Author Archives: Jenny Hwang

Do I need to share past trauma in my college essays?

As the college application process becomes more competitive every year, students are looking for ways to make their applications stand out from the rest. One way to do this is by writing a compelling personal statement that showcases their personality, strengths, and achievements. However, there is a common misconception that to write a successful personal statement, a student must have experienced personal trauma or hardship. This is simply not true.


While it’s true that some students may have experienced personal trauma that has shaped them into the person they are today, this is not a requirement for writing a strong personal statement. In fact, many successful personal statements are about everyday experiences, hobbies, or passions that have shaped a student’s character and influenced their goals and aspirations.


It’s important for students to understand that personal story that highlights the hardships that they may have faced does not define them or their ability to succeed in college. Admissions officers are looking for students who can contribute to their campus community, and who have the potential to succeed academically and personally. A personal statement is an opportunity for a student to showcase their unique qualities and strengths, regardless of their life experiences. The whole idea is to share a facet of the student’s life that can really paint a compelling portrait of the personality and character.


So, what should a student write about in their personal statement if they haven’t experienced personal trauma? Here are our insights and ideas:


Share your personal journey:

Begin your personal statement by sharing your personal journey, including your background, experiences, challenges, and achievements. Highlight how these experiences have shaped you into the person you are today and how they have influenced your desire to attend college.


Highlight your unique qualities:

Share your unique qualities, skills, and talents that make you stand out from other applicants. This could include your leadership skills, creativity, problem-solving abilities, or any other characteristics that demonstrate your potential to contribute to the college community.


Discuss your community involvement:

Share your involvement in your community, such as volunteer work, community service projects, or leadership roles in clubs or organizations. Explain how these experiences have helped you develop a sense of civic responsibility and a commitment to making a positive impact in your community.


Share your future goals:

Discuss your short-term and long-term goals and how attending college will help you achieve them. Highlight your aspirations and what you hope to accomplish during your college years and beyond.


Address challenges and adversity:

If you have faced challenges or adversity in your life, discuss how you have overcome them and the lessons you have learned. Share how these experiences have shaped your character and resilience, and how they have prepared you for the rigors of college life.


Discuss your cultural or diverse background:

If you come from a diverse cultural or ethnic background, share how it has influenced your perspectives, values, and identity. Discuss how your cultural background has shaped your worldview and how it has prepared you to thrive in a diverse college environment.


Reflect on your interests and hobbies:

How do you choose to spend your free time? Share your passions and hobbies and how they have influenced your personal growth and development. Discuss how these interests have shaped your character, skills, and goals, and how they will contribute to your college experience.



In summary, a student does not need to have personal trauma to write a compelling personal statement for college applications. Admissions officers are looking for unique qualities and strengths that a student can bring to their campus community. Best of Luck and happy writing!

What is a Good SAT Score?

In the intricate world of college admissions, the perennial question that looms over high school students and parents is, “What is considered a good SAT score?” The answer, however, is far from a simple number. It depends on your academic profile, college list, and intended major. In this article, Insight Education Head of Counseling Purvi Mody will delve into the nuanced assessment of SAT scores and share her insights into what’s a “good” SAT score.


1. You Academic Profile and GPA Matter

Good SAT scores can add to your GPA and convey academic readiness to college admissions officesYour SAT score reflects your academic rigor. When you decide whether to re-take the SAT or submit your score, consider elements like your high school curriculum and GPA. If your SAT score indicates a stronger academic readiness than your GPA, then it is a good SAT score. A student who has challenged themselves with a rigorous academic coursework, excelled in extracurricular pursuits, and received glowing recommendations might not require an exceptionally high SAT score to shine as a strong candidate. Conversely, a less robust profile may need to submit a strong SAT score to bolster their application.


2. Your College List and the School’s Testing Policies

The SAT score expectations differ from one college to another. It’s paramount to research the admission policies of the institutions on your radar. Are they test-optional, test-flexible, or do they specify certain score requirements? Some universities ask students not to submit their SAT scores unless it is 1500 or higher. Some college admissions offices must review SAT scores if it is submitted.


common data set showing ACT and SAT scores submitted and score distributionIn the quest to define a “good” SAT score, it is imperative to understand how your preferred colleges assess test scores in their unique admissions processes. A good resource is the Common Data Set. If you search “(College name) common data set,” you will find information on SAT score ranges, the percentage of students who submitted test scores, and whether the admissions office considers test scores an evaluative criterion. A thorough research can offer valuable insights into each college’s approach to standardized testing, and whether or not you should share your SAT with this school.

Check out our list on 2023- 2024 Test Optional Colleges and Score Reporting Policies


3. Your Major Choice Plays a Role

The choice of your major also plays a pivotal role in evaluating the significance of your SAT score. For instance, if you intend to major in Engineering or Business, you want to share a good SAT math score with the admissions offices. In contrast, liberal arts colleges may favor a strong score in the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) section. When we help our students decide which school they will submit their SAT scores to, we factor in their declared major choices and their test scores relative to their peers and to the applicant pool.


Should You Submit Your SAT Scores?

With the evolving landscape of college admissions, students often face a conundrum: whether to submit their SAT scores or choose test-optional. Here are some key considerations:


1. Check College Websites:

Visit the official websites of the colleges you intend to apply to. Most institutions explicitly state their test score submission requirements. The admissions office should be your primary source of information.


2. Tailor Your College Application to Each University:

As college admissions become more competitive, customize your application to every college with more thought and care. It is common for students to submit their SAT scores to one school but not the other. At Insight Education, we holistically assess your SAT score within the broader context of your college application. Does the test score add positive data to your profile? Will the college you are applying to view your SAT test score favorably? Is your score competitive in the context of your high school and the rest of the applicant pool?


3. Score Improvement:

If you are a sophomore or a junior, you may plan to take the SAT multiple times. Set a goal and study plan for yourself. If you are unsure about taking the SAT, the ACT, or neither, we recommend taking full-length diagnostic exams before deciding your testing strategy.

Learn more about ACT vs. SAT: Which Test Should You Take?


4. A Holistic Approach:

Remember that most colleges assess applicants holistically. Your GPA, academic history, college essays, recommendation letters, and extracurricular activities all play pivotal roles in the admissions process. Focus on building a comprehensive, powerful narrative of you and your uniqueness will maximize your chance in college admissions.




In summary, there is no magic number for a “good” SAT score. It hinges on your profile, college list, and intended major. As the college admissions landscape adapts to changing times, many institutions now offer flexibility concerning ACT or SAT score submission. Ultimately, your decision should be rooted in a thorough evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses as an applicant. Your SAT score is merely a piece of the puzzle, so ensure that your complete application paints a compelling picture of who you are and what you will contribute.

Still unsure about your SAT score? Contact us today to schedule a 1-hour personalized college planning session or a diagnostic exam to see where you stand!

How to Fight Procrastination for a Happier You!

You procrastinate. And, worse yet, you feel terrible about it. You feel that it is inevitable. You might even feel guilty or have fights with your parents about this. Procrastination isn’t your destiny. It’s something you can hack. Yes, the scientific evidence shows that you can change your brain – and you can change from being “a procrastinator” into someone who can feel good about completing tasks. What do neuroscientists and behavioral economists know, and that you might not?


1. Calendar Your Week – Record Your Time

keeping track of your time and calendar how your week is structuredWhere does your time go? Many high school students don’t realize that they are possibly busier than adults because of the time they spend in classes, homework, extracurricular activities, working, volunteering, and hanging out with friends and family. Who has time for simple things like sleeping and drinking water?



How much of your time is already spoken for? Figure out how much time you are actually busy – and then block off that time on your calendar. Mark down your entire week, seven days. Yes, this means when you are leaving home for school – your transportation – and the actual time you spend in classes, your breaks, and your return home. Mark all of your time, including your social time with friends and family. Mark your chores, exercising time, volunteering, or working. And mark the regular time you spend on homework – for this step, break down the amount of time you actually spend on each class, on the various days of the week.


Note: If one week feels too long, just fully mark one school day.


Read more: Back to School: Get ready for a great academic year!


2. Reflect on What You “Got” Out of Your Time

    • Do you feel good about how you spent the time?
    • Did you relax?
    • Did you learn something?
    • Did you accomplish some task you wanted to tackle?
    • Did you spend time on the relationships you treasure most?


If you were not satisfied, which could be the case if you were hanging out on Discord / YouTube / TikTok, the good news is – you have the power to CHANGE how you spend your time.


So, think about whether you want to make any changes to the ways in which you are spending your time. For example, one of my students put her least favorite class’s homework at the end of the night. How well do you think she could focus then? By marking all her time and seeing how effective his routine was, and where she could improve it, then, she moved that classwork earlier in the day so that she could approach it with a fresher brain.


Reflecting is the most important thing. One of my students told me that he wanted to spend more time with his parents because he realized that he would be attending college, and those family dinners that he was taking for granted now will be a precious thing he will miss when he is older. Wow!


Reflect, reflect, reflect – and you may notice some patterns! Use those patterns to inform how you want to set goals and ultimately schedule your life.


3. Now, Timebox Everything You Do

plan out your task and prioritizeWhat is Timeboxing? And why would this help you? “Timeboxing” refers to mapping a specific time to a specific task. That’s it. So, now – timebox all of your activities that you definitely want to spend time on, each week. Try to map out the next 7 days. Think about – how would you like to spend your time?


Really. Timebox it all. Having very clear boundaries about how much time you spend on each activity will actually help increase your motivation. This also helps you prioritize how you spend your time. What if you want to attend a party? You will have to timebox it, and that might mean you move around other stuff. One of my students uses the “label” feature on the Clock app on his iPhone to clearly manage his time. This is one of the things he has done to have a smoother school semester.


The research shows that timeboxing helps reduce stress and distractions and increase focus! But is it all work and no play? That brings me to my next and perhaps most important point: reward thyself.

Read more: Setting up Routines for High School


4. Put A Reward into Your Weekly Calendar to Hack Your Motivation

This might seem like a weird thing for me to discuss – fun – but if you want to hack your brain, neuroscience research shows that if you have a reward system that reinforces good habits, you are more likely to be successful in changing your habits. Some of my students like to play sports with friends, lift weights for “me” time, or even schedule a regular trip to the mall with friends.


Why would I encourage such habits? Hopefully, when you were reflecting on step #2, you figured out how much of your time you dedicate to activities that are truly rewarding, fulfilling, and fun. But in case you didn’t, I am calling this out as a step of its own to make sure you don’t forget to build in a reward – because it’s not intuitive. But it IS important – and the science bears this out.


Because then, you are looking forward to something in your week. Better yet, it would be ideal to have something you look forward to doing, every single day. Neuroscience research studies showed that even anticipating a reward – not even receiving it yet – releases dopamine and improves performance.



Examples (these are real-life ones, drawn from actual former students of mine):

 1. Working out at a gym with friends immediately after school
 2. Keeping Friday nights open for friends and family
 3. Walking to the park with the family dog
 4. Solo biking for miles and miles
 5. Playing with video games old friends each week at the same time to stay in touch
 6. Movie night with family


5. Why This Works: The Brain Science of Rewards

First of all, self-control is not infinite – you have a finite quantity. Yes, just like pennies and minutes, you only have so much impulse control – it truly is a concrete thing. In fact, every time you push yourself to do something, you are engaging in “impulse control fatigue” – a fancy way of saying that you get tired of doing stuff you don’t enjoy doing – and are more likely to take impulsive actions – like binge-ing on video games, YouTube or terrible snacks – out of sheer exhaustion because you have been doing actions which require you to behave yourself. Does this sound familiar?


To counteract this impulse control fatigue, you can hack your brain by pairing a “reward” like the examples I listed above, with the things you find difficult to do (but which might be better for you in the long run). This can help motivate you so that you are better able to focus on your tasks – because you are focused on the fun.


You can also do this on a super small scale, for particular actions you find difficult, not just your schedule. One economist Dr. Katy Milkman coined the term “temptation bundling” to describe what happens when you pair something you find difficult to do, in her case, hitting the gym, with something enjoyable, such as audiobooks. Once she set out a “rule” that she could only listen to audiobooks when she was at the gym, she found that she started to look forward to going to the gym to find out – what would happen next? And as a result, she built a steady habit of working out.


5. Continue to Reflect and Refine Your Routine

This is something you can adjust at least once each semester. Be ready to make adjustments along the way.


To reiterate:

 1. Calendar Your Week
 2. Reflect
 3. Timebox Everything
 4. Include Rewards
 5. Reflect and Adjust


I hope you enjoyed reading about your brain and productivity and hope you found it empowering. You can do it!!!

At Insight Education, our counselors do more than just help you with your college list, college essays, and applications. We help you build stronger study habits and life skills – Learn more and schedule a meeting with one of our expert counselors today!


Written by Meilin Obinata

This article is written by Insight Senior College Admissions Counselor Meilin Obinata.

Meilin Obinata is a Senior College Counselor who enjoys learning from her students. She believes education is a creative endeavor and creates a space that allows students to explore new ideas. As a Bay Area native who grew up in Santa Cruz, she is familiar with the local schools. Read her full bio here.

2023-2024 College Admissions Interview Policies

As many of you have submitted your college applications for the 2023-2024 college admissions season, it’s important to update your calendar and check your inbox regularly for interview invitations.


You probably already know which schools on your list offer admissions interviews and whether the interview helps you demonstrate your interest in attending those colleges. Continue reading

So You Want to Be a Lawyer? Insights into Pre-Law Majors

Your favorite shows are about lawyers passionately fighting for their clients about land zoning. Or, you have a relative who practices law and truly enjoys it. What if you want to be the one drafting the End User License Agreements you love to read every time you install new software into your laptop? How can you prepare to be a lawyer? Of course, you will need to attend law school.


Law school admissions in the United States typically require a strong undergraduate GPA, a Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) score, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, and a personal statement.


How can you prepare? What should you study in college? Majors that help you sharpen and display your reading comprehension, logical reasoning, analytical reasoning, writing skills, and research skills are great preparation for the rigor of law school.


What Majors Should You Choose?

Political Science is likely the major that comes first to mind when you think about law school. Indeed, it is a very popular major for law school applicants. However, other majors will also give you rigorous experiences to prepare you for law school, such as History, English, Psychology, Philosophy, and Economics. Other popular majors include: Criminal Justice, Sociology, Journalism, Finance, and Public Policy. Lawyers-to-be can also be found studying the sciences: Biology, Chemistry, and Math. Your path ultimately depends on your specific needs. For example, if you wish to become a patent attorney, you will need to take a scientific or technical major before passing the patent bar.

Fun Fact: Meilin studied Math as an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz before going to Mithcell Hamline to study law. Read about her experience at  Mitchell Hamline here.


How to Test for Personal Fit?

The American Bar Association highlights certain strengths and skills important to developing a career in the law. Some seem quite obvious – such as problem-solving, critical reading, research skills, and excellent writing skills but more nuanced strengths they encourage you to consider are: listening, organization, and relationship-building. The ABA also encourages you to leverage a broad base of knowledge – human behavior, history, science, math, international and domestic politics – to develop competency in the profession.


Before Applying to Law Schools, Ask Yourself:

    • Am I a good listener?
    • Can I read dozens or hundreds of pages in a row – while closely analyzing each word?
    • Do I enjoy writing with extreme care and attention to detail?
    • Can I connect information across different domains of knowledge to figure out how to solve problems?



Written by Meilin Obinata

This article is written by Insight Senior College Admissions Counselor Meilin Obinata.

Meilin Obinata is a Senior College Counselor who enjoys learning from her students. She believes education is a creative endeavor and creates a space that allows students to explore new ideas. As a Bay Area native who grew up in Santa Cruz, she is familiar with the local schools. Read her full bio here.

2024- 2025 Test Optional Colleges and Score Reporting Policies

The list contains the testing policies and requirements that began to change in 2020. Since then,  some colleges have extended their test-optional policies, while others have reinstated testing requirements. These policies primarily focus on ACT and SAT standardized tests for first-year U.S. undergraduate applicants.

Use this as a guide and confirm specific requirements for the colleges on your list.

This list was last updated in March 2024.

Need help improving your SAT scores? Check out our SAT classes here.
Taking the ACT instead? Check out our ACT test prep classes here.

*While we try our best to keep this list complete and updated, please note that this list is not exhaustive.


 FAQ About Test-Optional and College Admissions


1. Test-Optional vs. Test-Blind

Test optional means that you can still submit your scores (and you should if you can) and universities will take them into consideration. On the other hand, test blind means colleges won’t look at test scores at all. In both cases, test scores may be used for placement purposes, so you won’t have to take a placement exam before course selection. In some test-optional colleges, test scores are required for certain programs, majors, and/or merit-based scholarships. You may also need to submit test scores if you do not meet the minimum GPA requirements. Please see the “Notes from Insight Education” section for specific college admissions requirements.

Have questions regarding test-optional? We can help! Talk to our team by clicking HERE.


2. For freshmen and sophomores, should they prepare for SAT/ ACT or wait to confirm if their preferred colleges are test-optional?

For now, some schools extended their test-optional policies for Fall 2025 applicants. Some colleges adopt test-optional policies, too. Therefore, it depends on your college list, which can shift and change over the years. Your college list can change until the moment you finish submitting applications! To keep your options open (and stress level low), it’s good to take the diagnostic test and then strategize to see if test scores can give you an advantage. Also keep in mind that certain majors, athletic admissions, honors programs, and scholarships require ACT / SAT test scores, and you can use your test scores in lieu of placement exams.


3. Will I have an advantage with ACT / SAT scores?

This will depend on the particular colleges and your high schools. In some cases, the school may ask you to submit test scores as they are reviewing your applications. Certain colleges require additional essays and/or admissions interviews when you apply without a test score. To learn more, check out our blog on “Top 3 Tips to Prepare You for College Admissions” or “How to Approach Standardized Testing“. 


College Supplemental Essays: Making a Strong Impression

College supplemental essays can make or break an applicant’s chance of being accepted to their dream school. These essays are a vital part of the college application process and provide students with an opportunity to showcase their personalities, interests, and goals. While the Common Application essay is a standard requirement for most colleges, supplemental essays are specific to each college and allow admissions officers to gain a deeper understanding of an applicant’s fit with their institution.


Types of Supplemental Essays

Supplemental essays come in many different forms and are tailored to each college’s unique admissions process. Some essays may ask students to describe their academic interests and goals, while others may focus on extracurricular activities, community involvement, or personal experiences. Certain colleges may have creative or open-ended prompts, while others may require responses to specific questions.


Regardless of the prompt, supplemental essays provide a valuable opportunity for students to demonstrate their writing skills and express themselves in a way that the standard application essay may not allow. By showcasing their unique qualities and experiences, students can differentiate themselves from other applicants and show why they are a good fit for the college.


Struggle with “WHY” Essays? Check out our ultimate insights on “why college” and “why major” essay.


Tips for Writing Supplemental Essays

Writing strong supplemental essays requires careful planning and attention to detail. Here are some tips to help students create compelling essays:


1. Research the College:

It’s important to have a deep understanding of the college’s values, culture, and academic offerings. This will help students tailor their essays to show why they are a good fit for the school and what they can contribute to the campus community.


2. Be Authentic:

Admissions officers are looking for genuine and honest essays that showcase the student’s personality and passions. Students should be true to themselves and avoid writing what they think the admissions committee wants to hear.


3. Follow Guidelines:

Each college has specific guidelines and word limits for supplemental essays. It’s important to carefully read and follow these guidelines to ensure that the essay meets the requirements and doesn’t get disqualified.


4. Proofread:

Supplemental essays should be well-written and free of errors. Students should proofread their essays carefully and have someone else review them before submitting.


5. Use Examples:

Including specific examples in the essay can make it more compelling and memorable. Students should think about personal experiences that demonstrate their qualities and why they are a good fit for the college.


Read more: Overcoming Writers Block


In conclusion, supplemental essays are an important part of the college application process and provide students with an opportunity to showcase their unique qualities and fit with the college. Remember, admissions officers are looking for genuine, well-written essays that demonstrate a student’s fit with the college and their potential to contribute to the campus community.



Written by Priya Singh

This article is written by Insight College Admissions Counselor Priya Singh.

Priya Singh is a College Admissions Counselor and also an avid yogi. She often uses yoga and meditation to help students with learning and stress management during the college admissions process. Since 2014, she has helped many high school students, including students with learning disabilities, to reach their best-fit schools. Read her full bio here.

Back to School: Get ready for a great academic year!

As your summer break comes to an end, you may be excited about a new school year or dreading the early mornings. Whichever describes you, it’s always a good idea to start preparing early, so you can set yourself up for a great school year. Here are a few tips to help you get ready for the year ahead!


Have a plan and set goals

Before the first day of school, you should list some long-term and short-term goals. For example, “preview chem textbook before class every day” or “work on college essays for 30 minutes every morning.” Try to set goals that you can realistically achieve. Be specific on what you want to accomplish. Then, mark your calendar with deadlines and methods on how you can reach those goals.


Are you using your time wisely? Learn more: Setting up Routines for High School


Complete back-to-school tasks before your first day

The first day of school can be chaotic, especially if you have not been to the campus for 18 months! If you have never been to your school, try to arrange a visit before your first day. Get your student ID early and check out your textbooks. Figure out the route to your classrooms. Gather all the necessary school supplies and pick your outfit the night before. You want to be as ready as possible, so you can fully enjoy your first time back at school!


A note for seniors, you may be familiar with the campus and registration process already, so spend some time completing your college applications before school starts. Schedule a quiet afternoon (or two) before your first day back to school, have your transcript in hand, and fill out all the necessary data for your college applications. It’s one less thing off your plate for your senior year!


Read more: Top 10 Summer Tasks for College Admissions


Manage your time and schedule wisely

Staying organized and planning out your day can help you use your time wisely. Time-draining activities, such as mindlessly browsing social media, can result in last-minute panic or sleep loss. If procrastination has always been your arch-nemesis, a new year is the perfect time to tackle it. At Insight, some of our counselors prefer the time-block method: they schedule or block off time to work on college essays or application reviews. You can do the same! Simply schedule when you will be in class or studying or participating in club activities AND stay true to your calendar. Don’t forget to schedule short breaks in between, too!


Create your space

Imagine this: your parent’s talking on the phone; the TV is on; your sibling is jumping on the couch; the dog is barking; and your phone vibrates every 3 seconds, showing a text or a notification. How productive do you think you’d be? Probably not too much. Find a space in your house that you can claim as yours. Set up your study space and minimize distractions. Yes, that means turning off your phone and close all unnecessary windows on your computers, too. You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish when you only focus on one task.


Talk to your teachers and counselors

Get into the habit of talking to your teachers, even something as small as “how are you” or “thank you.” Schedule a time to meet with your guidance counselor. Don’t wait until you need something from them (like a letter of recommendation) to start building that relationship. Besides the subjects they teach, your teachers can be a great source of information. They may have recommendations for books or activities that you may be interested in. Besides, it’s a great practice to talk to people who are different from you and build rapport, which is useful in interviews.



Preparation is only the beginning. You will have to devote time and effort to keep building a successful year. If you need help or guidance, all of us at Team Insight are always happy to help! Reach out to us!


Best of luck,

Team Insight

College Essays: How to Slay Your First Draft?

Things I hear during application season:

“I read a bunch of college essays on ____ site to help me understand what I should be writing.”

“My friend/parent/older sibling told me I should do _____ – is that OK?

And on it goes.

Write College Essays DraftWhy is writing for college applications so very difficult? Why does it stir up so much doubt? Because of fear. Fear of looking silly. Fear of writing the wrong thing. Fear of being REJECTED.

When it comes to college essays, you often feel that the stakes could not be higher.

What should you do? Reframe the task. College admissions officers want to hear what you have to say. They are not out to play “gotcha” – they actually want to get to know you. That’s what your college essays are all about. How can you help them to see the real you? Let’s dive into that first draft!



How important is your college essay? Check out our post on Why The College Essay Matters


brainstorming and plan your college essay contentInsight #1: Channel Your Creativity!

Great writing starts with great…pre-writing. Yes, brainstorming! A simple pen with paper will do. So will sticky notes, or, if you like being able to move, erase, etc. your ideas, I highly recommend using a mind-mapping software (Coggle and Miro are examples). Check your environment – is being at home too distracting? Hit the library or literally take a hike (and bring your notebook with you).





Insight #2: Let Your Inner Editor Wait Its Turn


let your thoughts flow when you write your college essay draftsIf you are worried about your writing, while you are writing it, this means your editor and writer selves are battling for control. Who is the captain? The editor or the writer? If the answer is “both” that means the boat goes nowhere (“boat” in this metaphor being your draft). When you notice your inner editor interfering, questioning, or otherwise stopping the writing process, try thanking it for showing up and asking it to wait a while until it is time to work. When will that be? AFTER the first draft.


Writer’s block? Read more about Overcoming Writers Block

Insight #3: You are Feeling the Pain of Learning How to Write About…You

Quick, grab any adult you know and show them some of these college essay questions. Would they love to answer these? Of course not. They are difficult! So part of this process is learning that the discomfort of learning how to write about yourself doesn’t mean you are “good” or “bad” at it – it just means you are learning.


Insight #4: Everyone Can Do A GREAT Job

No matter how you feel about your writing skills, it is highly unlikely that you have written anything like this before. Do you think that my students who have written novels and scripts, or have worked on their school newspapers sailed through the applications process without a care in the world? Nope! If you write well, your fears may be even more pronounced than someone who feels less confident about their writing. Why? Because you know that you can always do a better job.

What if you struggle in English classes? That is also OK. I have worked with students who aren’t native English speakers, and they are still able to express themselves well in their college applications. How??? The fact that the process of writing your college essays is difficult. Keep in mind that your first draft does not predict the later quality of your work. At Insight, we work with students through one draft after the next, and every iteration pushes their college essays toward greatness. Don’t feel discouraged if your first few drafts aren’t perfect. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and making consistent progress – that is what matters!


Insight #5: You Are The Expert of Your Life

Lastly, something to remember is that you have had 11 years of people telling you to listen and follow their lead. It can be shocking to realize that colleges want to hear from you. It is a completely different dynamic. My goodness – now someone wants to hear what I have to say? It takes some acclimatization. However strange it may sound, you are actually an expert – on your own life. You are 100% qualified to discuss it.


Want more college essay tips? Check out 5 Tips for Your College Essays


I hope these college essay insights help you as you move through your drafts this summer/fall. Happy Writing!


Need help with your college essays? We are here for you! Schedule a 1-hour personalized college planning session with an Insight Counselor today to learn how we can help you write your college essays!


Written by Meilin Obinata

This article is written by Insight Senior College Admissions Counselor Meilin Obinata.

Meilin Obinata is a Senior College Counselor who enjoys learning from her students. She believes education is a creative endeavor and creates a space that allows students to explore new ideas. As a Bay Area native who grew up in Santa Cruz, she is familiar with the local schools. Read her full bio here.

2023-2024 College Admissions Options and Deadlines

When it comes to college admissions, understanding the various application deadlines is essential. Three popular options that students often consider are Early Decision (ED), Early Action (EA), and Single Choice Early Action (SCEA). Each of these deadlines comes with its own set of advantages and considerations.


1. Early Decision (ED):

Early Decision is a binding commitment to attend a specific college or university if admitted. It typically has a deadline in November, with admission decisions released in December. ED is an excellent choice if you have a clear first-choice school and are certain about attending, as it can boost your chances of acceptance. However, it’s crucial to be aware that you must withdraw all other college applications if you are accepted through ED. This option may not be suitable if you wish to compare financial aid packages from different schools.


2. Early Action (EA):

Early Action is a non-binding option with a similar application deadline to ED in November, but it allows you to apply to multiple schools. You’ll receive your admissions decision in December or January, and you’re not obligated to attend the school if accepted. EA is an excellent choice for students who want to demonstrate their enthusiasm for a school and potentially receive early acceptance while keeping their options open. It also offers more time to compare financial aid offers.


3. Single Choice Early Action (SCEA):

SCEA, sometimes known as Restrictive Early Action, is a hybrid option. Like EA, it’s non-binding, but you can only apply to one school using SCEA. The application deadline and decision release dates are the same as EA. SCEA is ideal if you have a clear top choice, but you want to keep your options open at other institutions. It offers the best of both worlds, allowing you to apply early to your preferred school while maintaining flexibility.


When deciding which early admission option to pursue, consider your academic and personal preferences, your level of commitment to a particular school, and your financial situation. It’s also crucial to review the policies and requirements of each school, as they may vary. Keep in mind that not all colleges offer these early admission options, so research your chosen institutions carefully. Team Insight has compiled a short list of popular colleges and their admissions options and deadlines. This chart was last updated in September 2023.

Read more: Applying Early – Insights to Optimize Your College Admissions Strategy



In conclusion, understanding the differences between Early Decision, Early Action, and Single Choice Early Action can help you make an informed decision about your college application strategy. These options can provide a competitive advantage and potentially relieve some of the stress associated with the regular application process. Ultimately, the key is to choose the approach that aligns best with your goals and circumstances.