Tag Archives: college admissions

So you want to be a CS major – How to build a Strong high school narrative

Do you know what it takes to get into college as a Computer Science major? Join us online at 5:00pm (PT) on Wednesday, September 28 to learn what you can do to build a powerful narrative!

This FREE webinar is perfect for 9th – 11th graders and their families!

CLICK HERE to Get Your FREE Tickets Today!

 

About this event 

It’s no secret that Computer Science is one of the hottest (and hardest to get into!) majors, so you need a powerful narrative if you are interested in applying as a CS major. In our webinar, Insight Co-Founder Ajit Jain and Senior College Admissions Counselor Zach Pava will share their advice on

  • The college admissions landscapes for a Computer Science major
  • What you can do academically to stand out
  • Which criteria you should consider in selecting your extracurricular activities
  • How to build a powerful personal narrative in your college application
  • and much much more!

Seats are limited! Hurry to RSVP your FREE tickets today!

 

Looking forward to meeting you!

Team Insight

Your Best Insights to Early Admission Options

Over the past few years, all of us at Team Insight are noticing more and more families want to know if early admission option can increase their chance of acceptance. While early admissions may have a higher acceptance rate, it’s important to understand your options and weigh the restrictions before you send in your application!

 

Most of you probably know about early actions (EA) and early decisions (ED). If you are uncertain, you can learn more about them in our article “Early Decision vs. Early Action.” In addition to early decisions and early actions, we will also explain restrictive early actions (REA) and single-choice early actions (SCEA) and provide insights on Early Decision 2 (ED2).

 

Early Decision 1 (EDI or ED1)

If you look at any of the admissions statistics, you may be shocked at how high the acceptance rates are compared to regular decisions. Before you jump in and apply ED, note there is a catch. Early decision is binding. You can apply ED to only ONE college, and if you are accepted, you must withdraw all your applications to other universities. Essentially, when you apply ED to a school, you are signing a contract telling this school, “You’re my number one choice, and I will absolutely attend if I am accepted.”

 

Should you do that for your dream school? The answer is “it depends.” ED doesn’t mean less competitive; it may even be more competitive because it is a self-selecting process. Everyone who applies ED to UPenn is highly qualified, not to mention they are well-motivated to plan and start their application process early. If you are confident that you can finalize a high-quality college application by the typical November ED deadline, ED may be an option for you.

 

The other consideration is financial aid. Once again, when you apply early decision, you are signaling to the college that you will attend no matter what. This means colleges are less likely to offer you scholarships or financial aid. Therefore, if you are counting on financial help, then early decision may not be the right option.

 

Read more: Think it Through: Early Decision

 

Early Decision 2 (EDII or ED 2)

This is a relatively new admissions option, and not all colleges offer this. You follow the same rule as ED1. For many schools, ED2 deadline is slightly before or the same as regular decision. Why would you choose the ED2 option then? The main reason you’d apply ED2 is that you were deferred or rejected from your ED1 college.

 

Like ED1, your ED2 school is a college that you are excited to attend. Although early decision 2 admissions rate is not as high as early decision 1 acceptance rate, it can still provide you with a boost because of the binding policy.

 

A word of caution for ED2: some universities (for example, Santa Clara University) offer both early action and early decision 2. You cannot switch from early action to early decision 2. That’s why ED2 options need to be factored in early during the admissions process rather than treated like a backup option. If you are not sure which of your top-choice colleges offer ED2 or how to use it to your advantage, reach out to your Insight Counselor!

 

Have quesitons about applying early? Talk to one of our Counselors today!

 

Early Action (EA)

The deadlines for early action are typically November 1st or November 15th. For some schools and majors, you may need to submit your application as early as mid-October. When you apply EA, you can apply to as many schools as you want. A word of caution, some colleges offer EA programs, but the admissions process is closer to restricted early action, which we will get to in the next section.

 

What’s the benefit of submitting your applications early? In addition to getting a big to-do item checked off before your high school finals, you also hear about the admissions results earlier. You may find out in December or January whether you get to attend your top-choice school, and who wouldn’t like that as a Christmas present?

 

The other advantage is you have time on your side to strategize (or relax) since you won’t have to commit to a college until May 1st. This gives you time to apply to more schools, compare financial aid options, and visit more campuses. Since early action is non-binding, you can choose what you like the most.

 

Restrictive or Single-Choice Early Action (REA or SCEA)

This is where things get a bit more complicated. Whether you see restrictive early action or single-choice early action, please note that REA and SCEA are interchangeable. Ultimately, it’s up to the admissions office’s restrictions, so always remember to read the college admissions website carefully. When in doubt, talk to your Insight Counselor!

 

There are two different types of restrictive early action, and we will explain both with examples. The first type of REA limits perspective students from applying ED to any universities, nor can they apply EA to any private colleges. The colleges that adopt this type of REA are Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, CalTech, and Yale (on Yale’s admissions site, this is known as the single-choice early action). This means if you are applying early to Princeton, you cannot apply EA to USC, but you can still apply EA to University of Michigan.

 

USC now words their early action deadline differently, so you may still be able to apply to restrictive early action to some of the examples listed above. Wonder how this might work? Schedule a personalized college admission strategy session with an Insight counselor today! 

 

The second type of REA does not limit the type (private or public) of EA schools you can apply to. Georgetown is a good example. On the admissions page, Georgetown classifies its program as early action, but their description of their EA program outlines the restriction. If you apply early to Georgetown, you can still apply EA to both USC and UMich, but you cannot apply to any early decision programs.

 

While it may be confusing on what you can or cannot apply, the restrictions end at the early admissions round. Both REA and SCEA are non-binding. Thus, you can still apply to other schools during regular decision deadlines, and you can enroll in the college that you like the most.

 

Final Insights

While you may use early admissions to increase your chance in getting into your dream schools, it’s still important to have a strong college application that tells a powerful personal narrative. Ultimately, it’s up to you. How thoughtful you are in putting together your college list. Have you talked to your parents about financial aid? Did you send your application to your Insight Counselor for review yet? Are you following up with teachers who can be strong recommenders? Have you been working on your college essays? Are you scheduling time every week to focus on your application and essays? These are all actions you can take to ensure you have the best chance of maximizing your college admissions acceptance rate. If you need help or additional clarification, don’t hesitate to email us at info@insight-education.net and let our team of experienced college admissions counselors help you!

 

 


Written by Purvi Mody

This article was created from an interview with Insight’s Co-Founder and Head of Counseling Purvi Mody.

Since 1998, Purvi has dedicated her career to education and is exceedingly well versed in the college admissions process. Her philosophy centers around helping kids identify and apply to the schools that are the best fit for them and then develop applications that emphasize their unique attributes and talents.

Top 10 College Essay Mistakes to Avoid

It’s application season! Whether you’ve been working on your college essay drafts all summer or just finished slaying your first draft, you want to double-check your personal statement or personal insight questions (PIQs) response. In this article, Insight Counselor Zach summarizes the top 10 most common college essay mistakes that you definitely want to avoid!

Continue reading

Test Optional Colleges and Score Reporting Policies for 2022-2023

The list contains the test-optional colleges that changed their admission policies due to COVID-19. 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 2022.

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, most popular schools extended their test-optional policies for Fall 2023 applicants. There are colleges that adopted 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?

Yes! From the 2021 and the 2022 admissions results, we’ve seen those who submitted test scores have a higher acceptance rate than those who did not. 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 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.

The 2022-2023 ACT Registration is now open! What now?

For those who check the ACT website often, you’ve probably noticed that the ACT registration is now open for September 2022-July 2023 test dates! Here is a quick guide on when the ACT tests are happening, the deadlines for signing up, and what you should do (depending on your graduation year).

Taking the SAT instead? Check out 2022-2023 SAT registration is opened! Now what?

Not sure which test to take? See our advice on ACT vs. SAT: Which Test Should You Take?

2022-2023 ACT Test Dates

According to ACT.org, the 2022-2023 ACT exam dates and deadlines are shown below. You can register for all of these dates now.

 

ACT Test Date Registration Deadline Last Day for Late Registrations & Changes (extra fees apply)
September 10, 2022 August 5, 2022 August 19, 2022
October 22, 2022 September 16, 2022 September 30, 2022
December 10, 2022 November 4, 2022 November 11, 2022
February 11, 2023 January 6, 2023 January 20, 2023
April 15, 2023 March 10, 2023 March 24, 2023
June 10, 2023 May 5, 2023 May 19, 2023
July 15, 2023 June 16, 2023 June 23, 2023

 

Insight Advice for Rising Seniors (Class of 2023)

 

If you haven’t been able to take the SAT or the ACT at all, you are not alone. Many schools have extended their test-optional policy to the Class of 2023, and you can find out what your top-choice college decides to do in our Test-Optional Colleges HERE. If you are planning to take the ACT, you should start preparing now. Learn how to maximize your score during the summer with our guide on How to Prepare for the ACT or the SAT this Summer.

 

For Class of 2023 who want to apply for Early Action or Early Decision, you need to take your ACT by October 22, 2022. If you are applying for Regular Decision, you should take your ACT by December 10, 2022.

 

Want a strategic, proven way to boost your ACT score? Click here to see our ACT classes!
Taking the SAT instead? Check out our popular SAT classes!

 

Insight Advice for Rising Juniors (Class of 2024)

 

Typically, we see juniors take their ACTs in the summer (June or July) and in the spring (usually after a spring break study crunch). If you already have a score you are happy with, congratulations, you can focus on expanding your extracurricular activities, AP courses, and schoolwork.

 

By preparing for the ACT early, you are giving yourself time to get a head start on your college admissions process next year. This can significantly lower your stress level (and tasks) for your summer after junior year!

 

Just starting your SAT preparation? Our SAT Advantage Classes are designed to give you comprehensive topic review as well as test-taking strategies.

Read more: Why Summer Study Can Be A Great Thing!

 

Insight Advice for Rising Sophomores (Class of 2025)

 

It may seem too early for you to even think about the SAT or the ACT. But it’s not! While these standardized tests are designed to challenge your English and Math abilities, their structures, formats, and timing are very different.

 

If you have already taken Algebra 2, which covers polynomials, trigonometry, and exponentials, you can start considering your test prep strategy! The best way to decide if you should take the SAT or the ACT is to take diagnostic tests for both. Taking both diagnostic tests can help you decide which test you are more comfortable with. You may like the SAT better because it allows for more time per question, or you may be an ACT person if you prefer to always have access to a calculator. Once you’ve figured out your style, you can focus on preparing for that!

 

Want to schedule your ACT and SAT diagnostic tests? We simulate the real testing environment to help you know how you will perform on the big day. Email us ( info@insight-education.net ) today or CONTACT US to find out more!

How to Write the “Why Major” or “Why College” Essays?

During the college admissions process, you may come across many supplement essays. The most challenging one is the “why” essay. Generally, these college essay prompt asks, “Why do you want to attend our school” or “why do you want to study this specific major?”

 

(Rather watch a video instead? Check out Senior College Admissions Counselor Zach’s video on How to Write the “Why Major” and “Why College” Essays!)

 

What Do College Admissions Officers Want to See in a “Why College” Essays?

It depends on the specific college or the specific program you are applying to. When you respond to the “why college” essay, you want to address the reasons that you’re drawn to that college. Essentially, you’d share what you find unique and different about that particular university.

 

Think of the “why college” essay like a love letter. There are thousands of colleges out there you can apply to, but what makes this college THE ONE? A good “why college” essay is based on in-depth research. You really have to do your homework! Don’t just jot down the first few things you see on the college’s website. Dig deep. What are some of the opportunities that this university offers that draw you in? How do you find yourself fitting perfectly into the campus culture? Why is this college the best fit for you academically or socially? What are some of your personal goals and values that can only be achieved at this school?

 

Just like any love letter, you want the reader to feel special. The why essay should not feel generic. The easiest way to check if your why essay is too general is to substitute the name. If you can replace “College A” with “College B” in your essay and it still reads fine, then you need to rewrite and be more specific.

 

What about a “Why Major” Essay?

The “why major” essay is specific to what you are hoping to accomplish or what career path you hope to be on in the future. Not every high school student knows exactly what they want to do. That’s perfectly normal. For those who are undecided or those who have several interests, be as clear as possible on what you are trying to achieve. What drives you to this set of majors? What do you hope to explore within this particular program?

 

For those who have a better idea of what they want to do, you’d want to research the resources that this major (or program) offers. What classes are available? Why do you find them intriguing? What research opportunities are offered? What facilities and labs will you be able to utilize? What professors would you study or research under? You want to demonstrate that you’ve really looked into this program, and only this major/program at this school can offer you the unique chance to achieve your goals.

 

How to Write a Good Why Essay?

Be specific! The more focused you are on expressing what attracts you, the better. The why essay is as much about you as it is about the school (or program or major). Don’t rely on samples or templates that are out there. You may want to talk to friends or alum who went to this college, but what they tell you to write might not make good content.

 

This really needs to be about you. Think about it from the admissions officer’s perspective. They are reviewing thousands and thousands of applications. You don’t want to sound like just any average joe. You don’t want your love letter to this school/program/major to sound generic. You want it to be unique. You want it to be authentic and specific. You want your own voice to come out. Most importantly, you want your why essay to supplement your personal statement.

 

A good why essay should provide another dimension to who you are. You shouldn’t repeat information that’s already in the activity section or your personal statement. Ultimately, a good why essay shares why this college is a good fit for you while allowing the college admissions officers to get to know more about you.

 

Sounds Great! How Do I Get Started?

One way to get started on your why essay is to ask – “What did you enjoy doing?” You want to reflect on what you’ve done thus far. Think back on your high school years and what you have accomplished so far. What are the ways you can continue excelling at the college level? How can this college help you grow?

 

For example, if you have been involved in certain charity work and you love it, look for opportunities on this college campus that will allow you to explore this. What are the ways this college or program will help you expand this experience? If you have started a particular research at the high school level, you will have access to more resources, better tools, and professors that can help you to further your research. It may lead to jobs and future career paths.

 

Another way is to visit the college. Check out research opportunities online. Walk around the campus. Join a virtual information session. Schedule informational interviews with alumni. Essentially, use all the possible resources to learn more about this college. This can help you convey why you are drawn to this school with detailed examples and reasons.

 

The key point to remember as you write your why essay: you want this college (or major) to do as much for you as you can for it.

Need professional guidance for your college essays? Schedule a personalized one-hour consultation with our College Admissions Counselor


Written by Zach Pava

This article is inspired by an interview by Insight Senior Counselor Zach Pava.

Zach has guided hundreds of students throughout the college admissions process. His extensive writing background includes essay contributions online and in print, a sports blog, screenplays, and film reviews. Contact Insight Education today to schedule an initial consultation with Zach. Read his full bio here.

How to Build Your College List

There are so many college ranking systems – US News might be the most famous one in the USA, but there are also lists from the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, just to name a few. Can’t you just copy/paste a college list from one of these and call it a day?

Nope!

Because these lists often include hundreds and hundreds of schools, after seeing the common “name-brand” choices, they might just blend together so that you mentally check out – and overlook many excellent choices. Or maybe you decide against applying to certain schools because of the sheer intimidation factor. The rankings systems at best could be a place to start your research but you cannot substitute their judgment for yours!

 

College List Insight #1: RESEARCH, RESEARCH, AND MORE RESEARCH

knowing your priorities and asking universities the right questions can help you build a personalized college listYou will need to make a customized list for yourself for deciding where exactly you would like to apply. Yes, that means doing all kinds of research to get to know colleges to see what would be a great fit for you. It means attending in-person or virtual events to get to know the student body and personnel. It means really digging deep to understand what is most important to you as you emerge from high school. What is really going to help you grow? What do you really need? Reflecting on your wants, needs, and goals is essential for making a good college list. What if you have no idea what you are looking for? Then, start as soon as possible to take stock and identify what are the deal-breakers for you.

One of my students told me that she could not apply anywhere close to skiing sites because she would ditch school for skiing and not study at all. This was incredibly honest of her! Indeed, she ended up applying and ultimately attending *flat* locales (and was very happy).

 

College List Insight #2: SEE YOURSELF AT THE COLLEGE

As much care as you might put into choosing your next pair of shoes, you will want to put one thousand times that effort when you are looking at colleges. How much time do students spend on their classes? Do they connect with professors? Are you extremely independent about academics? Or is having a community of utmost importance? You can look at what majors are popular at a college, or one which is impacted (ones for which demand is greater than supply). What kinds of extracurricular activities, hands-on work or real-world experiences can you access through that college? How do you want to meet schoolmates? If you have loved music all your life as a performer, is there a way for you to continue channeling that joy where you land?

Summer Plans? Top 10 Summer Tasks for College Admissions

 

College List Insight #3: HOW DO YOU LOVE TO LEARN – AND LIVE?

For any college on your list, are you feeling like the college matches how you see learning – and does it meet you where you are at, right now in your learning journey? It won’t just be your brain going to college – it will be your entire personality. I heard from a senior who told me that she was so glad that she did not “live” for colleges – she lived her high school life with enjoyment and spent time doing what she loved – without regrets. She told me, “I put myself first.” That might seem obvious – who would not put themselves first – but that is not what everyone does in high school.

Building a college list is about best-fit for you not rankingI think this sentiment is important because so many students are scared about being authentic and allow colleges to dictate what they do. Choosing colleges that match who YOU are is so much more important than trying to fit into what you think they want from you. Keeping this in mind – that you are focusing on you – as you look for colleges that you want to consider for your college list – will help you stay centered and calm.

 

Takeaways

– Think about how you truly love to learn, and what you need to do that
– Lovingly research each college, allocating plenty of time to do so
– Try to imagine your life at the college – even if that seems very fuzzy right now
– Check for obvious deal-breakers
– Stay calm and centered by matching colleges which are going to be a great fit for YOU!

 

Read more:  Balance Your College List: Really Focus on What YOU Want

 


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.

Recommendation Letters: the Great vs. the Not-So-Good

Letters of recommendation can play a key role in the college admissions process. Many colleges, especially private universities, view their applicants holistically. They want to know who you are as a “whole person,” rather than focusing on only your academics or test scores. That’s why your college essays and your recommendation letters are important to college admissions offices. They share who you are, what your values are, and where you aspire to be.

 

In this article, we will share five sample letters: some stellar and some not so great. The first letter is from a Biology teacher, the second from an AP Chemistry teacher, the third from a mentor, the fourth from an AP Computer Science teacher, and the fifth from an AP English teacher. After each letter, we will also provide insights into what makes an amazing letter of recommendation and what pitfalls you should avoid.

 

Sample Recommendation Letter #1: Brian

Dear Office of Undergraduate Admissions,

I first met Brian in his freshman year of high school. He was a student in my ninth-grade biology class. From the beginning, he contributed to class discussions and always had a positive approach to new material. During our unit on plants, he did unassigned research on his own time away from school and approached me during open office hours to discuss his findings. I was always impressed with his initiative and enthusiasm for the subject.

Since that time, I have transitioned to teaching AP Biology, and I was fortune to have Brian in my class again during his junior year. He consistently excelled with labs and achieved consistently high marks throughout the year. He brings energy to every discussion. That spring, he began to tutor other students who needed support as well. His willingness to help his peers was admirable, especially during the busiest stretch of the year when he was preparing for multiple AP exams. Currently, he is helping me as a teaching assistant during his senior year, while maintaining a full course schedule and applying to college.

Last summer, Brian volunteered at Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose. During his time there, he was able to shadow doctors and nurses and interact with patients. He regularly communicated questions to those with more experience and has already expressed interest in continuing to volunteer his time next summer before he heads off to college. His desire for knowledge and the care he shows to other people leaves no doubt that he has a wonderful future ahead, not only as a biology major in college, but also as a young man who will make valuable contributions to society.

Please reach out to me at rcarson@insight.education should you need more information.

Sincerely,
Mrs. Carson

Insights to this letter of recommendation

This is a great letter of recommendation from Mrs. Carson. From this recommendation letter, we can tell that she knows Brian well and has high opinions of him. Mrs. Carson shares specific anecdotes of Brian, showing that he made a powerful impression. She doesn’t describe Brian as “a good student;” she shares examples of his unassigned research and his willingness to help others.

You could argue that Mrs. Carson remembers Brian because he was her student for two years and later her teaching assistant. You wouldn’t be wrong. It’s important to whom you ask for recommendation letters. Your interactions and relationships with the recommenders are far more important than your grades in the class. From her letter of recommendation, you can tell Brian exhausted his resources to learn everything he could about biology. He asked Mrs. Carson for help in his independent research in ninth grade. He actively participated in her AP Biology class discussions. He devoted his time to become her teaching assistant. While Brian did all these activities to pursue his interest in biology, no doubt he made a strong impression for Mrs. Carson to take her time and energy to craft together a glowing recommendation letter.

 

It’s important to whom you ask for a recommendation letter. Your interactions and relationships with the recommenders are far more important than your grades in the class.

 

What does this recommendation letter tell the admissions office?

private colleges may require recommendation letters as part of the admissions process

The college admissions officers could have already seen Brian’s courses and his AP Biology test score. They may even know Brian is a strong student with an interest in biology. Ms. Carson’s recommendation letter confirms Brian’s enthusiasm for biology. In addition to his academic interests and grades, Ms. Carson shared that Brian loves to help others, even if he must squeeze time out of his busy schedule.

From her letter of recommendation, Ms. Carson paints a picture of an overachiever who is not only intellectually curious but also compassionate. Her belief that Brian will “make valuable contributions to society” really helps to add weight to his college application.

 

Sample Recommendation Letter #2: Catherine

Dear Admissions Committee,

I am writing this letter of recommendation in support of Catherine’s application for undergraduate admission in the chemistry program at Insight University.

I was Catherine’s teacher for AP Chemistry last year. She is a strong honors student, who received excellent grades on all classwork and exams. Catherine submits her work on time and gets along well with her classmates. Aside from getting an A+ in my class, Catherine also received a 5 on her AP Chemistry exam at the end of the year.

She is involved in a number of school clubs and summer research programs pertaining to Chemistry. Catherine’s dedication to her interest in the subject matter has impressed me, and I am confident that she will continue to demonstrate the same commitment in college. I look forward to seeing her future pursuit of her interests at your institution and offer my endorsement of her.

Sincerely,
Mr. Pauling

 

Insights to this letter of recommendation

Compared this letter to the first letter, the length is shorter, and the language is vague. We can tell that Catherine did really well in AP Chemistry, but her grade and AP scores can be easily found on her application. Mr. Pauling did not offer any specifics about Catherine’s clubs and summer research programs, which shows his lack of personal knowledge of Catherine.

However, this could be prevented had Catherine provided a resume when she asked for the letter of recommendation. School teachers work with hundreds of students per year. They may remember anecdotes of your behavior in their classes, but teachers will have a hard time recalling which specific summer research program you participated in. Thus, it’s a good idea to provide them with relevant details when you ask for the recommendation letters.

a resume or a list of your achievements can help your teachers with the letter of recommendation

 

It could be helpful for your recommender if you prepare a resume or a short list of your achievements.

 

 

What does this recommendation letter tell the college admissions office?

This letter is unlikely to add any positive value to Catherine’s application. Compared with her application, this recommendation letter arguably offers less information. We don’t even know the name of the school clubs Catherine was in.

A good letter of recommendation provides additional facets or dimensions of “you” in the college application. From this letter, we know Catherine was a good student. College admissions offices need more than that; they want to know your character traits and what your values are. It is one thing to learn your traits from your personal statement, but it speaks volumes when those same traits are observable by others around you as well.

 

Sample Recommendation Letter #3: Kyle

To whom it may concern,

I am writing this letter in support of Kyle. I have been Kyle’s tennis coach for the last two years at Insight High School and I look forward to this season, when he will be one of three co-captains on the varsity team.

Kyle only joined the tennis team during his sophomore year, and as such he had to catch up with peers who had been playing longer. However, Kyle led by example from the beginning. He was always on time and prepared for practice. Additionally, he was always willing to take constructive feedback. Despite a meticulous approach to developing his skills and being hard on himself after the occasional mistake, he has always remained approachable. He has excellent communication skills and has never shied away from a challenge.

Now a stronger player than he has ever been, teammates turn to his for support. This is especially true of younger teammates who want to challenge themselves by competing with those more advanced. As a mentor, Kyle has really hit his stride and showcased exceptional leadership ability. In fact, he even set up a private meeting with a teammate who was considering leaving the team after a poor performance. Kyle inspired his teammate and motivated her to continue. The only reason I know about this meeting is because the younger student who needed support told me how great Kyle has been in helping her through a tough time.

People gravitate to Kyle, and I think that will be evident as he continues to compete at the next level.

If you have further questions, you may contact me at (xxx) xxx-xxxx.

Regards,
Coach Roger

 

Insights to this recommendation letter

Unlike the previous three examples, this one is from a mentor. Depending on the college’s admissions requirement, you may need to find letters of recommendation outside of the classroom. You want to pick someone with whom you have a good rapport, work closely with, and have known for some time. For example, a mentor from your year-long volunteering experience or a manager from your part-time job.

Always double-check the college admissions requirement on letter of recommendation before you make your selection. Some high schools also have rules on who/when you can ask for recommendation letters, too. 

In this case, Coach Roger was Kyle’s tennis team coach for more than two years. In two simple examples, Coach Roger explained in detail what sets Kyle apart. Kyle is hardworking, disciplined, and motivating. We may not know what Kyle’s grades looked like or how challenging his academic curriculum was, but that doesn’t make Kyle any less of an appealing candidate. We admire his courage in the face of challenging times and his thoughtfulness when helping his teammates.

 

What does this recommendation letter tell the college admissions officers?

From Coach Roger’s letter, we can see who Kyle is beyond his grades and GPA. Kyle has the qualities that allow him to succeed in school, and more importantly, those qualities will help him excel in life. These qualities, also known as non-cognitive factors, are essential in holistic admissions. They are related to motivation, integrity, temperament, attitude, and interpersonal skills. College admissions officers seek out students who possess these non-cognitive factors because these students are likely to continue to thrive and grow.

 

Sample Recommendation Letter #4: Aaron

To whom it concerns,

This letter is for Aaron. I met him in August when he joined my AP Computer Science class. He previously took Java and has begun to demonstrate more interest in the field. Despite not having a long relationship with Aaron, he has been a good student this year and typically earns As and Bs on tests. He wants to get involved in more CS-related activities and recently took part in his first hackathon.

I told Aaron how competitive CS is, and we have discussed related fields such as data science. His goal is to work at a tech startup in the Bay Area. I think that with hard work and more focus on his chosen major, he will find success as an undergraduate student.

Aaron is a good kid with a bright future ahead of him.

Best,
Mrs. Turring

 

Insights to this letter of recommendation

building a genuine relationship is the best way to a strong recommendation letterMrs. Turring’s description of Aaron is generic. It lacks passion. The specific details she was able to share are information already listed in Aaron’s application, such as his grades and activities. In this case, Aaron could help himself by sharing why he wanted to learn Java or what his hackathon experience was. Strike up small talk with your teachers, even simple things like asking about their day and sharing something meaningful to you. This is not just about getting a good letter of recommendation; you’re learning to build an important skill, which is fostering relationships with people from different backgrounds and age groups.

Read more: Tips for Strong Letters of Recommendation

 

What does this recommendation letter tell the admissions office?

This recommendation letter tells colleges that Aaron is interested in CS, which is a very competitive major. If he is interested in a career path pertaining to computer science, we would expect more interactions with his AP Computer Science teacher. Actually, this letter causes a slight concern because Mrs. Turring thought Aaron needs “more focus on his chosen major.”

 

Sample Letter of Recommendation #5: Edie

Dear Admissions Office,

I proudly write on behalf of Edie and her ambition to attend your university. I am fortunate to have Edie as a student in our school’s AP English Language course, a two-year class tailored for the most creative and rhetorically gifted students on our campus. Though amongst the elite, Edie represents the best of the students I am honored to teach based on her intelligence, creativity, broad scope of talents and contributions to our school and community, and leadership. However, atop her catalog of attributes, Edie is one of the most kind, respectful, and outgoing students I have ever had in my twenty-seven years of teaching. I hope my following words of praise improve Edie’s opportunity for admittance.

Last year, Edie instantly proved her willingness to contribute to the classroom. Though many times exhausted from her litany of extracurricular demands or her taxing AP schedule, Edie arrived to class smiling and beyond any definition of simply participating in class. Her genuine positive energy cascaded throughout the classroom each day making everyone in the room smile, including me. Edie also shattered the expectations I had on every assignment whether academic or creative. To link with Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, Edie creatively illustrated her own A Streetcar Named Life, using images and quotes encapsulating life’s challenges and inspirations. Her command of language equally impressed on both AP timed writings and other rhetorical tasks. Below is a brief excerpt from Edie’s own apocalyptic tale imitating the fragmented style of Cormac McCarthy after reading The Road.

Papa felt weak. He felt it overcome him like the shadows during Lights Out, mother says. So papa left. into the dark. Mother says papa left us fighting the dark alone. I don’t think we should fight the dark. The dark is my best friend the only friend I have ever known. The dark lets me feel, lets me feel weak.

People gravitate to Kyle, and I think that will be evident as he continues to compete at the next level.

Yet, Edie’s most impressive effort was her year-long independent study project. For the TAG curriculum, students are encouraged to choose a passion of theirs to explore, create, and practice beyond the traditional bounds of a research paper. Edie chose human experiences. Of her eight installments, Edie proved the elasticity of her mind and heart. She wrote random notes of kindness to strangers, friends, family, and even our entire class. She paid it forward in our community, wrote beautiful, humanistic poetry, conquered a few of her fears, and provided insight on many of life’s most inspirational quotes. I particularly liked how one of her favorite quotes is also mine by Bruce Lee. Do not pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.

Without reciting Edie’s entire resume, her accomplishments and leadership are many. With all these achievements, you might expect an overzealous, arrogant student to walk through your doors. Edie is not. she smiles more than anyone and exudes the utmost respect for everyone in the room. It is refreshing to be around such a talented and accomplished student who also has such a great sense of humor and modesty. I offer Edie my highest recommendation as she is a student for even adults to emulate. She works so hard on every assignment that I almost feel guilty assigning it. Almost.

There are many more examples and anecdotes of Edie’s efforts. If what I stated above served not as acknowledgment enough, I hope my own daughter becomes the same type of student and person Edie represents. I know she will make an excellent contribution to your campus and lives. She has mine. If there is anything additional I can offer to help Edie’s opportunity, please do not hesitate to request.

With Sincerity,
Edward Insight

 

Insights to this letter of recommendation

While Mr. Edward Insight focused his entire letter on Edie’s performance in his class, this letter is significantly different from Catherine’s recommendation letter. Mr. Insight phrased his letter of recommendation carefully to deliver his respect for Edie. From the first paragraph, we already learn that he thought of Edie as the best of the best because of her academic performance and her characteristics. Mr. Insight listed many anecdotes to support his view of Edie, and he even shared a piece of her work for the college admissions office to experience her creative writing.

From this recommendation letter, you can almost picture what Edie looks like, and she sounds like a very charming, open-minded, and compassionate person. That’s what makes this so powerful. A well-written letter of recommendation makes the student come to life for the college admissions officers.

 

What does this recommendation letter tell the college admissions office?

This recommendation letter shouts, “Pick her!” It makes us want to meet Edie and get to know her more. This is the kind of letter you want to have: specific, passionate, and well-crafted. Mr. Insight hopes for the best for Edie, and he wants to help her achieve her dream. This is not a letter that you can write in five minutes or half an hour. He spent the time choosing his words and examples to make a strong impression on the college admissions officers.

 

Final Thoughts

Recommendation letters can make or break a college admissions decision. It’s important whom you ask and how you ask. At Insight, our counselors encourage and help students build relationships with their teachers. Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Don’t stress! We are here to help. Schedule your 1-hour personalized college planning session with an Insight Counselor today!

 

Best of Luck,

Team Insight

The Truth Behind College Admissions: Learn what it really takes to get into College from Admissions Experts

THE TRUTH BEHIND COLLEGE ADMISSIONS

A Free Community Seminar for prospective clients, hosted by INSIGHT EDUCATION! 

 

Date: April 3, 2022

Time: 10:00am – 12:00pm

Location: Insight Education Cupertino Headquarter

Address: 1601 S De Anza Blvd, Suite 108, Cupertino, CA 95014 

 

**Three (3) people per family max, please register a ticket for each member of your family** 

 

Learn what it takes to get into the colleges of your choice in our Truth behind College Admissions Seminar! Including:  

  • How has the College Admissions Landscape changed?
  • What does Holistic Admissions really mean?
  • Why does it seem harder to get into Colleges these days? 
  • Does your High School choice matter?
  • Should you take any Standardized tests? If so, which one?
  • What do colleges truly want to see on the Applications?
  • The College Application itself
  • What can you do to maximize your chances of Admissions?
  •  

Check-in begins at 9:45am for a 10:00am presentation start time!

 

Please note, parking around the location is free but can be limited. We recommend you arrive early to find your spot. In order to keep our community safe and healthy, we ask that all attendees in live events to show proof of being fully vaccinated and boosted (if eligible) or negative COVID test results within 24 hours (Antigen) / 48 hours (PCR). Please click here to see our in-person guidelines regarding COVID vaccination/tests.

 

We look forward to seeing you at the seminar,

Team Insight