I’m now an incoming freshman heading off to college this fall. I’m very happy to say that I survived the college application and acceptance process. Here are some tips/advice I have for high school seniors applying to college in the U.S. Best of luck to anyone applying this fall! Feel free to drop an ask if you need advice. 

  • Some schools use Common App, others don’t. Visit the college’s official website. If you search them on the Common App and they’re not there, chances are you’ll have to go to another website to apply. 
  • Avoid asking friends to look over your essay. You might feel tempted to ask them for advice. You’re better off asking a teacher for critiques. They’re professionals, and they can help you get your essay in the right direction. I suggest asking English teachers because they’re great when it comes to grammatical errors and the like. 
  • For the Common App essay, keep brainstorming. Keep writing. Keep editing.  I cannot stress this enough. If you feel that your essay isn’t working, toss it out. Don’t waste your time writing something that doesn’t reflect who you are. 
  • Avoid reading other people’s essays. There’s a reason why their prose and topic works for them. Your essay is meant to reflect who you are as an individual. Reading their essays will not help you in writing yours. There’s no formula. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to write about an accomplishment or the time you won something. Don’t write it for them, write it for you. 
  • START EARLY ON ESSAYS. This is not an essay you can write the night before. A majority of colleges view your essay as one of the main factors in your acceptance. This is not something to blow off or take lightly. You need to spend at least a few weeks or more to craft your essay. 
  • Schools will require ADDITIONAL ESSAYS. Check the Common App or an alternative website for these additional essays. They’re often called “supplemental essays.” Make sure you get these extra essays looked over as well!
  • Recommendations. Some colleges require none. Others ask for as many as 3. Most applications ask for a rec from a counselor and teacher. The Common App gives you the option of getting a rec from a non-academic teacher like a coach. 
    • Some teachers get swamped with several requests for a recommendation. Start asking within the first few weeks of school. 
    • The teachers you’re getting recs from should know you very well, they should be familiar with your success as a student and as an overall person. 
    • If you’re planning on asking, the best way to go is by seeing the teacher in person. It’s more genuine and direct. Send an email as last resort. 
  • Own a planner or notebook to keep track of deadlines and tasks. I suggest getting a mini notebook just for college applications. In the notebook, I would write down: deadlines, essays that need to be edited/looked over, colleges you’re applying to, transcripts that need to be sent, etc. Check off tasks when you get them done. Use the calendar for deadlines. 
  • Work on applications during the weekday. It sounds hectic, believe me, but you’ll save yourself the stress. Work on application related tasks every night, whether it’s editing a paragraph of your essay or sending in those AP scores. That way, you can be efficient during the weekday and weekend.
    • Early decision: If you apply early and you get in, you’re automatically binded to that school. You must attend and decline all your other applications to other schools. 
    • Early action: If you apply early and you get in, you don’t have to worry about applying later on. You are not binded to that school. 
    • Regular decision: You apply at the normal deadline. They notify you later than the early applicants. You are not binded to any schools. 
  • Do your research about your colleges, their test score policies, which AP test scores they accept, etc. Your best bet is visiting the college’s official website and/or checking the requirements on Common App. Write these down because colleges ask for different requirements.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a teacher, counselor, Google, a college representative, family, and your friends. They are your greatest assets. I pretty much got the best help from asking my friends because they had older siblings who went through the college app process.
  • Avoid College Confidential. Enough said.
  • Don’t hold back, and don’t give up. I never would have imagined getting into my dream school but I did. You’d be surprised at what you’re capable of as long as you stay true to yourself and work hard.
  • Senior year will take a lot of your time away from friends and family. Make sure to keep in touch with them frequently! Take breaks. Please do not prioritize school before your mental health. Your health is more important.
  • Your test scores are just a number. It does not define your actual intelligence nor does it define your value as a human being. Your scores may not be within the range of the school but it doesn’t mean you won’t get in because of it. That being said, you should still try and study for them. You have the option of taking the ACT/SAT again in senior year. 
  • Your activities and extracurriculars are really important. Colleges want to see what you’re passionate about when you’re not a student in the classroom. They will ask you to list what clubs or activities you’ve been involved in since entering high school. Leadership positions and volunteer hours are wonderful additions.
  • It can get stressful and frustrating, so make sure you space out all the tasks you have to get done. Remember to take breaks, have fun, and relax once in a while. A clear, relaxed mind works better than a mind under severe stress and lack of sleep. 
  • Senioritis is real. You sometimes have to step back and punch senioritis in the face. Even the best students fall prey to this contagious disease. Colleges DO look at your second semester grades, don’t let them slip. Start strong, finish strong. 
    • Senior year is said to be one of the best years of your life. Sure it’s gonna get tough in the beginning but once you’re done, you’re ready to go off to college before you know it. 

Good luck and have a wonderful year! 

Conquering the Why School? Essay

From a student who got into MIT & the Ivy League

I’ve read many Why School? essays. These often come across as generic, with no real indication of interest. I’m here to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes in your essays.

-Look up their course catalog. Don’t simply write, “I’m interested in your stellar economics program.” Great, so are hundreds of other applicants. Name-drop a couple of classes and explain why those specific courses appeal to you. It’ll show you’ve done your homework.

-Discuss a few clubs. Colleges want students who will contribute to their campus outside of the classroom. Are you interested in journalism? Talk about joining the school newspaper. Are you a violin virtuoso? Indicate your interest in the orchestra. Or are you into something that isn’t yet available? Say you’ll start a new group!

-Latch onto research opportunities. Schools love students who can contribute to their published papers. Look up ongoing research projects in whatever department you’re interested in (and no, research isn’t only for STEM fields!) and talk about how you’ll get involved.

-Talk about what makes a school unique. Columbia has a Core Curriculum; Princeton has a yearlong bridge program in Bolivia. Why do you want to attend this specific school?

-Touch upon your long-term goals. How will this university help you achieve your goals of becoming a lawyer? How do you want to make the world a better place? Colleges are looking for people who will contribute meaningfully to society.

-Don’t mention rankings or prestige. Harvard already knows it’s world-renowned, it doesn’t need you to stroke its ego. You should be choosing the best school for you, not the best school according to US World & News Report

Good luck! I’ll also be happy to read your college app essays, feel free to message me :)


this is mainly for juniors & sophomores (and freshmen who are incredibly ahead of the game I guess) but can apply to seniors too

if you find a scholarship that’s not due until you’re a senior or later in your senior year, DO IT EARLY. obviously you don’t have to submit the application asap, but getting the essay done a few months or a year in advance is really, really helpful. (note that this only applies to scholarships with essays that stay the same each year, of which there are many but not all)

so if you’re an underclassman free from the weight of college apps and decisions, get. it. done! if you’re a senior with some free time, get. it. done!! scholarship apps can be more stressful than college apps for some people like me, so save yourself some time to breathe or look at the sky or something.

k, that’s the tip. aza out.

The Essays that got me into Berkeley: Part 1

PROMPT: Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.
Sitting on my desk in front of me are seven battered Moleskine softcover sketchbooks, each one representing six months of my life in collage, graphs, personal anecdotes, ticket stubs, and thousands of sketches representing thousands of reality-tv obsessions, seasonal decorations, and countless profiles of strangers that I’ve seen in cafes and on trains in the last three years. Not only can I trace my artistic development since my freshmen year, these notebooks also serve as a personal roadmap, tracing the backstory of one [my full name]. Take, for example, sketchbook #7. There is a sticker for a coffee shop in Spokane, Washington affixed to the front and a map of Tahiti’s main island taped to the back. This journal starts in the June before Senior year, continuing on until this very moment. That particular summer was especially tumultuous, with a then undiagnosed mental illness coloring my artwork in chaotic shades of panic, my writing dripping with despair that stumbled into unbridled rage that freefell into hopelessness, leaving me shattered at the bottom of a dismal pit. Really, cheery stuff. But as green watercolor blobs accompanied by white charcoal capsules cut with element number three waltz out of their clear orange bottles and across this depiction of my subconscious, hope emerges. On a slightly less bleak note, #2 contains some portrayal of Jared Padalecki, my favorite actor when I was fifteen, for every day of the year. I was utterly obsessed, given over losing myself in a pop culture oblivion. #4 has more than its fair share of raunchy fanfiction involving Oscar Wilde and Robert Baldwin Ross. My favorite part of #6 is a massive two-page spread that traces the entirety of geological time from the Early Cambrian to the Holocene. Each one is a quantifiable reflection of the hundreds of different people that I have been in the last four years.

i made a college spreadsheet! my junior year of high school ends next week, which means it’s now college crunchtime- yikes! for anyone in the same boat as me, i would highly recommend making some sort of spreadsheet or chart to organize your thoughts. here’s how i laid mine out:

(first, i wanted to mention that this was totally inspired by @thestudyaesthetic‘s chart- here’s a link to her’s!)

so i put the name of the college across the top, then information about each one below in a column. the info i included was:

  • whether or not i planned on applying
  • where the school was
  • majors i’m interested in
  • total size
  • undergrad size
  • acceptance rate
  • cost of attendance
  • average financial aid package
  • average act score
  • average unweighted gpa
  • ratio of students to professors
  • do they offer early action or decision? if so, what’s the deadline?
  • regular application deadline
  • whether they offer credit for ap courses
  • what’s their application format? through the common app?
  • application fee?
  • my impression of the campus (if visited)
  • have i visited?
  • their us news and world report ranking
  • deadline for test scores
  • distance from my home
  • do they have club sports? (i plan on playing club tennis)
  • other notes

anonymous asked:

do you have any quick tips for making your essay really stand out?

Write using some combination of:

  • powerful imagery
  • a new take on an old idea
  • an uncommon perspective
  • a non-standard format
  • well-metered writing
  • a persistent narrative timeline
  • subtle motifs
  • brutal honesty and vulnerability
  • a magnificent depiction of a common entity
  • a denial of expectation
  • a clear authorial voice (MUST HAVE)
  • well-placed sarcasm

You can write a powerful essay about pretty much anything using ^^^^^^^this shit right here^^^^^^^

early decision is coming out pretty soon for most u.s. colleges and to all the high school seniors out there, i just want to say that i really hope that you get into your dream school but if you get rejected or deferred, you’ll be okay. the place for you is out there, even if you don’t find it on the first try. take some time for yourself and then get back out there; soon this year will be over and you’ll be headed somewhere amazing.

and to those who are submitting their regular decision applications, best of luck! (and make sure you proofread)

College WordBank!

There are a lot of words that may seem new and weird throughout college applications, so here is a list of words that I defined in order to help you glide through the application process!

The Basics: Treat Yo Self! (and know the facts!)

1. Undergraduate: An undergraduate student is someone who is obtaining an undergraduate education or degree, such as a Bachelor’s degree.

2. Private University: A Private University is a college that is privately funded. They tend to be smaller than public universities as well.

3. Public University: A Public University is a college that is publicly funded, specifically through the national government. They tend to be larger than private universities.

4. Safety School: When applying to colleges, a safety school is a college where the stats of a typical student admitted is lower than your stats, which indicates that it may be easier for you to get in (since you have higher stats than the average).

5. Target School: A target school is a college where the stats of a typical student admitted is similar to your stats, which indicates that you are the same level as other applicants.

6. Reach School: A reach school is a college where the stats of a typical student admitted is higher than your stats, indicating that it is a more competitive college.

7. College Confidential: A website full of threads and information about college admissions. Although some of the pages found on College Confidential are helpful, there are some things found on this site that may discourage you for no apparent reason, such as “Chance Me” threads. Therefore, I advise you to steer clear of College Confidential and, by all means, do not let it get to your head!

8. “Chance Me’s”: “Chance Me” are threads found online where people write their stats and ask for others to see if they can get accepted to a specific college. I advise you NOT to trust these things, as people online do not know your chances of getting into a specific school.

9. Common App: Also known as the Common Application, the Common App is an application used for undergraduate admissions to a multitude of colleges. A majority of colleges accept the Common App, but I suggest looking in on the ones you want to apply to in order to know for sure.

10. Universal College Application: Similar to the Common App, the Universal College Application is also a site used by many people to send their college applications.

11. SAT II’s: Also known as SAT Subject Tests, the SAT II’s are exams that are taken in specific subject areas, such as Biology, Math I/II, and US History. Many colleges do not require SAT Subject Tests. However, it is important to check and see if some colleges require you to take an SAT Subject Test, or if it is optional. Although it may be optional for the college, it is still your decision if you would like to take this exam or not for admission purposes.

12. Transcript: A report of all the grades you have received in each class that you have taken during high school. Colleges require an official transcript to be sent to the admissions office.

13. Recommendation Letter: A letter that details why you are an excellent fit in said college. These letters usually come from teachers, faculty, coaches, mentors, etc. Recommendation letters should NOT be written by a family member.

14. Personal Statement: A Personal Statement is basically a college essay. Many colleges require you to write at least one, while others require more than one essay.

15. Need Blind Admissions: Need-Blind Admissions is when colleges will decide on your admissions decision without looking at your financial information. To clarify, this means that the college will decide on your admissions decision solely on your application and not on your financial information.

16. Waitlisted: Waitlisted is sort of the middle ground for colleges. When you are waitlisted, it does not mean that you are accepted or rejected. Instead, it means that you are put on a “waiting list” and, if the colleges enrollment numbers from their accepted students are lower than expected, they will accept more people from the waitlist.  

17. Deferred: Deferred is when a college pushes your application to the next filing period. This means that you have not been accepted or rejected yet. Instead, the college has pushed your application in order to review it again and make a final decision. A deferral only happens if you have applied Early Action or Early Decision.

18. Legacy (Applicant): A legacy applicant is someone who is applying to a college that a family member has went to, usually their parents.

Types of Applications (it’s “ED” as one, two, three! Get it!?)

1. ED/Early Decision: A type of application filing period where you are able to apply early, but it is binding. This means that if you are accepted to said college under Early Decision, you are required to go there upon acceptance. Usually, the application deadline is in November and admission decisions are in Mid-December. Something to note about this is that you can apply to only one school with an “Early Decision” (since it is binding), but you can apply to other schools with a different filing period, such as Early Action and Regular Decision.

2. EA/Early Action: A type of application filing period where you are able to apply early, but it is not binding. This means that you are applying earlier than the normal application period and you will NOT be required to go to said college upon acceptance. Similar to ED, Early Action’s deadline is around November, but the admissions decision’s date varies. Unlike the Early Decision, you can apply to as many Early Action’s as you want (unless Single Choice Early Action, more on that below)

3. Single Choice/Restrictive Early Action: This is a type of application filing period where you are only allowed to apply to one Early Action school. However, this means that Single Choice/Restrictive Early Action is still non-binding (not required to go upon acceptance), but you can only apply to one school under Early Action. Similar to ED, you are able to apply to colleges under other types of filing periods, such as Regular Decision.

4. RD/Regular Decision: This is the normal time when applications are due. Regular Decision is the time when most people apply to colleges. The applications are usually due in January and results typically come out in March (although, it may vary depending on the college). Regular Decisions are non-binding and you can apply to as many as you want.

5. Rolling Admissions: This is a type of application filing period when you apply to a college and the college admissions office reviews them as they receive the applications. Unlike ED/EA/RD, Rolling Admissions does not have a set date where you can go and look for your college admissions decision. Typically, the college will give you a time frame in which they will give you your admission decision, which is possibly around 2-8 weeks depending on the college. Something to note is that a lot of colleges with Rolling Admissions may not have a distinct deadline for the application, but they will have a “priority deadline” where, if you submit your application before that date, then they will get back to you sooner. Overall, the earlier you submit your application for Rolling Admissions, the quicker you will know your decision.

6. Open Admission: This is a type of application filing where colleges accept all students, as long as they have completed high school or have a GED.

Financial Aid: Dolla Dolla Bills Y'All!

1. Grant: A grant is money that you receive in your financial aid packet that you will NOT have to pay back.

2. Loan: A loan is money that you receive in your financial aid packet and, if you accept, will have to pay back.

3. Scholarships: A scholarship is money earned due to certain achievements, such as academic, athletic, etc. Similar to a grant, it is money given to you that you do not need to pay back. However, for a scholarship, it may be awarded by the college or awarded separately by applying for one.

4. FAFSA: Also known as the “Free Application for Federal Student Aid”, the FAFSA is a website that most colleges will advise you to use in order to receive financial aid from colleges. The FAFSA application will ask for information on your household’s tax forms in order to determine how much grant and loan money you may receive. The FAFSA application opens on January 1st of every year, but deadlines for completing the application varies for every college. Something to note is that you will need to apply for Financial Aid every year in order to receive aid while you are in college.

5. CSS Profile: Also known as the “College Scholarship Service Profile”, the CSS Profile is found on the College Board website where you apply in order to receive more financial aid. Many colleges require the CSS Profile (and sometimes early on), so I advise you to see if it is required.

6. Expected Family Contribution (EFC): This is a number found on your FAFSA that provides an estimate of the amount of money your family will be expected to pay for your education. To note, this estimate is the amount of money you will be expected to pay after financial aid is accounted for.

7. Institutional Grant: An institutional grant is money given by the college that you do not have to pay back. This is different compared to the federal grant, since the federal grant is provided by the government instead of the college itself.

8. Merit-Based Grants: These are grants that are made due to academic achievement.

9. Need-Based Grants: These grants are given to students due to their level of income.

10. Federal Pell Grant: This grant is money that the federal government gives you that you will NOT pay back.

11. Institutional Loans: An institutional loan is money given by the college that you have to pay back. This is different than the federal loans, since the federal loans are provided by the government instead of the college itself.

12. Direct Subsidized Loan: A loan is money that you receive in your financial aid packet and, if you accept, will have to pay back to the college. The Direct Subsidized Loan is a federal loan that pays the loan’s interest while you are in college. However, once your undergraduate education is completed, you will be required to start paying the Direct Subsidized Loan (Note: this loan allows a six month grace period before you starting paying).

13. Direct Unsubsidized Loan: A loan is money that you receive in your financial aid packet and, if you accept, will have to pay back to the college. The Direct Unsubsidized Loan is a federal loan that does not pay the loan’s interest while you are in college. This means that, as you continue through college, you are responsible for paying the loan’s interest. However, if you decide you don’t want to pay the loan’s interest while in college, then the interest will be added to the principal (or the original loan’s amount).

14. Perkins Loan: The Perkins Loan is given to students depending on their school, as some schools do not participate in the Perkins Loan. Similar to all loans, it is money borrowed now that must be paid back later. However, unlike the other loans stated here, this loan is a college issued loan instead of a federal loan, meaning that the money is paid back to the college not the government.

15. (Parent) PLUS Loan: A PLUS Loan is a loan taken out on the parents name for an undergraduate student. This means that parents with undergraduate students may use this money for college expenses. PLUS Loans are to be paid back to the federal government.

16. Work Study Program: The Work Study Program is one in which a student may hold a job on campus while earning their degree/education. You can apply for the Work Study Program through the FAFSA application. The money you earn from this job can be used on anything, from tuition to food, etc.

You’re In College! Now what… (Everything you need to know while in college)

1. Major: A specific area that an undergraduate student focuses on during college. The student must follow and complete the courses stated in their specified major in order to receive their degree.  

2. Minor: Although it is not required, some undergraduate students choose a minor in order to have a secondary focus. If you choose to minor, you do not receive another degree. Instead, minoring in something during college is solely for your own personal interest and to expand your knowledge.

3. Double Major: When you double major in something it means that you are following two specified areas. Double Majors receive two degrees for the areas in which they studied.

4. Undeclared: To be undeclared in college is to not choose a major/degree. Many people go into college undeclared, while some are even undeclared up until their second year of college. However, depending on your college, there may be a specific time or deadline to declare a major, since you will eventually be required to have one in order to obtain a degree.

5. Placement Test: A placement test is a preliminary test in order to see what level you are in specific subjects. These are normally taken when you have selected a college to attend (as an entering college freshman) and must register for classes. Also, something to note, all colleges do not have placement tests.

6. Bursar Office: The Bursar Office is the branch of the college that takes care of payments and billing statements for the student.

7. Financial Aid Office: The Financial Aid Office is the branch of the college that takes care of the financial aid aspect for the student, such as determining grant money.

8. Registrar: The Registrar Office is where they handle student records and scheduling for the college.

9. Commuting/Commuter: A commuter is a student who travels to college from where they reside. This is a longer distance than the typical five minutes off campus.

10. Transfer Student: A transfer student is someone who is changing from one college to another. Most people who change colleges decide once they know that their credits will transfer to the next college.

College Apps Gothic

The emails begin in sophomore year. The mailings follow shortly after. You do not know when the sense of creeping dread began. Maybe it has always been there.

The void of despair opens August 1st.

They track demonstrated interest. They track undemonstrated interest. They are always watching. When you open their email, the rustling in your walls gets louder, closer. They are here.

The brochure tells you that this college requires the SAT or ACT, two SAT subject tests, and the trial of darkness. Your GPA dictates the number of weapons you are allowed to bring with you. They only tell you the survival rate is better than Harvard’s.

You wake up one morning to a pile of college mail stacked neatly outside your door. You have not given your address to any college. How do they know where you sleep? How do they–

You may apply to this university under single choice early action, binding. The form smells like sulfur and your signature is red, too red. They do not tell you what you are bound to.

On your campus visit, you look around at the other visiting students. They stare back with lifeless eyes, deep shadows beneath their dead gazes. You see the same when you look into a mirror. You have not slept through the night for four years.

The tour guide’s smile is too wide, her teeth too sharp. You swear you hear her laugh grating an octave too low as she goes over the meal plans. She avoids the sun and when the light hits her eyes just right, you can see a glint of yellow.

Numbers haunt your dreams until you shiver awake, visions of SAT bubbles swimming before you. You do not know why you are required to fill them in with blood, or what machine they are sacrificed to.

No one you know has been accepted as an engineering major. No one, in fact, has ever been accepted as an engineering major. Still, thousands apply every year and are consumed by the void.

Reporting activities can help a college better understand your life outside of the classroom. Your activities may include arts, athletics, clubs, employment, personal commitments, arcane worship of the underworld,  fulfillment of pacts with elder gods, eternal screaming, and other pursuits. Do you have any activities that you wish to report?

You are no longer a name, only an AP number. The test proctor warns you that without these eight digits, you cannot access the rest of your existence.

The multiple choice answers are all option D.

The common app now has a supplemental option in which you may submit your soul. Applicants are reminded that they may select up to three colleges under this action, only one of which may be early decision.

Please describe your life to date, complete with documentation. You have 650 words.

hello, your favorite clueless incoming college freshman here. i was accepted to stanford university as a part of the class of 2021, and i’ve been getting a lot of messages on tumblr/social media and from friends at home too about how to get into stanford. i hate answering this question, because, as you will notice, i did not title this post “how to get into stanford” because the truth is i don’t know. (really. i was accepted into some great schools, but i was also rejected from schools. who knows what stanford saw in me that others didn’t?)

but, stanford being my dream school since the 8th grade, i can relate to the nervous i-just-love-this-school-so-much feeling & having millions of questions about the application process. so i thought i’d write out a couple of really random and maybe helpful tips that are VERY SPECIFIC to my own personal application (as i can’t say for sure about any generalities).

if you have any questions about this, or about the college app process, or if you just want to say hi, feel free to shoot me a message (just turned on my anon messages!). much love & good luck.

  • grades / test scores / class rank: i did not have even close to perfect test scores. this fact stressed me out immensely, but in hindsight i think i was dumb to worry over these numbers. when i say that i don’t think that this section makes or breaks your app, i truly mean it. to me it seemed like such a small part of my application. i do believe i had good grades and such, so i won’t lie and say that it doesn’t matter…but if you are in your senior year, applying to college…the truth is it’s too little too late. so don’t stress about this, and worry about what you can actually do. so, you don’t have the best of grades. play up your other strengths - let someone else be the person that stanford chooses for great academic capability. you don’t have to fill that niche. find your own, and show stanford why they can’t be without it.
  • common app extracurriculars / accolades: or for me, lack thereof. i didn’t win major awards, did not play at the olympic level for sports, and i did not start a business or intern at a prestigious lab. i think these are all great things, but they have to make sense with your application. when you’re choosing what extracurriculars to put on your app, choose ones that will tell a story (hint: the “academic” side of your story should be what you put as your major interests! if you put your #1 major interest as computer science, but then you have nothing in your extracurricular activities about anything cs related…that doesn’t tell a compelling story. your essays and your common app could be two separate people!)
  • i don’t think i really played it “safe” with my application. this isn’t to say you should rely on shock value or wit to get you through, but i for sure did not write super formally for any part of the essay (use correct grammar and punctuation though). see the next tip.
  • common app essay: don’t be afraid to push the limit a little, play around with how you tell your story, especially if you are writing about something that many other people might be writing about. imo, this is the place for you to be creative and try and stand out. this might mean you add humor, or play around with the order that you tell your story, or utilize dialogue, or use a unique way to format your story. but this is also not the time for you to try something new…if you aren’t a creative writer my advice would be to not try and do that. i’m not a super funny person, so i didn’t take a comedic approach. if anything i think after reading tens of thousands of applications (and the tens of thousands more from previous years), admissions officers definitely can tell when the voice you use isn’t yours.
  • “short takes” or short answer questions: this was my favorite part of the application. boy oh boy did i squeeze everything i could out of this section. i used the space, especially the questions that asked about what books, films, artists, newspapers, etc. i enjoyed, to the best of my ability in a way that would showcase me as a real human being. i wanted whoever was reading my application to, by this point, have a pretty good understanding of who i was. i love journalism, film, witty books, philosophy, and art - so you bet my list included all of those things. i could do a whole other post about just the short takes so let me know if you want that. however, i do want to reiterate that this is the BEST TIME for you to fill in those missing gaps that you just couldn’t fit in a common app essay or activities section, or use it to emphasize just how involved you are with your passions/interests
  • intellectual vitality essay: one word - interdisciplinary. one of stanford’s mottos is “the wind of freedom blows” and i think of this to represent stanford students coming from a diversity of backgrounds, stories, experiences, interests, talents, coming together and finding ways to share what they love and know and grow as both a person and as a community. you can be the best physicist in the entire world, but if physics is all that you know and all that you are willing to talk about, then i just can’t be convinced of your intellectual vitality.
  • roommate essay: this probably isn’t good, but i literally wrote one draft for this essay. straight through, i just wrote what i felt like i would want to share with my roommate. i think here is also the moment for you to share how much you would really fit in at stanford - the practical bits. stanford is one of the few schools that doesn’t have a “why stanford” question, so find a way to fit that in, either subtly like i tried to do throughout my app, or a little more blatantly like i did with this essay. for example, i mentioned some of the things on stanford’s campus that i could see me and my roommate doing together. i also mentioned disney, cher from clueless, ferris bueller, the amazing race, the mowgli’s, how to get away with murder, and my favorite existentialist play. so you see, this was truly a mess of things that i believed represented me.
  • what matters to you, and why? essay: i used this essay to add the emotional leaning to my extracurriculars. i was very into politics and government, and had done canvassing and worked with state representatives, etc. while that may or may not be impressive, it still is just one line in my common app. so, i used this essay to re-emphasize my emotional connection with politics and culture, relating it back to my personal story. i also used this essay to give the admissions officers a look into my worldview, and how my surroundings have shaped my worldview.

most importantly, though, TELL YOUR STORY. idk how many times i have to say this, but all i truly did on my app was thing long and hard about what it would be like to be a college admissions officer reading thousands of essays. i didn’t even care if each of my essays were, on their own, super super amazing. i cared more about how well they supported and leaned on each other, so that at the end of the day the admissions officers would hopefully feel that they were meeting me, a whole human being, and not me, applicant #12940.

ok thanks for sticking with me. send me some love and/or questions here. :)

6 things I wish I had known before applying to college

1. Start your Common App AND supplemental essays now- senior year can be busier than you expect it to be, although I basically finished my common app essay over the summer I wish I had done some of my supplements as well

2. Colleges want to know what you can do for them- they know that they can do a lot for you, but what they’re really interested in is what you will contribute to the school, which will make you stand out in thousands of applications

2. Showcase your personal beliefs in your essay but if you can, relate them to what you want to pursue- of course there is no single “right way” to write your essays, but doing this really shows (rather than tells) a school why you are truly a good fit and what you can contribute to their community. It also makes a more cohesive story/ narrative. 

3. Group your supplements together- Take your college list, find the supplements for each school, and categorize them. Ex: “why x school essays, cultural essays, favorite extracurricular activity essays” this way you can most efficiently write one essay for multiple schools at once

4. Be smart about where you apply Early decision/ restrictive early action- think a lot about if this school is truly a good fit for you, if you can afford it, AND what are your chances of getting in. If you play your cards right you can end up at your top choice school early and enjoy the rest of senior year

5. Grades/ Numbers matter to a certain extent- of course they are important, but what I mean is that at really selective schools, every applicant has stellar numbers, and grades are no longer enough to differentiate between applicants. Instead, they are looking at your qualifications, experiences, and essays in order to gauge who would be a stronger applicant. I was very stressed about  staying in the top ten of my class but in retrospect I don’t think it made a HUGE difference in college applications.

6. CHECK YOUR SPAM EMAIL- I nearly missed an interview because the notification went to my spam email. It does happen, so check your spam regularly. 

Good luck to all of the rising seniors who are preparing their applications right now, I truly wish all of you the best and hope you go somewhere that will make you happy!!! Feel free to message me if you have questions :) 

What it says on my college application: Personal interests include writing, reading, drawing, and literature/film analysis.

What I mean: I write fanfiction, I read fanfiction, I draw fanart, and I analyze the holy hell out of my books, movies, and TV shows to the point of maniacal obsession.

My college essay writing process

If anyone’s interested here’s what I do.
1. Look at the prompt
1a. Check if there’s any overlap with previous prompts I’ve written to before: this could mean reusing parts of or whole essays
2. If it’s a fresh prompt you gotta be a big girl. Free write. Don’t be afraid of rambling just let out all of your emotions and ideas in sentence form. Don’t pay attention to the word limit or cohesiveness just go for it.
3. At this point, you’ve probably hit writers block since all your frustration is out. Good. Now go to or whatever to see how much bs you’ve written and how much over or under you are of the limit. If you’re under, okay you have space to write more if you want. If over, time to cut it down a bit.
4. Look for any patterns or possible cohesiveness in your essay. See what ideas you can link together and which ones you can take out that are too weak, or offensive, or you just don’t like them or don’t relate to the prompt.
5. Move stuff around. Put like ideas together. Try to have some sort of order to the ideas like a flow.
6. Fix your grammar.
7. Look for an intro body and conclusion to your essay. If there isn’t throw it in.
8. Read it out loud. Does it sound strong and powerful? Does your author’s voice shine through? How do you know? Paste it to Hemingway. Do most of what Hemingway tells you; lose adverbs, more active verbs, less passive voice.
9. Send it to your guidance counselor and ask them to read it and give feedback.
10. Take feedback and fix it.
Try to get the released essays done over the summer. I hope yall get into wherever you’re applying! Let me know if this was helpful.

It’s Almost College Application Season!

HS class of 2018, or anyone else reading this, it’s almost time to start applying for college/university! Here’s some tips for when you start applying: 

-First off, you don’t have to apply as soon as the applications go up. Be aware of deadlines, but don’t stress about trying to get it in within 24 hours of it opening. You have time. 

-If the application has an optional essay, write it! It can help show admissions that you’re serious, and maybe even give your application a boost.

-The same goes for optional resumes. Even if you only have one thing to put, add it on! 

-It can take a while to hear back. I personally applied for a university in August, and didn’t hear back until January. Another got back to me in two weeks. It all depends on the college! 

-Check your admissions portal weekly! The school will update it with deadlines, admissions decisions, etc. I found out I was accepted into my school online days before the letter came. 

-Apply to multiple schools. Life doesn’t always go as planned, and it’s nice to have something to fall back on if you don’t get your first choice. 

-Rejection is okay. Even if you don’t get into university, you can go to community college. You can transfer. Even if you didn’t get into your first choice, there is nothing wrong with going to your second or even third choice! Remember, admissions can be very random. 

-See about getting fee waivers!! Applying can be expensive, and your counselor may be able to help you get some fee waivers. 

Good luck and I’ll answer any questions you may have! 

hey y’all! as someone who did the whole applying to college thing, i consider myself a pretty good source of advice on this! i’m first gen student, so i had basically no help from family, which can be tough - so i hope this helps y’all!

this is going to be a series, and we’re gonna start at the beginning: choosing where to apply

okay, so this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. you might not initially know what you want - i sure didn’t! 

finding schools

  • size: big and small schools each have their own advantages and disadvantages. i go to a very small school (~2000 students) and it’s a great fit for me, but might not be for everyone. small schools have a lot going for them: smaller class sizes even in intro classes, more individual attention, and more opportunities to get to know your professors. however, they have their drawbacks as well: small schools sometimes have fewer majors and classes to choose from and may have fewer research opportunities. big schools, by contrast, tend to have very large class sizes for intro courses and you might not get to know your professor very well, but there’s also generally more of a variety of classes/majors and more opportunities for research. 
  • location: this one’s a tough one. i always thought i’d have no trouble at all being away from home, and i almost went to a school on the other side of the country. the school i go to now is a 10 hour drive from home, and it’s something i’ve struggled with. be sure to really think about how comfortable you are being away from home, but at the same time, remember this is a time to spread your wings and leave the nest - don’t say no to the otherwise perfect school just because it’s a little farther away than you’d like.
  • academic program: are you set on a specific major? do you not know your major, but know you want to go into specific field, such as STEM or humanities? start there. find colleges that are strong in the areas you want, if you do have a major in mind, make sure they offer that and have a good program. at the same time, make sure they offer breadth, too - you’re going to have to fulfill gen eds, and you’ll be happier if they have good, interesting classes you can take for those - not to mention, you’re going to be taking classes outside your major for fun as well!
  • cost and financial aid: college costs a fucking fortune. there’s no way around it, tuition is mad steep. make sure that whatever schools you’re looking at are realistic - how much do they cost? are they likely to give you merit scholarships? how much need-based aid do they offer? (note: remember to apply for external scholarships as well!!)
  • on top of all this, make sure they have other things you want. are you set on playing hockey in college? is it important that they have an equestrian team? do you want to be a part of greek life? make a list of miscellaneous desires, and research to see if each college you look at fulfills them. 

making a short list

  • keeping in mind everything above, which schools seem like the best fit? do any stand out more than others? take the schools that made the cut and compare them. which ones are amazing and which ones are just okay? put them in a vague order; you can number them or just put them in groups. 
  • make sure you have a good distribution of selectivity! when i applied to college, i applied to seven (very, very high) reach schools and two safeties. you know what happened? i got rejected/waitlisted from seven schools. DO NOT BE LIKE ME. it worked out, i love the school i go to, but getting seven rejections is brutal. apply to match schools!!! if you take nothing else away from this, APPLY TO MATCH SCHOOLS!


  • i recommend you start visiting as early as the summer after sophomore year, so you’re not doing a ton at once or cramming them in september of senior year.
  • college visits can be the most exciting and most terrifying thing. try your best to keep a level head, and make sure to ask questions and maybe jot down a note or two, but above all, enjoy the experience. if you’re writing things down constantly, you’re not really going to learn about the school in a way that matters. look at the students and how they act, try to figure out the vibe of the campus and how you feel about it. do you feel comfortable there? does it feel right?
  • AFTER YOU GET HOME, write down your feelings. pros, cons, miscellaneous thoughts, everything. organize everything you learned at your visit, take a few days, look back on it, and reevaluate - is it still somewhere you’d like to go? where does it stand in comparison to everywhere else?

making your final list

  • once you’ve visited everywhere you want to visit, take a few days, even a few weeks, and consider. what schools felt the most right? what schools have the best program for you? what opportunities do certain schools have that you’d like to take advantage of?
  • talk to people. talk to your teachers, counselor, friends, family. what do they think of these schools? how do they think you’d fit? outside input can be incredibly useful. (but always remember no one knows you better than you, and the choice must be yours.)
  • narrow it down to ABSOLUTELY NO MORE than 12 schools, and ideally closer to 8. make sure you have safeties, matches, and reaches. make sure you meet the requirements to apply for each school or can fulfill them by the time you need to.

next up: tackling the common app 

how to write college essays

Hey guys! This is Peng’s first post in the college prep advice series. I felt obligated to write this one as my first because, well, I’m a freshly pressed senior who was recently admitted to my dream school via early decision. And I feel that I was accepted mostly for my essay, so hey, why not help other students out as well? So without further ado, here is my advice on how to write the best college essay you can…
(NOTE: I am talking about the “Why __” essays. Other prompts may be too various for me to cover in one essay. Ask me and I might help you, though!)

INTRODUCTION: Why is it important?

College essays are often noted as the largest or one of the most reflective parts of a student’s college application (to an American university). People often say that while the numbers (the GPA, the SAT scores, etc.) reflect the “objective” sides of the prospective student, the “subjective” side is best represented through the student’s own writing. Through short answers and essays, you as a student must prove yourself not just a statistical fit but also a personality fit with the college.

In this aspect, it is first most important, before even starting your essay or even adding that college to your Common App list, is to think whether you are the right fit for the college. I’m not talking about stats–I’m talking about the studying environment, the location (city? countryside? suburban?), the demographics (are you overwhelmed when there is a very low percentage of your own race/ethnicity, or does it not matter?), offered majors, etc. Don’t just think about whether they have a good pre-med track, think about whether there are other majors or subjects you can switch to in the case that you might change your mind in college (this is important because many, many students change their minds. After all, a whole bunch can happen when you’re in a totally new environment with new people and a whole new level of learning).


PART 1: Play it smart. It’s a game.

Let’s face it–the college app process is a crapshoot. Don’t take it too seriously - they’re not judging you as a human being (in all honesty–it’s up to no one to judge you!). College is a business and they want to buy good products. So your job is to understand the motto of the “company” (the college’s motto) and then be able to present yourself as the product they want. I mean, think about it: the decision making process is nothing more than a group of people judging four years of your life (through a few numbers and a few written works) in order to see whether you’ll thrive in X college and make X college proud. It’s a human-run process that is prone to, well, human-like errors. So don’t get too tied up emotionally in the college app process (I’ll make a better post on this later). It’s okay to be stressed, but try not to go to the point where you think your life will be over if you don’t get in. That’s not a healthy attitude to maintain in the long run (even if you do get in). You need to detach yourself emotionally, evaluate the situation with only logic (what can I do to get in? - while also knowing it’s totally okay if you don’t), and then carry through with your plan.

Therefore, once you are sure that you want to apply to this college, it is then important to understand the college. By understanding, I’m not talking about knowing its history; I’m talking about knowing what the admissions officers (henceforth called AOs) want. Some colleges like the academically rigorous. Others like the academically passionate. Others still like those who aren’t top-notch “book smart” but have an undying curiosity in all realms of knowledge. Others yet search for those who can balance a tight schedule. Some might like those who are giving and compassionate and are willing to use their talents to help those in need. Whatever X college wants or claims to be their “pride,” you must show them through your essay. You have to give them what they want in order for them to want you.

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