Universities want to know about applicants’ interests and skills: Virtual Tech Camps speak volumes about both! We recently covered how to write about Online Teen Academies on college applications: this week, we’re diving into describing Virtual Tech Camps in a way that impresses admissions offices and opens doors.
Tackling the Common Application can seem like a daunting task. Together, teens’ transcripts, extracurricular activities, test scores, and essays paint a picture of what each prospective student can bring to their first year class. Break it down into parts, and it becomes much more manageable.
Make sure your high school senior (or rising senior) starts this process well in advance of the application deadlines and takes it one step at a time. When it comes down to it, each section of the Common App is an opportunity for teens, and it’s helpful to bear that in mind as they’re completing it.
That brings us back to Virtual Tech Camps, which offer multifaceted opportunities to showcase teens’ skills. In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to do that in a stand-out way!
How to showcase Virtual Tech Camps on the Common App
Remember when we mentioned taking plenty of time to complete the Common Application? This is where that careful planning can really pay off: attention to detail will maximize your teen’s ability to shine, with no opportunity wasted. Here are three keys to success:
1. Describe the Virtual Tech Camp as an extracurricular activity
The Common App contains a section in which teens can list and describe their extracurricular activities. Not only will the unique nature of Virtual Tech Camps stand out here, teens can show off their ability to write articulately about meaningful experiences.
Keep in mind: there is typically a 50-150 character limit in this section of the Common App. Rather than try to nail the character limit on the first go, it’s OK to write a few drafts and whittle things down accordingly.
Throughout this process, focus on descriptive, action-oriented words. Here’s an example of what we mean:
How does this sound?
“Learned about technology through a Virtual Tech Camp experience.”
Pretty vague, right? We can do better. Try something like this instead:
“Built a custom 3D video game level using Unity coding.”
2. Next, list skill certification as an academic achievement
This section is separate from extracurricular activities, but the skills built through Virtual Tech Camps absolutely apply to both categories. STEM knowledge and skills are more in-demand than ever in the college world and beyond, so the academic credentials earned in a Virtual Tech Camp are highly competitive assets.
3. Don’t forget to upload the course certificate
Upon completion of the course, participants receive an official iD Tech transcript that details what they’ve learned and the skills they’ve developed over the course of the week. Colleges want to hear about this, so make sure to upload the relevant documents. Remember, showing is more powerful than telling!
Next, expand on the experience with a great essay
This is an optional, but nevertheless wonderful way to let teens’ STEM skills shine! Not only that, through their essay, they can go into more depth about why their Virtual Tech Camp experience was so impactful.
The Common App essay section allows 650 words - much more than the extracurricular activities section - so, if your teen could use a little extra space to expand in detail, this is the place to do it.
Virtual Tech Camps: 3 Essay Tips
As ever, we highly recommend doing a little homework before embarking on this part of the Common App. Reading and discussing a few example college essays is a great way to start.
Then, start brainstorming ideas by consulting the Common App Essay Prompts and 7 College Essay Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.
First, plan intentionally
Last-minute essays never pan out as well as ones that have been planned carefully. And we cannot emphasize this enough: your teen will be so glad they took their time to write a killer essay!
Not only will this help avoid facepalm-worthy spelling and grammar errors, teens can make sure they get their points across in a compelling, interesting, and cohesive narrative. Remember, their job is to tell a story—not write a laundry list of their achievements or focus too much on things that might happen in the future.
Here’s a pro tip for planning: your teen’s essay should focus on a central theme or big idea. That could be something like: “I learned to love innovation through this experience” or “STEM taught me to persevere through challenges.” Then, the task becomes all about supporting details that not only describe the experience itself, but say something about who your teen is as a person and what they’ll bring to their college campus.
Next, describe the comprehensive experience
That means the successes and the struggles. If an experience was too easy, it probably isn’t worth writing about beyond the first paragraph or two of the essay. Lightbulb moments are usually preceded by or initiate a lot of hard work, and that’s where the great material comes from.
So, encourage your teen to reflect on the full journey that led to that achievement or “aha” moment. Details like how they had to painstakingly debug their code or go back to the drawing board to create a functional design matter. Don’t shy away from including those!
To get started, try formatting the essay in terms of a beginning, middle, and an end: the start or inspiration behind the experience, the most important aspects and elements of that experience, and key meaningful take-aways to wrap up. This should at least give your teen an effective starting point, and they can fill in the specifics from there.
Dedicate the details to skills, not technical definitions
It’s important to walk the line between what’s too general and too specific. Many of the admissions officers reading these essays won’t be fluent in the latest STEM technology, so make sure to include some concise definitions. Concise is the operative word here!
Think about it: add too many specifics about virtual reality, for instance, and the essay becomes about virtual reality when the focus should stay on your teen. Anything technical should be quickly defined with the majority of the essay, and should describe skills like problem-solving, collaboration, iteration, and innovative thinking.
If those sound like they’re relevant to more than just STEM, you’re absolutely right! And that is a very good thing—college admissions officers want to see both specific and transferable skills from their prospective students.
Not sure where to start in identifying those? We recommend referencing your student’s official iD Tech transcript for ideas of what skills to feature.
The application is just the beginning
For more on how to rock the Common App and the college application process, check out these resources: Writing About STEM on Your College Applications and Finding the Right Computer Science/Engineering College Program for You.