Tag Archives: common application

Are Any of These Top 16 Colleges on Your List?

24 Apr


As we head into the new college search season, I thought you might find this article from The Huffington Post of interest. I know not everyone is shooting this high, or needs to, but it is loaded with great information and tips.

Click HERE to read the entire article, see the top 16 colleges they picked, and listen to helpful videos on how to get in!

The 16 Most Selective Colleges In The Country

The Huffington Post teamed up with the Princeton Review, one of the nation’s leading education-services companies, to present this special feature on the nation’s most selective colleges — and how to get in to them.

The goal of our “America’s Most Selective Colleges” project is to give college-bound students and their parents straight-on information about these challenging schools’ acceptance rates and truly savvy tips for applicants.

To that end, we asked the Princeton Review to shares its list of the 16 colleges in its flagship book,The Best 376 Colleges (published August 2011) that earned a 99 -– the highest possible score — on the Company’s unique “Admissions Selectivity Rating.” Presented in alphabetical order, this list is based on the Princeton Review’s analysis of data it exclusively gathers from its institutional and student surveys.

We also asked the Princeton Review’s Senior VP/Publisher, Rob Franek, to offer his expert advice on how to gain acceptance into these outstanding schools. Having also been a college-admissions officer, he knows this side of the admissions scene well. His seven short videos are packed with insights on what admissions officers are looking for, plus need-to-know tips for earning high test scores, writing stellar college essays and winning financial aid. All are sure to be useful in your college applications.

The Princeton Review publishes college information, admissions data, and application guidance on its website and Facebook.

Join us in the conversation that will lead you to the best-fit school for you!

THE FIRST ONE: Amherst College
Location: Amherst, MA
ASR: 99
Average HS GPA: NR
ACT Range: 30-34
SAT Critical Reading: 670-770
SAT Math: 670-770
SAT Writing: 680-770
% accepted: 15
Total undergrad enrollment: 1,795
Professor interesting rating: 87
Professor accessible rating: 93
Rankings/Lists: Dorms Like Palaces
Photo Credit: David Emmerman
Click HERE to read the entire article and see their top 16 schools.
Make sure to watch the video where the college counselor man gives his sage advice!!!
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Five Ways to Bump Up a Dull Essay

28 Dec

So you have a rough draft for one of your college essays. You answered the prompt, read it many times and believe it’s a solid piece of writing. And you may be right. But even a solid essay can have one fatal flaw–it’s boring. The last thing you want is for the admissions person to toss your well-written essay in the “read later” pile. Here are a couple tips on how to bump it up:

1: Your introduction is the most important part of the essay, since it will either grab the reader or not. Often, writers start by providing background on their topic and then get to the good stuff. Try to take out the first sentence, or two, and see if you can start farther into your story. You might have to rewrite it a bit, but often you just don’t need that general background right at the beginning. It’s best to switch it up and get right to your best example or point, and then provide the background later. If you can start with your most interesting examples or points, you will grab your reader all the faster, and that’s exactly what you want.

EXAMPLE: “When I was in high school, I played the violin in the school band. It was my favorite activity and I never missed a practice or performance. But one day, to my horror, I left my thousand-dollar violin on the school bus…” You are building up to something exciting here. Try to start right at the heart of the action, the moment you left the violin and your reaction: “As I stepped off the bus, I had the vague feeling I was missing something. But I was late for my orthodontist appointment, and ran to meet my friends. It was only later that night that it hit me: I left my thousand-dollar violin under the seat.” (And then you can go on to background your history playing the violin, etc.)

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Essay Karma

17 Dec

This fall, one of my tutoring students taught me a lesson about how cheating on these essays can backfire–even if you don’t get caught. He wanted to write his essay for the Common App on a trip he took to Guatamala to work with poor children. At one point, he confessed that he had not gone on that trip, but that his father had gone. When I looked at him as though I thought he was nuts, he told me, in his defense, “I helped him pack!”

What? Are you kidding me? This student kept insisting that he had no other interesting experiences that he could write about. (If you have read anything on my blog, you know that everyone has umpteen topic possibilities, and that you don’t need to travel the globe to have them.) I gave him a brief lecture about how this was completely unethical, but he only smiled and told me that “all my friends are doing this.” (If this situation weren’t more complicated than I’m describing here, I would have booted him out on the spot.)

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DONE!!!

17 Jan

Yesterday, my son sent in the last of his college applications (just hours before many of the Common App Deadlines, might I add). YEA!!! I’m not sure which of us is more relieved. He is the youngest of my two children (my daughter is a sophomore in college), so this is it for me in terms of a personal role in the college application and essay writing process. Of course, I will continue writing this blog and tutoring college-bound students and parents on how to write powerful admissions essays. But boy does it feel great to be on the other side!

If you are still on the dark side, and have either just started thinking about your college essays or still have a couple to polish and send in for 2011, you, too, will someday be on the bright side with my son and I! The one thing you do not want to feel at the point where we are is regret. No matter how stressful and overwhelming the process, it is worth sticking with it to make sure everything is as good as you can make it. Otherwise, what’s the point?

And when you are done, you can step back and let what happens happen. There’s  nothing else you can do at that point. But if you are still cranking on these essays and supplements, take a deep breath, collect your thoughts, remember your goals, know that it will be over soon, and JUST WRITE THEM!

Congratulations to all of you who have all your applications in, and best of luck to those of you still plugging away!

Before you push the button…

2 Oct

You are finally finished with your essay. It’s time to copy it into the online application and send it off. You’ve worked hard. Why not make sure it’s fabulous?Follow this checklist to double check that it’s as good as it should be:

  • Read your prompt (the question) one more time. Often a prompt will ask you to answer more than one question, or address several points. Make sure you address or answer them all!
  • Did you make your point? (Yes, that’s the same thing as your “main point.”) You should be able to state it in a sentence or two. And it should be stated somewhere in your essay as well. If you can’t do this, chances are your essay is too broad, and too broad means boring.
  • Do you prove the (main) point you are making in your essay? Did you provide examples?
  • When you give examples in your essay, or describe something, are you specific? Use details!
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Should you title your essays?

27 Sep

I like titles. But they need to be good. A title should be short and witty. Not cutesy. The tone of the title and essay should match. The best ones don’t give away too much about the essay, and only hint at what’s to come. Do not use questions. And don’t even think about a title that sounds anything like “My College Admissions Essay.”

Now, how do you think of a title, a good title? Brainstorm ideas by playing off words that link to your theme, message or topic.

Example: A student wrote an essay about how he broke his wrist playing football, and how he learned more about the game sitting on the bench that season. Theme: How bad things can result in good things/How you can learn from a new perspective.

Make a quick list of words from the essay that you could play around with: break, benched, football, sports, view, injury, hurt, new perspective…Let yourself “free associate,” which means you list key words and sayings that come to mind when you say one of them, such as “break.” Try the word in different tenses, in common phrases, in pop culture phrases (titles of movies, books, songs, etc.) and even clichés can work. Also, skim your essay for catchy phrases that might work. Try mixing up a couple keys words to make your own phrase. You can also use the Internet to brainstorm ideas–just Google your keywords or phrases. Have fun with it.

Breaking Away (movie title)

The Big Break

Breaking Up

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describe the world you come from…

20 Sep

Only read this if you are applying to a UC (University of California school, such as UCLA, Berkeley, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Irvine, Santa Cruz, etc.). There are two essay prompts. Here is some advice regarding the first one:

Prompt #1 (freshman applicants)

Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.

Read this closely. Note that it asks you to describe one thing and then tell about another–so there are two points you need to address in your essay. When you describe the world you come from, think of this in a figurative sense. Do not just write about your hometown. Instead of the word “world,” try substituting it for the word “community.” Anything can be your world (community), from your yoga class to your bedroom to your job washing dishes to your grandmother’s tortilla soup. It’s wide open. Just pick a topic. Also, the examples they give, “family, community or school” are just that, examples. Do not write a little about each of these. And do not just write about “my family” or “my school.” Way too broad. Write about your great-uncle, the professional clown who taught you to juggle, or the Scrabble club you started at your school even though you are the world’s worst speller.

Although I think the bulk of your essay should focus on this world, and how it has shaped you, also address the second part about your dreams and aspirations. This has the potential to be general and boring, so make sure to talk specifically about how you will apply the lessons (values, skills, ideas, insights, etc.) you have learned in your world to your future. (Hint: It wouldn’t hurt if you can show how these dreams and aspirations link to your specific college goals.)

If you are one of those A-type overachievers (hey, it’s OK, these UCs are insanely competitive!!) who still feels insecure about understanding the UC prompts, check out this 50-minute video of a counselor guru spelling it all out at a convention for college admissions folks. Just don’t let her freak you out too much. Definitely good info here, but I say overkill. Your choice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zo6NI4wHf4&feature=related

Hope this helps!