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Category: College Prep

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.

2023- 2024 Test Optional Colleges and Score Reporting Policies

The list contains the test-optional colleges that changed their admission policies since 2020. Some have extended their test-optional policies. These policies primarily focus on ACT and SAT standardized tests for first-year U.S. undergraduate applicants.

This list was last updated in September 2023.

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 or later is test-optional or not?

For now, some schools extended their test-optional policies for Fall 2024 applicants. There are colleges that 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.

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.

Insights into Business Programs

Business management as an undergraduate major is important and sought after by many high school students; however, this major is only available in selective four-year colleges. Admission is relatively challenging as business also counts as an impacted major along with computer science, economics, engineering, and psychology.


As per the National Center for Education Statistics, colleges conferred about 2.0 million Bachelor’s degrees in 2019–20. Business studies were the most popular undergraduate major and made up for 19 percent (387,900 degrees) conferred that year and the number continues to grow.


Types of Business Degrees

A BBA (Bachelor’s in Business Administration), includes more business-specific courses and fewer general education requirements. The basic business requirements for the first few semesters include classes in data analysis, basic accounting, accounting, and business strategy. In a BA (Bachelor of Arts) in business, students take more liberal arts and social science courses along with some business requirements. A BS (Bachelor of Science) in business includes courses that lean a little more on STEM subjects like statistics, advanced math, and economics.


There is no better or worse scenario in any of these degrees, and there are no fixed classes; it is just dependent on your long-term goals, the college that you choose to go to. After the general requirements are met, depending on each college, students have the option of choosing electives focusing on business entrepreneurship, accounting, finance, HR, marketing, logistics, practical training, and other related fields.


The variety of business degrees offered

Just to give an example, UC Berkeley Haas School of Business offers a variety of business degrees that are very specialized and address the need of the changing global landscape. For example, you can participate in the Business Administration, Management Entrepreneurship and Technology program or the Global Management program. In the admission year of 2021-2022, there were 2,976 sophomore and transfer applicants, and 356 (or 11%) were accepted. Before the admission year of 2022-2023, Haas School of Business didn’t not accept first-year undergraduate applications. This was the first year that the Haas School opened admission directly to high school students.


On the other hand, there are undergraduate business management programs that welcome direct admission for high school students, such as the one at the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University (SCU). It offers a sampling of generic business requirement classes with the choice to funnel up to a major such as accounting, marketing, finance, management, and more. The acceptance rate for SCU was 29% into the Leavey School of Business with the average GPA between 3.6 to 3.9.


Level of preparedness for admission to a business undergraduate

Students intending to study business need to prepare and take classes like economics, statistics, and other business electives in their high school (and outside) that showcase their interests and skills in the subject. Summer activities can also be planned around exposing themselves to a business environment, be it a part-time retail job or an internship.


After you graduate from college – MBA?

With business degrees, graduates work as market research analysts, accountants, and management analysts. Earning a bachelor’s degree generally takes four years for full-time students. Average salaries vary depending on the major and the industry. Students can also earn degrees in specific industries, like healthcare administration, hospitality management, or supply chain management.


After a bachelor’s degree in business, some students choose work for a few years before they consider working towards an MBA (Master’s in Business Administration). Some business schools stress having work experience and will only consider applicants who have worked full-time. To get into an MBA program, students need to pass the GMAT, a standardized business-school admission test.

Not sure what schools are the best for you? Contact us today to schedule a 1-hour personalized college planning session.

5 Blunders to Avoid During Your College Campus Tour

Visiting the campus or going on a guided college campus tour can provide insights into the institution and help you make an informed decision. To ensure you have a productive and meaningful visit, we want to share our insights into the top 5 don’ts to avoid during your college tour:


1. Dismissing the Surrounding Community

explore local community during your college campus tourWhile the campus itself is a vital aspect, understanding the local environment is equally crucial. The community surrounding the college will be your home away from home, so take the opportunity to explore it. Find a nice café or a restaurant near the campus. Take a stroll in the surrounding neighborhood. Maybe strike up a conversation or two with the locals. Learning about the city or the local area’s safety, amenities, and cultural offerings may impact your overall college experience.


2. Not Engaging with Current Students

One of the biggest mistakes to avoid is not engaging with current students during your college tour. These individuals can provide valuable insights into campus life, academic rigor, extracurricular opportunities, and the overall student experience. By interacting with them, you can gain a more authentic understanding of the college’s culture and whether it aligns with your aspirations and goals. Maybe you will even make a few friends before you become part of the community!


3. Skipping Important Facilities and Resources

check out other parts of the campus during your campus tourAvoid the temptation to overlook essential facilities and resources on campus. While the tour guide may highlight some key locations, take the initiative to explore academic buildings, libraries, research facilities, and recreational spaces. By skipping these areas, you might miss out on crucial information regarding study environments, research or career resources, and overall campus support.



4. Asking Generic Questions during Campus Tour

Failing to ask insightful questions is a missed opportunity for gathering important information. Do your homework before a tour. Check out the college’s website. Prepare a few questions you’d like to learn more about. Asking questions allows you to delve deeper into specific aspects of the college and provides clarity on areas that may be crucial to your college experience. Sometimes, the most important question could be as simple as “Where can I get the best food?”


5. Relying Solely on the College Campus Tour Guide

While college tour guides are knowledgeable and helpful, it’s essential to avoid relying solely on their perspectives. They may provide a positive and enthusiastic portrayal of the college, but it’s important to seek a well-rounded understanding. If you have the opportunity, interact with staff members, faculty, admissions officers, students, or alumni to gain a broader range of experiences and opinions. This will enable you to form a more balanced and comprehensive view of the college.

To learn more about a college through its alumni, set up an informational interview!


A few final insights into a successful college campus tour

Being on the college campus is an invaluable opportunity to evaluate colleges and determine which one is the best fit for you. By avoiding these five common mistakes, you can ensure a more thorough and insightful visit. A bonus tip: make sure you, the student, do most of the work and planning. You (not your parents) will spend the next 4-5 years of your life on this college campus, so gather essential information, get a feel for the university, and make an informed decision. Use these guidelines to make the most of your campus visits and find the college that will provide the ideal environment for your educational journey.


Not sure how to build a balanced college list and maximize your admissions success? Schedule a 1-hour personalized college planning session today with an experienced admissions counselor!

Insights into Honors College and Honors Program

So, you have heard great things about honors colleges and college honors programs. Now what? In this blog post, Insight Senior College Admissions Counselor Meilin Obinata will guide you through various factors to help you figure out if one of these would be a good fit for you (or not).


What is an Honors College ?

insights into honors college program and benefitsUsually, an honors college is part of a larger school, such as a university system, but often has its own funding sources, residential buildings, and activities specifically designated for honors students to use, live in, and participate in. I tell my students that these big schools often want to offer honors students some of the warm and fuzzy feelings of a liberal arts college, which is dedicated to giving undergraduates more attention and care than a typical big research university would.



Some perks and requirements you may find within an honors college:

    • Separate application guidelines, with distinct prompts and specific restrictions about who can write your letters of recommendation
    • Small living communities with other honors students
    • Social / networking opportunities with other honors students, faculty, or professionals
    • Priority class registration
    • Smaller class sizes
    • Exclusive classes, events, and scholarship opportunities
    • Mandatory thesis /capstone projects
    • Access to internships or research opportunities designated for honors students
    • Additional required coursework or assignments


Honors colleges vary widely. So, it is important to dig deep to understand if their philosophy of learning and living is a match for you if you were to be accepted.

Read more: Why It Is Important to Find Your “Best Fit” College

From an admissions standpoint, an honors college will have an admit rate much, much lower than the school in general. For example, sometimes students do not realize that applying to Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University is very selective because they are thinking of the overall admit rate to ASU, which is very generous (as of today at least). This means you will need to take this into account when building your college list – an honors college may very well be a “dream” or “reach” choice when the college at large may occupy a different category of risk.

honors program insights to help you decide if you should apply to college

You may also want to research honors colleges with a very clear view of how these programs intersect with your life goals inside the college and beyond college. Schreyer’s Honors College students at Pennsylvania State University can apply to an Early Assurance Program for Penn State’s medical school, which could be very attractive if you wish to become a doctor one day, for example.


What is a college’s Honors Program ?

These are programs often requiring students to meet a variety of standards, such as keeping a certain grade point average or completing specific courses within a major or department. This is more like an academic lane. Students may need to complete additional assignments and/or projects in order to graduate “with honors.”


One of my students was interested in the University of Washington, and I encouraged her to consider the honors program because of the interdisciplinary nature of the subjects and activities that she pursued in high school. She applied – and that program turned out to be one of her acceptances. She ultimately decided to attend the University of Washington because of the opportunities related to that specific program.


What should you think about before applying?

    • Treat the application as an entirely separate entry on your college list, as in, it should “count” in your mind as a separate college, with its own category of risk.
    • Research honors programs and colleges deeply before deciding to apply – don’t underestimate the work involved with applying to one of these. You might ultimately decide to apply to another college instead of applying to an honors option due to your overall workload in the application process.
    • As wonderful as these might be, you might look at the requirements for being a student in an honors college or honors program and decide – hey, this is too restrictive for my needs!


We hope you learned more about honors options so that you are better prepared for your college research process. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to your Insight counselor. Cheers!

Not an Insight Counseling family yet? No problem! CONTACT US to schedule a 1-hour personalized college planning session with an experienced admissions counselor. 

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.

Admitted! Which College Offer Should I Accept?

Congratulations! Around this time of the year, all of us at Team Insight have the privilege to share the joy of our students and families as they receive acceptance letters. Now comes the next big question: “which school should I go to?”

Didn’t get into your top-choice college? Check out our articles on Waitlist and Appeal.

Visiting the colleges you’ve been admitted to is a great opportunity to help inform you about what college is the best fit for you. Many colleges will have an admit visit day—where students across the country can come and visit the schools and programs they were admitted to before they decide which one to attend in the fall. These visits are extremely helpful and informative. For the student, this is your time to really experience the school and see if this is the place you will call home for the next four years.


As you go on your visits, it’s important to take into consideration a few things. Ask yourself a few questions—


location matters when you are deciding which college to go toLocation/Living experience:

Do you like the campus? What is the dorm situation like? Where do most freshmen live? What food choices do you have- dining halls, cafés, grocery options? Do most students live on campus all 4 years? What are the housing options around campus? What are the different transportation options on campus/ to and from campus?




Community/Extracurricular experience:

What activities are there offered for you as a new student to get plugged into the community? Do they have clubs and organizations you would want to join? When and what resources do they have for mental health/ health?


Major/Career experience:learn what support you will have for your potential major and future career

Who is your counselor for your major? How often do you meet with them? What help do you get on your graduation plan and registering for courses? How do you get connected to the tutoring center if you need help with coursework? What opportunities do they offer current students for career exploration/internships/resume help/job fairs? What opportunities do they offer to help with graduate school applications?


The next month is an exciting time as you are deciding on which community you will be investing in for the next 4+ years. Remember, this is the place where you will gain the skills you need for the next place of your journey and a place where you will choose to invest your time and resources as well. Pay attention to your own feelings around this choice and be sure to think about where you will be happy and thrive as you pursue your degree and step into your career!

Read more: Explaining “SIR” – Statement of Intent to Register


Written by Jenny Bloom

This article is written by Insight Senior Counselor Jenny Bloom.

Jenny has worked with a variety of students since 2012 to help them take the right steps to achieve their academic goals. Part of her philosophy is to guide students to consider how they will build and hone their skills and talents to make a difference in the world around them. Contact Insight Education today to schedule an initial consultation with Jenny. Read her full bio here.

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