common app

I'm stressin over college so I'm making an application masterpost

Essay writing advice

Choosing a university

Extracurriculars on the common app

Early Action vs Early Decision

The whole proccess

Improve your activities list

List of other college app blogs

Woah a thing for art school portfolios

Masterpost within a masterpost (this one has so much stuff, 10/10 would reccomend)

Prepare for college

SAT ACT GRE preparation Free

College application tips

As I come across more stuff I will add on to this. Good luck my friends.

1. HOW TO EAT ALONE

In high school, you had a cafeteria full of people you at least sort of knew. And going out to eat is usually a group activity. So until you hit college, you may never have to eat alone in public. But if you only have a little while between classes, you’re not always going to be able to find someone to come to the dining hall with you. No one’s going to judge you for eating alone (we’ve all done it plenty of times), but it’s best for you to get comfortable with it before hand.

2. HOW TO SAVE MONEY

Having money in the bank is such a good feeling. Arguably the best feeling. Knowing I could buy something ridiculously overpriced is oddly satisfying. Living in a dorm is great in that your rent, utilities, and groceries are all essentially prepaid, so any income you have is yours to spend as you will. Shopping sprees are always tempting, but when you get on campus, try to save money wherever you can. Eventually, you’re going to have to leave the dorms, and the “real world” of apartment life is a lot less scary when you have some money saved up to fall back on.

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hello appblr world!! I recently graduated high school (c/o 2015), and I will be attending Duke University in the fall, hoping to pursue a double major in English and Political Science with a minor in either Psychology or Neuroscience :’) 

applying to colleges was one of the most stressful experiences of my life, so I really want to help out anyone who is now currently feeling those tidal waves of anxiety and panic. my intention is to help and hopefully alleviate any nerves about applying to college (in America)

the summer before my senior year, every time I read the word ‘college’, my heart rate spiked & I started internally freaking out. for me, the whole process was super overwhelming, and my distaste for the education system (specifically, the american education system) quadrupled. I remember feeling incredibly confused and alone because I didn’t know where to start, so here is a lil guide thingy!!! 

THE SUMMER BEFORE SENIOR YEAR: 

  • make sure and finish all your summer assignments – I know that college applications are a strong focus, but get what you’re supposed to do out of the way first + you will feel less overwhelmed and more productive
  • start making a list of colleges that you want to apply for – my best suggestion is to categorize them into safety schools, match schools, and reach schools
    • ref: generally people look at a school’s admitted profile (on the school website) and compare stats, which means gpa, rank, test scores, etc. if you can, it’s also helpful to read into their supplementary essay prompts and examples to give you a general idea of what a college is looking for (ex. UChicago is notoriously known for their quirky supplementary essay prompts; famous past prompts include: Find X, Where’s Waldo?, Why are you here?, What’s so odd about odd numbers?) 
  • do lots of research on schools you’re interested in – ok now I know that reading these long paragraphs on school websites can get really tiring, so try watching some youtube videos or looking the school up on reddit, and be sure to talk to current students to get a first-hand account
    • look at location, diversity, the programs offered in relation to what you’re interested in, size, public vs private institutions, sports, social scene, political affiliations, financial aid offered, study abroad, etc)
  • try and figure out a general field of what you’re interested in – you do NOT need to know what you want to major in, but when you’re applying for colleges, you will most likely need to select an intended major; if not, you will apply as undeclared, which has its advantages and disadvantages!! but even with an intended major, most colleges don’t make you officially select a major until sophomore, sometimes even junior year, so it is okay to not know what you wanna do when you’re 16/17/18!!! but explore and reflect and try and figure out a general field of what you’re interested in. do NOT use your grades as a sole factor in deciding; if you are good at math and have really high grades, that does not necessarily mean that you should be a math major - pursue your passions!! if you know that you like writing and reading, then consider a major in english or literature. if you think you’d like to work with computer software, then consider a major in computer science or computer engineering. ALSO know that there are so many potential majors + even the option to create your own at some universities!! and also know that many people change majors, and that is totally ok :) 
  • in august, common app will open, which is what many colleges use for the application process. certain schools will have specific websites themselves (i.e. MIT, University of California schools, etc) – if you make an account BEFORE august, it will be deleted by then, so be careful!! now, when you make ur account, you can add schools and you can look at their supplements and stuff. be sure and note deadlines!! 

DURING SENIOR YEAR: 

  • keep up with your school work – senioritis is REAL AND ALIVE, my friends. you will think it’s really bad first semester, but then it just explodes into a frenzy of apathy and indifference second semester + you basically don’t care about anything; this is normal, but still try and focus. colleges can rescind their acceptances, altho it’s not likely unless you suddenly fail everything, but overall, it’s just important to still try
  • keep good relations with your teachers (both current teachers and past teachers) & decide on which to ask for a rec – for many schools, they will require at least one teacher recommendation, so you must decide between which teachers you wanna ask. I would advise picking the teachers you’ve always had good relations with, and in a subject where you’re really passionate about learning the material. when asking, be respectful of deadlines (aka don’t ask them to write you a rec two days before the deadline. they are people too), and be sure and say thank you. if you can, make them a card or make/buy them a little gift; I promise you, they’ll appreciate it!! 
    • if the school you’re applying to requires multiple teacher recs: many people advise asking teachers of different subjects to emphasize your well-roundedness – you can do that or you can ask teachers of one subject that you’re really interested in; weigh your options and politely ask. asking teachers can be really scary sometimes, especially if you’re very shy, but they’re there to help you and it’ll all work out :)
  • write a common app essay (if applicable) – common app has 4 prompts that you can choose from, and then you’ll submit that to all the colleges ur applying to thru common app. this is very important. if you’re not a good writer, do not fret!! most of the time, the subject of these essays are very personal. a lot of people write about some trying time in their lives, but plenty of other people write creatively about something small, but important. remember that essays are a way for admission directors to get to know the real you :’) that sounds super cliche, but keep in mind that you are more than ur gpa and ur sat/act score. prove that to them by writing about something you care about
    • if you are ok with it (and it’s totally ok to not be ok with it), ask someone you trust to read over it and edit it. a lot of people ask their language arts teachers just bc they’ll help with grammar and structure, but asking other trusted adults and peers will be helpful too!! keep in mind the potential of bias from parents + friends though 
    • you will most likely write your common app essay multiple times. you will have lots of drafts & it can be really stressful, but patience. you will be so happy when you finally finish 
  • finalize your college list and start writing supplementary essays – many colleges will have supplementary parts to the application on top of common app. this can range from totally separate essays to lil short-answer questions, so be prepared and give yourself plenty of time to write!! just as with your common app essay, getting feedback can be super helpful
    • also remember that many colleges accept arts supplements (this range depends on the college, but I’ve seen colleges accept writing, dance, music, visual art, etc) & these fall under a different deadline, usually. if you want to submit in an art supplement, you may have to submit in your essays and everything earlier 
    • OH ALSO some colleges will have an early decision or early application deadline – this is basically an earlier deadline for ur app in exchange for an earlier decision. be careful on the difference between EA and ED!!! ED is BINDING, which means that if you get in, you have to go (you can get out of it for financial reasons tho), and EA is NONBINDING, which means that even if you get in, you can decide to go to another school
  • submit in your transcript and any test scores you need – different schools have different policies, but most fall under either the SAT + SAT 2 scores OR ACT + writing scores; I would suggest contacting the counseling office asap, but be super nice!! counselors are there to help you through this process, but it can be really overwhelming for them too
    • pay close attention to whether or not ur college requires a counseling rec or not
  • double check everything for small details – some colleges accept peer recs, but sometimes they don’t publicize that detail very much so just be observant! same with priority deadlines for interviews; you may have to submit in your app earlier if you want priority for an interview
  • accept ur interview opportunities – meet with an alumni or go on campus if you can and give an interview!! they’re really helpful sometimes bc it provides the school with a look into who you are as a person, not just as a student. also, from my experience, the alumni are super nice and really interested + it’s nice to just talk and nerd out about the school you like :’) 
  • submit ur apps (hehehe of course!) 
  • apply for scholarships – this is something that I wish I had taken more seriously, but really, college is expensive and scholarships can make all the difference. talk to your counselors if you don’t know where to start & literally just google for them!! be careful you are eligible for the ones you’re interested in and make sure you submit everything in by the deadline too 

AFTER SUBMITTING YOUR APPLICATIONS:

  • distract yourself like crazy – the wait is horrible and the anticipation is killer, if you’re anything like me at least. hang out with your friends and just enjoy your senior year!! this is the last of high school & i promise you that as much as you may hate it (if you do hate it), you will feel bittersweet by the end of the year. so make memories and make the best out of the time you have left in high school 
  • check your email – colleges oftentimes send you emails if they need you to send them anything more, or they’ll update you about things. they’ll usually also email you with where you need to go to check your decision
  • don’t let the senioritis take over ur soul 

RECEIVING YOUR DECISIONS: 

  • acceptances – YAY CONGRATULATIONS!!! be proud of yourself and know that you deserve it 100000%, wholeheartedly. they did not make a mistake, and you ARE that amazing. celebrate your accomplishment, but also be humble. it’s likely that you have a friend that either got waitlisted or denied, so be careful what you say 
  • rejections – i’m sorry, my dear!! but you are not meant to be at that school, and that is okay. even if it is your dream school. this does not reflect ur self-worth & this def does not mean that you aren’t good enough. this simply means you aren’t a good fit for the school!! most people have to deal with rejections, so take some time for yourself. eat some comfort food and watch some tv. read a book if that relaxes you. take a bath with lots of bubbles. do whatever is necessary to cleanse yourself of any negative thoughts you may have, and then realize that you can accomplish SO much wherever you end up!! UR A BRILLIANT SHINING STAR & I HAVE FAITH IN YOU :’)
  • waitlisted – being waitlisted (or deferred during EA/ED, which basically pushed you back to the regular decision time) sucks so much bc you just want to know; take a deep breath and consider all your options. make backup plans. if you’re really interested in the school, email them and tell them that!! make sure if you want to be on the waitlist, that you notify them of that (usually via mail or online somehow). if you don’t wanna be on the waitlist, make sure you take yourself off so you give everyone else a better chance :) 
  • weigh your options through careful, careful consideration – there are so many factors that may come into play when finally deciding on which college to go to
    • money is usually a huge factor, and sometimes you won’t be able to go to a great school even though you got in bc it’s too expensive. but do not be sad about this. give yourself time to feel sad, but don’t let it dictate your life!! you need to stay logical and rational. think long-term. sit down with your guardians and discuss the option of taking out loans and so forth. if you’re planning on pursuing grad school afterwards, you need to keep that in the picture as well 
    • talk to current-students and compare important things – if you’re really big on community service, ask the current students at different schools how it is there. this applies for everything!! first-hand accounts are incredibly helpful. you can also consider emailing professors of departments you’re interested in for a more professional and academic perspective 
    • look into their programs and try and avoid putting too much emphasis on rankings - be specific and read up on the department that you’re interested and compare them with different schools. don’t blindly let an overall ranking mislead you!! (i.e. Duke is ranked higher overall than Georgia Tech, but Georgia Tech is ranked MUCH higher in many of its engineering programs) 
    • talk to people – talk to your parents. talk to your counselors, your teachers, your peers. basically everyone is talking about college your senior year, so take advantage of it. talk with other people and get second, third, fourth, fifth opinions. expand your mind and consider everything!! 

senior year is this giant conglomeration of sweat and tears and happiness and anger and jealous and confusion, so do not worry if you are feeling overwhelmed!! it is normal, and i promise that everyone has felt scared about the future at some point. but with that, be confident in yourself. you’re absolutely lovely + you will go far in life!! 

ok 1) I apologize for how absurdly long this post is and 2) I am here to help if ANYONE has ANY questions about anything!! literally I would love giving advice, so feel free to msg me anytime (my main account is @naiveety though, so whichever works) 

ALSO if anyone is interested in Duke, please please please come to me & I will help!!!

GOOD LUCK TO EVERYONE APPLYING TO COLLEGE & MAY YOU ALL HAVE A WONDERFUL, BRILLIANT FUTURE :’) 

How to Write Your Common App Activities List


You only get 150 characters: how do you make the most of them? Some tips:

1. State role and organization name in top box, so you don’t waste characters in the lower, 160 character box.


Instead of: (top box) School newspaper 


(description box) I am the editor for the school newspaper (And don’t repeat words!)


Try: (top box) Editor of International Column, School Newspaper
(description box) Responsible for brainstorming, revising, and supervising articles by other writers for my column.


2. Emphasize tangible, measurable impact


Whom did your activity help? How many people? How much money did you raise?


Instead of: Raised money for children in Africa.


Try: Raised $3,000 to provide three uniforms and scholarships for students attending the Joseph Waweru Home School in Kenya (http://www.exop.org/home_school.html).


3. Use active verbs
 to explain what you actually did (list your tasks).


Instead of: Worked at a clinic doing different things.


Try: Organized patient diagnosis notes, sterilized tools for surgeries, assisted with x-ray analysis.


4. To fit in more info: use lists, don’t use complete sentences, cut extra words.


Instead of: I raised money to donate to a school in Ghana in Africa by selling t-shirts and bracelets.


Try: Arranged advertising events, organized fundraisers, and gave presentations at school meetings.


5. Use the present tense if it’s something you still do.


Instead of: I helped tour visitors around the campus and presented some information on school history and student life.


Try: I give campus tours, providing info on school history, student activities, boarding life.


6. Aim for variety in your list, making sure your verbs aren’t redundant.


Instead of: Instructing, helping, teaching children tennis (how are these three different?)


Try: Instructing in proper technique, while imparting lessons in sportsmanship, health and integrity.


7. Include any responsibilities you had to demonstrate leadership skills.


Instead of: I swim on the swim team.


Try: Responsible for leading swim practices, planning fundraising events; assisting in recruiting process.


8. What if there isn’t much to say, or it was a one-time event?


Explain the significance of the activity: who did the event matter to and why?


Rather than: Tutored students.


Try: Provided support to fourth graders with particularly difficult math concepts.


9. Avoid extreme language


Instead of: to help all those in need (or) to end poverty in the world


Try: to help those in need (or) to aid in the fight against global poverty


10. Use bigger words. 


Instead of: “Come up with” (or) “told people about”


Try: Develop, brainstorm (or) advertised, marketed


Here are some examples:


Important: list them in descending level of importance.


Editor of International Column, School Newspaper

Responsible for brainstorming, revising, and supervising articles by other writers for my column.


Intern at Children’s Institute Otis Booth Campus

Brainstormed ideas for after school programs for teens,created surveys,presented data to supervisor


Intern at Department of Cardiovascular Disease

Organized patient diagnosis notes, sterilized tools for surgeries, assisted with x-ray analysis.


Worked as assistant at Ye-In Dental Clinic

Helped with patient registration, sterilized tools for surgeries, assisted with surgical processes.


Speech and Debate

Academic All-American Award, NFL Tournament Qualifier (‘11, '12), Rupe Scholar, Stanford Invitational Semi-finalist, Harker Invitational Semi-finalist


Korean Compassion: Korean-to-English Letter Translator

Translated letters sent by supporters to impoverished children in Asian and African countries.


Junior Researcher at Benetti Sport Inc.

Conducted surveys to research youth interests, contributed ideas for future products.


Math Tutor at Sippican Elementary School

Using card games and quizzes to simplify concepts, taught basic math skills to third graders.


School Tour Guide - International Guiding Staff

I tour visitors around campus, while presenting school history, student activities, boarding life.


Global Partner for International Orientation

I help new international students with registration and adjustment to the new school environment.

Click here for 10 Tips on Writing Your UC Activities List

Click here for a Brief Guide to Writing Your Common App “Additional Info” Section

Common Application Masterpost

The Basics

The Common App: What it is & How to Make Yours Amazing

- The Common Application

- Common App FAQs

- Five Things Applicants Need to Know About the 2016-2017 Common App

- Complete Guide: Which Schools Use the Common Application?

- Virtual Counselor

- How to Apply

The Essay

5 Common App Essay Tips That Will Actually Help You

The Common App Essay: What Matters and What Doesn’t

The 2016-17 Common Application Essay Prompts

Examples of the Essay

- Background and Identity

- Failure and Success

Challenging Beliefs

- Accomplishment or Event

What Matters Most To You, And Why?

TO ALL SENIORS CURRENTLY PISSED AF AT THE COMMON APP

SUPER IMPORTANT PSA:

I figured out how to make the essay not just look like a giant block of text 

YOU HAVE TO MANUALLY CODE IN THE HTML

Here’s how: 

  • Copy your essay into TextEdit
  • Type in <br> for line breaks 
  • Type in &nbsp; for paragraph breaks
  • Copy the new HTML version of the essay back into the common app box and it will actually look like it’s supposed to look!

you’re welcome 

More Personal Statement Advice - DOs and DON'Ts

Do write about something that matters to you

Do keep things positive

Don’t write an essay you wouldn’t want to read

Don’t avoid contractions to the point of awkwardness

Do use strong imagery wherever possible

Do let your personality come through

Don’t start every sentence with “I”

Don’t think that a longer essay means a better essay

Do stay humble

Do stick to the prompt

Don’t be afraid to write unconventionally

Don’t use a thesaurus for every other word

Do stay true to your story

Do get a second (or third or fourth) opinion

Don’t try to make yourself sound impressive

Don’t use your friends as your primary editing assistance 

If I think of any more big ones I’ll stick them on here. Happy writing!

College Admissions: The "My GPA isn't High Enough" Dilemma

I often receive questions regarding having a high grade point average (GPA) in high school, and how that affects your chances of getting into a competitive university. Today I would like to clear up some misconceptions about the importance of grades. 

1. GPA is only a fraction of what schools look at.

As far as I know, a lot of universities in the United States do a holistic review of applications: it is more personalized and focuses on a lot of factors other than grades, such as 

  • SAT/ACT scores,
  • High school curriculum and course rigor
  • Taking advantage of challenging courses like AP, IB and Honors
  • Extracurricular activities and community service,
  • Special circumstances and personal experiences

I have heard of many cases, where highly selective colleges would pick a student with a lower GPA but a more broad and open extracurricular agenda over a student with a 4.0 GPA and a 2300 on the SAT. If a student has nothing to say other than “I have a 4.0 GPA and do nothing but study”, chances are someone else with a more colorful extracurricular agenda will be picked over Mr. I-Only-Study. (However, don’t get me wrong- you still need to try your best in school, no slacking!)

To read more about this, check out these two articles:

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