Summer Strategies for Stressed-Out Rising Seniors: Relax, Recharge, and Rock Your College Apps

The Summer Squeeze: Balancing Fun and Future Most students are planning to unwind during summer break. But with college applications looming in the fall, reminded by seemingly every adult, many sense pressure to be “productive.” Yet, truthfully, a strategic retreat to reflect on your abilities and aspirations creates a foundation for the nitty-gritty work of…

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Student struggling to balance her options

The Fallacy of Reach, Target, and Backup

Families often simplify the college selection process when categorizing campuses as “Reach,” “Target,” and “Backup” based on perceived chances of admission. Appliants and their families overlook the complex matchmaking between what a student needs and the unique opportunities of a particular college: However, separating colleges by admissions chances, students fail to understand that college admissions…

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Inhumanity of Waitlists

Being waitlisted for college admissions prolongs hope, colleges banking on applicants’ desire to be admitted. And, students offered an “extended” waitlist option weeks after the enrollment deadline, which can seem like a further complication in an already opaque admissions process, can be particularly frustrated.  “Extended” waitlists can further dispel the pretense that the admissions process…

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Know Thyself

The quest for college admissions can be likened to a matchmaking process—seeking a college that resonates with one’s character and abilities, which requires understanding oneself. Oscar Wilde’s poem “Hélas!” provides a template for self-reflection, particularly apt for soon-to-be college applicants. Although Wilde speaks of love and its loss, college applicants can heed the lesson inherent…

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Select-ting College Not Being Select-ted

The typical understanding of the college admissons process is backwards. Many families approach the college admissions process as “How can I help my kid be worthy of being select-ted?”—a misguided understanding at best and moreso an anxiety-provoking, potentially moral-compromising “Arms Race“-like reality for too many families. Yet, the college admissions process is ultimately a process…

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Pronoun Beware

Pronouns serve as replacements for other words and often refer back to information mentioned earlier in a text. However, when composing autobiographical college essays, teenagers who often use pronouns can unintentionally hinder their goal: conveying their experiences clearly to admissions officers.  Using pronouns, teenagers assume: Yet, admissions officers are human and, like anyone, their attention…

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Passive vs. Active Voice

College Essay Writing 101: Passive vs. Active Tense

High schoolers tend to write passive constructions in academic writing, often needing to fulfill assigned word counts requirements in order to earn the highest grade. Students can often dilute their intended meaning with verbosity.  Yet, for college essays, students need to write in an active tense, self-assured and self-aware, as they are essentially writing their…

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Advice about Letters of Recommendation

Students are advised to request the letters 6-8 weeks prior to the application deadline, ideally from two academic teachers: history, English, language other than English, math, or science, plus their high school counselor. Students should select teachers with whom they built a trusting relationship, regardless if a teacher’s academic expertise is related to their potential…

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Advice about Optional Admissions Interviews

Some private university admissions officers invite prospective applicants to schedule evaluative admissions interviews before applying. Students have a dual opportunity: develop more understanding of the university, and present more insights about themselves. Applicants should note the deadlines for requesting and completing the optional interviews. Notably, some admissions officers, especially at Ivy League institutions, arrange alumni…

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Tips When Attending A College Fair

To most effectively gain needed information at college fairs—often described as “speed dating” for college admissions—it’s crucial to prepare in advance.  First, scrutinize the list of attending college admissions officers for campuses of interest. Being focused, students and families can save time aimlessly roaming the event space. Second, reflect on one’s ideal college experience. With…

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All About the College Essay

The college essay is autobiographical, not a typical academic writing exercise. However, most students have been trained to write academic assignments, according to a structured grading rubric aligned with the teacher’s expectations. However, crafting an autobiographical essay demands different skills and efforts, including a thorough examination of one’s life experiences. Then, students can effectively communicate…

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The Myth of the College List

Most families believe the college admissions process starts with picking colleges, then filling out applications, which includes writing college essays, then submit applications, then, wait for responses, then choose one college. However, the actual process of choosing and applying to college is much more intricate.  Often, parents are puzzled when their teenager seems overwhelmed or…

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Don’t Pay Attention to the College Essay Prompt

It’s a mistake to start the process of drafting college essays by choosing a prompt, then brainstorming ideas based on an interpretation of said prompt. By focusing too narrowly on writing exactly to the prompt, students can contort their own voice and write an essay that isn’t authentic. The Common Application Writing Section‘s directions specifically…

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