7 12, 2015

Do You Need to Know Your Major When Applying to College?

By |2019-12-01T14:09:25-05:00December 7th, 2015|Harvard, Ivy League Advice, Princeton, Yale|1 Comment

It’s a legitimate question: do you need to know what you want to major in before applying to college?  It’s a question many high school seniors have on their mind this time of year as college admission deadlines approach, especially if you’re a student applying to the most competitive Ivy League Colleges.

So, how strongly do you really need to know  what you want to major in and/or possibly do for a living while you’re still just a senior in high school?  After all, isn’t that what college is all about?  To expose oneself to all kinds of different academic fields, intellectual interests and possibilities.  What if you really don’t know what you might want to do for a living down the road, or even next week?  In other words, what if you’re working on your college admission essays and applications, and you really have no idea what you might be interested in at all.  You’re an excellent student, you have strong grades, strong test scores, great extracurriculars, your teachers love you, and you express yourself well in writing (via your college admission essays) so…is not knowing your potential major really going to be a problem?

My answer is this:  yes. Colleges like to see some kind of direction, again  especially when talking about the more competitive programs like the Ivy League.  The strongest college applicants are those who know what they’re interested in and the path they want to pursue – think of someone who has known they wanted to be a doctor since they were five, a classical musician who has been practicing their whole life, or a high school student who has always been actively building things and working on the latest technology, knowing she has always wanted to be an engineer.

Everyone understands that interests change and people grow intellectually, especially young people when exposed to all the new ideas on experiences their first college year, but when talking about straight college admissions facts and advice, I will say that the stronger college applicants have both a passion that’s reflected in their academic pursuits and interests, and an intense drive that – even if it changes – at least points them in a very  focused direction, so they can speak with conviction in their college applications and interviews and at least start make a case for what they *might* want to do even if it changes down the road.

It is always better to present yourself as someone who has focus and drive and confidence than someone who is all over the place and unsure of who they are and where they’re going, at least at this moment in time.  You come across much stronger if you pick something and build your essays and interests around that idea.  It really shows a level of confidence, and confidence is what college admissions officers like.

Once you have your major, make sure it fits with the rest of your application.  Do your extracurriculars fit with your interest?  Does your summer work experience?  What about your achievements and awards?  The strong college applications are those which present a strong and unified story.

 Again, college admissions officers know that many students  don’t know what they want to do, but even if you’re undecided, your strongest bet is to pick something even if you change you mind down the road.

[I’m a former Harvard interviewer and a Harvard graduate, and currently run the New York based Ivy League College admissions firm: www.IvyCollegeEssay.com  Contact me today for a free initial consultation and get into the school of your dreams!}

5 06, 2015

Applying to an Ivy League College? Common App Essay Advice from a Former Harvard Interviewer!

By |2019-01-03T18:53:04-05:00June 5th, 2015|Brown, College Admissions, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, Ivy League, Princeton, UPenn, Yale|1 Comment

1. What are some of the common misconceptions/mistakes you see regarding students’ Common App essays? Do you have any general advice for the Common App?

The biggest mistake I see students repeatedly make with the Common App, is not understanding what makes them unique. Schools are looking for “original thinkers”…. “original doers” and in your Common App you want to show off just what makes you different from your peers. It may be something you don’t even realize, or pay much attention to, so look for it!

I had one student for example, who had spent her life studying ballet at a very high artistic level, where she was even asked to join a big city ballet company as an apprentice, and yet she didn’t think this was something worth mentioning, and instead wrote her essay on a science fair she participated in (wrong approach). Another student of mine had had an extremely interesting life growing up in a town where he and his brother were the only Jewish kids in their entire school system in the rural South. He (again, wrong approach) wrote about going on a summer trip to Mexico with his high school class. WRITE ABOUT SOMETHING UNUSUAL! The most unusual experience, or fact, or interest in your life that you can think of. Done well, that is what will get you in.

 

  1. Social media is a boon for some students and a bane for others. Does Harvard search up students’ social media profiles during the admissions process?

 I actually was an admissions interviewer for Harvard before social media was so prevalent, so can’t officially answer this question on Harvard’s behalf. However, as a general rule, if an admissions committee is very interested in someone, or if they’re on the fence about a candidate, they will sometimes google the student to see what comes up, and this includes more often than not, facebook profiles. It simply helps to put a face with a name in most cases, and that is really often all they are looking at, just trying to get a “feel” for the applicant, but whether admissions officers will admit to this practice or not, is debatable. Again, wasn’t around as an option 15 years ago!

  1. What advice would you give to students who want to succeed in an admissions interview?

 I actually offer free interview prep for all the students who work with me on their applications, at no extra charge. We go in-depth into what they can expect, how to prepare, how to present themselves, but in general, the overriding action needs to be: confidence. No matter what you say, it is going to be more important how you say it. Again, this is something I work on with my clients more specifically.

4. Some students I know are self-studying for AP exams in subjects that aren’t offered at their schools, and not taking the actual class itself. Is this a good idea?

 It is a good idea if they can do it well, and score well on the exam. By “well,” I mean achieve a 4 or a 5. Preferably a 5. Anything less and I would not report. I would also consider enrolling in a community college class if the student’s school doesn’t offer a particular AP that they’re interested in, as the admissions committee will be impressed that they had the ambition and drive to branch out and education themselves on their own, outside their immediate resources.

 5. Are some majors harder to get into compared to other majors at Harvard?

Not if you can demonstrate “original thought” in terms of why a particular major is right for you, why a particular interest stems out, and can be backed up by, your own unique experience. Saying, “I want to be a Biology major, so I can be pre-med” or, “I want to major in Economics so I can get my MBA and eventually work on Wall Street” isn’t going to get you in, unless that uniqueness in terms of your background and experience can shine through.

So, in that regard, saying you want to major in Latin, because you are very interested in expanding your already ongoing research in ancient Catholic cryptology, and have already published papers on the topic in some well-read Vatican journals…is going to give you a better chance than the pre-med student above, but it all depends on you and, again, what makes you uniquely interesting in your major of choice.

6. What general advice would you recommend to students who have been waitlisted, or students who are appealing their decision?

First, I have known both clients and friends who were waitlisted and then got in at the very last minutes, so there is always hope! The best thing you can do, is follow the school’s instructions and submit any additional materials IF REQUESTED. If nothing is requested, than you simply have to wait it out, also knowing that you could consider transferring after your first year elsewhere if you truly wanted to try to get into that particular school.

  1. What are the main qualities Harvard wants to see in extracurricular activities?

Again, uniqueness! I can’t stress this enough. Everyone who applies to Harvard is President of some school club, ether plays the piano or the violin (at an extremely exceptional level), and/or is on the swim team or math team (take your pick). Everyone also volunteers and “gives back.” It’s all the same.

What they’re looking for though, once again, is originality.   What do you do with your time that’s unique? What do you do with your time that’s already at an adult level? Find what makes you different and emphasize it throughout your college application…especially if you are applying to the Ivy League. These schools pride themselves on creating an “interesting” class. A class where you look at the person next to you and think, “wow, that’s really cool.” Be that person and you add to the school’s diversity. That is what will get you in, on top of already having the excellent scores and grades.

[I’m a former Harvard admissions interviewer, and a Harvard graduate, and currently run the Ivy League Admissions Consulting Firm: www.IvyCollegeEssay.com. I work with students all over the world. Contact me for a free consultation today!]

 

 

 

 

23 02, 2015

Thinking About Transferring to Another College? What You Need to Know…

By |2015-02-23T18:50:05-05:00February 23rd, 2015|Berkeley, Boston University, Brown, College Admissions, Columbia, Common App, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Emory, Harvard, Ivy League, Michigan, MIT, NYU, Princeton, Standford, UCLA, UGA, UPenn, Yale|0 Comments

Deciding to transfer schools is a big decision when you’re in college.  Whether you’re in your first or second year, transferring will entail making new friends, living most likely in a new city, and making sure that your current credits transfer to make it all worth your while.

That said, there’s a lot that can come out of transferring, especially if you truly don’t like your current school.  I fully believe that there is no reason to stay somewhere you don’t like once you have given it a good try.  Instead you should try to salvage what you can of your college career, pick yourself up and find a better place, so you can still have great memories, great friends, and (most importantly to the admissions committee) a much better academic experience that better aligns with your goals.

And, that’s where I will start:  What You Really Need To Know For a Great College Transfer Application.

1. You need to make it about the academics

Colleges understand that perhaps you don’t have any friends, or just don’t feel “connected” at your current school.  Maybe you’re going to a community college and want to go to a 4-year program, or maybe you just want OUT, anywhere that isn’t where you are, or perhaps anywhere not so close to home.

Whatever your reasons, what you tell the college admissions committee needs to focus on your ACADEMIC reasons for transferring, and not your social ones.  Successful applicants always have an academic reason for wanting to go elsewhere.  For example, perhaps you can’t major in Biophysics where you are, because your school just doesn’t offer that major, and would therefore have to settle for a more general degree in Biology, which will limit what you really want to be studying.

Or, perhaps there is a professor at another school who is doing research on EXACTLY the topic and speciality you’re interested in, and that’s why you “need” to transfer in order to take advantage of the best opportunity you can.

Perhaps it makes more sense if you want to study economics to be in a big financial capital like New York, or perhaps you’re an English major but really want to be a Journalism major, and your school “just doesn’t offer that.”

Those are the reasons that will get you in: something ACADEMIC that is logical and makes sense.  Basically, you want the admissions committee to read your essays and say, “yes, that is a very logical and appropriate reason for wanting to transfer.”  It’s that response that will get you in.

[I’m a former Harvard admissions interviewer and a Harvard grad.  I currently run the college admissions consulting firm: www.IvyLeagueEssay.com  Looking to transfer colleges?  Contact me for a free consultation today!]

21 09, 2014

Mastering the Common App: How to Write a Great College Application!

By |2019-01-03T18:54:44-05:00September 21st, 2014|Berekeley, Brown, College Admissions, Columbia, Common App, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, Ivy League, MIT, Princeton, Standford, UPenn, Yale|3 Comments

cropped-harvardcollegeThe season is upon us. Now is a good time to start your Common App.  You’re a month into the new school year, you’ve settled in, and now the Common App is starting you in the face. Day and night.  You try to forget about it, but you can’t.  It’s always there in the back of your mind. College Application time. You know it’s time to begin, but HOW? How!  How can you create the absolute best admission essays possible when you have absolutely no idea what to write about, what the admission committee is looking for, and what will make a really strong college essay and application.

Oh yeah, and did I mention your entire future seems to appear to depend upon this?

Don’t worry though, because I am going to walk you through the process. Tell you how you can master the Common Application and make the most of your college choices and, to be more direct, get into the best schools possible…including The Ivy League: Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown, UPenn, and Cornell. The top. I mean, what if you want to go there?  How can you tackle the Common App and catapult your way to the top?

Let’s start with the questions.  These are the choices for your Common App Essay:

  • Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
  • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  • Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
  • Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Which one to choose, you say? Which one will be the best one to write about?  Here’s what I say:  go with the one that is going to contain the most EMOTION.  Emotion is powerful, good or bad, and the examples you choose, if they have a certain emotional weight to them when you think about it, that will add weight (and admissions committee engagement) to your essay.  In other words, emotion or powerful experiences (which is really what I mean) serves to ENGAGE your reader, and an engaged reader is going to not only remember your essay, but feel that you truly conveyed a mood, and environment, and an experience.

In other words, they will feel they got to know YOU just a little bit more than if you had written about something “less powerful” that didn’t engage.

Go with the powerful emotions.  The experiences and examples for any of the above, that convey some kind of emotion, and make you feel, because that is going to translate to your essay.

More tips and advice to come…

[I’m a former Harvard University admissions interviewer and a Harvard graduate.  I currently run the College Admission Essay firm: IVY LEAGUE ESSAY, out of New York, and specialize in helping students get in to the top schools and the Ivy League.  Please contact me for a free phone consultation today: www.IvyCollegeEssay.com ]