Are you raising a Federer or a Djokovic?

Are you raising a Federer or a Djokovic?

Djokovic, who has focused on being the best tennis player in the world since he was a young boy and Federer, whose mother encouraged him to pursue other sports and interests, are two of the best men’s tennis players. Their paths to Centre Court were very different and David Epstein in his book Range argues that while specialization can lead to burnout, being a generalist more often leads to success.

Making Your Activity List Pop

Making Your Activity List Pop

The Activities section of the Common Application provides an opportunity for you to distinguish yourself and highlight your specific interests, defining talents, and character traits.   

Here are some suggestions to make your Activity section stand out:

Don’t sweat calculating your time commitment -- but be honest. Assume that you are in school for about 40 weeks each year, which means roughly 20 weeks per semester or 12 weeks per season.  You can’t report anything you did prior to 9th grade, but if you have an activity that you continue to be involved in, be sure to mention that.

Be specific about what you did..  You’re only allowed 150 characters, make every word count.  

  • Give tangible, measurable outcomes. For example, if you were involved in a fundraising event, mention how much money you raised. If you did community service, mention how many children you worked with or how many trees you planted. 

  • Use active verbs that precisely describe what you did. Be sure your verbs reflect your personal qualities and strengths. If you have strong planning and organizational skills, use words like “manage” or “coordinate”. If you are a leader, words like “supervise,” “oversee,” or facilitate” will communicate that. If you like to help others, talk about how you “share” or “guide” or “support.”

  • Verbs should be present tense

  • Use punctuation to your advantage. Write bullet pointed phrases, and use parenthese to state what year you did the activity. Lists are a great way to fit more information in the section. For example, if you were on the varisty soccer team, you might write: * Starting player (11th, 12th) * Team qualified for Regionals (12th) * Played JV (9th, 10th). And see how we snuck the JV team in there? Tricky, right?

  • List what you were responsible for in your role, not just that you were a member of the club or an employee.  For example: Responsible for opening and closing the store, reporting daily sales activity, and stocking merchandise.

  • Double up to get more in: Include the title of your position after the name of the place you worked, or the club were involved in. For example, write Photography Club: Founder and President or Main Street Cafe: Server, Cashier.

  • Don’t use personal pronouns like I, me, or my.  

Be sure to articulate selective positions.  Mentioning that you were elected, appointed or chosen for distinction for something isn’t bragging - it’s a fact, and shows that you are being recognized by others for your ability or character.   

Volunteering at one-time events.  Many high schools require volunteer hours, so it’s important to be able to stand out when reporting your volunteer time.  Just showing up for organized volunteer work is great, but demonstrating that the work aligns with your passions is better.  Describe why this work is meaningful to you.

Put time and care into completing the Activities section of your application to demonstrate your personal qualities and highlight your talents.  It’s a powerful way to tell your story to colleges.


Apply yourself!

Apply yourself!

So often students have every earnest intention to complete their Common Application over the summer and, all too often, they fall short of their goals. Our advice to rising seniors is to set weekly goals for yourself about what parts of your college application process you will tackle each week. Visiting campuses, contacting regional representatives, creating a résumé, or putting together an arts portfolio can all be done over the summer. Finally, start filling out the Common Application. This way, the fall won’t feel as stressful.

Supplemental essays give college applicants a chance to stand out from the crowd

Supplemental essays give college applicants a chance to stand out from the crowd

The U. Chicago supplements are notoriously challenging, but they serve the same function as the supplemental essays for any college — to give the applicant a chance to show why they are a good fit for the college and the college is a good fit for them.

The Perfectionist's Guide To The College Essay

The Perfectionist's Guide To The College Essay

Perfection—in college admission and in life—is often overvalued. Perfect should not be the goal in your essay. What will distinguish your writing and your application is your unique voice. Be willing to take risks, be vulnerable and share your truth. The readers will appreciate the opportunity to learn more about you, and you will get to know yourself better as well.

5 Ways to Prepare for the SAT (Even when you're not preparing for the SAT)

5 Ways to Prepare for the SAT (Even when you're not preparing for the SAT)

The SAT is designed to test skills and knowledges that are accrued over a long time, things like vocabulary and math fluency, and these can be developed and honed beyond the hours spent in class. Not only do you not have to wait until a full-scale test prep program to start building these skills, you probably shouldn’t. Here’s a list of 5 ways you can utilize the precious summer months to build your skill and knowledge, laying the foundation for a strong performance on your next (or first) SAT in the fall.

The View from the Bleachers: The Parents' Role in the College Process

The View from the Bleachers: The Parents' Role in the College Process

The college search and application process has changed in some important ways over the past few decades. More colleges are making standardized testing optional, students are sending out more applications, and admissions is becoming increasingly competitive. As this process becomes increasingly complex and, unfortunately, increasingly stressful, there are several things parents can do to help their child make this a more rewarding and successful experience.

Four Steps to Getting More Out of Test Prep with a Mindful Approach

Four Steps to Getting More Out of Test Prep with a Mindful Approach

I realized that the upper limit to my student’s test day performance wasn’t set by how much material she knew or how well she understood test-taking techniques. Rather, her performance was limited by how she was thinking about and experiencing the test. So that’s where we put our attention. And that’s where I suggest you put your attention: allow yourself to become aware of your thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs and how they impact your experience. You are then empowered to choose thoughts and behaviors that create a better experience.

The Transition from Middle School to High School: Why Parents Lose Sleep

The Transition from Middle School to High School: Why Parents Lose Sleep

The transition of their children from middle school to high school can be an anxious time for parents, and for good reason . Even when the curriculum in middle school has been rigorous, in high school the expectations get amped up in ways that put students with weak Executive Function skills in peril.

Because it is Harvard, plus my parents want me to apply

Our current system works to perpetuate this cycle of selectivity and prestige with an unhealthy fixation on this handful of institutions. Change happens from both the outside in and the inside out. Employers, the media, popular culture and college applicants must not rush to judgment or default to perception. Meanwhile, the college admission profession must re-examine the messages we send and the processes we create that perpetuate this unbalanced system. As parents and educators, we must raise children who think critically about brand, marketing, success, happiness, fulfillment and personal choice.

How college admissions has turned into something akin to ‘The Hunger Games’

In an ideal world, college preparatory education would encourage students who crave knowledge, seek community engagement, desire connection and live their values. We say we want our children to feel secure, be inspired and take risks with their curiosity. The reality of “Hunger Games” comes closer to the truth, where students battle to survive in application pools seeming to demand perfection.

‘I will not help you hide your money when you apply for financial aid’ — and more straight talk from college admissions officers to parents

One of the hardest parts of a college admissions officer’s job — if not the hardest part — is dealing with some of the entitled or unrealistic parents of students who are trying to figure out where to apply to college. Here is a piece on things that college admissions officers say they would like to tell some of the parents with whom they deal — if they could be as blunt as they want — or things they actually say but that fall on deaf ears.