When does the common app come out?

August 1st.

How long will it take me to write my college essay?

Writing time differs vastly from student to student. Some students can write their first draft in an hour, while it takes others weeks to brainstorm an idea. We suggest generously carving out three to four weeks to brainstorm, craft, and edit the essay.  

What should my college essay be about?

Your college essay can be about any topic that is genuine. It should have a balance of wit, depth, and charm. You should avoid cliche topics at all costs. Of the hundreds of essays we’ve read, we’ve found that the most successful essays fall into five categories. Read more here.

Why can’t I write about travel experience in my college admissions essay?

After reading hundreds of college admissions essays, there are certain topics that, no matter how well written, always fail. These topics are cliche, predictable, and don’t show the student’s personality whatsoever. Read more here.

How do I start the college application process?

You should begin the process by registering for the Common App and filling out the logistical information. Then, brainstorm topics for the personal statement (“the college essay”), and start to write it. If you do not know where you want to apply, you should begin a broad search for colleges. It may be helpful to start the search with a specific region of the country, the size of the school, or the type of school. If you know where you want to apply, you should start by looking at which of your chosen schools offer early decision or early action. If the schools you wish to attend are not on Common App, you can find their applications on their respective websites.

How important are extracurricular activities?

Extracurricular activities are very important, but they will not take the place of good grades or test scores. Read more here.

Is it better to get an A in a regular course or a B in an honors course?

This question of getting an “A in regular class or B in honors class” is a false dichotomy that has somehow become a pervasive belief amongst parents of juniors and seniors. If your child wants to go to a top tier school, they need to have the highest grades in the hardest courses available, which usually means taking the honors course. Read more here.

Who should write letters of recommendation?

Your recommendation letters should be written by teachers who know you well and can speak to your character, accomplishments, and what makes you special. Just because you got an ‘A’ in a class doesn’t mean you should get the teacher to write a letter. It is better to have teachers who know you best.  Ideally, you want a core academic teacher from junior or senior year, but a teacher you have had for the majority of high school (in classes such as music, art, language, etc.) will also suffice.  Do not ask a family member or friend to write a letter of recommendation. Some schools allow you to submit multiple recommendation letters, but more letters is not always better. You want to go with quality not quantity.

Should my child visit colleges?

Yes.  If your child is very interested in a school, and it is within your means to do so, you should visit. Visiting a school indicates interest, and, at the beginning of the process, can motivate your child about starting the college process. Visiting colleges will personify the school and will help your child figure out what he or she wants and doesn’t want out of a college. If you are applying to a competitive school that is within 25 miles of your house and you don’t visit, the school may think that you are not interested and are just applying to see if you get in.  

How many schools should I apply to?

This differs greatly from student to student, but we suggest a minimum of two safety schools, two target schools, and two reach schools.

Should I apply early decision to a school?

Deciding whether or not to apply early decision is a big question with numerous pros and cons. We help students weigh both sides and decide whether it really is the right option for them. Read more here.

What is the difference between Early Decision, Early Decision II, Early Action, and Restricted Early Action?

Early admissions programs can be one of the most confusing parts of applying to college. There's a series of different methods schools use, many of which interact with one another and dictate where you can apply. Read more here.

What is the Common Application?

The Common Application is the application used by over 400 colleges. It is a universal application which streamlines and organizes the college application process. It consists of many logistical sections, including information about yourself, your family, where you are from, your school, and more. It also includes the Common App personal statement (the college essay), which gets sent to every school on the Common App. Schools that accepts the Common Application may have supplementary essays.

What are safety, target, and reach schools?

The distinctions of safety, target, and reach have to do with the student’s academic credentials, not where they would be a good fit or receive financial aid. A safety school is a school you apply to where your credentials well exceed the average accepted range for the school. These are the schools you are most likely to be admitted to. A target school is a school where your credentials align closely with the average accepted range. Finally, a reach school is a school where your credentials fall below the average accepted range. Read more here.

What is the difference between need based and merit based financial aid?

Need based financial aid is calculated from your demonstrated need, which is derived from your family’s income. Merit based financial aid is derived from a student’s grades and scores.

Since colleges accept the ACT and the SAT, should my child be preparing for both?

Beginning in 2007, all colleges in America have been accepting the ACT or the SAT. However, since the tests are interchangeable in the admissions process, your child should take a diagnostic of both tests to see which test is better suited for him or her and focus on only that test.

When should I start the college process?

The college admissions process is like preparing a five-course meal as a first time chef, and there is no uniform date to start or end it. If you start too early, you can cause more harm than good. Read more here.

How do you choose the right college after you've been accepted?

Once you’re admitted, actually picking the right school for you can be difficult. While for some it is as cut and dry as getting into their dream school and never looking back, for many it can be a difficult process of weighing the pros and cons of each school and deciding where you’ll be happiest. The hard part is over and now begins the most fun, and maybe the most nerve-wracking part: picking where you’re going to spend the next four years. Read more here.

Who reads my college essay?

Odds are you’ve never written anything quite like the college essay. The essay is its own unique beast and can often be one of the most difficult parts of the college process. It is always import to keep in mind who will be reading it because it will inform your tone, subject matter, and verbiage. Read more here.

What should I be doing freshman year?

The college process starts earlier every year. During your freshmen year, you should be focusing on finding a passion, getting the best possible grades, and setting yourself up for success. Read more here.

How important are College Rankings when you're considering schools?

They’re not. The oft-cited US News College rankings are not only deeply flawed, but harmful to students and parents. They use a convoluted methodology and should be ignored all together. Read more here.

What are colleges looking for?

Colleges are looking for a lot. Spoiler: they don’t want a well-rounded student. They want an extreme. Read more here.

How do I write the "Why Our College" supplement?

At first, supplements may seem like a breeze compared to writing your personal statement. However, be warned: writing a cliche or disingenuous response to “Why Our College?” can cost you your acceptance. Read more here.

What can high school juniors do to prepare for college admissions process?

Junior year is often referred to as the “most important year” of the college admissions process. Juniors must stay focused, organized, take final test, and secure leadership roles. Read more here.

How do I answer the common app essay about failure?

Many students think this essay is a trick question, but it is actually a hidden gem on the common application. Read more here.

Do honors and AP courses matter your senior year of high school?

Senior year is your last chance to challenge yourself. Your first semester grades and schedule can really make or break your application, and you want to show the admissions committee that you are a serious student. AP and honors classes are one more way to show what you're interested in. Read more here.

How can I help my child with their college application essay?

The college admissions process can be just as stressful for parents as it is for students. If you want to help your child write their college essay, you are going to need a lot of patience. From brainstorming a topic to editing drafts to the final draft, there are key steps you must take. Read more here.

How do I start a college essay about myself?

You can write your college essay about anything, which is part of the reason it is hard to find a subject. There are thousands of ways to answer this question, but one tip we give our students is to make this a social project: go talk to your friends. Read more here.

How do I make a list of safety schools?

We hope you get into your dream school, and we plan on giving you all the advice to make your dream come true. But the reality is that you need to have a solid backup plan just in case. As more students apply to more schools and acceptance rates plummet, safety schools have become a necessity. Read more here.

When is the last time I can take the SAT or SAT2 for Early Decision Schools?

For the Fall of 2016, the September ACT and October SAT will qualify for all early decision schools. However, if you are going to take the November SAT, every school has their own policy. Read more here.

What is the Coalition Application?

In response to various criticisms of the Common App, around 80 colleges came together and formed the Coalition Application. The Coalition seeks to "improve the college application process for all students as they search for and apply to their perfect college". Read more here.

Who should I ask for a letter of recommendation for college?

Since the purpose of this letter is to provide more information about you, you want to ask a teacher who knows you best. You want a teacher who can not only talk about your growth, work ethic, and passion but who knows you well and who genuinely likes you. Read more here

When and how should I ask for a letter of recommendation?

You want to ask towards the end of the semester in your junior year. April is the best month. Go up to your teacher at the end of class and ask if you can have a meeting with them to discuss a letter of recommendation. Read more here

Are there strategies for applying to a reach school?

Yes. First, you have to make sure it's a realistic reach school. A realistic reach school is a school that is still a little out of your range, but not an impossibility. Ivy League schools will never fall into this category. After you've decided on your realistic reach, research, research, and then research some more. Read more here

When is the last time I can take the SAT, ACT, or SAT2 for regular decision?

Many schools will allow you to take tests on the January, or even February, deadline. Some insists on having scores sent directly to them. Check out our list to find your school. Read more here.

How do I write a first draft of my college essay?

When writing your college essay, you should view your first draft as a building block. You want to go about it in a multi-step process. First, brainstorm or outline ideas for the first draft. Then, write the first draft. Create a hook that will draw the reader in. Read more here.

What should I avoid in my college supplements?

You should shun lame flattery. Unless it is genuine and unless you know it from personal experience, don't put it in your application. Instead, do your research to figure out what you want to study and activities you want to join. Read more here.

When should I take the SAT II subject tests?

Take your SAT IIs directly after the related course you've completed in school. It may seem early to start taking subject tests your freshman year, but if you excelled in biology, take it then. It'll save you time and stress during senior year. Read more here.

What questions should I ask on a college tour?

To truly understand a school and its students, you should track down a student who isn't giving an official tour--someone you know who goes there, or even a random kid in the dining hall--and ask them some key questions. Read more here.

Should I make a resume for college applications?

Yes. In order to optimize the potential of your application it's best to submit a resume that highlights your academic achievements and extracurricular involvement. A resume is an organized and easily accessible document that shows that you care about what the admissions committee reads about you. Read more here.

How do I schedule an interview for college?

Most colleges offer some kind of interview as part of the application process. As is the case with every part of the application, the interview process varies greatly from school to school. Some take place in person, while some are on Skype. Read more here.

What do I do if I get deferred?

A deferral is one of the hardest decisions to stomach because of the inherent uncertainty. You're transferred to the regular decision pool and will be reevaluated with the rest of the regular decision applicants. A deferral is a chance for the admissions committee to take a fresh look at you. As such, it is important to take the following three steps. Read more here.

Which SAT II subject tests should I take?

The genera; advice we give is that you should take as many tests as you can in the subjects you excel in. If you feel comfortable you should take at least one humanities SAT II and one STEM SAT II. But, the more specific answer to this question depends on what grade you're in. Read more here.