How to Score a Killer Teacher Recommendation

How to Score a Killer Teacher Recommendation

Want to know your chances? Find out here.     You probably know if your teachers like you or not. You know that having at least a couple teachers who think you are outstanding is an important part of the admissions process. But is it enough? Unfortunately no. Your teachers can think you are the best student they have ever had, and you can still end up with a lackluster teacher recommendation. Writing a good recommendation is an art, and it isn’t something that is taught in teacher school. A recommendation from a teacher who adores you might fall short despite your teacher’s best intentions. And worse yet, you may never even know because it is likely you will never see the recommendation before it is sent in. So is getting a good recommendation completely up to luck? No. There are some steps that you can take to make sure that you have the best chance of scoring an effective recommendation. Check their recommendation history One of the easiest things you can do to see which teachers write effective recommendations is ask students a year or two older than you who have gotten into top colleges which teachers they used. Just because they were accepted doesn’t necessarily mean they had stellar recommendations, but if they gained a number of acceptances to competitive universities, you might have some clue that their teacher recommendations couldn’t have been all that bad. Give your teacher plenty of time Teachers get bombarded with recommendation requests during fall of senior year so the more time you give them, the better your chances are of getting a...
The Three Types of Students Who Get Into the Ivy League

The Three Types of Students Who Get Into the Ivy League

Want to know your chances? Find out here.     There isn’t just one type of student that gets into the Ivy League. In fact, Ivy League schools pride themselves in taking students from a wide variety of backgrounds and with a huge range of talents. Still, in my years working at the admissions office and as an Ivy League student myself, I noticed that most admitted students fell into one of three types: The All-Around Stunner Perhaps the majority of students you meet at Ivy League Schools fall into this category. The all-around stunners are the students that are really good at a lot of different things. They impress you not because they stand out in one way, but because they are so strong in so many different areas that it is hard to say no. These students have near perfect grades, great SAT scores, and glowing teacher recommendations. They’ve participated in a variety of extracurricular activities – usually crossing disciplines such as doing something in sports, the arts, and in their communities – and they have attained positions of leadership and/or won awards in these areas. Their essays are compelling and reveal a mature, ambitious, and likeable character that complements the rest of the application. If you think you are an all-around stunner, realize that although the majority of students who get in will also be in this category, you also face the most competition as this type of applicant. Lots of applicants try to peg themselves this way so you have to make sure everything on your application does shine. You have no room for an...
7 Warning Signs You Won’t Get Into an American College

7 Warning Signs You Won’t Get Into an American College

Want to know your chances? Find out here.     You’ve been slaving away for the past 12 years so you can get into an elite university. You mastered the SAT, earned perfect grades, and now you hope it is only a matter of filling out the application and pressing submit before you receive your acceptance letter. When I worked at the Harvard Admissions Office, I saw hundreds of applications from international students who seemed to think this was all they needed to do to get in. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but American college admissions is a complex game, and academic prowess alone is not enough to get you in. If you have your sights set on the Ivy League or at one of America’s top liberal arts institutions, you need to make sure you are not making one of the critical mistakes below as you start thinking about your applications. 1)   Not participating in extracurricular activities You’ve heard it before, but I’m going to say it again: Your extracurricular activities are just as important as your grades and your scores. Leave the extracurricular section blank or sparse, and your application will almost immediately go into the rejection pile. American colleges want to know that you do something besides your school work. Participating in sports, the arts, and community service is a huge part of student life at American universities and colleges want to know that you are the kind of person that would be active in their community. On your application, you should write down everything you’ve done over the past...
3 Reasons to Sign Up for the June SAT Subject Tests By Friday’s Deadline

3 Reasons to Sign Up for the June SAT Subject Tests By Friday’s Deadline

  Between AP exams and final exams, taking the SAT subject tests are the last thing you want to be doing at this time of year. Fight the temptation to wait until fall or not taking them at all. Many top colleges require the SAT subject tests, and even schools that do not will view strong scores as an asset to your application. The deadline to sign up for the June 7th exams is Friday, and I’d encourage you to sign up today even if you haven’t done any studying up to this point. Although the end of the school year is always stressful, it is actually the best time to take the SAT subject tests, and getting them over with is easier than you think. 1) You’ve Already Studied Who wants to have to study for yet another test? You are already required to take so many. Ironically, this is the best reason to take your SAT subject tests now. Lots of the material in these tests overlaps with what you’re already studying in school. Instead of studying the same material twice, once now for your final exam and again in the fall when you had planned to take the SAT, study for both at the same time now and save yourself tons of time. Take a look at the list of 20 subject tests offered and see which ones overlap best with your current course schedule. 2) You’ll Find Out Where You Need to Improve If you pick tests that overlap with your current coursework now, there is a good chance you’ll do well and only need...
Making the Most of Failure

Making the Most of Failure

Want to know your chances? Find out here. How a Friend Turned Getting Rejected From Every College Into the Best Experience of His Life. Will you hit your target SAT score? Will you be able to maintain your grades this semester? Will you will the election for class president? And then the most dreaded question of all… Will “Congratulations!” pop open as soon as you click the email or will you see those dreaded words, “We’re sorry to inform you…”? Our dreams can fall apart so fast. One mistake, and you’re through. An acceptance letter will lead you to a life of success and happiness. A rejection letter leads you to failure and misery. It all seems so simple. Your directive is clear; do whatever you have to do to get in. I certainly thought of the whole thing this way. And then I discovered I was wrong. On the first count, I was wrong because even if you do everything right, you are still not guaranteed a life of success and happiness (I will talk about this more in another post). But on the second count, I was wrong because I realized that not getting into your dream college doesn’t seal your fate as a failure. In fact, not getting into any college may even be a blessing in disguise. I had a friend in high school that applied to six colleges. He got rejected from all six. At the time, we laughed about it. How could he have not applied to a legitimate safety school? What was he thinking? “How dumb!” I remember saying to another friend....
Your College Decision Day Playlist: 13 Songs to Play While You Discover Your Fate

Your College Decision Day Playlist: 13 Songs to Play While You Discover Your Fate

  Want to know your chances? Find out here. It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine. – REM I don’t think there are better words to describe how I felt when I opened my college decisions. In fact, I listened to this song as I clicked to open the email. Our society makes college admissions such a big deal. And it feels like a huge deal. It feels like the message inside of the email is going to change your life forever. And it will. And that is scary. But as you sit there about to click the button, you may find that you feel surprisingly calm, because inside you know that no matter what it says, you are going to feel fine. You are going to be fine. You will figure things out, and you will succeed, even if you have to go to your second choice school, or your fifth choice school, and even if you need to take a gap year and reapply. You will make things work because you know yourself better than any admissions committee ever will. I walked into my bedroom, locked the door, and turned on this song eight years ago. And as I clicked the button, for a moment, I felt free. Because no matter what it said, I was me, and I was just fine. Next week, when you open your own decisions, remember that it is not an admissions committee who defines you. You are you, and you will make your own success in life. If a college chooses not to take...