When you think about college admissions, you probably think about your SAT or ACT scores, grades, GPA, essays, and letters of recommendation. While you definitely need to focus on all of those things, it’s also important to start building your resume. One way to do that is by volunteering.
Volunteering may not increase your SAT or ACT scores or boost your GPA, but it can provide you with the edge you need in the college admissions process and be the answer to that overwhelming question: “How can my qualifications stand out in a sea of applications?”
Here are four ways volunteering can help you on your journey to college:
Volunteering can provide you with some great experiences outside the classroom while also appealing to college admissions officers—especially if they read about your volunteer work in your application essay. Admissions officers can find your test scores, grades, and GPA on your transcript. They also want to see who you are outside of the classroom. Volunteering allows you to showcase another side of yourself. It provides an opportunity for you to speak passionately about a cause or organization that you believe in and have dedicated some real time toward. It also looks good on your LinkedIn profile or resume to future employers.
College admissions officers love to see students who are passionate leaders, and volunteering is a great way to gain some leadership experience. Instead of merely completing the mandatory service hours that may be required by your high school, take the time to research a cause that inspires you. The more inspired you are, the more likely you are to be involved and take on a leadership position. This will show admissions officers that you can meaningfully contribute to the campus community and be an active member of the student body.
That’s right—volunteering can lead to scholarship opportunities through various organizations. Do Something, for example, offers two types of scholarships, one of which awards $10K to four lucky students. Join one of their volunteer campaigns and show how involved you are—it can pay off, big time!
While volunteering, you will encounter and work with many different types of people who can help you develop professional skills in a field you may be interested in. Some of these people may even become your mentors and wind up in the perfect position to write your letters of recommendation for your college applications.
What are the many various ways you can get involved and volunteer? Find inspiration in these examples, and remember that giving starts in your own community.
- Last year, teens participating in Do Something recycled 1,333,135 aluminum cans that would have ended up in the landfill.
- Over the last 25 years, New York residents have given over 1.6 million coats to be distributed among their fellow residents.
- In one Kentucky city, volunteers collected 143,600 lbs. of fresh fruit and vegetables that would otherwise have gone to waste by gathering leftover produce from farms after harvest and day-old donations from supermarkets.
- You can be a catalyst for giving! A study from University of California, San Diego, found that altruistic acts inspire others—up to two degrees of separation away. Your friends and your friends’ friends will all be inspired by your generous behavior and good deeds.
- In 2012, Americans volunteered over 7.9 billion hours of service.
- College alumni gave over $9 billion in donations back to their schools in 2013.
- Giving back can make you happier! Researchers at Harvard and UC Riverside found that spending time or money on others releases mood-enhancing endorphins in the brain, making you happier than if you’d spent it on yourself.
- Students who give back to their community through volunteer service hours are 19% more likely to graduate from college on time.
- Consider this when giving to your local food drive. The most needed items in food banks are always peanut butter, tuna, and beans.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and volunteer! Not only will you be doing something good for others, but you’ll be helping yourself on the path to college and investing in your career.
Want to know more about the key factors in college admissions? We’ve got a top 10 list for you.
The college interview is often the forgotten piece of the college application process, but most colleges do require it. It’s in your best interest, therefore, to treat the process like any other and secure interviews at your prospective schools as early as possible.
Even though it may not be talked up as the most important factor in getting accepted, the interview can help college admissions officers get to know you better so you’re not just another name in a pile of applications.
Some of you may be better at selling yourselves in person than on paper. Making a personal connection can really give you that extra edge!
Interviews don’t have to be scary! Actually they can be engaging and enlightening when you approach them the right way. Keep in mind: they are also for your benefit, providing a chance for you get to know your prospective schools on a more personal level and help you decide where you want to go.
Here are the top tips to having a successful college interview!
Do your research before each college interview
Review each school’s application process, website, and brochures beforehand. Learn as much as you can about the school and the program you’re interested in so you can walk into the interview knowledgeable and ready to learn more. Make sure to write down anything you find interesting or want to bring up during your college interview.
Be prepared for common questions
College admissions officers might try and throw you a curve ball to see how you’ll react in the interview. Be prepared! Here are some questions they might ask. It helps to rehearse your answers to these questions before your interview. Try to practice with either family or friends who can give you advice on some popular questions such as:
- Why do you want to go to this college?
- What do you want to major in and why?
- How would your friends characterize you?
- What do you do in your spare time?
- Who is the most influential person in your life and why?
Have your own questions ready
Some students say that the hardest question you’ll get from an admissions officer is “Do you have any questions for me?” Sounds easy enough, right? Maybe, but it catches a lot of students off guard.
Questions about activities, off-campus programs, housing—or whatever is important to you—are encouraged, as they demonstrate your interest in the school. Here are some questions you can ask!
Bring along a notepad
Write down your interview questions on a notepad and bring it with you. Also, use the notepad to take notes during the interview. Be specific—you’ll likely be visiting several schools, and they can all start to blend together if you don’t take note of details.
The transcript and resume or a quick link to your LinkedIn profile will come in handy if you are given an information sheet to fill out prior to your meeting.
Dress to impress and arrive early
You want the make a good impression with your admissions officer. No, this doesn’t mean showing up decked out in school colors or dressed as the mascot. When in doubt, business casual is the way to go.
Make sure to arrive at least 15 minutes early. Arriving early will give you some time to relax and prepare yourself mentally.
Send a thank you note
After your college interview, send a thank you note to your interviewer. Express your continued interest in the school, cite things you spoke about in the interview, and be sincere. The more positive interest you show in them, the more interest they may show in you.
A final tip for interviews in general
Whether you’re interviewing for college or a job, remember that the person on the other side of the table is a human being. They may also be nervous too and eager to impress you.
By coming prepared and helping facilitate a pleasant conversation, you will put them at ease, and they will see you more favorably. You may even find yourself enjoying the process!
Want to get pumped for your interview? Work on polishing up your resume, use it to start a LinkedIn profile, and don’t forget to weigh in below with your own tips for a successful college interview!
While Your ACT and SAT test scores—along with your GPA—give college admissions officers an opportunity to assess your academic potential, it’s your college application essay that allows you to stand out among the other applicant, showcase your personality, and answer the question they really want to know: what makes you you?
Most universities require at least one essay as part of the college application, but many require two or more of various lengths. These top tips on how to write them will not only get you off to a good start; they will also help you avoid common college essay mistakes.
Dos and don’ts of college application essay writing
- DON’T expect your first draft to be perfect. Getting started is the biggest hurdle to overcome. Your first draft isn’t your final draft! Get past the first step; then worry about momentum.
- DO revise—early and often. Your college application essay should go through multiple stages of revision. We’re not talking about a quick proofread; you should ask parents, teachers, and even your peers to read through your essay drafts and give you substantial critical advice.
- DON’T rehash your resume or your LinkedIn profile. The college admissions committee has already seen a list of your extracurricular activities and volunteer work, as well as the honors and awards you’ve received: you listed those accomplishments elsewhere in your college application. Portray yourself as a mature, thoughtful individual. What is your personal story that captures this quality?
- DO use the first person. Avoid generic third person pronouns like “one” or “students.” This essay is about you!
- DON’T rely on famous quotes to do the heavy lifting. If you have a quotation that particularly speaks to you, tell the readers why those words are so meaningful—don’t just regurgitate. In the same vein, avoid clichés, maxims, and other common phrases. If you’ve heard it before, chances are the college admissions officers have heard it hundreds of times more than that.
- DO say what you mean, and mean what you say. Be honest, but not boastful or self-deprecating. Be specific, clear, and concise. Using a thesaurus can help you find the exact word you want to convey a feeling or emotion, but …
- DON’T make your essay read like the dictionary. Vocabulary words definitely belong in your SAT essay, but you’ll want to sound like yourself and convey your own voice in your college application essay. If you wouldn’t ordinarily describe sharing meals with your family as a “salubrious assemblage of kin” your college essay is NOT the place to start.
- DO start early! Writing your college essay is not a task that you should put off until the last minute. Start today!
Looking for more college application tips? We’ve got you covered.
As you probably already know if you’re in the middle of the college application process, college admissions committees often ask for two or three letters of recommendation from teachers, instructors, guidance counselors, or employers. Follow these simple guidelines to secure the strongest recommendations possible from the people who are the most familiar with you and your academic work.
Who to ask for a college recommendation letter
Asking for college recommendation letters can seem daunting for two reasons. One, you might be afraid of being shot down, and two, you have no idea what these teachers will write.
The truth is, most teachers want to help you out, and there are several things you can do to help them help you come across as strong as possible in their portrayal of you.
Guidance counselors and high school teachers typically write letters of recommendation, although additional letters can come from coaches and employers. In any case, these letters should be from people who know you well, both in and out of the classroom. Though she might hold a special place in your heart, that eliminates Mrs. Stevenson from third grade, even if you did casually bump into her at the supermarket last week. Collectively, these letters will inform the college admissions committee of your abilities, character, passions, and personality.
When deciding whom to ask for a college recommendation letter, consider the following questions:
- Is this a teacher with whom I’ve formed a connection?
- Has this teacher witnessed my growth or development in any way?
- When was the last time I spoke with this teacher?
- What subjects did I take with this teacher?
Your 12th grade teachers have likely not yet gotten to know you, unless you took a class with them previously, and you have presumably matured since you were a wide-eyed freshman. Therefore, most letters of recommendation tend to be written by teachers from students sophomore and junior years.
The strongest college recommendation letters don’t always come from the teachers who assigned you the highest grades, but from instructors who watched your academic skills develop.
A letter that says, “Devon struggled early in my history class, but she redoubled her efforts after the first exam, stayed after for help and steadily improved throughout the semester as a result of her hard work and determination” is a lot more compelling that a letter that says “Abigail earned an A+ in my AP Calculus class and she seemed nice based on my limited interactions with her.”
If you are only allowed one teacher recommendation, it’s best to ask someone who taught you a core academic subject. Check the requirements of your colleges; some require letters of recommendation from two specific instructors—one from a math/science course and another from a humanities course. So stay on top of that homework.
When to ask for a college recommendation letter
Early. Give your teacher or guidance counselor time to write you a glowing review. At the very least, you should make an in-person request a month before the deadline, but you can ask as early as the end of junior year, since it’s likely that those are the teachers who will be writing your letters anyway.
Arrange a time to speak with your letter writers after class or after school. This ensures that you will have their full attention, and it also makes a good impression by demonstrating that you respect their time.
How to guarantee a great college recommendation letter
While the common application will automatically email your recommenders once you add them to your online application, this should not be seen as a substitute for an in-person request, nor should you add a recommender to your common application before asking them in person and giving them all of the materials they may need to fill out their picture of you.
Request, but don’t expect. You will benefit by having your letters of recommendation written by teachers who sincerely want to help you by writing a strong letter on your behalf. If your request is denied, don’t be offended. Be grateful that this individual understands the impact these letters have on your future and respects you enough to be honest about their limitations up front.
When you approach the teachers from whom you’re requesting college recommendation letters, show up prepared with the complete list of colleges to which you’re applying, as well as all of their application deadlines. A resume, short summary of your high school accomplishments, and statement regarding your collegiate plans should also be provided to your letter writers.
After the letters are completed, it’s your turn to write! Show your gratitude by writing your recommenders formal thank you notes, and don’t forget to keep them updated as application decisions start rolling in! They’ll be thrilled to know they helped you on the way to achieving your dreams.
Filling out applications for the growing list of colleges that you’re aiming toward can get repetitive, for certain.
Luckily, many schools these days accept one centralized Common Application. The Common Application, also known as the “Common App,” is a single application for college admissions used by over 500 universities. Did you hear that? That’s the sound of your life getting a whole lot easier.
Because so many schools participate, the Common Application can simplify the college admissions process—meaning, students can apply to several schools at once with the same application. Talk about a huge time saver!
Below are some tips to help you when filling out the Common App.
Create your account
Before you start filling things out, make sure to go through the Common Application and see exactly what information is required to fill it out. Make a list of what you need. Collect those items ahead of time so that you’re not stuck when you officially start working on it.
Work on your college essay early
The college essay is one of the most important parts of the Common Application, as it gives college admissions officers a glimpse into what makes you you. It’s 650 words or less and you must choose one of five topics which will best demonstrate your ability to write.
Don’t rush working on your college essay. Take your time writing it and have family, friends, and teachers review and critique it. Not sure what to write about? Read our tips on what makes an amazing college essay!
Above all, rRemember to make the essay personal and have it show college admissions officers what you can bring to the college community.
Review additional requirements
Colleges that use the Common App might also have supplemental essays or require additional info. Make sure to check their college pages within the Common App to see if you have more information to fill out. You can also check schools’ individual websites or call and speak to a representative.
Review your Common Application
It’s very important to preview your application before hitting that submit button! In preview, you will be able to see exactly what colleges will see and have a chance to reread everything one last time. If you catch any errors, you can still fix them.
Note that once you submit, you can’t go back and edit your application.
In addition to previewing, you should also print your Common App so you can make edits right on the paper. Once you submit, make sure to print the submission confirmation for each college to which you apply. It’s always a good idea to have a printed copy for your records in case colleges come back and say they’re missing materials.
Weigh in below with some of your own tips for filling out the Common Application; then find out more here. Congrats on your exciting journey getting into college!
If you’re applying to college, you probably already know that SAT or ACT prep is an important part of that process. In fact, a student’s score on these standardized exams is one of the top factors in college admissions. Not only will a good score open the door to a wider selection of colleges to choose from, but it could also help you save money.
Now that we have your attention, here are some common questions and answers about SAT and ACT prep.
Which test should I prep for? The SAT or ACT?
That all depends on you. Colleges accept scores from either the SAT or ACT, so you can take one or the other—or both! Want to know what the differences are between the tests? You can get a better sense of which test is best suited to you.
To help you make this decision, you can try taking free, online SAT and ACT practice tests—you might get a sense of which exam you’ll do better on. Our SAT TurboTest and ACT TurboTest can help you predict your final SAT or ACT score in under 90 minutes. With a practice test, you can review your score by section to guide your SAT or ACT prep.
What’s a good score on the ACT or SAT?
That depends on which colleges you plan on applying to. Don’t know which schools those are yet? Follow these these five tips when putting together your target college list.
While putting together that list, make sure to also review the average test scores for each schools’ admitted students. These college admissions requirements are easy to find and will tell you the scores you should be aiming for on the SAT or ACT.
How do I go about my SAT or ACT prep?
There are a lot of different ways you can prep for the tests. Some common SAT and ACT prep options are prepping online, prepping in a classroom, or prepping with a private tutor. It’s up to you to decide which way works best for you.
Think about how you study for a test at school. Do you study on your own? Do you study with a group of friends? Do you stay after school to ask your teacher for extra help? Asking yourself these questions can help you determine how you should prep. Remember: taking a practice test is always a good place to start.
When should I start prepping?
Most students take the SAT or ACT for the first time during the spring of their junior year. If you don’t get the score you want, you can always retake the test. Scores do tend to increase when you take the test more than once!
If you haven’t heard yet – the PSAT is changing for the first time in over a decade. 10 anos is a long time, mi amigo. So why the changes? And should you even care? I mean, does this even affect you?
Um, yes. Yes, it does.
If you’re in the class of 2017 or younger this change will definitely impact you. Here’s what you need to know now and why it matters.
1. Simply put, the PSAT is changing.
That’s right – it’s going to be a brand-new shiny test when you sit down for it this October. If you took the PSAT this past fall, expect to see a new scoring model, a different test structure, and in general – A LOT more reading. So why the change? Well…
2. The redesigned PSAT is really just a precursor to an all-new SAT.
The PSAT or the Preliminary/SAT has traditionally functioned as a practice test for the SAT. And the College Board (those folks that administer the SAT, PSAT, AP exams, and SAT Subject Tests) announced that they were planning to overhaul the SAT exam as we know it in March 2016. There are lots of reasons for the change, but the bottom line is that Team CB wants to better gauge how well you’ll perform in college, and they think the changes they’re implementing will do that. So, since the College Board is changing the SAT, they also need to change it’s warm-up act: the PSAT.
A new SAT and PSAT that haven’t been offered before can seem scary. But on the flipside, if you’re graduating in 2017 you’ve basically been handed an all-you-can-eat-buffet of test options. It can be overwhelming. But it can also be empowering.
By taking the PSAT, you’re putting some power back in your court. You’ll get a glimpse of what to expect on the New SAT, which is smart because…
3. Students that take the PSAT score higher on the SAT than those that don’t take the PSAT at all.
FACT: On average students who take the PSAT/NMSQT score 136 points higher on the SAT than those who don’t.* That’s just taking the test, let alone what you might see if you did a little prep for it. And this makes sense. Again, since the PSAT is a precursor to what you’ll see on the SAT, if you’ve taken the PSAT, you’ll likely not be as rattled on the SAT.
4. The PSAT/NMST now offers $180MM in scholarships.
That’s almost TRIPLE the amount they offered last year at around $50MM. You may be thinking, ‘yeah, but I’m not going to see any of that money’. Hold up on that thought, though. First off, most students don’t prep for the PSAT. So for those that do, they’ll likely have a greater chance of performing well than had they not prepared at all. And second, the greater influx of cash means there’s a greater opportunity for you to earn some.
A major reason for the expansion in scholarship funds is to reach low-income and minority students. There are several terrific organizationss that have signed on to this promise, including the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and United Negro College. But there are many other scholarship providers with money to provide to students that score well. Don’t count yourself out.
5. May 9, 2015 is PSAT National Practice Test Day.
That’s when Kaplan is offering a whole bunch of free practice for the PSAT. Whether you live in Seattle or Secaucus – we can help you find a location near you or one, live online. The best part? You’ll get a score report back detailing your strengths and weaknesses on the test. That way, when October rolls around, you’ll know what to expect.
So get started, partner! Or check out more deets on how the SAT and PSAT are changing by going here.
*Source: page 19, http://media.collegeboard.com/homeOrg/content/pdf/sat-report-college-career-readiness-2012.pdf
Taylor Swift has one job, and that’s to write the heck out of some song lyrics. Here are a few of our favorites, and—check it out—they’re grammatically correct and everything!
So this is me swallowing my pride, / standing in front of you, / saying I’m sorry for that night, / and I go back to December all the time. —“Back to December”
I don’t know how it gets better than this; / you take my hand and drag me headfirst, fearless, / and I don’t know why, but with you I’d dance / in a storm in my best dress, fearless. —“Fearless”
You made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter— / you are the best thing that’s ever been mine. —“Mine”
You can take me down / with just one single blow, / but you don’t know what you don’t know. —“Mean”
Yeah, we’re happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time. / I’m miserable and magical—oh yeah. / Tonight’s the night when we forget about the deadlines. It’s time …. —“22”
What are your favorite Taylor Swift lyrics? Share in the comments below!
Is it spring yet? While much of the country is in the deep freeze, we’re here to warm your minds with all the most important, interesting and sometimes humorous news on the college admissions landscape. That said…here are some of the latest, most interesting and, yes, bizarre headlines. From finding out why a college let you in, to colleges extending their application deadlines for possibly less than altruistic reasons, to a snake on the loose, there’s a lot to share. Let’s dig into this week’s stories!
This is pretty amazing. Thanks to the sleuth work of students at Stanford University, we’ve discovered that students have the right to read their own colleges admissions files. Curious to see how your SAT or ACT scores played into you get in? What about that amazing essay you wrote? And how about that letter of recommendation from that congresswoman you interned for? Now you find out what college admissions officers said about you. Caveat: Only students accepted at the school have this right…rejected students will still be in the dark.
From amazing to well…you tell us. Bloomberg News is reporting that some top colleges and universities are extending their application deadlines not because they want to accept more students, but so they can juice up their application numbers, then reject students, just to say they accepted fewer students. Why would they do that? A lower acceptance rate can increase a school’s place in the rankings.
Here are what today’s college freshmen look like in 4 charts. Among the characteristics: They are less religious; don’t socialize much face-to-face; didn’t party that much in high school and really want to go to graduate school.
When deciding at which college to enroll, even the smallest details might make the difference. Ask the right questions.
We love maps! Check out this nifty U.S. News & World report one showing where ranked public colleges and universities charge the highest and lowest in-station and fees in every state. Wyoming and DC are not included because they each have only one ranked public school. Why only one? Wyoming ranks 50th in terms of population and the District of Columbia isn’t that heavily populated either, plus geographically it’s very compact.
A snake is on the loose! Vermont’s Castleton State College is on a serpent-hunt for a 4-foot long Brazilian boa constrictor. This is probably why the vast majority of schools don’t allow its students to keep pets in their dorms.
That time of the year is about to hit - Spring of Junior Year. We all hear about it. The SATs and ACTs are right around the corner, AP exams quickly follow suit, SAT Subject tests are right after that, and then there is the studying extra hard to ensure great end of year junior grades for colleges to see. You catch the drift – there is A LOT to do in the next few months. How can juniors stay on top of their game, NOT stress out, and still manage to take part in extracurriculars and have a social life? We’ve got some tips for you to help you survive spring of junior year.
1. Get to the know the SAT and ACT now, determine your goal score(s), figure out how you will get there, and GO!
Juniors, you are likely asking yourself, “What is a good score on the SAT/ACT?” and “How do I prep for the SAT/ACT?” Well, there is no one size fits all answer to these questions – the answers depend on you!
First, you need to figure out, if you have not already, which test you are taking. Not sure yet? We’ve broken down of the major differences between the SAT and ACT to help you decide. And you may just end up taking both! Colleges accept either SAT or ACT scores, and some students take both. This gives students options and they can send colleges the scores for the test on which they do the best.
So…what is a good score on the SAT?ACT? That also depends. What schools are on your target list? What are the average test scores for admitted students at the schools on your list? Start putting together a list of your target schools and test scores you need to get in if you have not already! Now you have your goal(s)!
Now, let’s tackle the question: “How do I prep for the SAT/ACT? That also depends on you! Some students will buy a book and prep, some will take a class, and others will work one-on-one with a tutor. The best thing to do is to ask yourself these questions:
- How much do I need to improve? Not sure how many points you need to improve? Take our SAT and/or ACT TurboTest to see where you stand. You’ll get a score in under 90 minutes!
- What’s my learning style? Some students can prep on their own, while others learn best in the classroom. There are also students who really want and need one-on-one prep. The bigger your goal, the more you may want to consider private tutoring. Making the experience personal and geared around you will make a real difference in performing your best. There are options out there for all students. The one thing you should know is that there are many benefits to prepping for the SAT/ACT so the question shouldn’t be “Do I need to prep?” but “How do I prep?”
When should I take the SAT/ACT?
Most students take the SAT/ACT tests for the first time during their junior year so they have time to retake it if needed. You can take them more than once, and in fact, you probably should! Students generally see an increase in scores the second time they take the test. Which leads us to putting together your timeline!
2. Get organized and put your timeline together now. And stick to it!
The worst thing to do is to put off everything until the last minute. Getting organized now will allow you to see what is coming up and budget your time appropriately. When are you taking the SAT/ACT? Allow a minimum of three months prep time prior to the test date. Begin customizing a plan that works best for your schedule, lifestyle and study habits. Given homework requirements, sports, and activities, summer is often the most convenient time for test prep. If you are taking AP exams, those will be in May. Are you planning on taking Subject Tests? If so, you may want to take those in June. What else do you need to consider in your timeline? Make sure to map it all out so you know what to expect.
Now, how will you find enough time to manage all of that, plus school, plus other activities? Take our time management quiz to determine how much time you need to manage it all. Bonus – it factors in sleeping and and eating – you cannot forget the basics!
Speaking of SAT Subject tests, many students ask: “What are they?”, “Do I need to take them?” and “ When should I take them?” First, you need to understand what the Subject Tests are. Then, refer back to your college target list – do the schools on that list require or strongly recommend Subject Tests? If so, then yes, you need to take them.
And don’t forget about the APs. If you are taking AP classes you can earn college credit by doing well on the AP exams in May. Make sure to study and do well! Getting great scores on your AP exams looks good on your college applications in addition to earning college credit – which can save you money in college tuition!
Well, breathe AND relax. You will survive and June will be here before you know it! If you start to feel overwhelmed and stressed out- take a break! Go ahead and watch your favorite TV show, workout for 30 minutes, or grab some ice cream. Make sure to take some time for yourself – you’ll be glad you did!