How to Create a Theme in Your College App

Temi Ayetiwa
Published on
May 18, 2021

As college application season swiftly approaches us, many of us are looking for ways to build our applications into the best they can be for the many admissions officers that will look at them.

Having a theme is great because “a strong application theme can immediately set applicants apart while offering a clear and compelling story to college admissions readers” (Maguire). Branding yourself can be very difficult especially if you are a person with a wide variety of interest and extracurricular activities!

However, it is necessary to have a unique application that stands out amongst the other ones. If you have a set goal of what you want to do, what you would like to major in, or even if you would just like to organize your application in a way that emphasizes qualities that you feel are important for others to know, then here are some great tips for you!

Deciding on your theme

What is your thing? What do you want to be known by? What are your strongest qualities? If you are looking to brand yourself, these are the questions that you need to answer. Focus on the things that are most important to you and the things that you have a long track record of being involved with.

These will set you apart from other applicants. Even if you have an extracurricular activity that you haven’t been doing for a long time but you really enjoy it, include it! This could help to tell more about who you are. It also helps to include activities that are related to your major.

  • For example, If you want to be a Chemistry major you would want to include activities that you were a part of that are related like Science league, Science National Honors Society, research opportunities that you may have been a part of or maybe even a science fair.

Branding yourself when you have multiple themes

Don’t be afraid of having multiple themes! You don’t have to be one dimensional, it is beneficial to show how well-rounded you are. However, try to find a common thread of what those things mean to you.

If you love language learning, chemistry, and volunteering at the animal shelter bring up that you have a special interest in these things because it has taught you to be patient and to really devote time into the things that you are passionate about (just an example).

Writing your essays

This is one of the most challenging aspects of the process but the best place to showcase who you are and to tell your story. Utilize it! This essay is the only place where you have free range to speak about everything that isn’t on your transcript and about experiences personal to you.

An article written by Peterson’s gives this strong advice: “Make sure to answer the prompts directly … but also write in a way that represents your personal brand. It shouldn’t feel as if one essay doesn't fit with the others” (Petersons 2018). Use your essay to highlight qualities you would like to be known by.

  • For example, Let’s say that you want to major in History. While your common app essay should definitely be about something that defines you or your experiences in life. Somewhere in the essay it would be good if you weaved in why you like history, what it means to you, or any sort of impact that it has had on you and what you gained from it.

Showcase yourself

Knowing how to brand yourself and create a cohesive theme is a great thing to know, but the best thing that you can do in terms of college applications is to be yourself. If you feel like you would be able to represent yourself in a better way by highlighting all of the many things, interests, and experiences that you have then GO FOR IT!

The real side of you is the only thing that needs to be shown because that is what the admission board is looking for throughout your application, not just what you have done but why and how it impacted you. The advice here is just a few tips to help. This experience should really be all about showing schools who you are and what you have to offer.

Read the next article in our college application guide: How to Get the Perfect Recommendation Letter

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