8 Tips For Winning 2018 College Admission Essays

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One of the scariest parts of applying for college is, hands down, the essay section. While you can show off your talents and skills in your actual application, showing who you are as a person in essay form can be much more challenging. If you’re stuck trying to come up with the perfect answer or don’t know what you should or shouldn’t include, here are eight essential tips for writing the perfect college admissions essay.

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#1 Proofread

Let’s get this one out of the way right now. The biggest mistake any applicant can make is not proofreading an essay before submitting it. Even if you think you’re the most amazing writer out there and have aced all your high school papers, you need to review what you wrote. The best way to avoid clumsy mistakes is to have someone you trust look it over with a red pen until it’s perfect.

 

#2 Follow All Instructions on Length

Another rookie mistake applicants make is writing too much or too little. And when your essay is in the sea of thousands of others, having the wrong word count stands out in all the wrong ways. Writing too little says you don’t have anything to say. Writing too much  can make you sound pompous.

 

#3 Be Descriptive

Most likely, your writing prompt will be about you. Unlike research papers, you should be as personal and descriptive as you can. Talk about the colors of the ocean the first time you saw it or describe your mom’s face the time you made her proud of you. Don’t be afraid of adjectives.

 

#4 Don’t Over-Write

You want to sound smart, right? Of course! However, you want to avoid saying something in twenty words when it could be said in four. Those big vocab words are great to use as well, but be sure you’re using them correctly and that they fit with the flow and language of the rest of the essay.

 

#5 Avoid Cliched Storytelling

Writing prompts like Describe your biggest challenge can seem easy. But these types of assignments can be deceptive because they lead a lot of uncreative students to write about the same thing! Instead of writing about that project you were stuck on, pick a story that shows off your personality and how that time made you the person you are today. Talk about the topic with your parents or friends till you come up with something that is both unique and that you can write passionately about.

 

#6 Be Funny and Warm

Unless your topic is serious, you can show off your humorous side in an admissions essay. The trick is to balance it right. This is where a friendly editor can give you a second opinion to make sure your jokes or stories are in good taste and fit in with the rest of the piece.

 

#7 Don’t Recycle

It can be really tempting to reuse the essay you wrote for the last college if the prompt is similar, but this would only hurt you. Make sure you personalize your essay for the college, and re-read the prompt’s details over and over again in case you miss a detail you didn’t notice before.

 

#8 Clearly Start and End Your Essay

Ensuring your readers see an introduction, body, and conclusion is one of the most basic rules of writing. In the intro, state the prompt over again in your own words like you would a thesis statement, and then rework it in the conclusion. The body should have paragraphs with at least three sentences in each, and be sure to not only use simple sentences. To make it easier on yourself, trying outlining in order to organize your thoughts concisely.

What to Do if You Get Waitlisted by a College

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If you’re like many seniors, you may not be sure how to react to that letter from your dream college. You weren’t rejected. You weren’t accepted. You were waitlisted. Being waitlisted can bring up a ton of emotions, both good and bad, but you don’t have to “wait” around to take action. Here’s what you need to know and what you can do if you get waitlisted by a college.

 

Step 1: Understand What It Means

Depending on your college, the term “waitlisted” may seem really vague. But the basic breakdown is that the college may have filled its quota of students for the next term. Those waitlisted usually have the qualifications and background the admissions team are looking for, but for whatever reason, cannot be fit in if everyone says yes.

If a spot becomes available after college decisions are due (usually May 1st), you’ll receive an official admissions letter. If you’re too far down on the waitlist or if spots do not open, you will not be accepted or will have your admissions deferred to a later term or year.

 

Step 2: Think Through the Pros and Cons of Waitlisting

You’ll need to decide if it’s worth your time to be listed. It’s a tough choice. The pro to waitlisting is that a spot may open up, especially if you’ve got the grades and activities to back you up. However, if you have schools that have said ‘yes’ to you, you don’t want to risk turning them down and then not having a place at either school.

 

Step 3: Take Action

Now comes the tough part — the actual wait. In the meantime, call the admissions team and ask details about the waitlist numbers or past year’s waitlists. While they most likely won’t tell you what “number” you are, you can get a sense of what your hopes should be.

Another way you can up your chances is to ramp up your school performance. Take over a leadership position, begin volunteering, sign up for a college summer courses. Then, let the admissions office know this by requesting a second interview or have someone with the connections to the college write you an additional recommendation letter on your behalf.

 

Step 4: Formulate a Backup Plan

While we don’t want to think of the negatives here, it’s best to be realistic. Come the fall, you’ll need to decide what will happen to you if you don’t receive that letter.

Community colleges are a great option, and in many cases, they can help you transfer to that dream school in a year or two. Taking a gap year is also becoming more popular, and if you use it for an experience like an overseas volunteer trip, you can use it to build your resume and application for the next year. You can also work and save up money for tuition to take away that stress in future years.

 

Getting waitlisted doesn’t have to leave you feeling hopeless. Make the right decision for yourself by keeping your future in mind, and you can make the waiting as painless as possible.

High School Seniors: Are You Stuck Between Two Dream Schools?

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Your admissions letters are in, and the great news is that you’ve been accepted to your two dream schools. But how to choose? With so much on the line and four or more years to look forward to, picking the right college for you matters. This guide will help you make the hard choice without seconding guessing yourself.

 

Step 1: Make a Pros and Cons List

It’s an old trick, but a pro/con list really can help you sort through all those feeling just below the surface. Maybe one school has professors you love and a gourmet cafeteria while the other is a little too far from home. Count up the pros and subtract the cons. Whatever has the highest number wins. Plus, weighing each of these against one another in list form can help you see each of your options outside the flashy brochures.

 

Step 2: Visit Again

It’s not always possible, but if distance isn’t a factor, take another tour of the college. This is especially a great idea to do in the winter when the school isn’t full of flowering trees and students in shorts going to tons of college sponsored activities. If you still have those warm and fuzzy feelings, it’s true love. If you start to find faults on second viewing, it might not be worth it.

 

Step 3: Get Linked to an Alumni

Many schools love hooking you up with access to a recent alumni or graduating students. This person can be a great sounding board on if they think you’ll be a good fit culturally with the school. The trick is to ask for honesty, and you’ll get it. It may take awhile to build up this relationship, but it’s worth it for the valuable input.

 

Step 4: Go Off-Campus

While your schools may be relatively the same, the towns or cities that they are in may be the deciding factor. First, really think about what you love or hate about where you are now. Is city life for you or would you do better in a countryside with loads of nature? In addition, check to see how your school interacts with the town. Good town-and-gown relations is really important for students who want to fit in or explore.

 

Step 5: Check the Cold Hard Facts

Some schools win you over with beautiful campuses and awesome tour guides, but the real deal is in the numbers. How many students complete and graduate the program in four years? What is the job placement rate? How is school safety? All this data should be readily available if you ask an admissions counselor or advisor. If they’re less than forthcoming, be wary.

 

Step 6: Compare the Tuition Costs

It’s no secret that college tuition costs will follow you around for years after graduation in the form of student loans. Most dream schools are just not worth this price tag when another offers you competitive scholarship programs or comes at a lower cost. If money is a concern or at least a factor, your financial aid package should settle the score.

Art School Portfolio Examples & Wise Advice

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While most prospective college students spend their time worrying about their admissions essays and interviews, students wishing to be admitted into a selective art program have a bit more to worry about. With most colleges requiring a professional portfolio, it’s hard to know where to start, what to include, and what format to make yours. These tips and examples can help you design an eye-catching, professional grade showcase of your work and talent.

What is an Artist Portfolio

A portfolio is essentially a resume for artists. Like a resume displays a person’s work history, a portfolio highlights an artist’s work and accomplishments. Colleges use portfolios to get an idea of a prospective student’s skills or specialties (such as figure drawing or digital design). Many colleges also require incoming students to submit a portfolio for scholarships and placement in courses.

What to Include in a Portfolio

This isn’t an easy question to answer as all schools are different. Some require students to only submit images of past work while others may require a portfolio to include drawing “tests.” These tests may be a subject or a figure that allows you to show creativity or a difficult skill.

Before you design your portfolio, print off the requirements of the colleges you plan on applying to. Don’t forget to apply to more than one just in case (even if that means more work for you). What you should look for in your requirements is form (digital or print), picture sizes, amount of images to include, type of image (hardcopy, sketch, etc.), and any of those tests we previously mentioned.

Whether you’re submitting your portfolio online or as hard copies, remember one big rule: formatting matters. You’ll want to assemble your pictures or selected work in a way that follows direction but that also shows a progression. Art school admissions officers love to see your work improve over time biographically or in a working order from concept to finished piece.

How to Write Artist Statements

While an admissions essay may not be required, an artist summary or statement may. Artist statements are typically a few paragraphs long and are meant to be an introduction to who you are and what your professional or future plans might be.

Include an introduction with your name, location, and high school/art school you have attended. In the second paragraph, talk about your skills, specialties, and interests. Finally, discuss what is in the portfolio. If you are asked to talk about one of the artist tests or required artwork, share about the process, why you made the artistic choices you did, and what techniques you incorporated.

Examples of Art School Portfolios

via Student Art Guide

This artist portfolio shows two different studies of the same topic. One one page, it highlights color, shading, highlighting, etc. The second page is a sketch, rather than a finished project. Sketchbooks like this are commonly required for painters or drawers.

Here is another way of laying out a portfolio in a way that shows off an artist’s abilities in two different areas — watercolor and portrait drawing. This format is both eye-catching and informative for the reviewer.

Fashion artists will often need a portfolio as well. With this area, you will need to “show your work.” This portfolio page includes concept, sketches, and then images of the real, finished product.

via Student Art Guide

 

If your area is in hard products such as sculpture or clay, clear and concise images are a must. Take pictures on a white and clean background so that the work pops. The highest quality pictures are one of the most important aspects of a portfolio no matter the medium.

 

3 Reasons to Follow Your Dream School’s Social Media

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Prospective students near and far — as one of the students helping to run my college’s social media, this is my open letter to you about the crucial importance and significance of following your dream school’s social media accounts!

In an age when social media are taking over not only our leisure time and businesses, but also the way colleges market themselves, social media has proved itself an invaluable tool for prospective students. Here’s why.

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1.) There’s only so much the website can tell you.

The official school website will be a great tool in informing you about the hard facts- classes, majors, extra-curricular activities and programs, sports, etc. However, the school’s Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, blogs etc. will provide an inside look into student life on campus that no other platform can.

2.) Tours and Open Houses only last so long.

Tours and Open Houses are invaluable experiences that I highly recommend every prospective student take part in at least once or twice. You get to experience campus and make connections with other prospective and current students, which is amazing. However, this interaction only lasts so long and eventually comes to an end. Social media, on the other hand, will provide you with anywhere from weekly to daily accounts of student life- from social to academic to extra-curricular to athletic aspects.

3.) Contact with current students is direct and immediate from off-campus.

While many campus tour guides may hand out contact information or business cards, as may a professor you spoke with at an academic fair, social media provides another tool for quick, easy, direct interaction with current students from off-campus.

 

Happy networking!

How do you find ways to interact with your dream school?

High School Students: What Does it Take to Get Into College?

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Getting into College

It may be summer, but as a high schooler, you probably have one thing on your mind: getting into your dream college. However, dreaming about your acceptance letter is just one part of the equation. Planning and working towards that stellar application requires a lot of work and foresight — and it begins today. These tips will help you prepare by showing you what it takes to get into college.

 

High School Students: What Does It Take to Get Into College?

Grades

If you want to get into a good school, you’re going to need to show them what you’re made of by bringing along an excellent report card. That doesn’t mean just passing; it means achieving. The more prestigious the school, the better grades in the tougher classes will be expected.

If you had a bad semester or you just can’t seem to ace your math courses, don’t sweat it too hard. College admissions counselors don’t solely weigh your GPA. They also want to see that if you failed, you managed to pick yourself up again.

Test grades matter as well, though not as much as you may think. While many colleges advertise an average ACT or SAT score, the numbers are usually just a guideline. Other activities and application materials will be weighted, too.

Activities

Most colleges want to bring on students that have school pride, are involved, and have ambitions outside of class. Activities can be a way of showing off your well-roundedness. Now is the time to sign up for Spanish Club or to try out for cheer leading.

If you’re an athlete, getting into college on a sports scholarship is a whole other monster. You’ll want to talk to your coaches as soon as possible about how to attract the right admissions counselors to see you play. If you’re planning on going into the arts, you’ll need to start building your portfolio, brushing up on your auditions pieces, or videotape performances. This will give you something to show when admissions season comes around.

Volunteerism and Work

Volunteering regularly in your community isn’t a requirement to get into college, but it can set you apart from the crowd. And it doesn’t take much at all! You can do little things like participating in a monthly park cleaning day or something much larger like organizing a coat drive at your school. Find a cause or issue that matters to you and get to work. Colleges like to see that you are driven to make the world a better place.

A second option/alternative to volunteering is to actually going out and get a job. Universities love to see future students take on adult-sized responsibilities like building a resume. Plus, as a bonus, you’ll start saving for school even earlier.

The Application

Finally, none of this would be evident to your college admissions advisor without that dreaded application. All colleges have a form of this with their own deadlines and admissions periods. Our advice is to focus in on a few key items: when early admissions applications are due, how many recommendation letters you need and how they must be sent in, and what (if any) essay(s) you need to complete.

Early admissions is a great way to show how serious you are about your school choice, but early admissions applications means getting everything ready way in advance of the normal application process. This means planning your recommendations (contacting, reminding, confirming) and completing your essay (writing, editing, re-reading). By planning out your application, as well as your qualifications, in advance, you can ensure you’re on target to get  accepted to your ideal college.

Creative Ways to Announce Where You’ll be Going to School in the Fall

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Announcing your fall college choice (1)

You may have heard of gender reveal parties, in which new parents announce if they are having a boy or a girl. But what about college reveal parties? Deciding which college you have accepted an offer from is a huge deal that should be celebrated. These 6 creative ways to announce where you will be going to school in the fall take it to the next level.

6 Creative Ways to Announce Where You Will be Going to School in the Fall

1.   The Superman Reveal

If you’re holding out till graduation to tell your friends and more distant relatives, there is no better time to make your announcement than right after you receive that high school diploma! One of our favorite ways is wearing your college’s shirt underneath your cap and gown. When you have graduated, dramatically open your robe to reveal the name of your new school! It’s a great transition point and a way to say you’re ready to conquer the next school on your list.

2.   Balloon School Spirit Pop

This one is an idea straight from those uber popular gender reveal parties. If you’re between two different schools with distinct school colors, purchase some neutral colored balloons (such as black, white, gold, or silver). Before filling them with helium, have the store stuff them with your college’s colors. When you’re ready to make your big announcement, gather the family and pop the balloons. Seeing that green and white for Michigan or the blue and gold for UCLA may just make their day!

3.   The Vintage Pennants Hang

We love all things vintage and antique, especially when they’re college related. One of our favorite must-haves are vintage college pennants hung up in our room. As you apply to colleges, purchase a pendant at each school and hang them in a row. When it’s time to tell your parents or friends which school you’ve decided on, one-by-one take away each pennants until you’re left with a winner. The alternative if you cannot find pennants for the schools you have applied to is to create your own pennants with letters spelling out your winning school.

4.   The Parent Swag Gift

The first people you should tell about your college choice has to be your parents. However, it doesn’t have to be just a rush to agree on the right school for you. This is a special moment for them too! Take a day or two to purchase a parent swag item such as a shirt that says “X University Mom” and wrap it up nicely so you can get video of their surprise and shock when they unwrap their unexpected new gifts.

5.   The Sorting Hat

Are you a Harry Potter nerd like us? Then you will love incorporating your favorite books and movies into your college decision! Have a crafty friend create a sorting hat and then act as its “voice.” At your graduation party, have the voice hide and recite a creative poem or few lines that talk about your personality or qualities and why the school is best for you.

6.   The Trivia Challenge

Could your parents guess the school you’re going to based on its famous alumni? Could your friends name your college based on its mascot? Doing a round of trivia to give hints and clues leading up to your big announcement can be an absolute blast. They will love sorting it all out while you will love teasing them with super unknown facts about your new home.

 

Let the Countdown Begin! The HS Senior’s Guide to the March Waiting Period

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Hey Seniors: the time is finally here. It’s March, and this month means more than just great basketball, the start of Spring, and St. Patrick’s Day! It’s also time you start the dreaded wait for your college admissions decision. While surviving this countdown month can mean a lot of anxiety and self-doubt, you can get through it by understanding the process. Here’s what you need to know about the March madness that is the college admissions season.

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Every year, colleges receive thousands of applications from around the world hoping to hear back that they’re in. Many admissions offices are flooded and packed come November through January with essays and paperwork or even students doing their interviews.

After February starts, things go quiet, and the real work begins. While you wait patiently (or impatiently), that admissions crew begins sorting students based on their set of guidelines. Every school is different in this process. Some schools favor great recommendations and pull those first while others are sticklers with grades and will only focus on your standardized tests and GPA.

The process of picking the next freshman class is not an easy one. At very selective schools, it can be an emotional and political one at that. It often requires round after round of revisiting one student’s file. Now imagine that times a thousand…there’s a lot to decide!

What You Need to Know

First and foremost, don’t reach out to speed up the process. Admissions offices receive hundreds of calls from anxious students or (worse) their parents looking to see if they can get an answer before the April 1st send-out date. Don’t be that person. Most schools advertise when you’ll get your decision back, so keep that in mind before you ring up your contact.

Secondly on the don’t-do list is to not freak out. Sure, waiting for something as life changing as a college admissions letter is tough and nerve-wracking. But, you can use the month of March to focus on the present. Put your energy into finishing your midterm paper or preparing for a competition. You can even take up a new hobby to pass the time, such as an art class or learning how to play the guitar. Just distract yourself from the potential stress.

Third piece of advice: don’t forget your friends! They’ll need you as much as you need them. One of the best parts about being a senior is having a whole group of people to commiserate with. If you have the time, consider throwing a pre-admissions party where you get together and celebrate each other’s accomplishments before your letters come in. It may just be the pick-up to your self esteem you need to countdown the days.

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Finally, you can also use March to think about the alternatives out there. The truth is that your dream school may not be the right school, and in that case, it doesn’t hurt to have a backup plan. Investigate your local community or junior college, or read up on your safety’s school’s rolling or late admissions policies. Just because you didn’t get your dream school doesn’t mean you can’t make great memories somewhere else. Explore your options!

 

Making it through March is all about the mindset. By understanding the process of admissions, staying away from the temptation of reaching out too soon, and trying to stay positive in the face of silence, you can survive the wait without going crazy.