Parents Guide to the SAT and the ACT

Wouldn’t it be great to have all the test dates AND registration deadlines in one place, along with tips on how to support your high school student during testing season? Magoosh thought so too! They created the Parents Guide to SAT and ACT Testing.

Below is an infographic with “everything you need to know about standardized tests but were afraid to ask”. Also, check out their High School SAT & ACT blog: with resources there for both parents and students to help them learn more about the SAT and ACT, how to prepare, and what to expect on test day.


parents guide

Green Mountain College Offers $200,000 Sustainability Scholarship


sustainability scholarship

Green Mountain College Announces $200,000 Scholarship Award to Help a Student Pursue Sustainable Education

The most pressing challenges of our time await your innovative solutions. Green Mountain College, the nation’s number-one college for sustainability based education, wants to empower you to make a better world. Today, the college is announcing a new First in Sustainability Scholarship Award for one student who is passionate about ensuring social, economic and/or environmental sustainability. The winning student will receive free tuition, room, board and fees for all four years at Green Mountain College—a total value of $200,000.

sustainability scholarship

Recognized more than any college for its leadership in sustainability, Green Mountain College of Poultney, Vermont provides a personal, practical and purposeful education that prepares graduates to “do well by doing good.” The college offers 22 academic majors and 32 additional minors and certificates, all built on its core sustainability focused general education curriculum. Students also gain extensive practical experience, from working at a community farm to building a solar garage that charges an electrical tractor (a student project), which gives them a leg up in the “green jobs” market. Ninety-seven percent of graduates are employed or in graduate school and ninety-five percent of graduates are satisfied or very satisfied in their work.

“More than twenty years ago, Green Mountain College became the first college in the nation to dedicate its curriculum to sustainability. Now, the imperative to take meaningful action is stronger than ever. We hope this scholarship will help catalyze today’s students to ensure a more sustainable world for generations to come,” said Robert (Bob) Allen, President, Green Mountain College.

About the Sustainability Scholarship

Get a head start fulfilling your life’s purpose! Any high school senior applying for admission to Green Mountain College’s class of 2021 is eligible for this scholarship award. Applicants are required to submit an additional essay, describing what change they would like to make for a better and more sustainable world. The piece (up to 800 words) should address these two topics:

  1. This is what you would change.
  2. This is how an education at Green Mountain College will prepare you to make the change.

All First in Sustainability Scholarship Award applications must be submitted online and received by 11:59 pm Pacific Time on February 15, 2017. One winner will be announced April 15, 2017.  The online application form can be found at

Green Mountain College offers rolling admissions. To apply for next year’s freshman class at Green Mountain College, please visit For additional information about the scholarship award, please email Karen Martinsen Fleming at

About Green Mountain College

The nation’s number-one college and curriculum for sustainability, Green Mountain College prepares students seeking to build meaningful careers pursuing social, economic and environmental sustainability. The college’s holistic sustainability based education, built on a core sustainability focused general education curriculum, enables students to develop the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in our rapidly changing world. Benefiting from a purposeful, personal, and practical education, 97 percent of Green Mountain College alumni are employed or in graduate school and 95 percent of Green Mountain College graduates report satisfaction from their careers. The college also offers online master’s degree programs, and a three-year B.S. degree in partnership with The Killington Resort. For more information, please see


Don’t Let Your Student Leave for College Without These Essentials




Every parent knows just what a big deal it is when their child goes to college. Months, if not years of work go into getting the grades their specific college desires. You will probably find that the last few exams are fraught with tension as your teenager knuckles down for that final push. But once result day comes round, all that uncertainty disappears. Half of the torture is the not knowing – and chances are if your teenager studied hard, they will have no problem getting into the college of their choice. It might seem that at this point, the whole family has a chance to relax, right? Wrong! Once the results are in, the hard work is only beginning. Getting your child prepared for college involves a lot of different things, from mental preparation right down to the books they will need. It can sometimes seem that the checklist goes on forever – and you’re still bound to forget SOMETHING. To make things easier, here are a few things your child won’t be able to manage without at college, so make sure you pack these first!

Notepads, pens and more pens

Let’s face it: it’s college, and your kid is going to be taking a LOT of notes. At least, you hope they are going to be taking lots of notes! With most of their time filled with lectures and seminars, they will need to make sure they are writing down and memorizing all the correct information they need to pass their classes. Forget memorizing it – it might sound like a good idea at the time, but it simply isn’t going to happen by watching one PowerPoint presentation. Getting your soon to be student prepped with a lot of writing equipment will act as a good incentive to make them take their college lectures seriously. In order to make it easier, buy stationery online so it all arrives in one big package.

Rugs, cushions, and bedding

It is important to prepare your teenager for the reality of college life. Their dorm is unlikely to be anything like the sumptuous bedroom they have enjoyed at home. College dorms can be notoriously bare and depressing, as well as being cold! So make sure your child takes plenty of soft furnishing to make the place feel like home. A fluffy rug for them to put their feet on when getting out of bed doesn’t sound like that big of a deal – but it’s the little things like that which can make all the difference.

Are You Raising a “Snowflake”?




I don’t often editorialize here, but I feel it’s important to address this topic. College preparation is more than academics, essays, volunteering, and extracurriculars. Parents should be concerned with the overall child—do they have the tools to become independent adults, make good choices, and embrace diverse opinions.

Unless you’ve been hibernating under a rock, you know “snowflake” is a term being used to describe college students who can’t seem to cope with life. Apparently, we are now in the “snowflake generation.” The term was one of Collins Dictionary’s 2016 words of the year — today’s young adults, viewed as being less resilient and more offense-prone than previous generations.

The Financial Times defined it as “a derogatory term for someone deemed too emotionally vulnerable to cope with views that challenge their own, particularly in universities and other forums once known for robust debate” and noting that the insult had been aimed at an entire generation.”

It’s clear. We are coddling our young people. We, as parents, have made it our business to protect them from life in general. This has become especially clear in the university environments where they should be challenged to think, debate, and be open to exploring all theories and opinions.

Colleges are now notifying students that the content of a lecture might upset them. Events and activities are cancelled because they might offend someone on campus. Safe spaces abound for students to deal with their emotional pain. If disappointed, they are allowed a “pass” for class or a retake of a test.

How did this happen?

Unfortunately, we have no one to blame but ourselves. We have taught our children that the world is a dangerous place. Parents go to great links to eliminate all risk from their children’s lives. Games like dodgeball are no longer allowed in schools. Safeguarding has become a top priority in every aspect of our children’s lives. Parents interfere with teachers, coaches and all types of authority, to keep their children from suffering any consequences of their actions.

Author Simon Sinek explains that as a result of social media and bad parenting strategies, people born after 1984 are entitled, narcisstic, self-interested and lazy. In a viral video he said: “They were told they were special all the time. They were told they could have anything they want in life, just because they want it… some of them got As not because they earned them but because teachers didn’t want to deal with their parents. They got participation medals for coming last. Then they were thrust into the real world and in an instant found they were not special, their parents can’t get them a promotion, they get nothing for coming in last and can’t have it just because you want it. In an instant their self-image is shattered.”

The Spectator summed it up in a recent article: Generation Snowflake—how we train our kids to be censorious cry-babies. “We — adult society — have created this generation. We protect children from criticism and suspend our critical judgment in order to massage their self-esteem. We scare them rigid by ‘catastrophising’ an endless list of fears. We make them hypervigilant about potential abuse from adults and their peers. We encourage them to equate abusive words with physical violence. And we have, in short, shaped our own overanxious, easily offended, censoriously thin-skinned Frankenstein monster. We created Generation Snowflake.”

How can we change this pattern?

Act now! Make it your goal to teach your college-bound teenager how to self-advocate. Teach them life skills like coping with disappointment, facing consequences of their actions, being financially responsible, and thinking freely and forming their own opinions. When they fail don’t rescue them. When they succeed because of hard work, acknowledge them. Don’t reward poor behavior or laziness just because they “tried”. Teach them the world doesn’t owe them anything; it’s their job to earn respect, success and independence.

Get this book: Toward College Success: Is Your Teenager Ready, Willing and Able? Read it and apply its tactics. When your student goes off to college they will be prepared for the real world which can sometimes be cruel; but a learning environment preparing them for adulthood.

Scholarships and the ACT: How to Apply and What to Score



For students who are juniors or seniors in high school, it’s time to start thinking about ACT scores and possible scholarships.

How to Find and Apply For Scholarships

While getting a top score on the ACT isn’t easy, it is simple. Or at least, the process for taking the ACT is simple compared to the process of hunting for scholarships.

Finding the right scholarship is complicated because scholarship money comes from so many sources. And of course, every scholarship foundation has different application requirements. When it comes to finding the right scholarships and figuring out how to apply for them, it’s hard to know where to start.

Fortunately, there are a lot of resources to help you on your scholarship hunt. For one thing, many scholarships are specific to one university. Every university you apply to has a scholarship page on its website. This page will include a full list of scholarships just for students at that school, complete with eligibility requirements and application instructions.

There are actually a lot fewer state and national college scholarships, compared to the number of single-school scholarships. Still, larger-scale scholarships can be a significant source of college funding too. One of the best tools for finding larger scale scholarships actually comes from the “other” university entrance exam provider. That’s right, I’m talking about the college Board, the maker of the SAT. If you look at the College Board’s Scholarship Search website, you can find all sorts of state and national scholarships. The site’s custom search tools help students find scholarships that match their personal eligibility. This search portal can be used to look up both SAT and ACT score requirements for specific scholarships.

And while we’re talking about other college-related tests, be sure to look into National Merit Scholarship options. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that national Merit Scholarships are only connected to PSAT scores. This scholarship network also gives out extra awards to students who have top scores on both the PSAT and the ACT. (Top SAT scores are useful too!) For more information, check out the National Merit Scholarship Corporation website.

What ACT Scores Do you Need for Scholarships?

Now that’s the big question, isn’t it? There’s really no one answer to that question. If an ACT score is good enough to get someone into a university somewhere, it’s good enough to get them some kind of scholarship.

Still, for the biggest, best selection of scholarships, you’ll want to aim for an ACT score of at least 30. And the higher above 30, the better. The most competitive scholarships tend to require an ACT score of 33+.

To get that top score and get access to as many scholarships as possible, you’ll want to study, study, study. Preparation is everything when it comes to ACT success and scholarship readiness. That’s where a site like Magoosh ACT can really help you. Go to Magoosh to read up on important ACT Math topics, tips for ACT English, ACT Reading, and ACT Science, and advice about the ACT Essay.


Today’s guest post is provided by David Recine of Magoosh. Magoosh is an online test prep company that offers affordable study programs and apps for the standardized tests.

Merry Christmas to Parents of the College Bound

Wherever you are in the college prep process, I know the obstacles you face and the struggles you have balancing parenting and college prep. One of the reasons I began my blog was to help parents who need help like I did. I know how hard it is to find the right advice, get the  best help, and find encouragement from other parents.

I’m feeling especially festive this year and I would like to offer my Parents Countdown to College Crash Course FREE to those who take the time to leave a Christmas wish comment along with your email address here. I’d like to hear from all of you this holiday season and share some “parent-to-parent” love and goodwill. Merry Christmas!


merry christmas


P.S. I’m going to be a tad busy with these little guys for the next few days, so watch for an email early next week with your Christmas present (the Crash Course) attached!

What Can Your Student Do With an Accounting Degree?


accounting degree

As a parent, it is natural to want the best for your child now and into adulthood.  You might be wondering which career path might suit him or her based on their strengths in school and life right now.  Some parents can tell from an early age whether or not their child would be successful in science, arts, or humanities.  There are others, still, who excel in mathematics and have not yet found a career choice.  If your child is older, you may find that he or she already has developed some skills in managing money.  

Perhaps he helps with the family budget or she already detailed out her moving expenses for the move to college.  This student can find success in a number of careers with this talent, and one of the most rewarding comes in the form of accounting. A degree in accounting ensures that your child is on the path to becoming financially successful in life. Despite having a seemingly narrow career path, there are actually a wide variety of jobs that this degree can apply to.  Here are just a few paths your child can take with an accounting degree:


This is the most obvious choice, but certainly not to be overlooked.  An accountant is someone who prepares and analyzes financial records.  If your child has exceptional organizational skills, then he or she will be excellent at maintaining account books and keeping them up to date.  As an accountant, he or she can look forward to a high chance of job stability because accountants are always in demand.  In fact, he or she can look forward to gaining entry at every level of education from associate’s, master’s, and beyond!  Regardless, your child will have to gain a certificate called a CPA.  To earn his CPA, he will likely have to dedicate hundreds of hours to study, as it is a very difficult exam to pass.  However, with the help of CPA study materials, this is still achievable and well worth the effort. Achieving this distinction could see your child earning six figures very early on in their accounting career, so it’s definitely something to encourage.


Controllers are in charge of the accounting department in various organizations. They work above accountants and must manage where the money is going and making doubly sure that the department and company is accurately complying with tax laws.  A controller is also called a Chief Accounting Officer.  If your child is naturally ambitious, a natural responsible leader, he or she could ultimately become a controller.

Financial Analyst

A financial analyst is someone who makes recommendations to their employer based on macroeconomic and microeconomic research.  These people are natural visionaries who have the forethought to find patterns in data and develop a strategy that they can advise to their employer.  If your son or daughter is particularly good at analyzing, strategizing, and asserting this prediction with confidence, this may be the perfect career for them.  As you can see, a financial analyst strategizing more based on the big picture—such as national or global economic systems—while accounting may be more specific. Financial analysts can often find work in securities firms or investment banks like W Partners.

Tax Attorney

If your child has expressed an interest in law or has a capacity for debate, he or she can use their accounting degree to become a tax attorney.  In order to pursue this course, she will likely go on to law school and become a specialist in tax policies and liability as it relates to all matters of property and transactions.  As opposed to the above careers, a tax attorney will often work in a law firm.  A common specialty is in IRS issues.  He or she may likely represent a client during an audit and organize settlements.  A tax attorney often works with a public accountant, so it is possible that—if your child becomes an accountant—that he or she may choose to work at a law firm as well.

Regardless of which path your child chooses, your son of daughter will have to prove to be disciplined and dedicated to go this route.  Even those with a natural aptitude for this form of thought will have to work hard.  However, if she is will to go through the trials and study for years, she can become successful in using her accounting degree.

Looking Ahead to 2017


looking ahead to 2017

With the Christmas season upon us and students on winter break, it’s time to start looking ahead to 2017.

First things first, take a look at scholarships with January deadlines. These should be at the top of your list to begin 2017. Make scholarship searching and applying a priority in 2017. Say you don’t need money for college? Everyone likes free money! The more scholarship money your student earns the less you will have to pay. Save for retirement. Take a cruise. Remodel your home. Wouldn’t you rather keep the money you saved and use it for other family expenses? It’s a no-brainer–every student should apply for scholarships.

For seniors, it’s time to buckle down. There’s no room for senioritis if you are applying to or been accepted to college. Colleges strongly scrutinize your senior year academics. Just because you’ve already applied or received an offer of admission, colleges can and will rescend it if they believe you’ve communicated a lack of commitment and purpose to academics. Start 2017 strong and finish strong!

For juniors, it’s SAT/ACT prep time. If you’re taking the test in 2017, you’re going to be staring the new SAT in the face: it’s going to be available in March 2017. Use the next couple of months to prepare for the test. There are free tools on line to help you study and consider hiring a tutor if you think it will help your student focus and prepare.

Don’t wait to register for these tests at the last minute. If you plan to take the tests in January, REGISTER NOW! And it it’s in the spring, register now to avoid late registration fees. For a comprehensive guide on these registration and test dates, click here.

For sophomores and juniors, it’s time to start thinking about college visits. Sophomores should plan preliminary college visits (visit some colleges to get a feel for college life and prepare a list of wants and needs). Juniors will be making visits to show the college they are interested. Sign up for the tour and schedule and interview. Colleges keep tract of these visits and it will give you an edge when your application is received.

With a new year, comes new challenges and college-related tasks. Planning in December will help you to hit the ground running in 2017.

10 Study Abroad Statistics for You and Your Student


study abroad statistics

Many students will be making the decision to study abroad in the spring. If you’re on the fence and wonder if the experience is worth the cost, these study abroad statistics should help.

For many years, the benefits of studying abroad have been described in words like these: “It will completely change your life!” and “You will come back a new person.” But the exact long-term benefits were unknown. Now, though, the positive impact of study abroad experiences can be proven with study abroad statistics.

The Institute for International Education of Students (IES) conducted a survey to explore the long-term impact of study abroad on the personal, professional, and academic lives of students. Here are 10 interesting findings:

1. 95% of the students who were surveyed admitted that studying abroad served as a catalyst for increased maturity, 96% reported increased self-confidence, and 95% said it had a lasting impact on their worldview.

2. 87% of the students said that study abroad influenced their subsequent educational experiences. Nearly half of all respondents took part in international work and/or volunteerism since studying abroad.

The Erasmus Impact Study (2013) analyzed the effects of mobility on the skills and employability of students and on the internationalization of higher education institutions. The results of the study proved the benefits of studying abroad for the career development of mobile students. The study highlighted that mobile students are more likely to get managerial positions in their future careers and are less likely to experience long-term unemployment.

Here are some key findings.

3. More than 90% of mobile students reported that they improved their soft skills, including their knowledge of other countries, the ability to interact and work with people from different cultures, adaptability, foreign language proficiency, and communication skills.

4. Young people who study abroad are half as likely to face long-term unemployment as those who do not study abroad. The unemployment rate of Erasmus students five years after graduation is 23% lower.

5. 64% of surveyed employers said that graduates with an international background are more often given greater professional responsibility.

The world is becoming increasingly globalized, and international experience is one of the most essential components of higher education in the 21st century. Just take a look at these facts:

6. The global number of students who study abroad continues to rise with an annual increase of 10%. There were almost 5 million international students in 2014. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has projected that, with demographic changes, the international student population is likely to reach 8 million by 2025.

7. Several traditional source countries are working hard to increase their attractiveness to international students. China hosted nearly 380,000 foreign students in 2014 but has a target to attract 500,000 students by 2020; Japan is aiming for a target of 300,000 international students in 2020; and Malaysia wants to attract 250,000 foreign students by 2025.

The number of U.S. students going abroad keeps increasing every year, a growth pattern that is likely to continue.

8. The most popular destinations for U.S. students studying abroad in the 2014-2015 academic year were the United Kingdom (38,250 U.S. students), Italy (31,166), Spain (26,949), France (17,597), China (13,763), Germany (10,377), Ireland (8,823), Australia (8,369), Japan (5,978), and South Africa (4,968).

9. 68,798 American students were studying science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) in different countries around the world in the 2013-2014 academic year. Another 59,687 American students were studying business, while 57,067 studied foreign languages and international studies.

Why is study abroad essential?

We live in an increasingly globalized world. New technologies have led to the international integration of national markets and businesses. To successfully compete in the global marketplace, multinational and small businesses need employees with cross-cultural competence and knowledge of foreign languages.

10. A recent survey found that almost 40% of U.S. companies missed international business opportunities due to a lack of internationally competent personnel.

It is clear that employers are seeking candidates with study abroad experiences on their resumes. Students who want to work in our deeply interconnected world must study abroad.

There is no doubt that studying abroad will change your life. It offers you a chance to experience other cultures, make international friends, learn new languages, improve your job prospects, contribute to your personal development…and maybe even find the partner of your dreams!

Content for this article originally appeared on SmartStudy, study and writing tips for students, and was written by Ruth Kinloch, a private tutor, language lover and traveler. Read the original article for even more statistics. 

10 Tips for Writing College Admission-Worthy Essays


admission-worthy essays

The average American student attends school 180 days each year. Multiply that by 12 years and, by the time you graduate, you get 2,160 compulsory school days. You would think after all that reading, writing, studying, test-taking, and amassing of extracurricular and civic engagements that writing a college admissions essay would be a breeze. For many, however, that could not be further from the truth.

Somewhere around seventh grade, American schools tend to shift from an emphasis on narrative and descriptive writing to expository and persuasive writing.   As the vast majority of college/university admissions departments favor narrative and descriptive essays, this creates an unfortunate situation for many college applicants.  Even advanced high school writers may find the college admissions essay difficult to write.

Here are the 10 most important writing tips I’ve gained from my years of experience helping students write admission-worthy essays. Follow them and you will be well on your way to writing the kind of essays that transport admissions officers to a time and place showered in such detail it is as if they have been personally invited into the past to experience your life first hand.

  1. Write in the Right Style

The first writing tip I want to share is to select the right writing style for your admissions essay. The vast majority of college admissions essays are personal narrative and memoir. Both draw upon real-life experiences to tell true stories in a fictionalized style that includes characters, plot, conflict, setting, and theme.

Personal narrative relays the storyteller’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences on a certain event. Memoir focuses on one particular moment or series of moments, centered around a theme and usually drawing certain conclusions. In personal narrative and memoir, you are both the storyteller and the main character.

  1. Know Your Voice, Use Your Voice

When we talk about voice as it relates to writing, we are talking about a combination of word choice, syntax, diction, character development, dialogue, etc. Given the importance of the college admissions essay, students tend to look for a different, more desirable voice. Don’t do this. Admissions essays are not about how smart, funny, or distinguished you sound. They are an invitation for you to authentically bear witness to who you used to be and to how you got to be who you are now.

Whatever voice you have been using up to this point is your authentic voice. Use it. Also be mindful that, unlike the spoken word, the written word is unable to convey inflection, body language, facial expressions, etc. This awareness is critical; for most of us, the college admissions essay is our first experience writing for someone completely unknown to us.

  1. First Write How You Speak, Then Edit

Often our speaking, texting, and social media “voice” differs from our academic or traditional writing style. We use this voice more than we write, so this voice tends to be our dominate, authentic, more honest, and less censored representation of ourselves. The first step of personal narrative and memoir style writing is to get your thoughts –in your authentic voice– on paper without edits from your internal academic writer. In other words, let your speaking, texting, and social media voice share your story.

This is just the first step since, for most of us, this voice in written form often presents as scattered, repetitive, fragmentary, and long-winded, qualities which can easily tank an admissions essay, even one with a highly compelling subject. The best way to showcase your authentic voice while avoiding these pitfalls is to begin by writing at least two drafts long-hand with little emphasis on punctuation and grammar.

  1. Make Every Word Count

Not all words have to make a reader’s hair stand on end. Each word should contribute, not distract. Words and phrases that rarely contribute include:  like, really, just, you know, and, actually, I guess, also, that, I mean, a lot, kind of. Not sure whether a word or phrase contributes or distracts?  Read the sentence aloud without the word. Avoid five-dollar words when a fifty cent one will do.

If admissions officers are reading your essays, you have already passed the smart enough test. Personal narrative and memoir style writing uses words to create images in the reader’s mind and to engage them. To achieve this, use descriptive words and sensory imagery when describing your characters and setting. Try replacing emotional qualifiers, such as angry, overjoyed, fearless, tender, devastated, etc., with brief action-reaction event descriptions that create the context for that emotion.

Remember, your goal here is to transport the admissions officers to a time and place showered in such vivid detail that it is as if you have personally invited them into your past to experience, to experience your life first hand.

  1. Don’t Forget the Middle

Everyone knows strong openings and closings are critical when constructing admission-worthy essays. Far too many people forget the middle is just as important. Unlike your high school English teacher, admissions officers are under no obligation to finish reading your essay.

Considering admissions officers’ hectic travel schedules and the sheer volume of essays to be read, there is a good chance that, if read, your essay will be read piecemeal over multiple sittings. If you are writing a 650-word essay, something compelling enough to keep the reader’s attention –or to make them want to return– needs to happen between 250 and 320 words.

  1. Backstory

To effectively craft a personal narrative admissions essay you will need to provide a back story. In addition to offering setting and context, the backstory plays a critical role in determining the degree to which the reader feels invested in you and your narrative.

The problem arises when the back story becomes the story. If you find yourself unable to tell the story you want to tell absent a significant and overtaking back story, then tell a different story. While not the easiest method, a seamless way to introduce a backstory is to weave it into the story you are trying to tell. It is worth noting some of the most informative and compelling backstories have been told in one sentence.

  1. Stay On Topic, Be Specific   

Admissions essays are not autobiographies, streams of consciousness, resumes, or opportunities to further address and/or explain that which can be contained in your application. They are also not invitations to reimagine what is being asked of you.

Most admissions essays ask you to describe, recount, explain, identify, or discuss an event, experience, time, or life lesson. Whichever you choose, begin by focusing on the specific details surrounding your story. Look for the stories within the story. If you find one, consider telling that story. Be specific, not only in the story you tell but how you tell it. Readers expect you to be as specific as you can usefully be. Watch out for generalities.

  1. Don’t Oversell, Don’t Undersell

While admissions essays are the perfect place to brag about your accomplishments, don’t oversell. Only brag if it’s worth bragging about. Nobody cares if you served Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless. They care if you started a take home food pantry at your school, so kids didn’t have to go hungry over the weekend.

Admissions essays are also not the place to undersell. If it took two years and a sit-in to start a Gay/Straight Alliance at your school, make sure that you include that detail, not simply that you started a GSA.

  1. Tell on Yourself

One of the biggest mistakes students make is to try and craft essays which show only their best qualities. Colleges and universities are not looking for perfect people. They are looking for authentic people. Authentic people are flawed people. Some of our most compelling stories are the ones that open with showing us in less than favorable light.

Throw in your lessons learned or what you have done to repair past wrongs and redeem yourself, and you have the makings of a compelling redemption story. Admissions officers have read hundreds of stories from kids who were bullied. They are dying to read the reformed bully’s story.

  1. Writing About Difficult Experiences

This last writing tip is a tough one. We’ve all had painful of experiences. Many of these experiences are difficult to talk about, let alone write about. However, sometimes, if there is time, distance, and healing between you and the experience, you can not only revisit the experience but also articulate it as an example of how even the most painful of experiences can be reclaimed, transformed, and accepted for what they are, the building blocks of our unique identities.

If you can do this, go for it. When done well, these types of narratives are the most impactful. Do remember you are seeking admission into a community for which the admissions officer is the gatekeeper. They need to know that, if admitted, not only will you be okay but your fellow students will be okay as well.


Today’s guest post is contributed by Chad Goller-Sojourner, a Seattle-based memoir and personal narrative essayist, solo-performer and founder of Bearing Witness: College Admissions Essay Writing Coaching he can be reached at