9 06, 2016

How to Improve Your Ivy League College Application

By | 2017-04-17T22:51:49+00:00 June 9th, 2016|Berkeley, Brown, College Admissions, Common App, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Emory, Harvard, Ivy League, Ivy League Advice, Ivy League College, Michigan, MIT, NYU, Princeton, UCLA, UPenn, Yale|0 Comments

If you’re applying to an Ivy League college you already know that high grades, tons of AP classes, stellar SAT scores, unique extracurriculars, and fantastic teacher recs can all play a role in your application and acceptance to some of the most prestigious colleges in America.

The following are top ten tips though that you may not have thought of that when, combined with the standard qualifications above (i.e. stellar GPA, etc), can actually serve to help you get in!

  1. Social Media:  Schools check.  So, that said, you want to make sure that there is nothing crude or lewd on your facebook page and you’re not making extreme non-pc comments all over twitter.  It’s okay to show yourself having fun with your friends, and you certainly don’t have to show yourself as 100% scholarly and serious (it is a social outlet, after all), and you’re even allowed to have an opinion that maybe other people don’t necessarily agree with, but just keep in mind that the college admission officers are trying to get a sneak peak and quick overview of who you might be online. If you think your fb page shows you as an all around great person with dedicated intellectual and creative interests and great humanitarian projects under your belt (and on your page) then let them look.  It could help you.  More often than not though, it won’t.  Personally, I’d set my fb page to private right now to block anyone who isn’t a known friend. After all, why take the risk?
  2. Send your interviewer a thank you email: This is another tip that some might think of, and some won’t.  Sending a very BRIEF thank you, if you do in fact have your interviewer’s email address (some schools do not make this available) this is a sign of having good manners, which translates into a sign of strong upbringing and class.  The Ivy League especially is deciding whether you fit into their school culture, not only if you have the grades to succeed.  Sending a thank you (just 2-3 sentences at most- don’t go longer) can leave a positive impression in your interviewer’s eyes, and that translates to a positive feeling when they sit down to report on their interview with you, that can help to get you in!
  3. Mention legacy:  Do you have a family member who went to the school?  If not that that particular college, did they go to another college within the Ivy League.  If so, mention it.  Don’t feel like you’re bragging.  The Ivy League universities value “legacies” highly, so even though it’s usually a question on the application, mention it during your college interview, as well. The Ivy League in particular loves tradition and preserving and honoring family lines.  If your mom went to Columbia and your dad is a Harvard grad = mention it.  Believe me, it will help.
  4. Mention 1st Generation: As an alternative to the above, perhaps you’re the first one in your family to ever even go to college!  If this is you, don’t worry, MENTION IT – somewhere in your essays.  Again, this will only help you.
  5. Are you a twin? Yes, I know this one isn’t going to apply to most people, but it’s worth mentioning. The Ivy League in particular loves admitting twins who are equally ambitious and have the required credentials.  So, if you’re a twin – identically or fraternal – this should be everywhere in your college essays, and specifically at least mentioned in you Common App.   The colleges like anything and everything that makes you unique, and having a twin or sibling that is going to be in the same incoming calls puts you in that “special and unique” category, especially if you’re special and unique and can stand out in others areas, as well!

Those are just a few helpful tips that you might not find elsewhere regarding how to make your college applications, and especially your Ivy League college applications stand out even more.

Stay tuned in the coming days for even more!

[I’m a former Harvard admissions interviewer and a Harvard graduate, and currently run the Ivy League Essay college admissions firm: www.IVY LEAGUE ESSAY.com  Check out my website or send me an email: IvyLeagueEssayInfo@gmail.com, and request a free consultation today!]

 

 

7 12, 2015

Do You Need to Know Your Major When Applying to College?

By | 2017-04-17T22:51:49+00:00 December 7th, 2015|Harvard, Ivy League Advice, Princeton, Yale|1 Comment

Harvard University snow

It’s a legitimate question: do you need to know what you want to major in before applying to college?  It’s a question many high school seniors have on their mind this time of year as college admission deadlines approach, especially if you’re a student applying to the most competitive Ivy League Colleges.

So, how strongly do you really need to know  what you want to major in and/or possibly do for a living while you’re still just a senior in high school?  After all, isn’t that what college is all about?  To expose oneself to all kinds of different academic fields, intellectual interests and possibilities.  What if you really don’t know what you might want to do for a living down the road, or even next week?  In other words, what if you’re working on your college admission essays and applications, and you really have no idea what you might be interested in at all.  You’re an excellent student, you have strong grades, strong test scores, great extracurriculars, your teachers love you, and you express yourself well in writing (via your college admission essays) so…is not knowing your potential major really going to be a problem?

My answer is this:  yes. Colleges like to see some kind of direction, again  especially when talking about the more competitive programs like the Ivy League.  The strongest college applicants are those who know what they’re interested in and the path they want to pursue – think of someone who has known they wanted to be a doctor since they were five, a classical musician who has been practicing their whole life, or a high school student who has always been actively building things and working on the latest technology, knowing she has always wanted to be an engineer.

Everyone understands that interests change and people grow intellectually, especially young people when exposed to all the new ideas on experiences their first college year, but when talking about straight college admissions facts and advice, I will say that the stronger college applicants have both a passion that’s reflected in their academic pursuits and interests, and an intense drive that – even if it changes – at least points them in a very  focused direction, so they can speak with conviction in their college applications and interviews and at least start make a case for what they *might* want to do even if it changes down the road.

It is always better to present yourself as someone who has focus and drive and confidence than someone who is all over the place and unsure of who they are and where they’re going, at least at this moment in time.  You come across much stronger if you pick something and build your essays and interests around that idea.  It really shows a level of confidence, and confidence is what college admissions officers like.

Once you have your major, make sure it fits with the rest of your application.  Do your extracurriculars fit with your interest?  Does your summer work experience?  What about your achievements and awards?  The strong college applications are those which present a strong and unified story.

 Again, college admissions officers know that many students  don’t know what they want to do, but even if you’re undecided, your strongest bet is to pick something even if you change you mind down the road.

[I’m a former Harvard interviewer and a Harvard graduate, and currently run the New York based Ivy League College admissions firm: www.IvyLeagueEssay.com  Contact me today for a free initial consultation and get into the school of your dreams! Phone: (646) 276-7042 Email: IvyLeagueessayInfo@gmail.com ]

10 11, 2015

Your Ivy League College Admissions Interview: How to Prepare & What to Expect

By | 2017-04-17T22:51:49+00:00 November 10th, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Harvard Library

It’s incredibly nerve-wracking to have to go into a room and have a stranger decide your future.  If you’re also a top student (like I was), it’s even more nerve-wracking to not know if you’re really going to get to go to a top-tier, super-elite school like Harvard, Princeton, MIT or Yale and have your future and career almost completely laid out for you, or if you really even have the slightest chance of getting in at all.

That’s why I’ve laid out the top questions students often hear during their Ivy League college interviews. Even if you’re not applying to the Ivy League, this will work for any other competitive top to mid-tier college, too.

So, whether you’re applying to Harvard and Princeton, or Boston University and NYU, studying these questions will help you be more prepared in terms of what to expect from your college interview, and how to be more confident during the interview itself, because nothing will take you by surprise.

As an overview though, college admissions officers want to know that you have the maturity to speak clearly, that you can be comfortable even in a nerve-wracking situation, that you can look them in the eye, smile, chat, have a solid “adult” conversation on an adult level, and are clear in terms of who you are at this point in your life and where you want to go.  These questions will help you get there:

1. “So, what are you interested in studying in college?”

What college interviewers are looking for here, is an answer that reveals your academic and possible future professional plans and interests, but also shows uniqueness and a background (however slight it may be) related to your answer.

In other words, just saying you’re interested in pre-med is fine, but saying you’re interested in pre-med because you spent time interning over the summer at a make-shift hospital in India, or at an inner city hospital in Chicago, is better because it shows you have actual experience to back up your goals. .

The main thing that will get you bad marks here on this question?  Being too vague – that’s what this question is trying to screen for.  Your college interviewer wants to make sure that you have the focus and ambition needed to truly succeed in a top Ivy League college (and in life).  They want to make sure you’re someone who has a plan and has a direction…even if that direction later changes course.  Just show them that you have an initial thought-out plan.

 So, if they ask you this question, pick an academic subject and back it up, even if you end up changing your major 4 times once you’re in.  First, get in!

2. “What high school accomplishment are you most proud of?”

Here, your college admissions interviewer is trying to get a sense of what you value, as the accomplishment you are most proud of will not only show off your best strengths academically (or extracurricularly, as could be the case) but will show him/her what things and pursuits you actually  identify with, in your own life – and that gives them great information about YOU.

The main thing that will get you bad marks on your college interviewer’s report with this question? Not showing a real passion or energy behind your answer.  You can’t expect someone to be excited about what you’ve done in life, if you yourself aren’t that interested.

3. “Tell me about your family background? Where did you grow up?”

What the admission officer is looking for here, is a sense of trying to place you = what I call, trying to paint a picture of your home life in their mind.  Did you grow up in a big city, a suburb, a rural farm?  Were you home-schooled, or did you attend a highly competitive science magnet in your area?

They are trying to place you, but they are also trying to discern how you yourself feel about your background.  There’s no wrong answer here, except a one-word answer.  That will get you a bad mark on the interviewer’s report, and you don’t want that.  If someone asks you a question, expand and expound!

4. “What is an example of something difficult you’ve had to go through, or an important event perhaps that took place in your life in the last few years?”

Here, as with the question above, the admissions committee (through the college interviewer’s report that they will write about you)  is simply trying to get a sense of who you are, what you value, and what stands out in your mind.  They are simply trying to understand who you are as a person, and how you see yourself in relation to others.

The one thing that will get you bad marks on this question?  Not having a strong and solid answer.  It’s really not so much what you say with any of this, but how you say it.  Always speak with confidence and self-reflection = that’s what they really like.  Don’t be afraid to show them who you are as a thinker and a person.  The fastest thing to get you dinged on all of your questions is, again, a weak, one-word response!

5. “Why Harvard” or “Why Princeton?” or “Why Columbia?” or “Why Berkeley?”…

Most likely, you already wrote an admissions essay covering this question, so I strongly suggest you review all of your essays before going into your college interview.  Your answer “Why Harvard, or University of Pennsylvania, or Columbia, Brown, Duke, UCLA, MIT, or NYU?” (just to name a few), should focus on that particular school’s program, core curriculum, professors, classes and extracurriculars that are specific to your interests.

The focus should be academic at the core, but don’t be afraid to let your personality and true interest in a school’s outside extracurricular activities also shine through.  Do your homework and understand the differences between different programs and how they’re set up with their own unique flavor, especially when we’re talking about the Ivy League colleges and universities.

In the end, your college admissions interview should be conversational, interesting, educational and engaging!  In other words, just try to have a very real and connected conversation. Most interviews last 20-40 minutes, and if you’ve gotten this far, it’s a very good sign that you are already on your way!

[I’m a former Harvard admissions interviewer and a Harvard graduate.  I currently run the Ivy League admissions firm: www.IvyLeagueEssay.com out of New York.  I provide expert advice on college essays and applications to students all over the world, and specialize in the Ivy League and “Top Ten” schools.  Feel free to contact me for more information, and get into the college of your dreams!]

2 10, 2014

Common App College Essay Prompts and How to Master Them for Your Ivy League Application!

By | 2017-04-17T22:51:49+00:00 October 2nd, 2014|Brown, College Admissions, Columbia, Common App, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, Ivy League|1 Comment

So, it’s official.  You’ve decided it’s time to start working on your Common App. Good for you!  Great even.  You’re not procrastinating!  That is, until you looked at the prompts and thought, “I have absolutely NO IDEA what to say, let alone guess what the colleges are even looking for.”  This thought perhaps made you panicked, sick, ill, malaised (i.e. good SAT word, write it down), and forced you to have visions of working at a donut shop for the rest of your life, (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Perhaps you had plans though of potentially setting off for Harvard, Princeton, Yale, or some other picturesque U.S. school to watch football games, meet great life-long friends, STUDY and get an excellent education, and just do something incredibly solid and interesting with your life…but then messed it all up with the Common App and destroyed the dream.  Done.  OVER.  Donut?

Well, stop worrying.  We’re going to go through the prompts one by one, and if you take away my key points from each of the questions, you’re going to do more than fine.

Prompt #1Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

This essay is a great chance to show your uniqueness, your individuality, what makes you different, and college admissions officers LOVE different.  Did you hear that? They read so many applications, that they truly gravitate towards those students who are unique and stand out.  So, do you have something unique in your background?  Have you done something unusual?  Is there something different about your family that makes you interesting?  Here is where you write about what makes you different from others in your school. What does make you different from your friends.   Remember, different = interesting.

PROMPT #2: Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?

Make sure you answer each of the questions stated in this prompt and you’ll do fine.  Mostly though, you want to pick a negative experience (a “failure”) that then has a positive spin — that shows your self-reflection and ability to pick yourself up and move forward stronger than before!  This essay is a good choice if STRENGTH and FORTITUDE are two of your major traits.

PROMPT #3: Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

This essay is here to show your character.  What are you passionate about?  What are you willing to stand up for, even in the face of adversity? As with prompt #2, make sure you address all of the questions within the question – that is part of what you are being tested on.  This essay is a good choice if you have very strong morals and values and are willing to make a public stand.  Always be aware of your audience though, and take into consideration how things will be perceived by the admissions committee.  In other words, choose your battles wisely.

PROMPT #4: Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

I like this essay, as it is the most creative.  Again, make sure you address all three points, and focus equally on description as well as self-reflection: why this is meaningful to YOU.  I’ve read very lyrical essays that describe a place, only to not understand its significance for the student.  Similarly, I’ve read very factual essays for this prompt that have no description or emotional feeling or language. Balance both, and do it in a creative way, and you’ll win by giving your reader insight into your world.

PROMPT #5: Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

What the admissions committee is looking for here, is growth. Your growth.  That moment when your world changed.  Pick an event that clearly shows how you were before, and then how you were different after.  Again, as with the other essays, they are looking for self-reflection.  This essay also allows for a lot of creativity and I have found sometimes the smaller, less formal and more personal events or moments in life make for the best, most moving essays – and that advice goes for all of the prompts, above.

[I’m a former Harvard interviewer and a Harvard graduate, and currently run the college admissions firm IVY LEAGUE ESSAY.com.  Like more help on your Common App or college applications? Contact me for a free consultation today!  www.IvyLeagueEssay.com ]

21 09, 2014

Mastering the Common App: How to Write a Great College Application!

By | 2017-04-17T22:51:49+00:00 September 21st, 2014|Berekeley, Brown, College Admissions, Columbia, Common App, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, Ivy League, MIT, Princeton, Standford, UPenn, Yale|3 Comments

cropped-harvardcollegeThe season is upon us. Now is a good time to start your Common App.  You’re a month into the new school year, you’ve settled in, and now the Common App is starting you in the face. Day and night.  You try to forget about it, but you can’t.  It’s always there in the back of your mind. College Application time. You know it’s time to begin, but HOW? How!  How can you create the absolute best admission essays possible when you have absolutely no idea what to write about, what the admission committee is looking for, and what will make a really strong college essay and application.

Oh yeah, and did I mention your entire future seems to appear to depend upon this?

Don’t worry though, because I am going to walk you through the process. Tell you how you can master the Common Application and make the most of your college choices and, to be more direct, get into the best schools possible…including The Ivy League: Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown, UPenn, and Cornell. The top. I mean, what if you want to go there?  How can you tackle the Common App and catapult your way to the top?

Let’s start with the questions.  These are the choices for your Common App Essay:

  • Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
  • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  • Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
  • Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Which one to choose, you say? Which one will be the best one to write about?  Here’s what I say:  go with the one that is going to contain the most EMOTION.  Emotion is powerful, good or bad, and the examples you choose, if they have a certain emotional weight to them when you think about it, that will add weight (and admissions committee engagement) to your essay.  In other words, emotion or powerful experiences (which is really what I mean) serves to ENGAGE your reader, and an engaged reader is going to not only remember your essay, but feel that you truly conveyed a mood, and environment, and an experience.

In other words, they will feel they got to know YOU just a little bit more than if you had written about something “less powerful” that didn’t engage.

Go with the powerful emotions.  The experiences and examples for any of the above, that convey some kind of emotion, and make you feel, because that is going to translate to your essay.

More tips and advice to come…

[I’m a former Harvard University admissions interviewer and a Harvard graduate.  I currently run the College Admission Essay firm: IVY LEAGUE ESSAY, out of New York, and specialize in helping students get in to the top schools and the Ivy League.  Please contact me for a free phone consultation today: www.IvyLeagueEssay.com ]

19 06, 2013

How Important Are Extracurriculars for Your College Application?

By | 2017-04-17T22:51:49+00:00 June 19th, 2013|College Admissions, Common App|0 Comments

 
How Important Are Extracurriculars for Your College Application?
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Do schools really care what clubs you joined, what sports you played, what charity you may have volunteered for, or what musical instrument you possibly tried to master? What exactly are colleges looking for when they ask you for all the activities, clubs, positions, events and charities you have (perhaps) participated in during your high school career?
I would like to answer this question today, based on my own experience as a former Harvard University interviewer (and as a Harvard graduate, myself).
In terms of extracurricular activities, admissions officers are looking for a point-of-entry into your personality. They want to find something they can focus on, that’s interesting, that will differentiate you from the many other applicants in the pile. Admissions committees use your extracurricular activities to paint a picture of who you are, as a student and as a person — to develop a fuller understanding of how you spend your time when you are not studying or at school, and to access your level of intellectual and cultural interest, background and depth.
In other words, your extracurricular activities are like the paint a painter paints with while creating a portrait of YOU. Your goal is to make those colors, that paint – your portrait – as original and interesting as possible. Especially if you are applying to the Ivy League.
The following is probably the most important thing I can say, and something you may not ever read elsewhere, as it is certainly an insider tip: Ivy League schools are looking for ORIGINAL THINKERS.Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Princeton, and University of Pennsylvania. These are the 8 schools that make up the Ivy League, and to get into any of them, not only do you have to have the grades, the test scores, and the proper level of classes, but you need to demonstrate ORIGINAL THOUGHT.
These schools pride themselves on developing the next leaders of the world — economically, politically, and in the arts and sciences. Going back to the question then — you will be ahead of the game if your extracurricular activities are unique and demonstrate your individuality. Your ability to stand out from the pack. It is this, your own personal voice and interests that make you a unique and powerful future leader, in whatever your field.
So, strive to list those experiences and activities that are perhaps unusual, perhaps a little different from your friends. Demonstrate, if there is skill involved, that you do it and excel at a very high level. Let your uniqueness shine through, and that will shine through to the admissions committee, as well.

[Need help on your college applications or Common App essays? Thinking of the Ivy League? Contact me for a free consultation today! www.IvyLeagueEssay.com ]