Archive for April, 2013

SAT Prep: Your Ideal Timeline

Now that we’re almost to summer, let’s talk a little about test-prep.  Test preparation should start the summer following your sophomore year of high school.  During your junior year, you can prepare during the fall, take your first test in December or January, and re-test in the spring as needed.

Starting SAT preparation later than your sophomore summer is not recommended because it leaves you with less time to study. Of course, you can always choose a later test date, but then, if you need to re-test, you may have to re-test during your senior year. And senior year is busy enough.

All this being said, there is no single “correct” timeline for preparation. Create a schedule that works for you, one that suits your own strengths and studying tendencies. The exact timing of this preparation is up to you, but, just for reference, here are two sample SAT prep timelines, one long and one short:

In addition, consider including a reward system in your preparation plan. Maybe, every night, after 90 minutes of studying you allow yourself one 15-minute snack break. Or you work on a practice test every night from 9 to 11, then reward yourself with The Daily Show. Develop a nightly study ritual–ideally one with some intervals and some incentives–and, most importantly, stick to it every night. Once the routine is set, you will be spending less time deciding what to study and more time doing the actual studying.

And no matter what, always remember: a little bit of studying every day is always better than one frantic week of cramming.


By Katie | Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 | No Comments »

How to Spend Your High School Summers


After 9th grade…

Do something interesting, something that helps you explore a world or a subject or an activity that you love or have always been curious about. Let’s say you’ve always wanted to join an a cappella group but your school doesn’t have one. Well, what would it take to get one started? How about joining a volunteer organization? Don’t have the option to just volunteer? Improve upon your customer service and time management skills by working a summer job. This is a good time to explore your interests.

After 10th grade…

This is the summer when your SAT/ACT test preparation should start. In addition, secure an internship or a job, go to a camp, or become involved in service. And if the concept of setting foot on your high school campus still gives you chills, exploring what matters to you outside of school is a great way to remain engaged with your number one priority—your own development—and can perhaps even lead to concrete improvements in your school life. Solidify the interests that you’re going to dedicate yourself to over the next few years. For example, if you have been getting into music in your first two years of high-school, turn up the heat and go to a competitive music camp. Love baseball? Consider writing and self-publishing a book on strategies or statistics using a print on-demand service like CreateSpace.

After 11th grade…

In May or June, take the SAT and some SAT subject tests. If relevant, take AP exams as well. Outside of test preparation, deepen your interests during this summer. If you’ve spent past summers volunteering at different organizations, for instance, return to your favorite and consider applying for a leadership position. You need to make sure you’re extending your college narrative through the summer by continuing with a theme that you’ve developed earlier. And no matter how terrifying the prospect, begin writing those college application essays. Senior fall can be chaotic. Get as much done in the summer as you can.


By Katie | Friday, April 26th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

4 Programs to Help You Boost Your Productivity

At this point, it’s a cliché to bring up Internet addiction in a blog. It’s like live-tweeting the Oscars, or Instagramming the food on your plate. “Yes,” people think, “we know we’re addicted to the Internet. Thanks for pointing that out.” So we’re just going to leave it at that: the internet is addictive, and that’s a fact.

Now, as a student looking for an edge in the admissions process, how can you use this fact to your advantage? One way might be downloading applications designed to increase productivity. Here are some of our favorites:

1. Freedom Already extremely popular, Freedom blocks your internet connection for a preselected amount of time (even as much as eight hours!) before granting you “freedom” (i.e. Internet access). The only way to get back online before your time is up is restarting your computer. Best of all, author Zadie Smith uses it!

2. WriteRoom Talk about stripping the writing experience down to its bare essentials: text, screen. Thoreau would be proud! With tons of intriguing themes—who wouldn’t write genius works with this theme?—WriteRoom is a no-nonsense program that keeps your focus on your writing, and nothing else.

3. Evernote Unlike Freedom and WriteRoom, Evernote is not the digital equivalent of a prison cell. None of that rebooting garbage applies here. Rather, Evernote is an all-in-one notetaker. It lets you keep in one place all of your notes, shopping lists, essay ideas, application deadlines, articles you want to read later, etc, etc. Very helpful.

4. Wunderlist 2 Wunderlist is the ultimate all-in-one task manager. Make to-do lists, plan trips, set reminders – it’s all easy and free with this highly-regarded app. Best of all, it’ll sync with iPhone and iPad. Never forget an assignment again!


By Katie | Thursday, April 25th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

How to Overcome Senioritis

While not listed in the latest edition of The Merck Manual, Senioritis is nevertheless a very real ailment. Its debilitating symptoms should not be underestimated. Given how hard you have worked throughout the high school ‘race’, it would be a shame to transform into a slouch during the very last lap–especially because the high school race is just one race in a series of races. And poor performance in any one race can have a negative effect on future races.

While of course you should be very happy that you have been admitted to a college, you should not stop developing your own sense of self and your own passions. Here are some tips for overcoming Senioritis:

1. Start researching the city you’ll be in next fall (if you’re leaving for college). Read the local news, check out restaurant reviews, etc. Staying excited about college may help you stay energized through the high school finish line.

2. Set aside time for reading books for pleasure. Reading books for fun–books that you have been wanting to read but have not had the time to read–will keep your mind fresh and your writing smooth.

3. If your school offers a range of electives, try one you have always wanted to take but have not taken because of AP classes, SAT prep, and other activities.

4. Use this time as a chance to get to know classmates you do not normally spend time with.

5. Join a club.

6. Reach out to teachers and see if they have any general advice on college. Most teachers will be more than happy to share some thoughts based on their own experiences and what they’ve observed in past students over the years.

7. Work hard straight through the finish so that you can truly enjoy the euphoria that is the last day of high school. On the wait-list to your dream college? Then this is even more important.

8. Even though college applications are over, keep in mind that the brain is constantly learning and changing. Keep moving forward and keep learning new things. What is your passion?

9. Use this time as a low-stakes opportunity to experiment with your study habits. Always study in the student center? Try studying in the library one afternoon. Always do your homework really late at night? Try going to sleep early and waking up early. Much better to experiment now, in your senior spring, than during midterm season next fall.

For more tips, be sure to check out the Yale Admissions Tumblr page, where current Yale students offer tips on dealing with senioritis.


By Katie | Monday, April 22nd, 2013 | No Comments »

How To Get Off the Wait List: Dos and Don’ts from a Former Ivy League Admissions Officer

So, you’ve been wait listed. What now?

We’ve been getting a lot of calls lately from students and parents asking us how they can get off of the wait list and into their dream school.  To get the inside perspective, I sat down last night with Lauren, one of our admissions consultants and a former admissions officer at Dartmouth and University of Michigan, to talk about what you should and shouldn’t do to give yourself the best chance at admission.

First and foremost, no two wait list cases are alike.

Here are the basic Dos and Don’ts (read on for more detail):


  • Keep your grades up
  • Follow the school’s instructions
  • Wait a month, then send a short letter that expresses your interest in the school and shares information on new and compelling accomplishments, experiences, and activities since you’ve applied
  • Use a light touch


  • Over-communicate, send extra materials, or visit.

To give you some perspective, you should first understand what the wait list actually means. Here are just a few reasons why you may have been put into admissions purgatory:

  • A school thinks that they are your safety: If your candidacy is stronger than most of the people that apply to a school, a school may place you on a wait list to assess whether you’re really interested.  This is the best situation to be in as a wait listed student, as you have a distinct possibility to get yourself accepted. See below for Do’s and Don’t’s.
  • A school is managing their yield: Some schools will use the wait list to manage their yield.  If they put you on the wait list and you show really strong interest after, they’ll promote you to admission.  This is a way for the school to ensure that the people they accept will attend.  If you’re in this boat, you can do something about it. See below for Do’s and Don’t’s.
  • You were really just right on the line: You are a strong applicant and fit the profile that the school is looking for.  However, given the class composition or something in your application, you’re right on the line.  You’re placed on the wait list, and, there’s a slim chance (as low as 6 out of 300) that you may be invited to join the class.  In you’re in this situation, there’s a slim chance you can do something about it. See below for Do’s and Don’t’s.
  • It’s a “soft” let-down to you: though this is an “old school” approach, some admissions deans view wait listing as a “soft” let down.  This is their way of telling you, “we liked you, but we just can’t admit you.”  If this is you, then, unfortunately, you won’t be able to do much about this.
  • It’s a “soft” let-down to your school: Let’s say you were the star of your school but, given the competition, an admissions office couldn’t grant you admission.  If your high school has a relationship with the college, the college may put you on the wait list in order to avoid saying to a school “your best person was just not good enough or us.”  If you’re in this boat, there’s really nothing you can do.

As you can see, in some cases your effort may matter, and in some cases it may make no difference whatsoever.  However, there’s absolutely no way for you to know.  First, let’s cover the Don’ts.

Being on the wait list is hard, and drives people to do whacky things.  If you’re put on the wait list, here some things that you absolutely shouldn’t do.

  • Don’t slack off. You absolutely have to keep your grades up.  Don’t drop classes and don’t let your performance slip.  If you do, you risk being disqualified from the process, as no admissions officer can advocate for a student who has a bad case of senioritis.
  • Don’t try to be clever. While you may be tempted to try to stand out by sending cookies with your face on them, or serenading the office first thing the morning after you receive your decision, don’t do it.  Being clever may get you some smiles, but it won’t get you noticed.  It’s completely and entirely irrelevant.
  • Don’t send in superfluous recommendations. While you may be tempted to try to get someone else to vouch for you, you’re your best advocate in this situation.  Extra letters just mean extra work for an admissions officer, and likely they won’t add any new and compelling information to your file.
  • Don’t send extra materials.  The time has passed for artistic supplements, athletic videos, and writing samples.  The admissions officers themselves don’t actually review these, and it just adds more work to your case.
  • Don’t communicate excessively. Don’t send lots of emails, and don’t call non-stop. The extra communications don’t add much value but add more work for the admissions office. Send a brief, sincere letter. See below for more information on how to do this effectively.
  • Don’t visit. A visit won’t do much for you, especially if your admissions officer is busy.  Again, more work for the admissions officer, little value added to your case.  Furthermore, a visit may get you more excited and invested in a risky choice, rather than helping you move forward and get excited about another school.
  • Don’t convince your counselor to call. Unless you have a great relationship with your guidance counselor, don’t have them call on your behalf.  It won’t add much, and will definitely detract if it seems insincere.

If you’re still unsure about something, call us. Our experts can look at your case and use their knowledge to offer specific advice. We’re here to help!

In order to help your chances of admissions and to cover all your bases, you should do the following:

  • Follow the school’s directions to a T. This is self explanatory and trumps everything else below.
  • Continue working hard.  Unfortunately, if you’re trying to get off the wait list, senioritis isn’t an option.  Keep your grades and academic rigor up.  Get even more involved.  Without continued rigor, you have very little chance at making a case for yourself.
  • Overall, use a light touch. Your admissions officer is completely swamped.  You need to send the right things at the right time and no more.  Every communication you have adds a bit more work to your case, so be very judicious.
  • Let the school know about your sincere interest. Though this is far from sufficient to get you off the wait list, it is necessary.  In Lauren’s experience as a counselor, no student on the wait list was granted admission without reiterating their strong interest in the school.
  • To do this, write a letter. Here are some guidelines.
    • Address it to your admissions officer. Most schools designate an admissions officer for each region and set of schools.  The admissions officer who represents your region or school–the one who read your application in the first place–is going to be your wait list best ally.  Find that person’s direct email and address and send your letter directly to that person.  You can call the admissions office to get that person’s information.  If you stick with the generic admissions@…., your letter may not make it to the person who can advocate for you.
    • Let them know where they stand. If (and only if) the school is your top choice, make sure you state that clearly near the beginning of your letter.
    • Update them on new and compelling information. If you’ve done something that’s really new and/or compelling, mention it. These are things like maintaining your high GPA through challenging coursework (compelling) or recently taking the lead in an activity (new).  Don’t bore them with irrelevant details, though.  If it wasn’t relevant enough for your application, don’t mention it here.
    • Be humble and sincere.  Understand that your admissions decision is not personal.  You are not a victim.  They did not make a mistake.  Explain to them calmly, humbly, and sincerely why you feel their school is the best fit for you.
    • Be specific. This is the time to reiterate why a school is your top choice (if it is).  What specifically about the school draws you?  Why do you want to be admitted so badly?  Why are you the right candidate to be admitted off the wait list before 100 other students?
    • Be succinct. One page, single spaced, in 12-point font is more than enough.  You need just enough to make your case, and no more.  If you go overboard, it will affect your candidacy negatively.
  • Time it right. April is when admissions officers are busy and focused on getting their clear admits to attend.  After that, in late April and early May (and even well after, sometimes) they move to evaluating their wait lists.  Though you may be tempted to show your interest immediately, replying to your admissions decision email the moment you get it will mean you’re a distant memory when it comes time to really get down to wait list evaluations.  Rather, send your email later in April or in early May to catch your admissions officer when he/she is actually thinking about advocating for people on the wait list.
  • Possibly follow up your email with a call. This is not necessary, and, in fact, may even be discouraged by some admissions offices.  However, if the school hasn’t explicitly said not to call, follow your email up with a call a few weeks after you send it.  Be prepared to humbly make your case on the phone in a calm, composed manner.  If there’ s a chance that you’ll get nervous or crazy, don’t do it.
  • Maybe…just maybe…send an extra essay. If you’ve got a really great essay–the type you would have submitted for the college app–you can send that in.  It should be short (no more than 2 pages) and should be relevant.  If you’re in doubt, don’t send it.
  • Get excited about your other options.  Getting off the wait list is a stretch.  The best thing you can do is start to get excited about your other options.  This may sound harsh, but we would rather you be pleasantly surprised than utterly dejected.

Being on the wait list isn’t easy, and, in some cases, there’s little chance that you’ll gain admission.  Realize that each school and admissions officer has an incredibly difficult job of selecting a class, and don’t take their decision personally.  Rather, get excited about the options that you do have–attend the acceptance events, buy the sweaters, meet your potential future peers.

You’re not the first wait listed student and you certainly won’t be the last. Our experts have helped before and are prepared to help you now. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at (617) 395-4160 or We wish you the best of luck during this challenging time.

By Katie | Thursday, April 11th, 2013 | 1 Comment »
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