As the competition intensifies, the college application process is also becoming very confusing. Colleges do not use the same criteria in selecting students, and for that exact reason, even those who claim they have worked in some certain college application offices for years cannot identify the colleges' specific selection criteria. You probably can easily verify this point if you have any of the numerous college application seminars sponsored by the college application service centers or colleges themselves.
However, there are still some well-known guidelines all students can follow. Generally, colleges want students who are well-rounded in academics and extracurricular activities/accomplishments, unless the students are exceptional and well-recognized at a certain level (for example, state or national champion/ranking).
Therefore, students need to have guidelines, to plan their high school years accordingly, and finally to carry out those plans. The guidelines and plans can be done in a number of hours. Carrying out the plans takes some effort, but a periodical review every quarter or semester, to make sure they are on the right track, should be sufficient for most students.
Some centers charge as much as $3000 or more for college application "coaching" and "management" but these services are costly and unnecessary, and unfortunately, take advantage of parents' and students' fears about the college application process. At MIT, we offer regular college application counseling service at only 10% - 15% of what those other centers charge. We offer the same service at a much lower cost, because we do not need to charge our clients extra to pay for expensive advertising, and we do not offer free electronics such as iPods as inducement.
Some centers even say they "guarantee" admission to dream colleges. But before signing the contract, look carefully at the colleges they guarantee. Do they guarantee every student Ivy League schools or Stanford? No, they only guarantee certain colleges based on the student's credentials: if they only guarantee the colleges students are already able to attend, then what is their expensive membership for?
Actually, because those centers charge so much, even if 90% of their students fail the "guarantee" and earn refunds, they can still make a reasonable profit. So what does this "guarantee" mean? If a student already has a good plan in place, and carries out the plan, then the student is already guaranteeing his or her own success, and the center's "guarantee" makes profit from the student's effort, rather than by providing any actual help or service to the student.
Begin early. Be organized. Research schools, programs, and locations to determine what would be the best learning environment for your student.
If the student is applying to the University of California, the nine campuses use one straightforward application and 2 essays. Most private schools, such as Stanford and those in the Ivy League, use the Common Application and a set of supplemental forms (including recommendation letters) and essays.
By senior year, the challenging coursework, standardized tests and extracurricular activities are done, and only essays remain. Students should begin working on their college application essays the summer between junior and senior year.
Help place your student in the most positive light and advantageous position with well-polished, thoughtful, standout essays. Most prepared students will require only a few hours' assistance with writing and editing their personal statements for each school. Our knowledgeable college counselors can answer any application questions and ensure your student's essays shine.