organized with usernames, passwords, deadlines, letters of recommendation, etc. as you move through your senior year.
  • Look to stay in contact with the college’s admissions team after applying. They will be your main point of contact moving forward so it is important to establish a strong relationship with your Admissions Counselor as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid to reach out with questions you have about their application process, college, or admissions in general.  


Throughout this blog, I hope that you’ve been able to get some takeaways of how to make your college application stronger in the admissions process. Dealing with this process can sometimes be cumbersome so take the time to check-in with yourself and nurture your own mental health when needed. If you ever have any questions about the admissions process, Furman’s application, or college in general, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at ( and I’d be happy to chat through it!  


Caitlin Kirby ‘22
Admissions Counselor
Furman University | Greenville, SC