Amherst College Essay: A Little Help From Our Friends

All the leaves are something, something, something...

Fun Fact: This picture was taken in February. Amherst's physics department can change the weather locally.

Amherst College is a Common App-exclusive school, but unlike many of its peers, it has gone ahead and released its 2011 essay requirements to the general public. They're quite lengthy, so we won't reprint them here, but Amherst's decision to put them out ahead of the Common App's August update points out a few great things about top schools like Amherst and what its actions mean for other schools that follow.

1. The more open a school is with you, the more open you can be in return. By putting out such a complex series of questions early in the admissions season, Amherst is showing you that it's worth preparing to write your application essay. Amherst's questions are challenging, and they require quite a bit of thought. Go ahead and put in the time it takes. Write multiple drafts. Get it right.

2. You have more work ahead of you than you think. Amherst recognizes that senior years are busier than they get credit for. So take advantage of the time the school has afforded you by putting this info out ahead of time. With opportunities like this and tools like CEO, your workload can be a lot more manageable than, say, those of your overworked and underprepared friends.

3. The college essay is the most underrated and under-appreciated part of the application. The admissions officers at Amherst know what it's like to read half-baked and ill-conceived essays. Sure, they see writing from a lot of the top students in the country, but they also see it from people that have rushed themselves through a pile of applications, regardless of their grades and resumés. This is your opportunity to speak to the college - your chance to create something of a dialogue and show them who you are. Make the most of it.

If we were hard pressed to add a fourth element to this list, it would be that Amherst appreciates how many movies you have to watch this summer. That vampire flick ain't gonna watch itself. Thank the school for its foresight and watch all the movies. There are so many. Then fire up CEO and get back to work.

Hey Seniors! Big Discounts For YOU!

Note: Applications may not actually form comical mountain.

Hey seniors!

Yes, I'm looking at you. You, who just finished the hardest academic years of your lives and think next year's going to be the cakewalk you've always deserved. Well, yes and no. You may slide into senioritis, but not before climbing an avalanche of applications.

Never fear, CEO discounts are here for seniors looking to purchase their accounts ahead of time. We've gone ahead and pushed our discount for rising seniors up to 15% for purchases made before August 1. Just use the promo code senior7 when purchasing a new student account.

I know the applications seem a ways off, but take it from the people who've been there - it's when you need it the most that you often feel like you don't have the time. Ever feel like you don't have enough time to find the shortcut, even though you know it's shorter? Yeah - so take care of business now, while things are still laid back. Let us do the organizing for you and you'll be in a lot better shape when you find out that your teachers actually assign homework during your senior year. Of all the nerve.

CEO membership comes with a whole lot of other benefits, including being notified of when the schools have updated their requirements, so check out the benefits, sign up and let your worries whisk themselves away.

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College Essay Organizer: Updating University Applications for 2011

Workin' like a DOG up at CEO. Oh wait.

Somehow, some way, we keep coming up with new stuff to put on CEO every single day.

The 2011 application season is already upon us, and a number of schools have already begun posting their applications for the 2010-2011 application season. And we here at CEO are hard at work to make sure we have our information up to date, right up to the minute.

At least 25 new schools are joining the Common App this year, and in doing so, most will be altering their expectations of applicants considerably. So if you've spent the last year looking at one of these schools, make sure to work with CEO to find out how having these schools throw you for a loop might actually work in your favor. As things change out there, CEO will update and automatically show you how work you're doing for other schools can be repurposed for the new ones.

Enjoy, it's going to be a good year.

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New Schools Added To The Common Application - What Does It Mean For You?

Like Heinz Vinegar, the Common App will now be more powerful than you ever could have imagined.

Like Heinz Vinegar, the Common App will now be more powerful than you ever could have imagined.

The Common App will add at least twenty-five schools this coming year, enticing students to apply to even more schools than they might have in years past. As we've said before, there's very little downside to applying to a large number of schools, and whatever hangups you might have (cost, inconvenience) should be outweighed by the long-term benefits of landing a spot at a reach school (successful friends, higher income potential).

So there are more schools on the Common App. Problem solved, right? Not quite. One of the big misconceptions about the Common App is that adding schools to your list is a click-and-you're-done situation if they're all on the Common App. But the large majority of these 25 new schools will ask for supplemental essays, so having these schools on your list might mean fewer applications, but won't necessarily cut down the number of essays you're required to write. That's where CEO comes in. We can streamline that process instantly, automatically, and inexpensively.

What's more, starting next week and going throughout the fall, CEO will be updating its database of essay requirements to keep them as current as possible. And with our new email notification system, we'll be able to alert you as soon as the requirements are made available so you can start early and save yourself the stress.

The new additions to the Common App might mean fewer applications, but with CEO, it'll mean fewer apps and fewer essays. If you're a rising senior, check out the discounts we have available. They won't be there after July first!

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Congratulations Rising Seniors!

Class o' '32

We really did not do as much for the class of 1932 as we could have.

Congrats to those of you wrapping up your junior year this month! And to those of you with a little bit more to go, hang on, you're almost there.

Finishing your junior year is all about getting the hardest classwork behind you. The most important exams and papers - even the SATs - pass quickly, leaving what looks like a cakewalk: senior year.

The last big push of work comes this fall with your college applications. We've posted before about the need to diversify your selection of schools, and to help you do it, we've set up a whopping 20% discount for all juniors who sign up for CEO's Essay RoadMap before July 1.

Head on over to our juniors page and have at it!

And in the meantime, enjoy prom, your summer vacation, and whatever summer plans you've got. We'll be updating our requirements throughout the summer as they become available and answering all your questions about how best to handle the application process through the end of the year. Stay tuned.

Knewton Blogs: Evil SAT Trick Of The Week

Sarlin vs. Evil. Bet Sarlin.

Sarlin vs. Evil. Bet Sarlin.

Our post this week comes from Alex Sarlin, Verbal Lead at Knewton, where he helps students with their SAT prep.

If you’ve begun your SAT prep, you’ve probably already realized that the test-makers aren’t exactly mild-mannered or kind—quite the opposite. Luckily, we at Knewton have their number. Today we’ll be revealing one of their signature tricks.

First, a quick aside. Have you ever heard this old word-game? It goes something like this:

You: Let’s play a game. I’m bet I can get you to say the word “black.”

Friend (smirking): No way.

You:  OK. Name the colors in a traffic light.

Friend (thinking, suspicious): Red… yellow… green.

You: How about the colors in the American flag?

Friend: Uhh… red… white… blue.

You: Gotcha! Oh man, that was so easy!

Friend (surprised): What?!

You: I made you say blue. You totally weren’t even paying attention.

Friend: What?! You said you were going to make me say ‘black!’

You: NOW I gotcha.

So very evil. And there’s a moral, too: Never let your guard down before the game is over.

The SAT writers use their own version of this trick on the math section of the test. They give you a rather complex problem, and then, just when you’re at the very last leg of your problem-solving, they’ll offer you an answer choice that refers to the next-to-last step. After all that work, many test-takers cling to this number like a life preserver, forgetting to do that last, important step and completely wasting all the time they just spent.

Let’s look at some examples:

8. There are 2 different ways to arrange the 2 letters A and B in a row from left to right. How many more different ways are there to arrange the 5 letters A, B, C, D and E in a row from left to right?

A.      60

B.      100

C.      118

D.      120

E.       625

Ah, permutations and combinations: everybody’s favorite subject. Dig into your math knowledge: you need to put the number of possibilities into “slots.” There are 5 possibilities for the first slot (A, B, C, D or E), 4 for the second (because one letter is gone), 3 for the next slot, and so on. You end up with 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 120 different combinations. Choice D. All set, right?

Wrong. The question actually asked how many more different ways are there to arrange 5 letters than there are to arrange 2 letters. Because there are 2 ways to arrange two letters, there are 118 more ways to arrange five letters. Choice C is correct—not evil Choice D.

Now try this problem, which has not one, but three evil answers lying in wait:

4. Hector is both the 4th tallest and the 4th shortest person in his family. If everyone in his family is a different height, how many people are in Hector’s family?

A.      6

B.      7

C.      8

D.      9

E.       10

Some test-takers will think, OK—four taller, four shorter, eight people, choice C, done. Those people obviously aren’t paying attention. For one thing, they forgot about Hector himself!

Others think, Ah ha! Four people taller and four shorter, plus Hector. There are nine people in Hector’s family: Choice D! That might sound like it makes sense—but it’s still wrong.

In reality, if Hector is the fourth tallest, then actually there are only three people taller than he is. He is the fourth tallest. The same goes the other way. There are three people shorter than he is. And, then, we have to add Hector. There are 7 people in Hector’s family. Choice B is correct.

As you can see, the SAT isn’t out to make friends. Watch out for answer choices that seem too obvious or simple to be correct—they often are. These are particularly evil examples, but in fact, the SAT uses this trick, in some form or another, on many math questions. Beware, and think twice before choosing the “obvious” answer!

Check out the Knewton blog for more Evil SAT Tricks!

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Washington Post: Applicants Apply to Many, Many, Many Schools

Washington Post. Get it? A post? Me neither.

Washington Post. Get it? A post? In Washington? I guess? You have no idea how long we spent looking for an image to put here.

This terrific article over at the Washington Post describes in detail the process that CEO simplifies every day. Top applicants, facing ever-increasing odds against their getting into top schools, diversify their applications and increase the chance they'll land an acceptance from a school at or above their academic level.

Sounds like a plan, right? And why not? There are plenty of horror stories to be had in that article. Perfect SATs. Top grades. Conservatory-level piano skills. A deferral.

But what the Post doesn't address here is that if the process is being made easier and top schools are becoming ever-more selective, what's the downside to applying to more schools?

There isn't one, except for the cost of the applications, which is far outweighed by the potential reward of ending up at a school that brings you up academically, and eventually, professionally and financially.

Take a look at the last line from the article: "I'm feeling it was really smart of me to apply to so many," she said, "because now I have enough options." Speaks for itself.

And with CEO, you can get this work done before that rerun of Seinfeld comes on.

Keep your eye on the ball and you'll see that tools already at your fingertips like CEO make this task easier than ever, often at a very low cost.

New York Times: Applications To Elite Universities Rise Again

...Maybe don't apply early here.

...Maybe don't apply early here.

A brief article posted last week by the New York Times' Education desk confirms that applications to elite American universities rose again this year despite economic hardship. But as always, the number of available spots isn't budging, so the selectivity of those schools continue to increase, and the need for applicants to diversify their applications increases.

Though it might seem dire, there are a number of pieces of good news to take from this. Selectivity increasing at the top means that those schools are stronger than ever. It also means that schools that used to be considered good (or at the very least, good enough) are also improving. Better and better students will find themselves at lower-tier schools, thus raising the quality of the student bodies there.

And what really makes this whole thing not as bad as it seems is that the tools at your disposal have never made applying to school easier or more efficient. Though you'll definitely need to apply to a broader selection of schools to increase the chances you'll be somewhere that satisfies you, tools like CEO can make that task a much more manageable one, often times requiring no additional work from you.

Knewton Blogs: Quick Tips for SAT Success - Reading Comprehension

Today's blog post comes again from Josh at Knewton. Enjoy.

As an apple falls from a tree, so does Josh's knowledge of the SAT...

As an apple falls from a tree, Josh's knowledge of the SAT travels swiftly to your head... Or something. So glad they ditched the analogies section.

If you've begun your SAT prep, you've probably realized that the SAT reading comprehension passages aren't exactly a walk in the park. In fact, the test-makers pride themselves on trying to confuse you by featuring passages with strange or unfamiliar subject matter—and it's not like you can Google the topic for some quick background. What's more, you only have a limited amount of time to read the passages and answer the attached questions.

The instructors at Knewton are here to help! Smart SAT strategies will help ensure you approach this part of the Critical Reading section with confidence—and improve your score!

Check out these quick tips to help you make the most out of the time allotted for reading comprehension questions:

1. Don’t spend all your time reading the passages. Instead, scan each passage for main ideas. You can often find the main argument in the first paragraph; once you locate it, skim through the rest of the passage to get a gist of the purpose of each subsequent paragraph. It's always a good idea to jot down a few notes in the margin to refer back to when it comes time to answer questions.

2. Easy passages first! If you’re into science, the easy passage for you might be the one that focuses on the biochemical make-up of pheasants. If you’re more of a literature type, you’ll probably gravitate towards the discussion of Shakespeare’s use of iambic pentameter. Either way, get the easy subject matter out of the way so you’ll have more time to focus on the tough stuff later on.

3. Read the questions carefully. In fact, you probably want to read them more carefully than the passages. Make sure you know what the question is asking before trying to arrive at an answer. There might be answer choices that are technically true—but that don’t answer the question at hand. The test-makers put these choices there on purpose—don't fall into their trap!

4. Answer general questions before detail questions. Detail questions will generally take more time to answer, as you’ll have to search through the passage for evidence. If you’ve skimmed well, you should be able to answer general, main-idea questions without too much of a problem. Don't forget to refer back to your margin notes to save time!

5. Don’t get creative. Hate to break it to you, but the SAT doesn’t want your opinion. You should be able to find evidence for all your answer choices in the passage—not in your head.

6. Don’t freak out. This one goes for the whole test. The time constraints of the reading comprehension section—of all the sections, in fact—can make for a stressful test-day experience. Take a deep breath if you start feeling overwhelmed. It's definitely important to keep a steady pace, but you also want to make sure you're giving yourself enough time to understand the general outlines of the passage, and the angle of the question, before attempting an answer.

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College Essay Organizer For Juniors: Now With More Discounted Goodness

Nothing Is Inconceivable. Not even the ivies, baby.

Nothing Is Inconceivable. Not even Harvard.

CEO has taken a few proactive steps to help juniors take control of the college application process before it takes control of them. For purchases made before May 1, retail prices are being discounted 50%, just by using the promotional code 'junior'.

It's an exciting time for juniors who are beginning to wrap up what is probably the most difficult academic year they've had so far. Most can't wait to get it behind them and co-o-o-ast into that senior year of waking up late, leaving early, and doing a small version of nothing somewhere in between.

But hark, there waits a large pile of applications to be done before one can be stranded on the lawn of some weird frat house after homecoming, and the sooner you can get that pile organized and simplified, the sooner you can get the apps out the door and get yourself into the nine month vacation known as "I already turned those things in."

Have a look at the new juniors page and see why it's a great idea to get rolling on the things now, and see that by purchasing your account before the crush of work kicks in, you'll save money and put yourself ahead of the curve. Remember, with our new email notification system, you'll be updated as soon as your schools publish whatever changes they make to their application for the 2010-2011 season.

2011? Did I just write that?