Preparation for top college admission begins long before senior year! We have aggregated our core advice in the interactive timeline below. Click each row for advice regarding every topic that will guide you towards success!
Extracurriculars / School Leadership Opportunities
Being involved in several activities during freshman year can be a great way for students to start high school and familiarize themselves with the activities available to them. But over the next few years, it is very important to strategically participate in activities which will allow students to create a cohesive hook and allow them to tap into their leadership potential.
The sooner a student can identify their most important interests, passions and opportunities for impact, the better! Colleges want to admit students who have made significant contributions to their school communities so they can be sure that they will be active members of their future college communities. This can look like becoming president or leader of a club, or even starting their own club.
Community Service / Volunteer Work
It’s important to remember that there are only ten slots in the Common Application for students to include their most important internships, jobs, sports, clubs, volunteer experiences, and other extracurricular activities from high school. So less is more when it comes to volunteering; the best way to approach volunteer opportunities is consistency — finding a meaningful activity that a student can be a part of for four years rather than joining four separate activities.
Additionally, students should aim to have an impact rather than simply be a participant. The more time a student spends volunteering for an organization, the more likely the student is to grow into a leadership role. So, students should be sure to start early freshman year and then be proactive about finding ways to give back to the organization for which they volunteer throughout their high school career.
Passion projects are one of the most rewarding parts of our process for students and mentors alike. Part of what makes them so fun to develop is that no two are alike. Students work closely with their mentor to brainstorm a project, usually with a focused goal aimed at improving an aspect of their community. These projects allow students to showcase their talents, passions, and leadership skills. It takes time to develop a passion project, as setbacks and roadblocks are a natural part of the process. In order to allow ample time to ideate a meaningful project, recalibrate for bumps in the road, and settle into a long term project that grows in scope throughout high school, a student should begin the first phase of the passion project as early as possible. This is the single activity that can encapsulate a student’s hook and represent them in a unique and authentic way, and because the goal is to leave a positive impact on a community, there is no substitute for time spent pursuing it.
Athletic recruitment is all about timing and exposure, as many athletes have the required physical talent. The first step in our process is identifying whether a student athlete has a desire to play sports at the collegiate level, and determining the level of play that suits their academic and athletic needs. This takes time, but it’s important to set your sights accurately before gunning for the target. Once this has been determined, we encourage students to take tests early and position themselves academically so that coaches who want to recruit them are confident about their chances of admission. We also make sure that students are attending the proper events and showcases, creating meaningful online profiles, researching schools, and following the ideal recruiting timeline. The NCAA restricts communication with college coaches until after junior year of high school, but the biggest mistake a student athlete can make is waiting until then to make themselves known. Our guidance is built by former Ivy-league and top school athletes and is made to ensure that students are ahead of their peers at every step of the way!
Scholarship Award Applications
Students list awards or honors they have received at the school, regional, state, national or international level on their college applications. Earning such awards can help students to stand out amongst their peers in the college application process. It is often best to identify scholarships or awards a student can work towards, and orient their schedule in a way that will allow them to meet the awards requirements. Mentors work with students to identify written, skill, or project-based scholarships and awards early in high school, as meeting these requirements can take multiple years!
College List Building
The first, most important step in the college application process is building a college list. Identifying and preparing to apply to a few of the thousands of colleges in the United States can be an exciting yet confusing part of the process for any student. When helping students create college lists, we focus on crafting a well-balanced list. A balanced list is one that will leave students with sufficient options once decisions have been released because they have taken the time to understand and identify which schools are “reach”, a “match,” or a “safety.” We provide students with insight into each school’s resources, culture, and student life, while also considering important criteria from the student’s end, such as geography and campus size. The goal of an effective college list is to provide the student with a wide range of options while ensuring that they are not only aiming high but also covering all of their bases through a well-balanced list.
Summer Internships/Merit-Based College Programs
Summer is a fantastic time for students to explore interests they don’t have the opportunity to study at school. It is important to identify programs that are both merit based and will allow students to have meaningful learning experiences. We help students to differentiate programs colleges will recognize as valuable and prestigious from those that are less competitive or valuable. We also help students network and obtain summer internships in their fields of interest. It is important that students partake in meaningful summer experiences during the summer following their freshman, sophomore and junior years in order to bolster their college applications and explore their interests and passions.
One of the most stressful components of the college application can be the personal statement. The personal statement acts as a window into a student as an individual. It sheds light on who the person is behind all the numbers and bullet points on paper. This short piece of writing is meant to highlight aspects of a student that are not readily apparent in other parts of their application, and should demonstrate to admissions officers that a student is self-aware and mature, and ready to handle the changes and challenges that college will bring. We help students through every part of this essay, from the initial brainstorming phase to the final editing of the last draft. This process can be a stressful yet enlightening one for students, and our goal is to help students produce an essay that they are not only proud of, but that also helps them put their best foot forward on their applications.
After completing the personal statement, students then turn to their supplemental applications to answer specific questions posed by each school they are applying to. Supplemental questions range from short responses as short as 30 words, to full length essays up to 1,000 words. The goal of the supplement is to answer one question: “Why are you an especially good match for our school, and not better off at a similar one?” The specific prompts range from the classic “why our school?” question to more informal prompts such as “what is the soundtrack of your life?” We guide students in portraying full, authentic, and compelling pictures of themselves and what they offer to a campus in these essays. Successful supplemental applications should detail a student’s intellectual curiosities, values, and extracurricular passions.
SAT and ACT test scores alone will not gain students admission to their dream colleges; however, these scores are a significant component of the college application process. Colleges use SAT and ACT scores to gauge students’ overall academic ability, and earning a high score gives applications a competitive advantage, even if colleges are test optional. The good news is that earning a competitive score can often be accomplished through hard work and strategic studying, which is why it is crucial to find the right tutor. Our tutors teach students according to their individual needs and ensure that every student is on track in terms of following their customized testing timeline. We begin our tutoring packages with an in-depth assessment of students’ academic skills, and we use the results of that assessment to craft an individualized testing timeline, which usually entails two to four months of focused test preparation leading up to a student’s first test date. We encourage students to aim to take either the SAT or the ACT as early as the fall of sophomore year, as getting the SAT or the ACT done and over with by the end of sophomore year allows students to shift their focus to school work, extracurricular activities, and passion projects throughout their junior and senior years.