What's on your summer plan checklist?

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With the school year coming to an end, the summer is the perfect time to get some college prep to-do's out of the way. 

Wondering what should be on your list?

Here are some of the things that should be on your to-do list for the summer:

Rising Seniors: Start creating and narrowing down your college list, study for SATs/ACTs (here's a great prep course -- it was featured on Shark Tank!), get started on drafting your college application essays (Enrollment for my essay workshops is now open! Sign-ups for the June workshop closes on Sunday), and participate in activities related to topics you might be interested in pursuing in college.

Rising Juniors: Visit colleges to get an idea of the various types of campuses (big, small, city, town, etc.), study for standardized tests, participate in summer classes or activities related to topics of interest.

Rising Sophomores: Draft a college prep calendar for what you want to...

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Admitted or Denied in 8 Minutes or Less?

Did you see the Wall Street Journal article released earlier this year about some admissions teams reviewing college applications in 8 minutes or less? If not, you can click below to read the article. It may surprise you.


While it may be true that admissions teams quickly read through applications (think about job applications and resumes -- everyone knows that recruiters spend seconds glancing over a resume before deciding to call the candidate), there are two nuances I want to call out:

1. Application reviewers are trained to look for certain things, which considerably speeds up the process. Once a reviewer understands all the parts of an application, they are able to get through each one quicker than other people.

2. Applications go through several reviews. More than one person is reading the application and conversations about the candidates occur between the readers and decision committees.

So, the actual review process is longer than 8 minutes.

However,...

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The Myth of the Well-Rounded Student

A popular question I oftentimes get asked is:

Does a student have to be well-rounded to get accepted into a great school?

The answer may surprise you: No.

First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page and start off with a definition. “Well-rounded” is the term typically used to describe someone who has strong test scores, grades, and a list of various extracurricular activities.

The problem with assuming this is the golden ticket to getting into a great school is that colleges are not only looking for well-rounded students. They’re looking to create a well-rounded class — a group of students who represent various backgrounds, strengths, and interests.

Of course, good test scores, grades and extracurricular activities are important, but they’re not enough to differentiate one student from another.

So, what does a student need instead?

An angle.

What makes that student different? A passion for art? A spirit of entrepreneurship? A...

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Five Ways to Finish the School Year Strong

With the school year winding down, it's easy to get distracted and daydream about hang outs with friends, trips to the beach, and sleeping in until late.

While I'm a big believer in making sure students get to have some fun and restore some balance in their schedules, it's important to remember that the final weeks before the school year ends still make a big difference.

Here are five ways students can make sure to finish the school year strong: 

  1. Stay on top of grades: Students should use these final weeks to maintain good performance or to put in the extra work to bump grades up. Some students get tempted to ease up a bit in their studies as the school year ends. They may be shocked to see their grades drop once everything is finalized. This is especially true for high school seniors -- seniors still need to submit a final transcript over the summer to their school of choice, so they shouldn't give their college a reason to rescind an offer.
  2. Talk to your...
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How Do I Decide Which College Is the Right One for Me?

If you’re the parent of a high school senior, your child has probably spent the past several weeks trying to figure out which college offer to accept (Even if your child isn’t at this stage yet, keep reading on for tips that will be helpful in the near future).

It’s a good problem to have, but a difficult choice.

If your child is anything like me, I was big on making lists to help me make a decision. I created an Excel file listing the pros and cons of each school. Despite perfecting that spreadsheet, I still felt torn about which college to go to.

What if I choose the wrong school?!

The truth is: When it comes to making a decision about what college to go to, no decision your child makes will be “wrong.”

Even if they find out halfway through freshman year of college that they want to transfer to another college, it’ll still be a formative, valuable experience.

If your child is still deciding which college offer to accept, here are five questions...

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The Top Mistake on College Application Essays

I’ve read a lot of college application essays -- both during my time as part of the UC Berkeley admissions team and over the past ten years guiding students as they apply to college.

Within moments of reading a college application essay, I can tell if a student makes one of the most common mistakes when it comes to writing a college application essay:

Staying on the surface.

I oftentimes find that students either are too afraid to get personal in their essays or have no idea how to reveal their true selves.

They’re afraid of getting judged (let’s get real — they ARE getting judged by the admissions team) or feel like it’s too weird to share their personal thoughts and experiences.

You know what’s even more weird? A student self-sabotaging their chances of getting into their dream school by not opening up in their college application essays.

Students oftentimes have no idea how incredible and unique their stories are. 

I had a student last...

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Three ways to stand out in a scholarship, internship or summer job interview

For many students (and even adults!) interviewing for a scholarship, internship or summer job is nerve-wrecking. What’s the number one tactic for overcoming that nervousness?

Preparation.

As someone who has interviewed hundreds of people over the years — from preparing students for various interviews to interviewing professionals for various leadership roles in my corporate job at a large company — I’ve noticed the same things tend to stand out with a stellar candidate no matter what the interview is for. Here are three of them:

  1. They did their research: They researched about the opportunity they were going after. You’d be surprised how students walk into an interview without running a few Google searches and doing some research on some of the basic facts about the opportunity. Students should know the basics so that they can spend their time in the interview having a deeper conversation.
  2. They’ve practiced their responses: It’s...
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Waitlisted? How to improve the chances of getting accepted.

I remember anxiously waiting during my senior year to receive the decision for my application to Harvard. When it finally arrived, I had a mix of emotions:

I was waitlisted.

After putting in so much hard work into my studies, clubs, and sports, I was deflated and confused. At the time I had wished for either an acceptance or denial (of course, more so the acceptance than the denial) — at least either of those options would give me closure. Being waitlisted meant I would have to continue being in suspense until a decision was made.

But, then I realized being waitlisted meant I had a fighting chance of still getting in.

If a student has been waitlisted by one of their top choice schools and has accomplished something noteworthy since submitting their application, sending an update letter or essay can help improve their chances of moving off the waitlist. Here are three things a student can do:

  1. Find out the process for submitting an update: When sending out waitlist...
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Three Reasons Why You Were Rejected by a “Safety School” and What You Can Do About It

Throughout the months of March and April, students across the country are repeatedly clicking “refresh” on college admissions websites, anxiously awaiting the outcome of three and a half years of hard work in high school.

While most will be preoccupied with whether or not they’ll get into their dream school, many will be shocked to receive something completely unexpected: a rejection from a safety school — a school assumed to be easy to get into.

Over the past few weeks, I've noticed parents in online forums sharing how upset their kids are about these rejections and seeking reasons why this could possibly happen.

Once a student gets rejected by a safety school, they may feel completely devastated. Here are three reasons that might help explain what may have gone wrong:

  1. Underestimating the competition: While grades and test scores aren’t everything, they make up two of the most important parts of a college application. A...
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