You are a student, a son or daughter, a friend, a talented individual; you have passions, goals, unique qualities, interests; you have learned languages, instruments, academic subjects, artistic mediums. A theme brings the different aspects of you together to tell one cohesive, compelling story. When done correctly, a good theme will add energy to an application, propelling it into the “admit” pile by making it memorable.
What is an application theme? A theme is, in one sentence, who you are as a person. Known as an “elevator pitch” in the business world, it summarizes your background and experiences. For example, if you have spent your high school career studying computer science and robotics, and you have a love for the theater, acting in your school plays, your theme might be that you are a high-achieving STEM student who thrives under pressure. Or, with this same background, your theme might be that you are a goal-oriented student who loves projects that demand out-of-the-box thinking. Either way, your theme taps into your academic and personal background to present an overarching idea of who you are as a person.
What is your application theme? To find your own theme, think about what defines you. What have you accomplished in your life? What are your unique strengths and interests? How would your friends or family describe you? And where do these different perspectives overlap?
If you are still in high school, you have the opportunity to curate your theme. Having an idea of how you will present yourself in your college applications (particularly if you already know what you would like to major in) will guide your course selection, extracurricular involvement, and skill development. This is especially important if you are targeting the Ivy League, as top-tier schools are highly competitive and seek applicants with well-developed profiles. When establishing your theme, ask yourself: ● What are you good at? ● What do you like? ● What skills/interests/qualities will help with admissions? Do you want to know more about positioning yourself for the Ivy League? Watch our free workshop, The World Awaits Strategy: How to Beat the Competition and Attend One of the Best Universities in the United States, to learn: ● The two things you must demonstrate in your application if you want to be admitted into a top-tier institution ● How to put together the 5 most common application materials so you stand apart from the competition
If you are nearing the end of high school or are in the midst of creating your college applications, do not fret that it’s too late to curate a theme. Instead, work backward to position yourself as the kind of applicant the Ivy League wants using your academic and personal background as support. Write down how you want to present yourself, then determine how your high school courses, achievements, interests, and goals come together to reinforce your focus.
Application theme ideas The most common themes revolve around an applicant’s major, field of study, or career goals; however, other frameworks are powerful too. Whether you know what you will study in college or are entering undecided, some other strong theme ideas include: leadership, relationships, and overcoming challenges. By using a personal quality as a theme, you are able to immediately show admissions officers that you have what they’re looking for.
Everyone has a theme. I walk my clients through a multi-step process to help them discover and craft their unique narratives, and below you will see one of the first steps we take in identifying the framework we will use for their applications.
For some clients, the top quality (or two) identified through this brainstorming activity will become their theme. For others, the quality or qualities will be woven into their themes to add depth to their applications.
Once you have identified your theme, you will infuse it into all of the application materials. For some ideas on how to do this, watch our free workshop (The World Awaits Strategy: How to Beat the Competition and Attend One of the Best Universities in the United States) or reach out to work with World Awaits directly. 👉👉 If you’re interested in working with World Awaits, reach out and say “hi”! We’ll arrange a free 20-minute advisory session to jumpstart your college journey.