Posts Tagged college application process

A holiday poem from Center for Student Opportunity

CSOlogo-85‘Twas the night before college application deadlines and all through the town
Each and every student was stirring, at least one with a frown.
From considering publics, to privates, Ivies, Big Ten, and more
Each student was hoping to send in their highest test score



Most were quite stressed, but none touched their beds,
As visions of application essays danced in their heads.
Some were on twitter and facebook taking the process in stride,
And everyone wished for a copy of the
College Access & Opportunity Guide.


Making sure that the schools promoted access, opportunity, and success
These future college graduates had learned to determine great colleges from the rest.
“How will I afford college? Will I need loans?
What will my financial aid package be?,” These students moaned.


On to CSO College Center they went to sign up to be Opportunity Scholars
Where what to their eyes did appear but hundreds of colleges and ways to get dollars
They wrote to “Ask the Experts” for the answers to all they should know,
Then checked out the
blog and read of ten others—also first in their family to go.


Having utilized CSO, they had done all that they could to prepare
Now the question was not if, how, or when, but merely to where.
Fast forward to spring, when from outside the mailbox there arose such a holler
I got in, I got in—I’m truly an
Opportunity Scholar.


Help students become first in their family to go to college and make all of their holiday and college wishes come true. Donate to Center for Student Opportunity.

Please share this with your friends, family, and colleagues.

Draw A Picture With Words

irvin-85Ask any admissions staff what aspect of an application makes a student stand out and they will reply that it is the essay. There is really no way to stress the importance of the essay component during the college application process. Being one of the most important aspects of the application, the essay is also one of the hardest to do. Here are a few tips that I discovered during my college application process.

1. Avoid cliches.

There are thousands of other students applying to the schools you are applying to and the last thing you want to do is appear like you are just one more applicant. Therefore, it is very important for your essay topic to be creative, unique and not like the rest. How do you do that? Well, I wish there was a formula for it but sadly, there isn’t an equation that gives you a unique essay topic. Or maybe there is. I believe that it goes as so: (brainstorming) + (more brainstorming) + (brainstorming)(more brainstorming) = a unique topic. Maybe it is because I took a calculus final last week that my mind is in a mathematical mood but my point is that coming up with that unique topic takes a lot of thinking.

Think about who you are, think about any experience that has changed your life or has taught you something that you still carry with you to this day. Avoid anything that you think is common such as an international trip, a camp experience, winning an award. Do not get me wrong, you can write about these things but you will really have to make it stand out. Many people are able to travel abroad, get an award, go to summer camps, but what admissions officers are looking for is a vivid picture of who you are. Which leads me to my next point.

2. Draw A Picture With Words

Writing is an art. It is the writer’s skill to make the reader see what the writer wants him to see. With this in mind, when writing your essay, you do not want to tell the reader who you are. You want to show him or her who you are. What I mean by this is that you want your personal statement to show your qualities. If you are very determined, you do not want to say that. What you want to do is show a situation in which your determination was brought forth, such as facing an obstacle (learning how to ride a bike, walking in the snow, learning how to swim). For example, in my personal statement I showed that I am a first generation student. I did not say that I was but I described in my essay that English was not the first language in my house. You see what I did? I showed the reader who I was. I did not just tell him.

3. If at first you don’t succeed, try it again. Oh, and make sure someone proofreads your personal statement.

Most of us average human beings did not get their personal statement in their first try. It’s ok. It takes time. That is why it is not the best idea to write your essay the week before all your applications are due. The deadline is in less than three weeks! So if you haven’t started yet, start now. Like right now.

That is all for now.

Man, it is good to be home.

College Essays: Happy Days!

jenny-85     Not really. Not for me anyway. I applied to so many schools that I felt quite overwhelmed by the whole process.

     Although the Common Application helps out the main essay, many schools require supplemental essays, which may be short or long depending on the question. Now, what’s really annoying, is the word limit. You want to utilize what you have, but I found it extremely difficult. I constantly cut off and substituted words, trying to make my answers fit. Even though they are annoying, these questions are very important, so do your best. Try to put as much as you can into your answer. I don’t mean that you just should list all the extracurriculars or community service activities you do. Write about them. Describe them. That’s when the word limit becomes your enemy.

     Then there’s the main essay that every college will look at. I rewrote that essay about ten times before my English teacher decided that it was alright. “Alright” meaning I still needed to touch up on it. I wrote about how my aunt’s cancer changed my life. My friends wrote about their families, sports, sibling, life experiences, or passions. Some wrote about experiences that changed their lives, and others wrote about chasing dreams and passions. What you write about is up to you. It is your story, tell it to those who will read it.

     As for revision, get your friends to read it. Enlist a teacher’s help. Read it to yourself quietly. Read it out loud. Is the grammar in agreement? Did you spell something wrong? Did you forget a period? Admissions officers will be paying attention to your writing. If they see a student with grammar and spelling mistakes in their essay, they may think, “Well, this student obviously sent me an unfinished essay. They’re probably not serious about this school to care enough to look their essay over.” My advice: please be careful and take this seriously.

     And for those of you that go “Aw, man. I don’t want to do this”, your future is in your hands. No one will be able to write your college essay for you because your story is yours, not theirs. They cannot tell it as you can. Your college essay will help the school determine whether they want you in their incoming class or not. Take up that pencil and write. You have work ahead, and your future.


lot-85How many students my age have blogs that are read in mass? I’m suspecting that not many do, but that’s how wonderful and unique this position is. I have the honor of sharing my first year college experience with people all across the country. I have the pleasure of partnering with an organization that seeks to obtain such a noble goal of pushing for more diversity within colleges all across the country. I’m in a family of scholars who are passionate about spreading the gospel of higher education and I am blessed with the ability to share my triumphs, my struggles, and my wisdom with you. My goal is to not only to offer advice about the procedual steps on how to get to college, because that type of information is readily available, but to also discuss the mindset of a successful college student, a subject that is hardly talked about enough. There are certain intangible qualities that separate the mediocre or pedestrian students from the elite. Qualities such as being a visionary or a leader are not measured through GPA or ACT scores; they come from within and are invaluable as you make that transition from high school to college.

One of my first blogs was about having vision for the long term-It’s a game of chess-but since most of you are making final decisions about which school to apply for or what scholarships to seek out, I feels it’s important to seize on quality opportunities that fall your way.

Looking back I find it quite humorous that I almost passed up the opportunity to blog about my first year experience. I remember receiving an e-mail from Miami University advertising an open position for students to gain scholarship money and blog about their college experience. I couldn’t see myself in such a position and I did not consider my skills worthy enough for it. I at first paid little attention to it and I must admit that I turned in my application at the last moment. I mailed it and forgot about it until weeks later when I was asked to move onto the next step and finally I received the phone call that truly changed the way I saw myself. I remember getting the call and conversing with a CSO administrator about the amount of applicants that applied for the position. To my dismay roughly 1,000 students from across the country applied and I was one of ten students chosen. The odds had a profound effect on me. Out of hundreds of applications someone saw me and found me noteworthy enough to standout from the pack. My talents where showcased through my writing and that is how I am able to have this position.

So what does this have to do with you or your experience? I share my story because I came so close to not having it. I doubted myself and I doubted my abilities, and the worse thing to do during the scholarship or college application process is to lower standards or expectations out of fear. Have faith in your ability to convey your intelligence, experiences and ideas in an essay or even in an interview. Be bold in the opportunities that you seek because those will enrich your life well beyond just college. I am asking you to expand past the known capabilities, as ambiguous as that sounds, so when the opportunity presents itself just like it did for me, you will know when to act.

There is no college or scholarship that is out of reach. The first critical step is to have faith in yourself and the rest will come.

ABCs, more important than 123s

shaun-85Many high school students are under the impression that getting into college is all about the numbers—that is, test scores, GPA, and APs. But the truth is, colleges come across a much larger percentage of applicants that fall into their average GPA and SAT pool than they are able to admit. So what do they look at to determine who will receive those golden “Congratulations!” letters? First and foremost, The Essay.

Essays are without a doubt the most grueling (and therefore most dreaded) element of the college application process. Some applicants will sigh in relief to see that one of their colleges doesn’t require a specific essay, and others will apply to schools (*cough* Davidson) that require several supplemental essays in addition to those attached to the Common Application. You may be thinking, “How in the world can I write 53 essays before the January regular decision deadlines?” Here are a few tips:

1. Before you do ANY writing, read through ALL of the essay prompts. It is more than likely that you will be able to use one essay, especially if you choose your topic wisely, to answer several prompts. *Note: If you do use an essay for more than one school, be sure to carefully proofread and change the name of the school accordingly. Your Dartmouth admissions counselor doesn’t care about all of the reasons you want to attend Vassar.

2. Quality is admired above quantity. Admissions officers don’t want to read (and would probably stop half way through) an essay that was the length of a doctoral thesis. Say what you want to say in the most succinct and sophisticated way possible, and impress them with your ability to convey your thoughts and experiences clearly.

3. Don’t be afraid to take risks and write about something unconventional. My college advisor always told us to pretend that our essay was the last in an admission officer’s pile at 4:55 on a Friday afternoon. They have read tediously similar essays all day, and in order for them to remember yours it will have to have a wow factor. An admissions officer once told me that the best essay she ever read was about peanut butter. Be creative!

4. Lastly, be sure to SHOW rather than TELL. This is the difference between saying, “It was a hot day and I was nervous,” and opening the reader into your mind with “My heart raced and I wiped my sweaty palms on my faded blue jeans while my gaze flickered anxiously at the clock.” Which essay would you rather read? Incorporate all five senses, use synonyms, and work on explaining one moment with as much detail as possible rather than explaining your whole life story with bland word choice and vague phrasing.

Writing this many essays may not be fun, but on the bright side, you will never have to do it again! Try to see your essays as an opportunity to show the admissions officers a wonderful and unique side of you that isn’t reflected by your test scores and GPA. Good luck!

Got Mentors?

jesse-85I always thought that college wasn’t an option for me. I didn’t really know anyone who had made it to college and no one in my family had gone either, so it seemed like college was nothing but a fantasy for me. Not having a mentor can leave you without a sense of direction- you need someone there to go to for advice, to keep you motivated, and to help you out in times of need. It is very important to find this person in your life early on so they can help you make the right decisions from the beginning.

A mentor can be anyone- a counselor at school, a teacher, a youth group pastor, or a sports coach. It doesn’t matter what they do; what matters is how well you can open up to this person and their ability to give you good advice on things that they know something about. This is why mentors are usually older and wiser than you are.

I found mentors in a number of environments and each one was able to help me out in a different way. The mentors I found at Reality Changers and at my school were able to help me feel confident about my ability to go to college, and they even helped me with the college application process. I spent countless nights in the Reality Changers building working on college applications and it sure did pay off! Reality Changers explained what I needed to know about financial aid and scholarships and even helped me fill out the forms!

Mentors are important, get yourself one! Not just anyone, find the right mentor for YOU.

Sometimes you get lucky and you run into someone who would be a great mentor, but most of the time, you have to go out and search! Schedule meetings with your counselors or teachers, just drop by before or after school, or even ask to have lunch with them. Show initiative- get to know them! This is the only way you’ll know if they’re right for you.

If you feel like there isn’t anyone that you can relate to at your school, look in your area for programs like Reality Changers to help you out. You are not alone. There is guidance out there, you just have to look for it.


seanna-85While I hope no one followed my example, my actual college application process was hectic.  I had everything in order theoretically…great grades…pretty test scores…more extracurricular and community service hours than I could list…I was in tip-top shape—ready for anything!  My I’s were dotted, and my T’s were crossed.  Only one more thing to do.  Apply.  As you’re reading this, you might be thinking that this was me around mid-November, early December at the latest.

Well…you’re wrong.  This was me on December 26th.  Regular decision deadlines for most schools in the country were January 1st.  Did I mention that my application process was hectic?  For four days, I thoroughly researched the 25-ish schools on my list and started finalizing details.  A mentor had to sit me down and say, “Pick 10 from this list, and send in the materials—you have to make your decisions…NOW!”  Obviously, I did make the decisions, and I did post-mark my apps by the deadline…however, it was still unnecessary stress that could have been avoided had I stopped procrastinating on FINALLY choosing my top schools.  By now your applications are in, so let’s discuss what I felt like afterwards.

Three words: relieved, anxious, and tired.

I was relieved that the formal process was done.  Now, all I could do was wait for the colleges to decide if I was a prospectively good fit for their school environment.  I’d passed the tests, made the grades, gave back to the community… now I could breathe a little.


Now that I’ve given that piece of advice, back to my second feeling.  I felt anxious about getting the responses in the mail.  I liked something (or many things) about each school, and non-acceptance letters would feel like a personal rejection of me.  I was worried that I could have done better on the essays, and perhaps I didn’t “sell myself” correctly.

Tired because I’d been striving for perfection for six months…in and out of class.  Senior year can seem like a whirlwind of activities…I’d be lost in the next set of things to do without realizing that I’d finished the last ones.  Hopefully, your year hasn’t been like that too much.  However, I was tired, and I still had to find energy and enthusiasm to finish out the school year.

So, after waiting for a few months, I started receiving the college decisions in the mail.  My first acceptance letter was amazing…I can’t quite describe the feeling.  I was wanted…on a 4-year college campus.  For someone from a family who doesn’t pump out college graduates, this was something new…a goal apart from everything else I’d worked for.  All of the work…the stress…the time management…the effort…the tears and the struggling…it was all worth it.

So hat’s off to you for completing the applications.  Now…sit back…relax…you’ve got amazing things coming your way!

Winter…and the heat is on!

joseph-85Swish…loop…crank…crank…nervousness…click click click (gear grinds)… click clack…This is the last hump on the roller coaster of my first semester.  There is a lot to do between today and the end of this semester, but somehow these last few months have sped by.

For you high-schoolers out there my guess is that you are experiencing a similar sense of unease and nervousness.  The time to finish college applications is nigh, just as the promise of a break from school for the holiday season.  I remember that when my C.U. application was somehow erased every time I attempted to save it, a certain heat went up and down my back. So much frustration resulted from this that I felt I alone possessed a terrible burden.  In short, the college application process was a very intense experience for me, and I’m sure it is proving to be, at some points, for you as well.

What I have noticed though is that stress is inevitable.  I find that the heat is on now as the first semester comes to a close. With due diligence and a lot of patience I have faith that it will all work out in the end, and if you have that same faith it will help you to make more rational and cautious decisions than if you don’t.  Let me tell you that your applications and essays will look much better if you type them with a clear head rather than with “just finishing” in mind.  These applications and such can be finished, and if I can impart those seniors out there with one more bit in the endless stream of advice: don’t stress out and make more problems for yourself. At the same time though I want to be clear that what you are doing is important, and that is why it is so important to approach these issues with a level head.

Climb High, Climb Far…TAKE RISKS!

lysa-85Hey guys! Frequently here at Williams I walk past Hopkins gate. Engraved on this passageway are these encouraging words:

“Climb High, Climb Far, Your Goal the Sky; Your Aim the Star”

These simple yet meanigful words, evoke just how important it is to strive beyond the best you can be. Therefore, I urge you all to consider applying to those schools, you figure are completely out of you’re reach. What’s the worst that could happen?

During my college application process my senior year, an admissions counselor once told me, you could have all “As,” perfect SATS, and be involved in  many extracurriculars at your school, but that is not what makes you stand apart from all the rest! I further learned that every year dozens of the “virtually same type of students” apply to the nation’s top universities with these very same qualities. And you know what? In all honesty, most of them are turned away!

Believe it or not, having good grades, good test scores, and trying to be involved in everything in high school may not even get you into an IVY or top school! 

I know when I was in high school I figured grades meant everything and that no college cared about my perspectives or anything else. However, when you apply to college the truth is quite the contrary. Colleges do want to know your struggles and how you’ve over come such obstacles. It’s not about how many times you may of fallen, but rather how you’ve picked yourself back up and made something positive out of a negative situaiton.

So don’t stress about your grades so much, or being voted the leader of every club or sport. Don’t hesitate to do something out of your comfort zone; something non-academic! Be unique; be bold, because that’s what will truly set you apart when you’re application reaches the admission office!

Remember when you write your application essays, that colleges respect an individual who can face the ups and downs in their lives, and realize that you are human! Try to personalize your essays so that they not only cover the topic you must write about, but also encompass something unique about yourself, your thoughts, or who you are as individual. DON’T BE JUST A NUMBER IN THE APPLICATION PROCESS, TRULY STAND OUT!

I myself, wrote my college essay on the corruption of the foster care and adoption systems in America. I tied my essay into my own experiences in foster care as a child, and how being adopted has impacted my life. I figured I was taking a chance with this topic, because not everyone is going to agree with you, but you must write about whatever lies close to your heart, because that’s what’s going make an impact, and truly stick in the minds of admissions officers when they are making their decisions of acceptance.

So don’t hold back, when writing you’re essays.  TAKE CHANCES! THE MOST UNIQUE STORIES AND THUS ESSAYS MAKE THE BEST ONES! If you need any advice on your college essays or just want someone to look it over for you, just email me, or post a comment. I would love to help you guys!Thats what we bloggers are here for, YOU!