If you’re a senior still in the throes of writing your college essay, or if you’re a younger student/parent of a younger student trying to get a jumpstart on the college admissions process, you may be in possession of book entitled something like 100 College Essays that Worked, or 50 Successful Harvard Essays.
In general, I have no particular bone to pick with such compilations. I think they often provide a helpful glimpse at a variety of topics, styles, and structures that successful applicants have used in their essays.
Just as importantly, they offer clear reassurance that students need not demonstrate they have imbibed a thesaurus in order to gain admission to the college of their dreams.
So yes, for a student who isn’t sure how to get started, these books provide a highly useful service. (more…)
A few years back, a student with whom I had done a handful of SAT tutoring sessions asked me to help him with his college essay.
He was applying to a number of very selective schools, and while he was a solid, highly motivated candidate with excellent grades and recommendations, his scores were strong but not amazing. He did have a hook, but he was by no means a shoo-in. And since he wanted to go to medical school eventually, financial aid was also a consideration. The essay could be a real tip factor for him.
Understandably, he wanted it to be great.
Luckily, he had a clear — and very good — idea for a topic from the start, and we spent several weeks going back and forth with drafts, comments, etc. The usual. We hit the usual bumps and organizational issues, but all in all, it was pretty straightforward. When my student got stuck, I’d get him to just talk it out, and then let him take that material and mold it into something more coherent. (more…)
1) Where am I?
This does not just mean “what is your score on your first-ever practice test?” It means considering why you’re starting where you’re starting, and what that reveals about your strengths and weaknesses — factors that will in turn affect what type of prep is best for you.
If your overall score isn’t where you want it to be, where are the problem spots? Are your math and verbal score/skills comparable, or do you have a big gap between them? If the latter, a class that devotes equal time to both probably isn’t the best option.
Do you have problems with particular types of questions, or are your mistakes all over the map? (more…)
After I posted a list of reasons that students should continue to consider passing up the new SAT in favor of the ACT, I received messages from a couple of readers who said that they shared my misgiving about the redesigned test, but that they had a very practical concern regarding that exam: namely, the PSAT and qualification for National Merit Scholarships.
In both cases, they indicated that their children would be dependent on scholarship money to attend college, and that they could not afford to pass up the opportunities offered by the National Merit program.
I confess that this was the last thing on my mind when I wrote the list, but it is a very real concern, and I appreciate having it called to my attention.
I do want to address the issue here, albeit with the caveat that I am not a financial aid expert, and that you should check with guidance counselors and individual colleges because policies and guidelines and vary from school to school.
I’m going to go into a lot more detail below, but in a nutshell: If you are unable to afford college without a full scholarship and are focusing on a group of less selective public universities, primarily in the (Mid)west and South, that offer large amounts of aid to students with high stats in order to boost their rankings, then yes, National Merit can count for a lot. But otherwise, it may have little to no effect on the amount of aid you ultimately receive. (more…)