As march begins to wrap up, I'm realizing that I will probably spend the summer without an REU position. I realize as a freshman, I was probably too ambitious in my applications, nonetheless I do not want to make any of the same mistakes again. I have already compiled a spreadsheet of 20 REUs that will probably be offered 2018. I'm asking for advice on where to improve my application? As a freshman I am currently in Linear Algebra and Differential Equations as well as a Theoretical (Mathematical) Methods course and and intro to Modern(Quantum) course.(4.0 GPA for first semester). I have experience with IDL, Python, C++, and MatLab, so I have some computer expertise. This semester I am continuing an astronomy research project and beginning a project with a professor at my home institution and at Oak Ridge. So I imagine(hope) that my applications met some minimum thresholds of coursework and skills. Where I must have faltered, I imagine my essays were weak or that my letters of recommendation were weak. I think over the next year and a half I will be able to strengthen my relationships with professors in order to improve on those letters. Does anyone have any advice on writing stronger essays? What other advice could people offer?