Tag Archives: college admissions

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

What You Need to Know About Advanced Placements (APs)

If you or anyone in your family are currently in high school, you must have heard of Advanced Placement (AP) classes or exams. From AP tests vs. AP classes to how many APs should you take, in this article, Insight’s Head of College Admissions Counseling Purvi Mody explains all the essential facts you need to know about APs and their role in college admissions.

 

(Prefer to watch a video instead? CLICK HERE to watch Purvi’s interview on all you need to know about APs)

 

Why AP classes in the first place?

AP classes are college-level courses that you can take during your high school years. Taking AP courses is one of the many ways you can show that you are ready for challenging academic materials, as well as your interest in a particular school subject. You can focus on subjects that you may want to pursue in college, such as taking AP Computer Science if you are interested in CS-related majors. Taking AP classes may also be a way to show your talents outside of academic interest. If you really love Psychology, you can incorporate AP Psychology in your schedule. The key is that APs can show your content knowledge and your ability to be successful at higher-level courses.

 

What’s the difference between AP exams and AP classes?

AP exams and AP classes are two distinct things. An AP class is like any class you’ve taken in your high school or online school; the class has grades, a structured curriculum, assignments, quizzes, and tests. The grade that you get from your AP class is on your transcript, and colleges can see these grades.

 

The AP exam is a two- or three-hour long test that you take to demonstrate your knowledge of the subject that you’ve been learning for the past academic year. The AP tests are typically held during the first two weeks of May. These exams are scored on a scale of 1-5, with a score of 3 or higher being a passing score. Unlike AP classes, you can self-report AP test scores. How should you report your AP exam scores then? We recommend our students report their highest AP scores, so report anything above a 3.

 

Need help preparing for your AP exams? Check out our upcoming AP Prep Boot Camps or academic tutoring options!

 

How many APs should I take?

This is the most popular question we get, and the answer is “it depends”. There is no magic number when it comes to AP classes or exams. It varies from student to student, and it also varies from school to school. Some private high schools offer no AP classes at all! The three golden rules to pick the right classes for you are interest, growth, and challenge. You want to pick courses that you are interested in while selecting the classes that you will thrive in. Lastly, your course selection should show that you are continuously challenging yourself intellectually.

 

Read more: How Many AP Classes Should You Take?

 

Now, is it possible to take too many APs?

Yes! The first thing you should know is that AP classes require more study time outside of the classroom. The content is challenging, and suddenly you find yourself with less time. If you find yourself spending most of your time on your AP classes, it’s a warning sign that you are taking too many APs. If your GPA drops, that could be a negative sign to send to colleges. At Insight, we emphasize the importance of finding the right balance, whether it is your course load or your college list.

 

Read more: Balancing Your High School Course Load

 

What if my high school doesn’t offer the AP class I want?

Let’s take a step back to the rules of course selection. An important factor to keep in mind: think about the skills you want to develop. You may not find AP U.S. History or AP European History all that interesting, but the reading and writing skills you develop during the courses are essential! Of course, this rule applies to regular or honor courses at your high school, not just the AP courses.

 

If you are really limited by your high school’s options, there are accredited institutions that offer online AP classes, so you can take them outside of your high school. In addition, if you are comfortable setting your own timeline, you can skip the online AP classes and grab an AP test prep book and self-study. If you opt for the self-study route, don’t forget to register for the AP test in May to show your result.

 

Read more: Should I self-study for AP?

 

Do I need the perfect 5 on the AP exam?

As we mentioned earlier, a score of 3, 4 or 5 is a passing score in college admissions. Depending on the university and the major choice, you may receive college course credits for an AP score of 3 or higher. When would we advise the student to re-take their AP exam that they got a 3 on? For example, the student wants to major in Biology and got a 3 on their AP Biology exam. If this student doesn’t have any extracurricular or other means of showing subject mastery, we MAY suggest the student retake the AP Bio exam next year. However, it depends on multiple factors. This depends on their current grade, their course load next year, their other commitments during the school years, and more. In most cases, we don’t advise students to retake their AP exams. Use that time to study for your other courses or focus on activities.

 

Want to show your best on your AP exam? Check out Insight’s AP Prep Boot Camps or meet with a tutor to strategically improve your score!

 


Written by Purvi Mody

This article was transcribed 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.

Disclaimer: Advanced Placement® and AP® are trademarks registered by the College Board, which is not affiliated with Insight Education.

5 Important Questions to Ask When You Plan Your Summer

Summer activities are a crucial part of the college evaluation process. Colleges want to see what high school students do with their long breaks and free time. Outside of the more-confined, structured school year, the activities you choose to pursue over the summer demonstrate what you value. In this Insight guide, our counselor will walk you through how to plan for your summer.

 

What Should High School Students Do Over the Summer?

The options and opportunities are limitless, and your summer plans may not be the same as your friends. In fact, it’s better if your plans are different – you are more likely to stand out! Whether taking a class online or working on a research project, you should focus on the skills that you need or want to build on. The five questions below will help to guide you through the process of narrowing down your potential summer activities so that you can create the best summer plan for yourself.

 

1. Do I need an academic boost?

The past two years have been challenging for many high school students. The summer can be a great opportunity to re-take a class that you didn’t pass. Unlike during the school year, you can focus on just one or two subjects over the summer. Not only do you have more time to study, but you will also have more energy to evaluate what study habits work for you (and what doesn’t). Before you take this route, be sure to talk to your guidance counselor to see if your school allows you to retake classes for a grade. Even if the answer is no, you could take a class without credit to demonstrate to colleges that you did whatever you could to understand the material and improve your knowledge in that subject.

 

Beyond a GPA bump, summer classes can also help you to explore a subject that you are interested in but know little about. Other local high schools or community colleges can be convenient places to start. However, many four-year universities now offer summer programs for high school students to experience life as a student on their campuses too. These classes are taught by real college professors, and you will sometimes get to live in actual dorms! Some of these programs are very competitive though, and may require an application, complete with letters of recommendation and essays to write. Thus, when in doubt, start researching and planning early!

 

2. Will SAT or ACT scores help me to stand out?

While many colleges are still test-optional, you should explore if your SAT or ACT scores can add positive value to your college applications. Over the summer break, you have time to assess whether you should take the ACT or the SAT, create a study plan with your counselor, sign up for one-on-one tutoring, or join a test preparation class to help you manage your time. Once decisions are made, you can sign up for an upcoming test and a backup test from there, only to be taken when you are fully ready. Studying for them over the summer keeps your brain active and gets you ready for school in the fall. It may also allow you to stay one step ahead of your peers. And remember, even if some colleges will not be reviewing your SAT or ACT scores, thousands of other schools will!

Read more: List of Test Optional Colleges 2022 and Beyond

 

3. What interests me?

Beyond the classroom, what do you do for fun? Give this real thought and then do something that’s meaningful to YOU. If research programs or internships sound interesting to you, figure out the requirements and start your applications early! The application process can be very similar to a mini college admissions process involving a personal statement, supplemental essays, activity lists, letters of recommendation, and interviews. You can also start your own project or your own business. You can volunteer at an organization whose goals match your own. You could even learn a new skill in your own backyard. Sky’s the limit!

 

Whatever your plans are, be sure to schedule some family time, as well as time to hang out with your friends. As you get older and prepare to head off to college, you will find that these opportunities begin to pass by quickly.

Need summer acitivity ideas: Top 6 Summer Activities for High School Students

 

4. What will it cost me?

One crucial consideration when you make your summer plans is the price. Some summer programs are free or low-cost, while others may not be. Some programs last for eight weeks, while others are two-week adventures. Their start and end dates also may not align with your high school’s. Your schedule and goals combine with cost to make committing to a summer program an important decision. If you are planning to save up for college, it may be a great idea to secure a job over the summer. Getting a job will be a valuable experience as you put together a resume and practice for interviews. Your work history can demonstrate your accountability and initiative. If you work for a company with multiple locations, you might even be able to continue that job elsewhere when you head off to college. Seriously, it happens!

 

Having said that, unpaid opportunities can be incredibly rewarding as well. If you are an aspiring medical student and you have the chance to shadow your doctor or work in a hospital setting as a volunteer, that valuable experience can go a long way.

 

5. How much time can I devote?

At Insight Education, our students typically engage in a mix of activities over the summer. Some may devote part of their summer to studying for the ACT or the SAT, and another part to volunteering and work. Others may join an intensive summer research program and spend time with friends and family on vacation. The key is BALANCE. Don’t pack your summer with six or seven different activities to impress college admissions officers. Prioritize what is important to you. Colleges value students who know how to juggle their schedules and focus on the things that matter most to them. It’s a sign of maturity.

Read more: Don’t Seek Summer Internships Just To Impress Admissions Officers

Ultimately, you want to build a summer experience that is both fun and meaningful. With so many options out there, it can be confusing. We are here to help! If you need guidance to figure out what will result in the most productive summer for you, schedule a 1-hour personalized planning session with an Insight counselor today.

 

We can’t wait to meet you!

Zach and Team Insight

 


Written by Zach Pava

This article is written 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.

Top 6 Summer Activities for High School Students

Planning for the summer can be overwhelming for high school students and their families. From figuring out what’s meaningful to you to what can help you in college admissions, you may have trouble picking the “perfect” summer activities. In this article, Insight Senior College Admissions Counselor Zach Pava explains the top 6 summer activities for high school students and why you should consider them!

 

(Prefer to watch a video instead? We got you! CLICK HERE for Zach’s video.)

 

Summer Plan Looks Different from One Student to the Next

You may be tempted to join a summer program or apply for an internship because your friends are doing it, but keep in mind that this is YOUR summer. Whatever you decide to do, whether it is preparing for standardized testing or working in retail, it’s important that you build on those opportunities, so you can have a very well-rounded college application. Ultimately, you should have a terrific experience over the summer during those precious few months when you are away from school.

 

Let’s dig a little more deeply into some of these summer activities!

 

1. Taking a Course

It’s pretty self-explanatory; you are taking a class or two over the summer. Within this category, however, there may be many different reasons for joining summer classes. Some students are repeating a class to make up for a grade because they didn’t pass the class or they had withdrawn. Summer can be a great opportunity for them to focus on the class.

Read more: Help! I Got A D – Can I Still Go To A UC?

Take an enrichment course over summerSome students may choose to take a course to prepare for a very challenging course in the next school year. Having a preview of the course materials can help them stay ahead of the curve and feel prepared. For a similar reason, students may also choose to prepare for standardized tests, such as the ACT or the SAT, over the summer to help their minds stay sharp and to add positive data to their college applications.

Not sure which test to take? Read our full insight on ACT v. SAT

There are also students who are taking classes for a GPA boost. Even if their GPA is in good standing, they may have their sights set for a higher GPA. We’ve also seen students take college-level courses to explore an academic subject that they are interested in. No matter your reason, taking summer courses can be a good way to demonstrate to colleges that you care about your grades and have the academic rigor to be successful.

 

2. Volunteering

Another major area beyond coursework is volunteering over the summer. If there is a cause that you care about, go for it! Don’t volunteer for the sake of volunteering. (The same goes for any summer activities!) College admissions officers are very good at discerning if the student is doing something because they love it or just to pad their resume. One of our main functions as Insight Counselors is to help students figure out the summer opportunities that are worth their time, so they can have fun in the process and share their growth in their college essays.

Need to find your motivation to volunteering? Check out The Gift of Service: Why and How Students Should Volunteer

At Insight, we tend to give students a big list of volunteering options because finding your volunteering program can be like a contact sport. In other words, the more places you reach out to, the more likely you are going to receive a response. The process may be difficult. You may reach out to 15 or more programs and only hear back from two or three. You need to be proactive in these cold calls. You may need to follow up and call when the programs don’t respond to your emails. Colleges like these qualities in their potential candidates.

You may also be interested in 8 Unique Silicon Valley Teen Volunteering Opportunities

 

3. Student Internship

The word “internship” gets tossed around a lot, and it means different things to different people. Typically, with an internship, you are looking to apply the knowledge that you’ve learned in a classroom setting to a real-world problem. Internships exist in many areas of interest, so it’s important to first figure out what you want to do. The main point of a student internship is to gain relevant professional experience. In order to get an internship, you will often have to go through an application process involving essays, recommendation letters, and maybe even an interview.

 

Most summer internship application deadlines are between the end of December to mid-February, so as soon as Insight counselors are wrapped up with their seniors, they are usually working with juniors and sophomores on their summer internship applications (which have some similarities to college applications).

Read more: Don’t Seek Summer Internships Just To Impress Admissions Officers

 

4. Student Research

Internships are slightly different from academic research. There are summer research programs designed to pair you with a college professor or a graduate student. You can also directly reach out to professors if you find their research projects appealing (and our counselors can help you figure out how to draft those emails!) It may start with simple tasks such as data entry, but as you learn more on the subject and develop a rapport, you may find yourself with more responsibilities.

Read more: Beyond College Admissions: Why Extracurricular and Summer Activities Matter?

 

5. Getting a Job

Of all the options, getting a job is sometimes the last thing students want to consider. However, this can be a wonderful experience. Whether you get a full-time or a part-time job, you can learn about life skills, such as responsibility, punctuality, and accountability. Working with other people and dealing with situations that are out of your comfort zone can be valuable life lessons. The fact that you are also earning money at the same time is a great bonus!

 

6. Creating Your Own

While there are age restrictions and other requirements for some summer activities, this shouldn’t limit your options. You can always create your own business or conduct your own research project. Starting a new thing can be daunting. That’s why Insight Counselors guide their students through this process and help them realize their potential in creating and bringing their visions to life.

 

 

Concluding thoughts

Summer is a great time for you to explore and build. Understanding what you need and what you may want to pursue is a great starting point for you to plan your successful (and enjoyable) summer activities!

 

 


Written by Zach Pava

This article was created from an interview with 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.

The Complete Guide to College Admissions Interview (Class of 2026)

As many of you have submitted your college applications for the 2021-2022 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

Class of 2026 Early Decision / Early Action Notification Dates

For many of you, your college admissions season is almost wrapped up (and there is light at the end of the tunnel, we promise). The next big item coming up is early admissions decisions!

 

The effect of COVID-19 continues to impact college admissions this year. Many universities and colleges have extended the test-optional admissions policy due to SAT/ACT cancellation. While some colleges resume in-person campus tours, many universities continue to offer virtual information sessions and admissions interviews. In the Common App‘s optional essay section, students will have a chance to discuss how the pandemic affects their lives. One thing remains true: both students and parents are eager to know the admissions decisions!

 

Insights on Early Decision & Early Action

For 22 years, Insight Education is committed to helping high school students and families to navigate the college admissions process, and that includes understanding your concerns and providing a tailored strategy for you. Here are the top 3 common questions surrounding ED/EA, and you can always reach out to your Insight Counselor or contact us to find out more!

 

Q: What do I need to do between now and the decision time?

A: Check your portal regularly! Set up a weekly reminder and commit to checking your email and college portal. Some schools may require you to send in your progress report for the current school year.

 

Q: What do I do about ED II if my ED I decision won’t come back until January?

A: You can still apply to ED II. When ED I notifies your acceptance, you can withdraw your application from ED II school.

 

Q: What do I do if my current progress report is not as good?

A: If you are improving but your progress report doesn’t show it, ask your school counselor to make a note on your progress report before you send it to your ED school.

 

 

2021-2022 College Admissions Season –
Early Decision / Early Action Notification Date for Class of 2026

Here are early admissions decision notification dates for the upcoming Class of 2026. Please check back regularly for updated dates and times as we gather the most updated information – especially for those without specific dates and times or those labeled “TBD.”

Last Updated: December 13, 2021

School

Early Decision I Notification Date

Early Action Notification Date

Early Decision II Notification Date

American University December 31   February 15
Amherst College Early to Mid-December    
Babson College Mid-December  January 1 Mid-February
Barnard College Mid-December    
Bates College December 11   February 15
Baylor University December 15 January 15 March 1
Bentley University January 20   February 20
Boston College December 2   February 15
Boston University December 15   February 15
Bowdoin College Mid-December   Mid-February
Brandeis University December 15   February 1
Brown University December 16    
Cal Tech   Mid-December  
Carleton College December 15    
Carnegie Mellon University

December 11 at 6am

  February 1
Case Western University December 4 December 21 Beginning January 9
Chapman University December 15 December 15  
Clark University Late December Mid-January Early February
Clemson University   Mid-February  
Colgate University Mid-December   Late February
Columbia University Mid-December    
Cooper Union

Late December

   
Cornell University

December 13

   
Dartmouth College Mid-December    
Davidson College December 15   February 1
Duke University December 16    
Elon University December 1  December 20  
Emerson College Mid-December Mid-December February 1
Emory University December 15 @6pm ET   February 15
Fordham University December 20  December 20  
George Mason University   December 15  
George Washington University December 13 @9am EST   Late-February
Georgetown University   December 13 @7pm EST  
Georgia Tech   January 29  
Hamilton College December 15   February 15
Harvard University   Mid-December  
Harvey Mudd December 15   February 10
Haverford College December 10   February 15
Hofstra University  

December 15

(EA 2: January 15)

 
Indiana University Bloomington   January 15  
Johns Hopkins University December 10   February 12
Lafayette College December 15   February 15
Lehigh University December 15   Mid-February
MIT   December 18 @3:14pm  
Middlebury College Mid-December   Mid-February
Mount Holyoke College Late December   Late January
New York University (NYU) December 15   February 16
Northeastern University December 8 February 1 February 15
Northwestern University December 17    
Oberlin College December 15 @7pm EST   February 1
Occidental College December 15   February 20
The Ohio State University   January 29   
Pomona College December 15   February 15
Princeton University   Single Choice Early Action (SCEA) Decision Notification on December 16  
Purdue University   January 15  
Rice University December 9    
Rutgers University   January 31  
Santa Clara University December 15 December 15 Mid-February
Stanford University   December 15  
Suffolk University   TBA  
Swarthmore College December 14 @7pm ET    
Tufts University Mid-December   Mid-February
Tulane University November 22 @4pm CST December 20 @4pm CST January 31
University of Chicago December 17 December 17 Mid-February
University of Georgia   Before December 1 (for GA resident)  
University of Illinois at Chicago   December 1  
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)   TBA  
University of Massachusettes   January 25  
University of Miami Late December Late January/Early February Late February
University of Michigan   January 28  
University of North Carolina (UNC)   January 28  
University of Notre Dame   Mid-December  
University of Pennsylvania December 16    
University of Richmond December 15 January 25 February 15
University of Rochester Mid-December   Early-February
University of San Francisco Mid-December Mid-December  
University of South Carolina   December 13  
University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin)   February 1  
University of Wisconsin-Madison   January 29  
University of Vermont   Late December  
University of Virginia December 10 at 5pm EST TBA  
Vanderbilt University January 15   TBA
Villanova University December 15 January 15 March 1
Virginia Tech Mid-December Late February  
Washington & Lee University December 15 @8pm EST   Late-January
Washington University in St. Louis (Wustl) TBA   TBA
Wellesley College Mid-December   Mid-February
Wesleyan University Mid-December   Mid-February
William & Mary Early December   Early February
Williams College TBA    
Worcester Polytechnic Institute December 15 January 15 February 15
Yale University   Mid-December  

 

 

Bay Area Diwali

Visit Insight Education at Bay Area Diwali! We will have a booth and be talking with families in the community all day. This year, we are offering a FREE 15-minute initial consultation.

 

If you’d like to meet with a college admissions counselor one-on-one for a 15-minute session, please make your appointment HERE.

 

The Eighteen Annual Diwali-Festival of Lights will be held at Memorial Park in Cupertino on Saturday, October 16, 2021, from 11:00 am until 6:00 pm.

 

Festivities include a wonderful feast of food, music, and dance including a traditional Rangoli display, including art and craft booths. The exciting Kids Zone is packed with fun throughout the day including the petting zoo, pony rides, jump houses, face painting, and much more.

 

Visitors to the festival enjoy the festive atmosphere of sari festooned trees, spectacular lanterns, and a cultural kaleidoscope of activities and performances. Beginning at 11 am with the popular Kids Zone art show and grand opening ceremony at 12:30 pm. The festival appeals to all the senses; delicious Indian food, music, and dancing featuring classical Kathak and Bharatanatyam to Bhangra and to popular Bollywood dances.

 

Diwali is a traditional Indian festival of thanksgiving. It celebrates the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, hope over despair, and good over evil. Celebrated throughout the world, typical Diwali traditions include family and friends gathering to light lamps, exchanging gifts, new clothes, meeting new and old friends, and offering traditional sweets.

List of SAT ACT test optional schools

List of Test Optional Colleges 2022 and Beyond

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 are for first-year U.S. undergraduate applicants. This list was last updated on Oct 20, 2021.

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, should they prepare for SAT/ ACT or wait to confirm or later is test-optional or not?

It depends on your college list. To keep your options open, 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 the scores can be submitted for placement tests.

 

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

Yes! From the 2021 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“.