Highlighting Community Service in College Applications

Evelyn Alexander, M.A.
Posted at 11/13/2017 5:35:12 PM

Students and parents frequently ask us how they can highlight their community service in college applications.  While community service is not required for admission to highly selective colleges, it is definitely one way to show colleges your involvement in your community, your values and the way you choose to spend your time.  Here are five tips to consider as you decide whether and how to highlight your community service in college applications:

Go Beyond the Minimum Required
Some high schools require that students perform community service, sometimes with a minimum number of hours.  Given that you will first be compared to the other students at your school, if you apply to the same colleges, you should think about completing more than the minimum number of hours, which will be viewed as “checking the box” for community service, but little more.  Students who amass significant hours of community service, with ongoing involvement with local non-profit organizat...more

Categories: Application & Essay Guidance  |  Resume Building  |  Summer Programs
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Some of My Favorite College Planning References

Rana Slosberg
Posted at 10/27/2017 2:36:55 PM

Here are a few of my favorite college planning reference books and websites organized by category.  What other references do you like and use?

What makes a college right for you - College Match 

College Majors - Book of Majors

College Guides:

  • The Princeton Review, The Best 3xx Colleges
  • Fiske Guide to Colleges
  • America’s Best Colleges for B Students
  • Colleges That Change Lives
  • Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers
  • The K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Differences
  • Rugg’s Recommendations on the Colleges 

College Search Sites:

Chance for acceptance - Naviance scattergrams from your high school

Financial Aid:


Categories: Application & Essay Guidance  |  Career & Major Guidance  |  Financial Aid & Affordability  |  Fine & Performing Arts  |  College Selection & List Development  |  Students with LD

Five Questions You Should Ask About Your College Essay(s)

Evelyn Alexander, M.A.
Posted at 10/6/2017 6:29:20 PM

Are you deep into college essay writing at this point?  YOU SHOULD BE!  It’s time to get those essays going, so you don’t have to spend your entire Thanksgiving (and winter?!) break working on your college applications.  Just a little time each day will add up to save you a chunk of time later!

Here are five important questions to ask yourself as you proofread and revise your essays:

1.  Do I express something new about myself, something that the reader won’t know just from reading my resume or activities list?
Your college essay is your chance to go beyond your resume, explaining the significance of the things you’ve done in your life.  Don’t just rehash a list of your accomplishments.  They’ve seen that!  Give them some of your personality.  Tell a story that really shows who you are, and what you might contribute to their campus community.

2.  Am I memorable and/or likeable?
This is really important.  When college admission co...more

Categories: Application & Essay Guidance
  • college essays
  • college essay writing
  • college applications

FAFSA & CSS/PROFILE Filing Time is Now!

Ellen Gaddie
Posted at 10/2/2017 1:03:42 PM

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is officially open today, October 1, 2017. FAFSA aid is given on a first come-first serve basis, so it’s important to file early. Families of new or returning college students need to complete the form using 2016 tax information.

Valuable advice from Money Magazine, Oct. 2016, “4 Things to Know About the New FAFSA”

“Just submitting a FAFSA will automatically qualify you for a low-cost federal student loan of up to $5,500 for freshman year....The FAFSA is also required for many other kinds of aid, including work/study jobs; federal parent PLUS loans; scholarships from state agencies, private foundations, and colleges; and, in a few cases, merit aid.”


1) Go to www.fafsa.ed.gov or https://cssprofile.collegeboard.org/

2) Student creates a Federal Student Aid Identification Number (FSA ID). 

3) Parents create their own FSA ID.  “Parent” refers to a biological or adoptive parent or a person de...more

Categories: Financial Aid & Affordability

Why Good College Research Matters

Ellen Gaddie
Posted at 9/22/2017 2:15:56 PM

One of the first questions we ask our students is this: have you thought about what type of college is a good fit for you? The answer 90% of the time: "I have no idea." My other favorite answer: "I haven’t been to college yet, so how would I know?"

I know what they’re thinking, “Come on! I’m just a junior in high school! I don’t need to have everything figured out!” That much is true, you don’t need to have everything figured out. But you do need to start thinking about it, and start going a little deeper than just the 3 best colleges in your state you’ve already heard about. There are many reasons why doing good college research is more important than you think.  Here’s a few:

You are the one going to college, therefore, you need to know what YOU want.

This seems obvious, but it’s hard these days to not let all the college talk, parent talk, and peer pressure get to you. Maybe you’ve grown up in a home where mom and dad are die-hard fans and alu...more

Categories: Application & Essay Guidance

Step-by-Step Guide to Completing the Common App

Evelyn Alexander, M.A.
Posted at 8/14/2017 7:35:48 PM

This is your step-by-step, section-by-section guide to completing the Common App!  Below you’ll find instructional videos that will guide you through each section of the third “tab” in the Common Application – which is the heart of the application itself.

We hope these short videos will answer your questions about each section of the Common App!  The videos below discuss each individual section. Here’s our YouTube playlist with all of the Common App videos described below!

Completing the Common App – Profile Section
In this 6-minute video, we review how to fill out the Profile section of the Common Application.  This section requests basic information about where you live, what languages you speak, your citizenship and a few other details.

Completing the Common App – Family Section
We cover filling out the Family section in under three minutes!  You’ll need to enter information about your mom and dad – including where they att...more

Categories: Comprehensive College Guidance  |  Application & Essay Guidance
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Why You Shouldn't Apply to all Eight Ivy League Schools

Evelyn Alexander, M.A.
Posted at 7/31/2017 8:02:53 PM

Many people mistakenly believe that applying to a larger number of “reach” or top-tier schools increases the chances of being admitted to one.  There are two big reasons why this belief not only is wrong, but jeopardizes students’ chances of admission to even one of the top schools on their lists.

Reason #1 Why You Shouldn’t Apply to All 8 Ivies

The first reason you shouldn’t apply to all 8 Ivy League schools, or limit your list to the top of the US News list, is that they are different in fundamental ways!  If you love and fit at Columbia, then Brown would probably not be a great match for you!  If you think Duke or Johns Hopkins would be perfect for you, it’s unlikely you’d fit well at Yale.  And if you aren’t a good fit, that’s probably going to come through in your essays – or at least other applicants’ essays are likely to be stronger than yours.  Top-tier colleges aren’t interested in students who are only interested in their top ranking, and the bumper...more

Categories: College Selection & List Development  |  Application & Essay Guidance  |  Featured  |  Comprehensive College Guidance
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Need a Job after College? A Career Center Adviser or IEC can help!

Jacqueline Hicks Grazette
Posted at 7/22/2017 9:10:29 PM

Four years of college can fly before a student realizes it.  By junior and senior year, that fateful question becomes ever prominent:  what will I do after college?  

For most students, taking the time to work closely with the career center adviser on campus can make this prospect less daunting.  Students should visit their career center and connect with an adviser at least by January of their freshman year.   This is an invaluable step to gain assistance in finding summer internships, employment and even advice on working or studying abroad.  All these steps strengthen the resume and help students learn more about professions for consideration.  Working with an adviser early and consistently each year of college builds a relationship that will pay off with big dividends by senior year, when assistance with the job search is most critical.

If for whatever reason a student does not make those connections, and finds him or herself needing help and...more

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