Is applying ED to college the right choice for you?

Is applying ED to college the right choice for you?

Applying Early Decision is not a decision to be made lightly or in haste, and should only be made if it truly serves the best interests of the student.

The SATs and ACTs might be less important than you think

The SATs and ACTs might be less important than you think

Colleges are becoming increasingly less interested reviewing SAT and ACT scores so maybe students should follow suit and spend less time on test prep and do things that are more personally fulfilling.

Writing Tips from The Princess Bride

Writing Tips from The Princess Bride

McSweeney’s nails it again with their list of Lines from the Princess Bride that Double as Comments on Freshman English Papers. By extension, I urge seniors to use these tips as they craft their college essays, where every one of the allotted 650 words matters. Let’s break down how the advice from a few of the lines from that iconic movie might help with the revision process.

Why Learn Computer Science?

Why Learn Computer Science?

The skills learned in computer science stay with students as they grow and help students in many subjects, from math to chemistry to philosophy – even to the mock trial team. And the results are long-lasting. There is evidence that students who learn computer science go on to perform better on standardized math exams in subsequent years.

Talking in code

Talking in code

The point of the college essay isn’t just to generate 650 words that tell a story—the point is to thoughtfully craft an essay that surprises the reader by the originality of the insights shared, the cleverness of the message conveyed, and the power of the ultimate observation that the writer makes. If the story is going to begin like many others, the ending should surprise.

An Ounce of Prevention

An Ounce of Prevention

A positive transition to college life has many factors and a student’s health and safety is primary to that experience. Here are some helpful tips on available resources and practices to ensure if emergencies arise, everyone is prepared.

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.