Tag Archives: Tips

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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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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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!

Lady Gaga as a topic?

16 Sep

(http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/10/gaga/) Interesting post on the New York Times’ blog on college admissions, called The Choice. The article was about whether to include your random interests–ranging from an obsession with Lady Gaga to riding 100 bus routes in Seattle to a collection of old National Geographic mags–in your college applications. The post quotes college counselors advising students to include their “hidden extracurriculars”  in the “interests” section, as though that’s really radical. Depending on the interest, I believe it could work best as an essay topic.

In my opinion, what you care about, and spend your time pursuing, tells more about you than recounting your mission trip to Costa Rica or the time you won the big cross country race. If you write an essay about an offbeat topic (a passion, an obsession, a hobby…), chances are you not only will reveal a telling piece of your personality, but also show the reader how you think and what you value. WARNING: Do not simply try to be cute, odd or quirky. Not matter how offbeat your topic, make sure your points remain serious and thoughtful. Show restraint.

(Personally, I would avoid a sensational topic such as Lady Gaga, since she is distractingly bizarre and it would be hard to keep your focus on serious issues.)

The Catch-22 of College Admissions Essays

9 Sep

It feels like a set-up. First, you are supposed to reveal how wonderful you are in 500 words–about the number you can cram onto a postcard in your teensiest handwriting. Second, you must sell yourself to the college of your dreams—setting yourself apart from the thousands of other equally wonderful students–but appear humble and likeable at the same time. Third, no one has ever taught you how to write this type of essay, called a personal narrative. No one. Ever!

I call this impossible challenge the Catch 22 of College Essays, at least the part about saying how great you are and staying meek at the same time. You know, make an impression but don’t dare try to impress anyone!! No wonder you are stressed out!!!

The best way to handle this challenge–and I have detailed how to do this all over my blog–is to stick with a story. And it doesn’t have to be a life-changing, mind-blowing event, either. In a weird way that I don’t quite understand, the less impressive the story—the more basic, simple, everyday, mundane it is—the better it will go over.

Here’s how it works: When you tell your story, you naturally show the reader about yourself. You can avoid that awkward tone of voice that sounds boastful when you describe yourself: I’m a really creative person. I’m really passionate. I’m really great at solving problems. For some reason, when you hear someone say something like that, your first reaction is to think, with great sarcasm, “Oh, you are, are you? Well, good for you!” Whereas, if you just describe the time you built a ten-foot sculpture out of driftwood, feathers, dryer lint and goat hair, the reader might think, without a hint of sarcasm, “Wow, that’s pretty cool. That girl sounds creative.” See the difference?

I know I’ve hammered on this, but find your anecdotes, your examples, interesting moments, and just describe what happened—and then examine what you learned from them. It’s hard to go wrong with a story.

Catch22.jpg