Category Archives: College Planning

The Secret to Gaining Acceptance to the Ivy League by Kristen Moon MoonPrep.com

Most high school seniors have college admissions on their mind. Many students have the same desire: opening an acceptance letter which says “Welcome to Harvard”.

It is no easy feat to be accepted to the Ivy League and top-tier universities throughout the U.S.

The admission rate for Stanford University hovers around 4%. It is not uncommon for a valedictorian to be rejected. The valedictorian, and their parents, are always shocked when this occurs. How could a student with a perfect GPA and test scores be rejected?

The answer is simple.

There are nearly 40,000 high schools across the country. That means 40,000 valedictorians. With only eight Ivy League universities, the number of valedictorians is more than three times the number of open slots. What this means is that these highly selective universities turn down students who are “perfect on paper” all the time. Being valedictorian is great, but it is definitely not enough to warrant admission to the most selective colleges in the country.

Academics are the first hurdle to overcome in the college admissions process, but there are additional hurdles.

Countless parents and counselors advise their students to be well-rounded, in terms of their academics, participation in sports, volunteering, extracurricular activities, etc.

I suggest that you do the exact opposite.

Most students, and people in general, work hard on improving their weaknesses. They try to present an adequate skill level across all areas. As a result, they are mediocre at most things. The well-rounded strategy backfires in most cases because the student comes across to the admissions officers as average in all fields and does not shine in any one field.

Harvard is not an average college, so why would they accept an average student?

I advise that students work diligently on their strengths. Forget about striving to be well-rounded. I see “pointy” students gain admission to the top universities in the country. They are exceptional in one, maybe two areas.

This strategy takes time to implement; it requires persistence and dedication to become a specialist in your field, and that is the exact reason why it is so extraordinary. The first time Tiger Woods picked up a golf club he was not a pro. Even Pablo Picasso had to start somewhere.

The university wants to know that you are willing to put in consistent, sustained effort in your chosen field until you achieve the kind of success that makes you stand out amongst your peers. ‘Pointy’ students demonstrate that they have the direction, the passion and have laid the groundwork to do this, and that is why they are preferred candidates for any university.

Top universities seek specialists: individuals who are so driven by one aspect or one field that they are enthusiastic about devoting their entire time and attention to achieve outstanding results in that area.

By choosing different students with ambition, initiative and demonstrated skills in different areas, the college builds a class that is well-rounded yet made up of ‘pointy’ students.

I will let you in on another secret.

The most innovative companies in the world – such as Apple, Google, and Amazon – follow the same strategy. They hire “pointy” candidates.

The “pointy” students stand out, not just in college admissions, but in life.

About the author:
Kristen Moon is an independent college counselor and founder of MoonPrep.com. Moon Prep provides one-on-one counseling services catered to university admissions. They guide students through the entire application process including: completing applications, personal statements, supplemental essays, student resumes, scholarships, and financial aid. Their specialty lies in the Ivy League, direct medical programs (BS/MD), and highly competitive universities.

5 Things All Parents Need to Know About the FAFSA by Kristen Moon MoonPrep.com

College is a huge investment for many families and most need a little bit of financial help. If you are looking for ways to pay for college, one of the first resources you may turn to is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Every student qualifies for some form of student aid, so make sure you are not skipping this step during your application process. Over the past couple of decades, the Department of Education has streamlined the application process, but questions can still arise. If you or your child are applying to a college, here are five essential things you need to know about the FAFSA.

  1. What is FAFSA?
    The FAFSA is an annual form filled out by current and prospective college students in the United States to determine their eligibility for student aid. It can be filled out by undergraduate and graduate students. The FAFSA can determine your eligibility for grants such as the Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEC), federal work-study programs, loans, and scholarships.
  2. What information does the FAFSA provide you with?
    The FAFSA provides you with two critical pieces of information. The first is Expected Family Contribution (EFC) which is an index number that the financial aid department uses to determine how much financial aid a student would receive if you attend that particular school. The information you report on the FAFSA is used to calculate the EFC. The EFC is then calculated according to a formula established by law.The second piece of information is the Cost of Attendance (COA) which is the amount it will cost a student to go to school. Most colleges and universities will calculate a student’s COA to show the total costs of attending the school. Typically, the COA is an estimate of tuition and fees, room and board, books, supplies, transportation, loan fees, miscellaneous expenses, childcare, disability or any reasonable costs for study-abroad programs.

     

  3. Does everyone need to complete the FAFSA?
    The short answer is, yes, you do. By not filling out the FAFSA, you are missing out on a good deal provided by the U.S. Department of Education. Students could be eligible for federal and state grants that do not to be repaid. Or they could be eligible for low-interest student loans and work-study programs, helping them to fund their education and build their resumes. Every student qualifies for some form of student aid.
  4. How do I complete the FAFSA?
    The FAFSA website is fafsa.ed.gov. Students will need their social security number, alien registration number (for non-U.S. citizens), federal income tax returns, W2s, and other records of money earned. These include bank statements and investment records, untaxed income records, and the student and parent’s FSA ID to sign the document electronically.
  5. What is the deadline?
    The deadline for the FAFSA is June 30th. The application opens October 1st, and you should complete it as soon as possible because many grants and scholarships are on a first-come-first-serve basis. Most schools have funds that are limited, so students have a better chance of receiving those funds, if eligible, when their FAFSA is submitted early.

About the author:

Kristen Moon is an independent college counselor and founder of MoonPrep.com. Moon Prep provides one-on-one college counseling services. They guide students through the entire application process including completing the FAFSA.

Engaging Ways To Open Your Personal Statement by Kristen Moon MoonPrep.com

Summer is here and rising seniors have college applications on their mind. The Common Application essays have not changed from last application cycle. Therefore, students can get a head start and use their summer to write their personal statement.           

Keep in mind, an admissions officer may read essays for countless hours every day during admissions season – therefore your essay needs to be memorable. Here are some tips on writing an engaging personal statement. The most important component of this is a strong opening.

Your essay or “personal statement” is meant to share more about yourself with the admissions officers. They already know your academic history from your transcripts – you do not need to repeat it. What the officers will not glean from your transcripts and standardized test scores is your personality. Your essay is your opportunity to illustrate yourself. Share a compelling memory, an anecdote from your life. This is your chance to connect with your reader.

This is the opening paragraph of Isabella’s essay:

My small body and head of curly hair trotted over to the refrigerator in search of some butter for my bread. I shifted some cans of half-opened Goya beans and the remnant of a brick of dulce de leche that had seen better days. After much shuffling, I spotted the big brown container of margarine. Carefully placing the tub on the kitchen table and readying for my “feast,” I opened the container. To my dismay, it was filled with arroz con pollo. My eyes tightened and my stomach made Chewbacca noises. Maybe I could mash the dulce de leche on top of the bread.

Isabella’s beginning is personal, funny and very relatable. The opening paragraph is engaging, and “hooks” the reader into wanting to finish reading the story. Isabella throws the reader right in the middle of her story. This is a perfect example of using an anecdote to open your essay.

Three elements of a strong opening:

The Why – Isabella’s opening is a great example of this. The reader wants to know what happens next; how will she solve the problem?

The Surprise  – Sometimes a shocking statement works; your reader will pay rapt attention. An example of this is: “I grew up a killer,” then followed by a story about deciding to become vegetarian. You can use a figurative, alarming statement to grab your readers’ interest.

The Confession – By revealing something personal about yourself, you establish trust with the reader. They become your confidant. This is an effective way to pull a fact from your resume and then elaborate on it personally. An example: Lesley is ranked #1 in her high school and is valedictorian. Confession: She is dyslexic and has had to work diligently to overcome this learning obstacle.

Your essay is a critical part of your application; this is the school’s first impression of the real You. It completes the picture of your identity and shows the officers why you would be an asset to their community.

 


About the author:

Kristen Moon is an independent college counselor and founder of MoonPrep.com. Moon Prep provides one-on-one tutoring services catered to university admissions. They guide students through the entire application process including: completing applications, personal statements, supplemental essays, student resumes, scholarships, and financial aid. Their specialty lies in the Ivy League, direct medical programs (BS/MD), and highly competitive universities.

3 Tips For Students Applying to the Ivy League and Highly Competitive Programs by Kristen Moon MoonPrep.com

Obviously when applying to these prestigious institutions and programs you must give your absolute best, and you can start as early as you like with your personal development and experience. Here are three guiding concepts to bear in mind as you make these choices.

1. Develop a Niche

If you’ve heard the phrase “jack of all trades, master of none,” this is particularly true in competitive college admissions. In college, you plan to pursue excellence and mastery of a specialized field, correct? It’s in your best interest to concentrate your attention on your intended field as early and as much as possible. We hear all the time that people are meant to be “well-rounded”. It sounds good, but that’s the same as knowing a little about a lot of things, rather than knowing a lot about one or two things.

These institutions are looking for potential students who will be successful in their programs. How will you demonstrate your abilities if you appear simply mediocre in many areas, rather than advanced in your desired field?  As with your admissions essay, you want your resume or curriculum vitae to stand out. You want it to be memorable. Invest your time and energy in courses and experiences that further your ultimate goals.

2. Don’t Expect Results Overnight

True professionals, true masters of their craft will invariably tell you that excellence is not easily achieved. You WILL need to put in the work. Consider this quote from Malcolm Gladswell: “The 10,000-hours rule says that if you look at any kind of cognitively complex field, from playing chess to being a neurosurgeon, we see this incredibly consistent pattern that you cannot be good at that unless you practice for 10,000 hours, which is roughly ten years, if you think about four hours a day.”

You will need to put in the work to convince these institutions that you deserve their assistance and resources in order to work even harder – at becoming a professional in your field. You are improving your chances at turning your passion into your career. And remember, there’s nothing wrong with being “pointy” instead of “well-rounded.” “Pointy” is passionate. “Pointy” is driven.

3. Understand What Universities Value

Colleges know that prospective students (and their parents) research rankings. Reputation matters to these schools, and therefore, you need to offer value to them. Your application should show them how you will add to their community.

In addition, schools are looking to maintain or improve their yield. Once admission is offered to a student, it improves their yield when that student actually enrolls. This factors into an institution’s reputation. This is why “demonstrated interest” is important – school representatives are encouraged by your attention and sincerity when you engage in conversation with them. This can be at a college fair, in your application and correspondence, during a campus tour, etc. They will know when your interest is not genuine, and they know that prospective students are researching multiple schools at once. When you demonstrate your interest in a school, be sincere.

Lastly, your standardized test scores matter here too. If your scores are higher than the school’s average, you raise their average. Inversely, if your scores are lower than the school’s average, you may lower theirs and therefore are considered a liability, which they will avoid offering admission to.

Obviously, these tips are not something that you can begin your senior year of high school after perusing a few colleges online.  If you review tip #2, preparing early can be to your benefit. If you know what your passion is, if you know what drives you, then you can channel that into your class selections, volunteer opportunities, internships, summer activities, etc. Prepare yourself to give yourself the best chance of acceptance.

About the author:

Kristen Moon is an independent college counselor and founder of MoonPrep.com. Moon Prep provides one-on-one tutoring services catered to university admissions. They guide students through the entire application process including: completing applications, personal statements, supplemental essays, student resumes, scholarships, and financial aid. Their specialty lies in the Ivy League, direct medical programs (BS/MD), and highly competitive universities.

Tips for Attending College Fairs by Kristen Moon MoonPrep.com

At this point you may think it’s unnecessary to attend college fairs when you already have your list of potential schools. However, these fairs are a particularly efficient way to begin to narrow down that list. Equally, although there is a lot of practical and valuable information to be found online at each school’s website, a college fair can show you the inside workings and give you a better feel for what life would be like at these institutions. It also may not be obvious to everyone but you should really visit the campus of a school you plan to attend before accepting an admission offer.

Websites generally list available majors, describe the facilities, display beautiful photos of a campus, and give you short biographies of the faculty. However, recruiters can answer your questions regarding the true “personality” of a school and ultimately give you a much clearer idea of your compatibility. These events can give you a lot of insight, even if you think you’re sure about your selections. These tours are also ideal for students still in high school; do your research on the schools you’re interested in before you add them to your list.

The biggest buzzword for college fairs is, again, efficiency. These events are perfect for feeling out multiple schools at once, and eliminating those that are not the right fit for you. Many specifically visit multiple regions, in order to be accessible to prospective students around the country. You can also get an idea of what each school expects of its applicants and tips on what to expect during an interview. Recruiters like to see your interest, and they are looking for indications whether the students who approach them are seriously considering attending rather than just “window shopping”.

Even if you plan to attend a top-tier school, college fairs still have their uses. This list outlines several popular annual events. Be aware that although attendance is free, these events do require registration ahead of time.

The Coast to Coast College Tour

This literally cross-country tour includes some very recognizable names in the form of  Berkeley, Dartmouth, Northwestern, Princeton and Vanderbilt. These colleges have collaborated on their tour presentation as they each practice “holistic admissions” as defined by the AAMC: “Holistic review is a flexible, individualized way of assessing an applicant’s capabilities by which balanced consideration is given to experiences, attributes, and academic metrics and, when considered in combination, how the individual might contribute value as a medical student and physician.”

Get the details and check the map and dates of their stops here: https://www.coasttocoasttour.org/

Exploring Educational Excellence

This lineup includes Brown, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell and Rice and this tour includes information sessions for prospective students and their families, as well as counselor sessions that offer the opportunity to ask questions directly of admissions reps.

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AP Scholar Awards Explained by Kristen Moon MoonPrep.com

As May approaches, students are preparing for their AP Exams. AP Exams will be administered over two weeks in May.

Competitive colleges do not simply look at a student’s GPA; they examine the rigor of the courses. If you are a student aspiring for the Ivy League or other highly competitive universities, make sure your academic record has AP courses.

An AP Scholar is someone who receives an award from the College Board for outstanding performance on several AP exams. There are different award levels depending on how many exams the student scores highly on. Being an AP Scholar offers a lot of advantages. For starters, you can list it on your college applications and resume.

AP Award Levels:

  • Scholar – This is awarded to students who score 3 or more on at least three AP exams.
  • Scholar with Honor – This is awarded to students who have averaged a minimum of 3.25 on the AP exams they take and score 3 or more on at least four of those exams.
  • Scholar with Distinction – This is awarded to students who average a minimum of 3.5 on all their AP exams and score 3 or more on at least five of these exams.
  • State Scholar – This is awarded to one male and female student in each state. The student must have a score of 3 or more on the highest number of AP exams, as well as the highest average score on all the exams they take.
  • National Scholar – This is awarded to students who average at least a score of 4 in all the AP exams they take and score 4 or more in at least 8 of these exams.
  • DoDEA Scholar – This is awarded to one male and female student attending one of the Department of Defense Education Activity schools. Whoever has the greatest average score on the highest number of AP exams among all the students in the school receives this award. A minimum score of 3 is mandatory.
  • International Scholar – This is awarded to one male and female student attending a school outside the United States or Canada with the greatest average score on the highest number of AP exams. A minimum score of 3 is mandatory.
  • Seminar and Research Certificate – This is awarded to students who score 3 or more in both AP Research and AP Seminar.
  • Capstone Diploma – This is awarded to students who get a score of 3 or more in AP Research and AP Seminar and any four additional AP exams of their choice.

Deadlines:

If you want to qualify for any of these awards before you apply for college, you need to take the requisite exams by the end of your junior year so that you can get the award by fall of senior year.

About the author:

Kristen Moon is an independent college counselor and founder of MoonPrep.com. Moon Prep provides one-on-one tutoring services catered to university admissions. They guide students through the entire application process including: completing applications, personal statements, supplemental essays, student resumes, scholarships, and financial aid. Their specialty lies in the Ivy League, direct medical programs (BS/MD), and highly competitive universities.

Attack the SAT: What to do when your score plateaus By Allyson Evans

You’ve been studying for weeks and you’ve taken multiple practice SATs. You saw improvement on your first couple of practice tests and were feeling great! Then, you scored your most recent practice SAT and your score stayed the same (or even went down a little). What a bummer.

 

The good news is that you are not alone! At some point, almost all students see their SAT score plateau or even dip a little. So, take a deep breath, know that you’re not alone, and read the tips below to ensure your score starts going up again!  

Don’t give up.

You’re going to have ups and downs when you’re studying for the SAT. It’s inevitable. Some days, everything will just click and you’ll get more points than ever! Then, the very next day, you might miss ten questions in a row. That’s totally normal. The thing that’s going to get you ahead of the competition is your perseverance.

 

Take a day or two off to rest, and then get right back to your SAT study schedule. Follow your One Month SAT Study Plan to make sure you are covering all the topics you need to and in the right order.  While you might be tempted to deviate from the plan, now more than ever you need to stay on track. This SAT study plan was designed to help you learn everything you need to in time for the actual SAT when your score really matters.

 

Also, remember to keep your personal motivation in mind. For most students, that’s thinking about their dream colleges and the scores needed to get into those schools. If you’re not sure yet what your dream school is, check out the average NYU test scores or Georgia Tech scores to give you a sense of what some top schools want. Start by reviewing NYU Scores: What You Need to Get In and Georgia Tech SAT Scores, and then start thinking about the school that would be best for you!

 

Now that you’re back on track and holding your head up high, let’s look at a couple of specific steps you need to take to ensure your next practice SAT score is higher.

Analyze your SAT practice test results.

To keep making progress, you need to know exactly what’s working and what’s not working for you. The best way to determine what’s working is to set aside a few hours and review your most recent practice test or two. Go through all of the answers—right and wrong—to make sure you understand what you did for each question. Even for the questions you got right, you need to comprehend your approach so you can do it again next time.

 

For the questions you got wrong, take the time to understand why you got the questions wrong. Did you miss all the Algebra questions? Or did you miss the meaning of vocab questions? By noticing these patterns, you can start to see what you should focus on for the remainder of your study time. You don’t want to keep trying the same approach—now is the time to really hone in on your weaknesses and strengthen them! Find a solid SAT ebook, like the  Complete SAT Study Guide, and be sure you’ve reviewed all the best strategies and tactics for your weaker areas.

 

Also, if the pattern you’ve noticed is that you’re always short on time, the next tip will be crucial to raising your SAT score.

Pick up the pace.

To keep seeing your SAT score increase, you have to work through most, if not all, of the questions efficiently. It doesn’t matter how many times you can get a data interpretation question right if you have thirty minutes. You have to learn how to solve each question in the allotted time you are given. If your score has plateaued, you need to do some timed practice.

 

Set up your timer and try one section at a time in the allotted time. If you’re really struggling to get through all of the questions, keep an eye on the timer to help you remember how much time you have left. (Once you develop a good sense of the time you have for each question, you won’t need to look as often.) Remember to move on when you get really stuck on a problem, you don’t want to miss an easier question down the line because you got tripped up early on in the section. With a little timed practice, you’ll start to notice your efficiency increase and, no surprise, your SAT score, too!

Recap

When your SAT score plateaus, it can definitely be discouraging. Keep your chin up and stick to your study schedule. Once you’ve analyzed your strengths and weaknesses, spend a little time increasing your speed. If you do all of these things, your SAT score will start climbing back up in no time!

 

 


About the Author:

 

Allyson Evans earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and her JD from the University of Texas at Austin. She has been teaching and tutoring the LSAT since 2007, and loves helping students achieve their goals. She currently practices law in Austin, Texas. When she’s not helping students conquer the LSAT, she enjoys traveling and camping.

 

 

College Application Checklist: Steps to Apply to College By Robert Morris

It’s never too early to start preparing for college applications. You keep hearing that. However, no one tells you how to prepare. What should you do? How will you apply? What documents do you need?

There are many questions on your mind, and it’s not easy to find all the right answers in a single place. There are questions you don’t even know you have and answers you don’t know you need.

 

 

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College Application: What Good Schools are Looking for in Students By Brenda Berg

So, you’re sitting down and you’re starting to write your college application, hoping to set the foundation for the rest of your career. Your college application will be your first form of communication with your preferred college and will be their first impression of you.

And you know what they say, first impressions matter! Many colleges have tight procedures for letting people in. For example, Stanford University only recently accepted 5% of their total 42,100 applicants.

 

 

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5 Tips for Writing a Strong Personal Statement By Kristen Moon

The fall college application season is here, and rising seniors around the world are pondering topics for their personal statements. They all want the same thing – an essay that will help land them in their dream university. The Common App essay prompts, as well as the UC and ApplyTexas prompts, for the 2017-2018 application cycle are all published. If you are a student just getting started, below are 5 tips for crafting a stand-out personal statement.

 

 

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