Tour Along with College Essay Whiz: University of Maryland

University of Maryland, College Park: 12 Perks of Attending a Large Public University

In a Maryland suburb not quite 10 miles from the White House lies the University of Maryland’s lush, green College Park campus. Covering 1300 acres, the campus is surprisingly walkable – and maintains a college feel. With a 45 percent acceptance rate, this “public Ivy” offers rigor, prestige, and affordability. Due to the endowment that comes with such a large public temp_1493415298147.-214191423institution, students gain access to vast academic resources and a robust alumni network.

  • It is a highly-ranked school. Ranked 20th nationally and 43rd internationally as a public research institute, Maryland allows its students to take advantage of its readily available resources and opportunities.
  • The academic options are rigorous – and seemingly endless. With over a hundred majors offered, you will find the right course of study for you. Incoming undergraduates are admitted to one of the university’s 12 ‘colleges’ which will host their major. Undecided students are admitted to the College of Letters and Sciences and are assigned a dedicated advisor who will help them decide what to study and “figure out a life plan,” says Admissions Officer Christine Lukban.
  • Its limited enrollments programs are prestigious – but challenging. Students applying to certain fields – including Business, Journalism, Criminology, Engineering, and Bio Sciences, among others – face a selective application process, which includes two rounds of admission. The first is through the admissions counselors; once students pass that stage, their application is sent to the actual program for their screening process. Students not accepted into the limited enrollment college of their choice enter the College of Letters and Sciences and have the option to reapply in their second year after having taken the required courses.
  • temp_1493415298164.663704876And for Med, Vet, and Law-School Bound students? These students do not designate a “pre-med” or “pre-law” track; instead, they major in an area of interest that may or may not be related to their further study and enroll in their “track.” Students are assigned two advisors: one ensures that they are on the right track to apply to medical, veterinarian or law school and the other keeps them in the right direction to complete their major. Students therefore “have a lot of people watching their back,” notes Lukban.  Although students must complete the required courses to be able to apply to graduate school, they will also graduate with a well-rounded academic background. It is not uncommon to see law school-bound students majoring in history or dance.
  • Students can tailor the General Education courses to their interests. All graduating students must have completed 40 credits of general education courses; at UMD, though, because of the sheer number of available courses, students can hone in on their interests while meeting their requirements. For example, many students will enroll in “I Series” courses which focus on current events surrounding a breadth of topics from artificial intelligence to the human-animal relationship.
  • Students are heavily encouraged to engage in a “special experience.” These include opportunities for research, internship, education abroad, and service learning; 80 percent of graduating students will have participated in at least one “special experience.” The university hopes to exceed that number. Students are encouraged to build relationships with faculty – perhaps through the weekly four to six office hours that all professors must offer – because these can lead to research opportunities. Students seeking internships are encouraged to take advantage of UMD’s proximity to Washington DC’s many organizations and agencies. Also, each year, UMD hosts 335 employers who come to campus seeking interns. And for those students interested in study abroad, with 447 possible locations to study, there is a place and program for everyone.
  • Students are supported in the job search. Ideally, students’ internship and networking experiences while on campus temp_1493415298288.-536457982will lead to a job offer upon graduation. If not, though, the career center offers a plethora of supportive services including resume and cover letter help, career fairs, interview tips, and even advice about how to evaluate an offer. Students have the opportunity to participate in and review a taped mock interview.
  • And outside the classroom? With over 27,000 undergraduates from 115 countries, students can expect to find their social niche. There is always something happening on campus, thanks to the 901 student-run clubs ranging from Quidditch (UMD has a world-ranked team) and political clubs to anyone who shares the name “Bob” (or Robert, Rob, or Bobby).
  • What about housing? Most freshmen (75 percent) live in double-occupancy rooms in one of several high rise buildings on campus. Each of these is staffed 24/7 by a “community assistant” in charge of the building’s safety. Student access cards only provide access to their floor, in their building. Floors are usually co-ed and include a student lounge, a shared kitchen, men and women’s bathrooms, and are staffed by a Resident Advisor. Students interested in “Living and Learning Communities” in which students with similar interests live together, have 19 options in the realms of research, service, and language-based communities.
  • And for the sports-lovers? For those looking to play sports at UMD, there are three options: Division I sports, for which a student would likely be recruited as a high schooler; intramural sports which still involve a competitive spirit; and club sports, which can be likened to a pick-up game among friends. For spectators: tickets to UMD games are free, assigned through a lottery system that favors frequent attenders.
  • Will I be able to afford UMD? UMD is ranked 7th Best Value among public schools. Seventy-five percent of students receive some kind of financial aid from the university.
  • What should I know about the application? UMD does not use the Common Application. This year, applicants submitted UMD’s own application which utilized the new Coalition application essay questions.   Fall Priority deadlines – which offer the best consideration for admission, merit scholarships, and special programs – is November 1.  In fact, 90 percent of the class is selected from applicants who adhere to this deadline.  The decision is not binding; students have until May to make their decision. UMD also superscores standardized results, but does not consider the writing section of either the SAT or ACT. The university also does not consider the scores from any SAT Subject Tests.

Notable alumni include Google Founder Sergey Brin, Seinfeld creator Larry David, Muppet creator Jim Henson, morning-show host Gayle King, and Under Armour founder Kevin Plank.

Tour Along with College Essay Whiz: Georgetown University

Uniquely located in a quiet Washington DC neighborhood across the river from Virginia, Georgetown University offers a vibrant and challenging social and academic environment. With a 16 percent acceptance rate, Georgetown provides its students with access to an expansive network of alumni and a range of on-campus and off-campus resources and opportunities.

10 Things You Might Not Know About Georgetown University

  1. The oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in the U.S., Georgetown was founded in 1789 by John Carroll, a Jesuit who wanted to cultivate a learning community that embraced religious pluralism and understanding. To this day Georgetown maintains this ideal: Full-time Catholic, Hindu, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim chGeorgetown photo 1aplains are available to students. Georgetown students must take two religious studies courses, the first of which serves as a Freshman Writing Seminar. Because of its Catholic roots, the university has always maintained that it is not compatible with Greek life. In recent years, though, a few fraternities and sororities have sprung up, though they do not dominate the social scene in the same way as at other institutions; in fact, only one – a co-ed community service fraternity – is officially recognized by the university. With 44 percent of the student body composed of people of color or international students, students from all walks of life and belief systems can find a home at Georgetown.
  2.  Georgetown’s commitment to service
    is central to the university identity and conviction that learning must be combined with action. Students have ample opportunity to give back through theCenter for Social Justice
    , a campus-based hub that finds volunteer opportunities in DC, in the wider US, and abroad during the school year, winter, alternative spring breaks, or the summer. Georgetown students give more than 140,000 hours yearly in community service.
  3. There is a real sense of community on campus With 6,400 undergraduates, this medium-sized campus has a real university feel to it with a sense of community both within and without their individual academic colleges, which host their majors. These include Georgetown College, with majors such as Biology, Arabic, and Economics; the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, whose majors include International History and Global Business; the Robert Emmett McDonough School of Business, with majors such as Finance and Marketing; and the School of Nursing and Health Studies, which offers majors including International Health and Human Science. With over 200 clubs – and almost 30 varsity athletic teams, there is plenty to do on this dynamic campus.
  4. There are many opportunities to experience life and work in DC. Georgetown cannot be accessed by the Metro train that links most of the city; however, shuttle buses to the nearest Metro stations regularly run and are free for students. There are also many places that offer discounted prices for Georgetown students – such as the renowned Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Due to the vast number of organizations and companies in DC area, students have ample internship opportunities.
  5. There are many unique housing options: Housing is guaranteed for three years, in various units throughout Georgetown photo 2campus, including community-oriented and more traditional dorm living, as well as the opportunity to share residence with faculty and chaplains. Students also have the option to join ‘Living Learning Communities” which integrate academics with outside interests; some of the community themes include “Explore DC” and “Justice and Diversity in Action.” Unlike many other schools, almost none of the fraternities and sororities have campus housing that is ‘passed on’ each year.
  6. Georgetown offers an Early Assurance Medical program. Since at Georgetown, pre-med is a concentration rather than a major, students bound for medical school have the opportunity to explore in depth one of the physical science majors while preparing for their medical careers. Strong students who are certain of their med-school track can apply for Early Assurance, which will grant early admission to Georgetown Medical School by the end of sophomore year – which means no need to take the MCAT!
  7. Foreign language study is a must. All students, by graduation, must have completed four semesters of a foreign language, or otherwise prove foreign language proficiency. Seventy percent of Georgetown’s students study abroad, an experience that is made somewhat easier by the maintenance of financial aid packages during their months in one of 40 other countries.
  8. You can take a workshop in 3D printing at the University library. Students have access to the Maker Hub, which hosts advanced tools for fabrication and experimentation. They can work on projects of their own, or attend workshops in textiles, virtual reality, hand and power tools, and, yes, 3D printing.
  9. Georgetown offers its own application rather than the Common App. Georgetown’s individual application includes two essays, the SAT or ACT, three SAT II Subject tests, transcripts, and teacher and guidance counselor recommendations. Georgetown is also not a Score Choice university. You must submit your entire testing history, and may not simply choose the best scores. Application information for 2018 will be available in June 2017.
  10. Notable alumni include Former President Bill Clinton, who is currently giving a lecture series (available to undergraduate students) at Georgetown on his public service career, and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, a professor of diplomacy at Georgetown. Other alumni include Bradley Cooper, Maria Shriver, and Antonin Scalia.

Next stop: University of Maryland

Introduction to New Common App Prompts

Just as high school seniors should be finished with the bulk of their applications, juniors can now begin the process even earlier than before!

The feedback about this year’s Common Application essay prompts has been collected and analyzed.  As a result, the 2017-2018 essay prompts are already available.  The 2016-2017 prompts were reviewed, and the input of last year’s applicants, counselors and teachers has generated significant improvement.  Some questions have remained the same as last year’s; others have been tweaked for clarity, and two are brand new questions.  The word limits are the same as last year’s essays:  650.

There are now 7 prompts as opposed to last year’s 5, and the revisions are stimulating and diverse. The new prompts give applicants tremendous flexibility in content and opportunity for personal reflection. One question encourages applicants to write about examples that prove their intellectual curiosity. The other new question, like the one offered on the “Coalition” essay, provides a “topic of their choice” which will allow them to draw inspiration from a range of sources.

Much can be started during this portion of junior year.  Students can fill out the applications and list the schools that are of interest to them!

2017- 2018 Common App Essay Prompts

2017- 2018 Common App Essay Prompts (250 – 650 words)

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

2018 Common App Additional Information Prompt (up to 650 words)

This section is often overlooked although it appears on the “Writing” page right below “Disciplinary History.”  It is a perfect opportunity to provide a glimpse into the candidate’s strengths or some aspect of the candidate’s history that will be of value to the admissions officers. 

The Additional Information section allows up to 650 words, with no minimum. The prompt is:

“Please provide an answer below if you wish to provide details of circumstances or qualifications not reflected in the application.”

Although originally this section was meant to allow the candidate to explain a weakness, personal issue, anomaly in a transcript, etc., it now gives you a chance to expand upon a “qualification” that could range from a personal interest to a major social action project.  Think carefully about this!  It shouldn’t be another personal statement, but it can be a thoughtful and detailed explanation of something that could just make the difference!

Tour Along with College Essay Whiz: George Washington University

An urban university that also manages to maintain an insular campus atmosphere, the George Washington University is something unique. Its location in the heart of Washington, DC – just blockAU5s from the White House – is an asset that the university exploits to its fullest, whether through engineering students performing research on sea lions at the National Zoo, or through giving students access to key internships throughout one of the most powerful cities in the world.

Founded by an act of Congress in 1821, and located in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of the District, the George Washington University now owns the highest number of buildings in the area after the federal government. GW, as it is affectionately called, is a medium-sized institution composed of 11,000 undergraduate students spread out over the university’s seven academic schools, encompassing over 75 majors, including such diverse options as Africana Studies, Graphic Design, International Affairs, and Civil Engineering. The student-faculty ratio is 13:1, all courses are taught by professors, and the average class size is 28 students. University prerequisites depend upon one’s major, but all first-year students must take the University Writing course, which prepares them for university-level research and writing.

Though most of the campus activity takes place on the Foggy Bottom campus, there are some classes and residential facilities located at the smaller, quieter Mount Vernon campus, which is a 15-minute shuttle ride away. Shuttles run every five and fifteen minutes during school hours and outside school hours, respectively.

Outside the classroom, GW boasts a rich student life, with more than 450 student organizations, the biggest two of which are not surprisingly the Campus Democrats and the Campus Republicans clubs. Students also participate in the 27 NCAA Division I athletic teams, club and intramural sports, and campus Greek life.

GW2The university’s motto, “Knowledge in Action,” underscores the three foundational aspects of a student’s GW experience: service, study abroad, and internships. Due to its location in DC, a city characterized by both immense wealth and great poverty, service is very important to the GW community; on the second Saturday of a student’s first year, the entire freshman class goes out into the city and volunteers in various local organizations. Last year alone, GW was responsible for over 600, 000 hours of community service.

Over 40 percent of students partake in the second aspect of the GW experience: study abroad. Students across all academic disciplines are heavily encouraged to study in over 60 countries, whether it is for a summer, a semester, a year, or during GW’s alternative breaks, which are service learning trips during winter and spring breaks. Academic advisors work closely with students to ensure that they meet any graduation requirements in the process.

The final aspect of the GW experience is one that seems to underpin the entire undergraduate experience: internships. As Washington, DC is home to the offices of many local, national, and international organizations, GW encourages and facilitates internships throughout the city so that students can build work experience and graduate with a good idea of what kind of work they wish to pursue. Approximately 90% of GW students will have completed at least one internship, with many students completing more than one.

With tuition costs at around $52,000, GW relies on endowments to make itself affordable to its students. Students who apply for admission to GW do not need to submit extra applications for financial aid; along with their admissions letter, students are provided their aid package, including both need-based, which will be determined through the FAFSA, and merit-based, which will be determined based on the strength of the students high school performance. Another university strategy is to lock in rates upon freshman enrollment; the cost of tuition is locked in for the next five years and will not increase every year, as in many universities. Tuition rates will also not change while students are abroad, and their financial aid will travel with them.GW4

GW is a common app exclusive institution and applicants have the option of three rounds of admission: Early Decision I, Early Decision II, and Regular Decision. GW recently became the largest private institution to become test-optional, so students are not obligated to provide SAT or ACT scores. In fact, admissions officers say that, though doing well on standardized tests is something to be proud of, what the admissions team is really looking at closely is how rigorous a student’s high school coursework was, including AP and IB classes.

GW’s alumni community is composed of political figures, actors and actresses, space explorers, Olympic gold medalists, Pulitzer Prize winners, U.S. Ambassadors, military personnel, award-winning journalists and authors and more including Jackie Onassis, Colin Powell and Alec Baldwin.


The George Washington University
2121 I St NW, Washington, DC 20052
(202) 994-1000

Next stop: Georgetown University!