Tag Archives: college research

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.

College Facts Friday: Lehigh University

It’s another #CollegeFactsFriday! This week, we are heading to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to learn more about Lehigh University.

 

 

 1. Lehigh University’s Taylor Stadium was the third concrete stadium in the United States. It was built in 1914. The final game at the Taylor Stadium was on a frigid day where the temperature was in the mid-20s and the wind chill factor was somewhere between minus-10 and minus-20 degrees Fahrenheit.

 2. Their former mascot was the Engineers. Since 1995, Lehigh’s teams are officially known as the Mountain Hawks.

 3. The Rivalry between Lehigh University and Lafayette College went as far back as 1884.

 4. An interesting tradition until the 70s, freshmen wore “dinks,” which were small brown hats with their class years, from the beginning of fall to the first football game with Lafeyette.

 5. Hate taking the stairs? Thanks to Lehigh alumnus, Jesse W. Reno, we now have escalators. He was Class of 1883.

 6. For those of you from the Bay Area, the Golden Gate Bridge was constructed by two Lehigh alumni, Howard McClintic and Charles Marshall.

 7. The week before the first Lehigh-Lafeyette Rivalry game, Lehigh’s Marching 97 band would make a campus tour, called the Eco Flame. During Eco Flame, the marching band storms into different classrooms while playing its spirit tunes in drum cadence.

 8. One of the oldest traditions of Lehigh’s Spirit Week is their annual Turkey Trot. Students would dress up to join this 2.6-mile running and fun walk through campus.

 9. After the death of Lehigh’s founder, businessman Asa Packer, Founder’s Weekend has become an annual tradition. This weekend celebration includes a lawn party, tailgate, fun run, and more!

 10. Want to learn more about Lehigh University? Check out their social media (Twitter @LehighU, Instagram @LehighU, TikTok @lehighadmissions)

 

All You Need to Know about Demonstrated Interest

As some of you embark on the college admissions journey, you may start to hear the term “demonstrated interest.” How does it play into the college admissions process? What can you do to use demonstrated interest to your advantage? In this article, we will share our insights on demonstrated interest and its benefits!

 

(More of an audio learner? Check out this video by Insight’s Head of College Admissions Counseling Purvi Mody!)

 

What is demonstrated interest?

how do colleges look at demonstrated interest

Starting around 2015, demonstrated interest has started to play a role in SOME colleges’ admissions decision-making process. For the colleges, demonstrated interest helps them understand which students will apply and attend their schools. These colleges want to know that when they send out acceptance letters, the students would likely attend.

 

How does this help you, the students?

When you are demonstrating interest, you send a message to the college: “I am interested! I may want to join your school.” Beyond that, you are learning if this school is the right fit for you. Whether through online information sessions, college fairs, email lists, or college visits, you can build a better idea of what your college years may look like.

 

Do all schools care about demonstrated interest?

Not at all. Previously, we emphasized that only SOME colleges look at demonstrated interest. Those are usually small private or small liberal arts schools. However, that doesn’t mean you should just stop your college research completely. If you need to write supplemental essays or a “Why College” essay, attending information sessions and talking to an admissions representative are great ways to gather ideas!

 

Read more: List of Colleges Where Demonstrated Interest May Benefit You

 

What are some ways to demonstrate interest?

There are so many ways for you to learn about your potential schools (and for them to get to know you too!). Here are some examples:

  • Go to college fairs and fill out your information
  • Sign up for email lists (and actually check out the content that interests you)
  • Campus visit – online or in-person
  • Early application
  • Supplemental essay showing how well you have researched the school and why those qualities are important to you
  • Speak to college admissions representatives
  • Informational interviews with alumni or students
  • Attend information sessions. If you join a virtual session, make sure you ask thoughtful questions that can help you learn more about the school beyond what’s on its website

 

Read more: The Art of Informational Interviews

 

How do I get the most out of a virtual information session?

how do colleges look at demonstrated interest

First, be engaged. It’s so easy to have three to five programs on your screen while you sit in a webinar. It is also tempting to chat with your friends on your phone. Don’t. Focus on the presentation, take detailed notes, and personalize your data. You want to take notes of things you care about or find interesting, so you can use them in a supplemental essay or help you make the final decision to attend.

 

Do some research before you attend the virtual info session, so the questions you ask are actually meaningful to you. Don’t ask questions that you can easily answer by searching on the college’s website.

 

What about online college tours?

While walking on the campus and visiting the city that the school is located in can be a great experience, online college tours can save you time and money and provide you plenty of information about the campus. It should not be used as the only tool for you to use. Join an information session. Follow the school’s social media. Talk to a couple of alumni or current students. We have a wonderful network of Insight students who are either now in college or have graduated. Our counselors connect them with current Insight students, so they can learn about major choices, career paths, and college experience!

 

Final thoughts:

Remember, you don’t want to do this for every school. The most important key is to build a meaningful, authentic relationship with colleges. And that takes time and effort. You need to figure out which schools you may want to know better and adjust your list along the way. The college admissions process is a self-discovery journey for you, and learning to prioritize what’s important to you is part of that growth.

 

Read more: Think it Through: Early Decision

 


Created by Purvi Mody

This article was a summary of the video 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.

College Facts Friday: Carleton College

Happy Friday! For this week’s #CollegeFactsFriday we are visiting the state of 10,000 lakes. Carleton College, home of the Knights, is a private liberal arts college located in Northfield, Minnesota.

 

 1. The most popular majors at Carleton College include: Social Sciences, Physical Sciences,  Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, and Mathematics and Statistics.

 

 2. From 2000 through 2016, students and alumni of the college included 122 National Science Foundation Graduate Fellows, 112 Fulbright Scholars, 22 Watson Fellows, 20 NCAA Postgraduate Scholars, 13 Goldwater Scholars, and 2 Rhodes Scholars.

 

 3. Carleton College’s school color is blue and maize.

 

 4. Carleton offers many fantastic study abroad programs that span the globe and is extremely generous with financial aid. As a result, a whopping 75% of students choose to go abroad while at Carleton.

 

 5. A relatively new tradition, the Silent Dance Party helps to relieve stress and take place immediately before final exams. Students meet in the library at 11 pm with headphones and the same dance music playlist. Students listen to the playlist in synchrony, dancing silently in the library before moving on to other locations on campus.

 

 6. Each Friday, students can choose to send flowers to each other’s campus mailboxes!

 

 7. Carleton marks the beginning and end of each year with special convocations in the chapel. Since 1970, seniors have lightened the somewhat formal mood by gathering in the balcony to blow bubbles over faculty members as they enter the chapel in full academic regalia.

 

 8. During the winter, Carleton sets up two hockey rinks on the Bald Spot (large grass area in the center of campus). The Rec Center rents out ice skates (for free) which is very popular among students. Additionally, many people play hockey and broomball, which is like hockey played in regular shoes while hitting an actual ball with a broomstick. Cross-country skiing in the Arb is always a fun activity, and many people go sledding down Bell Hill.

 

 9. Instead of the traditional cheerleaders, Carleton College has the Gender Neutral Cheerboys. These superfans support Carleton sports teams with silly chants and goofy antics, like doing pushups for points scored.

 

 10. Want to learn more about Carleton College? Follow them on Instagram and Twitter.

College Facts Friday: Boston University

 1. The Boston University Bridge is one of three places in the world where a plane can fly over a car driving over a train traveling over a boat. This is also possible with the Steel Bridge across the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, and the 25 de Abril Bridge in Lisbon, Portugal.

 2. The Judson B. Coit Observatory is open to the public on Wednesday nights so that people can observe the constellations and night sky. (Insight Counselor Ramya highly recommends this experience!)

 3. In 1947, Boston University became the first university in the United States to provide college degrees in public relations.

4. BU doesn’t have a campus in the traditional sense. BU is built along Commonwealth Avenue, which means everything can be reached by walking forward or backward. This gives the incoming freshmen a much easier time to familiarize the campus. 

5. Influential alumni include Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and actress Julianne Moore. 

6. Boston University’s color is white and scarlet.

7. Boston University traces its roots as far back as 1839 during the establishment of the Newbury Biblical Institute in Newbury, VT. The Massachusetts Legislature chartered the school the name “Boston University” in 1869.

 8. Several buildings on BU campus have earned several historic preservation awards, such as the School of Law tower, the Alan & Sherry Leventhal Center, Myles Standish Hall, and the Dahod Family Alumni Center (formerly The Castle).

 9. The Boston University Castle (or BU Castle or simply “The Castle”) located on Bay State Road is a Tudor-Revival style mansion. BU typically uses it for receptions or concerts but also rents out The Castle for events.

10. Can’t get enough BU facts? Follow them on social media, such as Twitter (@BU_Tweets) or Facebook, for campus photos, student stories, and more!

College Fact Friday: USC

 1. Their motto is “palmam qui meruit ferat, let he who merited the palm bear it,” meaning “achievement should be rewarded.”

 2. When the University of Southern California was founded in 1880, the University employed 10 faculty members and welcomed a class of 53 students. Tuition for the first year was only $15.00 per semester, and students were not allowed to leave town without the knowledge and consent of the university president. 

 3. The first USC valedictorian was a woman, Minnie C. Miltimore, for the class of 1884.

 4. The southwest corner of the Pueblo of Los Angeles is part of the original land grant given by the King of Spain in 1781. That can still be found today at the corner of Figueroa Street and Exposition Boulevard. 

 5. USC is the only university in the world to have a gold medal-winning athlete in every summer Olympiad since 1912. (Similar: USC has produced more Olympians, Olympic medalists, and Olympic gold medalists than any other U.S. university.)

 6. The Trojan Marching Band is the only collegiate marching band in the U.S. that has earned a platinum record — two actually.

 7. There has been some debate to which school claims the title as the real USC – University of South Carolina or University of Southern California

 8. USC is the oldest private research university in California.

 9. Although not located in tech-central Silicon Valley, USC was actually one of the earliest nodes on ARPANET and is the birthplace of the Domain Name System (DNS)

 10. To learn more about USC, follow them on social media such as Twitter, Instagram, or check out their Podcast 

GPA Test Prep College Admissions

Top 3 Tips to Help You Start to Prepare for College Admissions

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought changes to every aspect of our lives, from how we socialize to how we learn, and of course, to how we need to prepare for college admissions. If you are still unsure about which path to take on your college admissions journey, don’t worry – you’re not the only one.

 

While we don’t have the superpower to predict the future, Team Insight has been keeping a close monitor on the latest college admissions news and making projections that can help keep your options open as we gear up for the 2021-2022 admissions cycle.

 

Now, let’s dive in!

 

Insight Advice #1: Provide Positive Data (as much as you can).

 

A solid GPA, a progressively challenging curriculum, and well-written college essays – all of these are considered positive data about yourself. College admissions offices want to see that you can handle the academic work, but they also want to get to know you. What are your values? How do you spend your spare time? What are you devoting your time to during the summer?

 

In addition to GPA, academic profile, college essays, extracurricular activities, and awards, another positive data you can provide on your college application is test scores. A strong ACT or SAT score adds value to your college application, even for test-optional schools. In 2021, more than half of the applicants chose to submit their test scores. From the data, those who included their test scores have a higher chance of acceptance. Approximately 60% of the students who applied for Rice University submit a test score. Of the students accepted by Rice University, 80% submitted an SAT or an ACT score.

 

Insight Advice #2: Stay Informed. Prepare Ahead.

 

While we are uncertain whether test-optional admissions policies will continue, what you can do is research thoroughly into the school of your choice. Stay informed about their testing policies. Check the admissions website and their emails to see if there are any changes in test-optional policies. Most importantly, don’t wait till the last minute! It takes time to prepare for the ACT or the SAT, so plan enough time for test prep.

 

Read more: How to approach standardized testing this summer

 

At Insight, we use the term “relative to your peers” as a guide. What does it mean? In the case of testing, if your friends are planning on taking the SAT or ACT in the fall, it may be a good idea for you to take the test, too. When the admissions office evaluates your college application, they are comparing you to those similar to you, such as your high school’s graduating class. In addition, if you are applying to a competitive school or program that may have many applicants with test scores, you should also prepare for the ACT/SAT.

 

Need help improving your SAT test scores? CLICK HERE to see our summer programs

Taking the ACT instead? CHECK OUT our ACT summer boot camps

 

Insight Advice #3: Research. Research. Research.

 

The biggest 2021 college admissions trend we’ve noticed at Insight is the rise of virtual sessions. Learning about your potential school is now as easy as tapping a few keys. Attend virtual college tours. Ask your questions at virtual info sessions. Use different websites to gather information about a school of your choice. At Insight, our counselors guide students to conduct college research starting in May or earlier, and we continuously revise their list with them.

 

Read more: How to conduct virtual college visits?

 

Another trend that has been accelerated during this time is more students are applying to selective schools, which leads to decreasing acceptance rates. For example, the acceptance rate at the University of Pennsylvania in the 90s was 39%; the acceptance rate in 2021 for UPenn was 9.9%. So be practical when building your college list. Remember, every college on your list, even your safety school needs to be a school you can see yourself in.

 

Read more: Why is it important to find your Best-Fit college?

 

Concluding Thoughts

 

Even if your top schools remain test-optional, remember that test scores may still be required for scholarships or other funding opportunities. During transitions like this, you want to remain flexible and keep your options open. This may mean spending part of your summer doing test prep, but the upside is that you will not be scrambling to take the SAT or ACT at the last minute. Keeping your options open may also mean joining a virtual tour of a college you have not heard of, but you may be pleasantly surprised at what you find. As always, we are here for you! Reach out if you have any questions!

Top 3 Tips to Help You Prepare for College Admissions

 

 

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

Warren Buffett (Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway). George Lucas (creator of “Star Wars”). Larry Page (co-founder of Google). Jerry Jones (owner of the Dallas Cowboys). Arnold Schwarzenegger (former Governor of California, movie star). Oprah Winfrey (media executive, former talk show host, actress, etc.).

 

What do all these people have in common? You might be thinking that they are all extremely successful and some of them are even billionaires. That is correct. But what you might not know is that while they are all extremely successful, another commonality is that none of them earned an undergraduate degree from an Ivy League school.

 

Insight #1: It’s more important what you do at college, not which college you attend

Warren Buffett graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  George Lucas graduated from USC (but first attended Modesto Junior College).  Larry Page graduated from the University of Michigan.  Jerry Jones graduated from the University of Arkansas.  Arnold Schwarzenegger graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Superior (but first attended a community college, Santa Monica College).  Oprah Winfrey graduated from Tennessee State University.   

 

With college decisions being released and high school seniors deciding where they will go to college, it’s important to remember that what matters most is not what college or university you attend, it’s what you do while you’re there.  Regardless of what college or university you attend, the most important thing is that you excel at whichever of the thousands of institutions of higher learning you decide to attend—whatever that means to you.  It’s important to take advantage of internship or work opportunities, to make connections with your classmates and professors, and to attend your classes and do as well in them as possible.  Also, college is an amazing time in life—in addition to building up your resume, remember to have a little fun.

 

Insight #2: Sometimes it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond

Sometimes it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond, rather than the other way around. In other words, if you attend Harvard, you are going to be one of thousands of students who did extremely well in high school and probably had perfect or near-perfect standardized test scores. You will be surrounded by extremely accomplished people, and therefore, it may be harder for you to get noticed or make yourself stand out from the crowd.

 

But don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying you shouldn’t go to Harvard. If you are lucky enough to be accepted by Harvard and think you can thrive in a very competitive academic environment, then Harvard may be the place for you. What I am saying, however, is that if you are one of the tens of thousands of students that don’t get admitted to Harvard every year, don’t dismay—that rejection can open new doors for you.

 

Insight #3: Find your “best fit” college, not simply the most highly ranked college that accepted you

The most important aspect of college admissions is finding the “best fit” college. Maybe the best fit is Harvard. Maybe it’s a large state school. Maybe it’s a small liberal arts school back east. Everyone is different and thus the “best fit” college for your best friend may not be the “best fit” college for you.

 

And maybe the “best fit” college for you is a place where you can be a big fish in a small pond. There is a lot to be said about attending a school where you can build up your self-confidence by being near the top of your class, having real relationships with your classmates and professors, and not having to worry about being in a cutthroat environment.

 

The bottom line is this: if you are one of the few to be accepted by an Ivy League school, that is awesome; and if you decide it’s the “best fit” school for you, more power to you. However, if you are like most students, who are not accepted by an Ivy League school, you should remember that it’s more important that you attend a college where you will thrive, rather than blindly attending the most highly ranked school that accepted you.

 

 


Written by Jason Katz

This article was written by Insight Counselor Jason Katz.

Jason has helped hundreds of students gain admission to their best-fit universities. In addition, he wrote more than 170 college admissions/college life columns for the Palo Alto Daily News and the San Jose Mercury News. Read his full bio here.