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 ]

5 06, 2015

Applying to an Ivy League College? Common App Essay Advice from a Former Harvard Interviewer!

By | 2017-04-17T22:51:49+00:00 June 5th, 2015|Brown, College Admissions, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, Ivy League, Princeton, UPenn, Yale|1 Comment

1. What are some of the common misconceptions/mistakes you see regarding students’ Common App essays? Do you have any general advice for the Common App?

The biggest mistake I see students repeatedly make with the Common App, is not understanding what makes them unique. Schools are looking for “original thinkers”…. “original doers” and in your Common App you want to show off just what makes you different from your peers. It may be something you don’t even realize, or pay much attention to, so look for it!

I had one student for example, who had spent her life studying ballet at a very high artistic level, where she was even asked to join a big city ballet company as an apprentice, and yet she didn’t think this was something worth mentioning, and instead wrote her essay on a science fair she participated in (wrong approach). Another student of mine had had an extremely interesting life growing up in a town where he and his brother were the only Jewish kids in their entire school system in the rural South. He (again, wrong approach) wrote about going on a summer trip to Mexico with his high school class. WRITE ABOUT SOMETHING UNUSUAL! The most unusual experience, or fact, or interest in your life that you can think of. Done well, that is what will get you in.

 

  1. Social media is a boon for some students and a bane for others. Does Harvard search up students’ social media profiles during the admissions process?

 I actually was an admissions interviewer for Harvard before social media was so prevalent, so can’t officially answer this question on Harvard’s behalf. However, as a general rule, if an admissions committee is very interested in someone, or if they’re on the fence about a candidate, they will sometimes google the student to see what comes up, and this includes more often than not, facebook profiles. It simply helps to put a face with a name in most cases, and that is really often all they are looking at, just trying to get a “feel” for the applicant, but whether admissions officers will admit to this practice or not, is debatable. Again, wasn’t around as an option 15 years ago!

  1. What advice would you give to students who want to succeed in an admissions interview?

 I actually offer free interview prep for all the students who work with me on their applications, at no extra charge. We go in-depth into what they can expect, how to prepare, how to present themselves, but in general, the overriding action needs to be: confidence. No matter what you say, it is going to be more important how you say it. Again, this is something I work on with my clients more specifically.

4. Some students I know are self-studying for AP exams in subjects that aren’t offered at their schools, and not taking the actual class itself. Is this a good idea?

 It is a good idea if they can do it well, and score well on the exam. By “well,” I mean achieve a 4 or a 5. Preferably a 5. Anything less and I would not report. I would also consider enrolling in a community college class if the student’s school doesn’t offer a particular AP that they’re interested in, as the admissions committee will be impressed that they had the ambition and drive to branch out and education themselves on their own, outside their immediate resources.

 5. Are some majors harder to get into compared to other majors at Harvard?

Not if you can demonstrate “original thought” in terms of why a particular major is right for you, why a particular interest stems out, and can be backed up by, your own unique experience. Saying, “I want to be a Biology major, so I can be pre-med” or, “I want to major in Economics so I can get my MBA and eventually work on Wall Street” isn’t going to get you in, unless that uniqueness in terms of your background and experience can shine through.

So, in that regard, saying you want to major in Latin, because you are very interested in expanding your already ongoing research in ancient Catholic cryptology, and have already published papers on the topic in some well-read Vatican journals…is going to give you a better chance than the pre-med student above, but it all depends on you and, again, what makes you uniquely interesting in your major of choice.

6. What general advice would you recommend to students who have been waitlisted, or students who are appealing their decision?

First, I have known both clients and friends who were waitlisted and then got in at the very last minutes, so there is always hope! The best thing you can do, is follow the school’s instructions and submit any additional materials IF REQUESTED. If nothing is requested, than you simply have to wait it out, also knowing that you could consider transferring after your first year elsewhere if you truly wanted to try to get into that particular school.

  1. What are the main qualities Harvard wants to see in extracurricular activities?

Again, uniqueness! I can’t stress this enough. Everyone who applies to Harvard is President of some school club, ether plays the piano or the violin (at an extremely exceptional level), and/or is on the swim team or math team (take your pick). Everyone also volunteers and “gives back.” It’s all the same.

What they’re looking for though, once again, is originality.   What do you do with your time that’s unique? What do you do with your time that’s already at an adult level? Find what makes you different and emphasize it throughout your college application…especially if you are applying to the Ivy League. These schools pride themselves on creating an “interesting” class. A class where you look at the person next to you and think, “wow, that’s really cool.” Be that person and you add to the school’s diversity. That is what will get you in, on top of already having the excellent scores and grades.

[I’m a former Harvard admissions interviewer, and a Harvard graduate, and currently run the Ivy League Admissions Consulting Firm: www.IvyLeagueEssay.com. I work with students all over the world. Contact me for a free consultation today!]

 

 

 

 

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 ]

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 ]