The admissions committee at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester is expected to review 7,000 applications to fill 700 slots (Courtesy of College of the Holy Cross)

Behind closed doors, inside a tiny conference room at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, the admissions committee is preparing to review 23 applications. They’ll spend about two minutes on each application before deciding whether to accept or deny admissions to applicants, or place their application on hold.

Much has been said about the admission process. Disappointed applicants complain that when it comes to discerning between hundreds of students who seem to have the grades, teacher recommendations and test scores, the process comes down to luck. But are there steps students can take to ensure they’re admitted to their top-choice school? Holy Cross Admissions director Ann McDemott offers some tips on application Dos and Don’ts for prospective applicants.

Tip 1: Engagement

Visiting the campus, having a Skype or phone interview with an admissions counselor, or sitting in on a class shows admissions counselors you’re interested in that particular school and gives them a chance to get to know you better in person.

“Just like a teacher in the classroom wants a student engaged, we want students engaged in the process with us. I think it makes for better discernment of what a good fit is for both them and for us,” says McDemott.

Tip 2: Don’t “mail-it-in”

When it comes to the application, admissions counselors say the biggest red flag is a sloppy, half-baked essay.

“I would say not taking the time to look at [the essay] one more time or over-thinking the topics so much that it becomes awkward and doesn’t convey the student as it should,” says McDemott.

Tip 3: Take time to reflect

Taking time to think about the kind of college experience you want can help you narrow down your list to schools that suit your personal and career goals.

“I think the [high school] students should spend a little of time thinking what they liked in high school, what they didn’t like, who they are, and not just going and rushing off and looking at schools and getting in the frenzy,” says McDemott.

Earlier: How One Affluent Town Helps Its Neediest Students Get Into (And Stay In) College

[Cross-posted at On Campus: the WGBH News Higher Education Blog]

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Kirk Carapezza

Kirk Carapezza is the lead reporter for On Campus. Kirk has reported for Wisconsin Public Radio in Madison, Wis., and Vermont Public Radio in Montpelier, Vt. He's been a writer and producer at WBUR in Boston; a teacher and coach at Nativity Preparatory School in New Bedford, Mass.; a Fenway Park tour guide; and a tourist abroad.

Kirk received his B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and earned his M.S. from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. When he's not reporting or editing stories on campus, you can find him posting K's on the Wall at Fenway.