It is certainly a good idea, assuming that you know which school you really want to attend, that you don’t need your first-semester grades to help your admission chances, and that you will not need to compare financial aid packages with what may be offered by other schools. Many schools find the early pool of applicants to be strong and motivated, and therefore they tend to fill up a large percentage of slots with early applicants, making the regular decision pool even more competitive. It is stressful, and is only recommended if all of the above works for you. If you apply early decision and you get in, your process is happily concluded (although often you do have to send in the other applications before you hear from your first-choice school.) If you apply early action, you can still apply regular decision and compare packages in the spring.
This depends on your strategy. You may wish to apply Early Decision (Some schools have ED I and II), Early Action, Single Choice Early Action, Rolling, or Regular admissions. It can be a complicated business. Generally, it is a good idea to have a list of 2 or 3 schools that are “reaches,” 2 – 3 that are “good bets,” and 2 -3 that are pretty much “safe bets.” If you are applying to one school early, you still will need to fill out and be prepared to send out the rest before you hear from your first choices. Most students with whom I have worked have had a list of about 10 schools, with some going as high as 20. Of course, it is essential to choose schools that you would definitely want to attend if you were accepted. Keep in mind that including your parents in this decision is also essential since they will be able to help you evaluate such concerns as distance and financial needs. (The College Essay Whiz website has a handy “College Preference Form” to help you. There is also a list of books and websites that will help you to learn about schools all over the country.
*This is an archived post. To read our updated information about the CA4, please go to our section on Admission FAQ’s!
The Common Application now offers a total of 463 colleges and universities to which you can apply for the 2011-2012 admissions season. That’s 49 more schools than last year! The Common Application Online launches officially on August 1.
Go to https://www.commonapp.org/CommonApp/News.aspx#47 for more information.
One important change on this year’s Common Application is the word limit on the personal statement: It is no longer open-ended. The essay must be 250 to 500 words! The topics have not changed.
Who has had the greatest influence on you in your life?
Who is your hero? Why?
If you could meet one person, past or present, who would it be and what would you say to him/her?
How would you describe your most valuable friendships?
How do you feel about (a particular current event or issue)?
What makes you unique?
1. What do you like/dislike about your town?
2. Describe your community.
2. What would you change?
3. How has your community molded you as a person?
Your Academic Profile
1. What makes you a good candidate for this school?
2. How would you explain a low grade on your transcript?
3. Describe an obstacle you faced or a challenge you experienced. How did you overcome it?
4. Do you feel that you have done the best academic work of which you were capable?
5. If you were able to start high school over again, what would you do differently in terms of the classes you took or the way you approached your studies?
6. How would your teachers (classmates, family) describe you?
7. What was your greatest academic accomplishment?
8. What is your greatest academic failure?
1. Describe your school: the student body, etc. What would you change about your school if you had the opportunity?
2. Describe your classes.
3. What was your favorite course? Your least favorite? The most challenging? What electives did you take and why?
4. Who was your favorite teacher?
Why? Least favorite? Why?
1. In what extracurricular activities are you the most active?
2. What do you like about them?
3. What has been your greatest contribution to one of those activities?
4. In what way have you exhibited leadership qualities, teamwork and cooperation in your activities?
5. What hobbies, etc. do you have outside school?
6. What do you like to do in your spare time?
7. Do you like to travel?
8. What was your most interesting vacation or trip?
9. Have you had any jobs?
10. What jobs have you enjoyed the most?
Least? Why? What have you learned from any of your bosses or co-workers?
1. Why do you want to attend college?
2. Why do you want to go to this college?
3. What do you know about our school?
4. What are your most important criteria in looking at colleges?
5. How did you learn about this school?
6. What major or course of study would you like to pursue?
7. What do you hope to gain from a college education?
8. What contribution do you plan to make as a student at our college?
9. How do you view yourself as a college graduate?
10. What would you like to ask the interviewer about this college?
(Don’t ask questions that are easily answered by looking at the school’s website, catalogue or view book) Suggestions:
- What are the current issues on campus?
- What are the most active clubs and organizations?
- What publications does the school publish regularly?
Your Future Plans
1. What is your career plan?
2. How would a degree from this college help you achieve this?
3. Are you interested in research? Graduate school?
4. What is most important to you in your life?
Questions to Research
1. What are the admissions requirements of each school?
2. Is an interview (at college or by an alumnus) required or suggested?
3. Are recommendations required?
4. Are visits to the campus easily arranged?
5. What are my chances of being accepted?
6. What are the costs: tuition, room and board, fees, and books?
7. What are the school’s financial aid policy and scholarship opportunities?
8. What are the housing options?
9. How big are the classes?
10. What majors and programs are available?
11. What is the student/teacher ratio?
12. Does the school have a Greek life?
13. What athletics are offered?
14. What makes this school special?
15. What is the environment in the college town or city like?
16. Is transportation to and from the college easily available?
- Your high school G.P.A.
- Quality and range of courses (i.e., honors and AP classes)
- Class rank (if applicable)
- Scores on standardized tests (SAT, ACT, etc.)
- AP Test Scores (sophomore and junior years)
- Co-curricular activities, clubs, sports
- Out of school activities, jobs and summer jobs
- Awards, honors, leadership positions
- Service to school and community
- Character (especially integrity)
- Recommendations from counselors, teachers, coaches
- The application form
- The application essays (including “short answers”)
- Personal interview with admissions officer or alumni
- Other factors including athletic superstars, gifted students with special skills, legacy candidates, minorities, geography
- What are your major accomplishments?
- What attributes, skills or qualities distinguish you from everyone else?
- What are your favorite books, movies, or works of art?
- What was the most difficult time of your life?
- Have you ever struggled for something and succeeded?
- Have you overcome any significant obstacles?
- What are your career aspirations?
- Have you had a major personal discovery or life-changing experience?
- What have you done outside the classroom that demonstrates your strengths, interests, or leadership skills?
- What are your most important extra-curricular activities, sports, jobs, volunteer work, etc?
- What are your dreams for the future?
Some other strategies:
- Ask family members or friends to list your strengths and outstanding personality traits
- Consider events in your childhood that define your current interest
- Consider people who have been your role models or who have influenced you greatly (a grandparent, a teacher, a coach, etc.)
- Talk to your teachers and counselors
- Consider your college and career goals
Writing the Essay:
- Select a topic that is important to you
- Avoid overdone topics or negative positions on a topic
- If you choose a controversial topic, be sure to cover it fairly
- Use vivid supporting details
- Provide information that adds to your resume (Don’t just repeat what is already in the application)
- Be sure that you answer the question that is asked
- Be sure to keep your reader in mind! Strive to keep the reader interested. College admissions officers read hundreds (if not thousands) of essays
- Be careful with your tone
- Contact the College Essay Whiz for help and editing!
Although many colleges do not require an interview, some colleges still encourage applicants to participate in a personal face-to-face interview. Some interviews are with admissions officers while others may be scheduled with alumni of the colleges to which you are applying. The interview is an excellent opportunity to learn more about a college and to allow the admissions officer to learn more about you. Once you decide to schedule an interview, you should prepare carefully for it. The College Essay Whiz offers you the opportunity to practice in a “mock” interview and critique.
Take a look at the suggestions and practice questions.
Some sample interview don’ts:
Talk too much about one subject
Make inappropriate or rude comments
Use slang or foul language
Indulge in nervous habits
Interrupt when interviewer is speaking
Give too many “yes” or “no” answers
Criticize the interviewer’s questions
The College Essay Whiz will be glad to work with you!
- Make an appointment to do a face-to-face interview.
- Review the sample questions.
- Then do the mock interview.
- The College Essay Whiz will critique your answers to get you ready!
Consider making an appointment with the College Essay Whiz before you do “the real thing.”