Writing Commitment Letters to Colleges And Universities

Commitment. It's a big thing.

This time of year is stressful for high school seniors for many reasons, not least of which is the early decision or early action notification. Though your chances of attending your top choice are higher if you apply early, acceptance is never a sure thing.

If you've been deferred by your early decision option, or you made a late decision on which college you really want to attend, there are ways to channel that anxious energy into something tangible that can actually increase your chances of getting in.

Experts suggest that writing a Commitment Letter will not only help reduce your stress but might also be just what the college needs to tip the balance in your favor.

When the regular decision process unwinds, college admissions officers will be at their desks struggling to determine how many students will accept their offers. After all, they don't want to accept students that are not likely to actually attend. A commitment letter lets the college know that you are passionate about enrolling, and that if admitted, you would definitely accept the offer.

This love letter should demonstrate your enthusiasm for the school and include important updates on your academic and extracurricular life. There's no need to repeat what you've already told them - this should be new info, along with the heartfelt expression of hope that you'll be accepted. Don’t you want your favorite school to know that you’re still working hard on your AP courses, and have now become president of the chess team, or whatever else you might be up to these days - and that all the while you’re dreaming of the day when you can pack up your things, leave home, and finally be on their campus?

Consider this to be one last college essay, just make sure not to be unfaithful. Committing to a school and not attending can reflect negatively on your high school, affecting future students’ chances. Also, colleges sometimes share notes on applicants, and if they realize that they have all gotten the same commitment letter, it might hurt you. No one wants a player.

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Why Do You Want To Attend This College?

The most frequently-asked-about piece of advice at College Essay Organizer revolves around how to tell a school that you want to attend. Surely they're not just looking for you to write about what makes them great, right? They already wrote their own guidebooks. They should know what makes them great.

And you're right. The purpose of these essays is not to talk about them but to talk about you. Your job in all of your college essay writing is to convince the reader that you're an interesting person who belongs in their highly-selective class. You're trying to get them to choose you instead of someone else.

Easier said than done, indeed. So today we direct you to a post written last year that has gotten a lot of traffic: How to tell a college that you're interested.

Always keep in mind that your job is to express what you have that they want. It's already implied that they have what you want - a great education and a raft of opportunities for your future, whatever that may be. Do this by identifying your own intellectual interests and developing them from a personal standpoint.

The Common App and the Difference Between Online Applications & PDFs

Common App LogoAt College Essay Organizer we research college application requirements like it's our job. Actually, it is our job. And one of the odd sides of this job is that we are constantly finding inconsistencies between different versions of applications that schools put out, not to mention inconsistent or incorrect information explaining the application documents on the schools' sites.

One of the most notable disparities we've found is with the Common App itself. That's right, even the trusty old Common App has a significant difference between its paper (or PDF) version and its online version.

The paper version of the Common App calls for 150 words for it short essay, while the online version calls for 750 characters. The distinction is important, especially if you're running long, in which case the online version on the Common App will simply cut your writing off at the 750 character limit. So that 150-word essay can be significantly shorter if you're using big (some might say college-ready) vocabulary.

The Common App's short essay and optional space question are also worded differently. It's not a significant difference, though in many cases with colleges, different forms of college applications often feature different word counts, character limits, or even completely different questions! Just remember that College Essay Organizer is here to research these elements full time and contact the colleges to help resolve any confusion. So feel free to rely on us - it's our job.

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Harvard University Returns To Early Action for 2012

Harvard Shield

November 1 comes quickly, little crimsonites.

In 2007, Harvard eliminated its Early Action program and required that everyone send in applications on the same date, January 1st, but this year, it returns to Early Action, with the first round of applications due on November 1, 2011.

The move in 2007 was seen as a reaction against the increasingly competitive admissions environment in America, and many applauded the effort. But other popular schools took this as a competitive advantage and did not follow suit, so Harvard has done its applicants a favor by sparing them the difficult choice of a binding decision from another school when they'd really like to take a shot at Harvard.

Early Action and Early Decision programs certainly increase the pressure on students and parents alike - decisions are often made with a limited amount of information and on very short timetables, but they have their upsides for schools, allowing them to increase yields and fill large portions of their classes with students that are sure to attend.

This decision - coming from the top, as it were - should be read as a firm statement that Early Action and Early Decsion programs are here to stay. Get your work done as early as you can, do your homework, and learn as much as you can about your top choices before committing to your number one school.

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The Common App for 2011/2012 is Live

That's right. The wait is over.

The Common App went live yesterday officially beginning the application process for the class of 2016. The Common App, now totaling 456 schools, has added 45 new members this year, including Caldwell College, Howard University, and St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

College Essay Organizer is now in the thick of the updating process, keeping track of all the new changes and supplemental essay questions for you. Expect hundreds of updates by the end of the week!

We continue to receive feedback on how College Essay Organizer is the perfect partner for using the Common App. It instantly delivers not only the supplemental essay questions, but also the department-specific questions and scholarship questions, which are often not included in the Common App. Check here for some great tips on how to use College Essay Organizer and the Common App to write winning essays.

New York Times Addresses The Importance Of the College Essay

New York TimesThe New York Times posted an in-depth and informative piece this past weekend about the growing number of applicants to American universities from other countries, and how important the college essay is for gaining an edge.  The problem the article describes is simple: the number of overseas applicants is skyrocketing, increasing at more than 50% a year, every year, and the number of slots available in each school's incoming class is staying the same. With competition becoming ever more aggressive, the cost of advising and essay help is reaching into the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars per student. While most independent consultants are wonderful, helpful guides, some are willing to rewrite every element of an applicant's essay, or even write it for the student outright.

College Essay Organizer is the ethical solution to this problem. We have been helping foreign students navigate the lengthy and complex essay process for years, and as with all of College Essay Organizer's members, we do it quickly and at a low cost. With the circuitous application system we have in America, it can be difficult to even know where to begin. College Essay Organizer is a one-stop shop for your essay requirements, allowing you to work smarter and spend your time efficiently on the work you have to do, rather than the enormous amount that it seems you have to do.

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Finding Your Authentic Voice (With Some Help From Your Fan Club)

Avery Educational Resources

Today's post comes courtesy
Erin Avery at Avery Educational Resources


Today's blog post is from Erin Avery, an independent educational consultant based in Fair Haven, New Jersey, who specializes in the college and boarding school search and application process. A graduate of Oxford and Yale, Avery is a Certified Educational Planner and creator of CollegeApp, available on the App Store. You can learn more about her and her services at averyeducation.com.

Ed. Consultant Erin Avery: “So, where geographically are you considering attending college?”
Son: “I don’t know…I was thinking of maybe an island.”
Father: “Yeah, Long Island.”

Yesterday, I sat beside a father and son duo, not unlike many cradled in the inner sanctum of my office’s worn leather armchairs. Often, as depicted above, parent and child come with divergent perspectives: rightfully so based on their respective worldviews and life experiences.

This is why I always welcome parents, guardians or other loving stakeholders to participate in the all-important Essay Brainstorming Session. The results are phenomenal. The invited “guests” act as time capsules, jogging the student’s memory of past notable examples of characteristics demonstrated, or character embodied. They may recall that precise anecdote that illustrates the quintessence of the student. Ultimately, if it is conducted properly, the essay brainstorming session is akin to a love-fest wherein the student hears and has mirrored back to him or her a chorus of voices affirming his or her unique gifts to the world.

In my role as an educational consultant, I have to admit, I am always scanning my conversations with you, my client, for “essay-worthy” content. I simply can’t help it. I have met myriad teens in my near decade of private practice. By employing my strength-based methodology, I passionately echo back to each student how incredible I find him or her. High school students never cease to astound me! While peers and society attempt to smother teens with the gag order of conformity, I bathe you in affirmation for your daily courage to choose to be yourself.

I have seen my share of Eagle Scouts, Congressional Medalists, National Merit Finalists, Point and Figure Charting experts, even oyster gardeners, and the accolades continue. Yet be mindful that the most profound essay topics need not be the most cataclysmic. At a symposium last spring, the New Jersey reader from GW shared, as she welled up with tears, that her favorite essay amid her applicant pool was written by a student portraying the profound impact on him of his parents’ 25-year marriage. (Her second favorite essay topic was on the sneaker-odor of the applicant’s car.) Your story can (and often must) be drawn from the quotidian, everyday seventeen year-old lived experience. Do not grant one instant to counterproductive feelings of inadequacy if you have not yet discovered a cure for cancer (but get on that, would you?). Rather, own who you are and where you are. If you are presently staring at a blank screen, go grab a decaf frappuccino with someone who loves you and if you are too embarrassed to ask them blatantly to sing your praises, ask him or her what s/he would say at your funeral (morbid, yes, but effective!). Still stumped? Google and read “The Desiderata”. Works like a charm.

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Senioritis And The Second Semester Of Your Senior Year

Don't let your senioritis get the best of you

Don't let your senioritis get the best of you. Finish those English classes.

Nothing like getting that fat envelope in the mail, is there? Nope, nothing like it at all. First thing that comes to mind for most is, "I'm done." Images of fleeing, running through a field, perhaps jumping a prison wall. Glory days.

Not so fast. You have so little high school left in front of you, but so much... other... school... things. Or as those of us not suffering from senioritis would say, you've got opportunities in front of you. Keep your eye on the prize and remember that with your academic courses especially, maintaining decent grades is essential for holding your place in any class formed in 2011.

While the odds of your having an offer rescinded are low - about one in a hundred and fifty, even at the more selective schools - if you represent yourself one way and turn in a final transcript that is significantly different, you can expect trouble. Just have a look at this statement about senioritis from the director of admissions at the University of Washington in Seattle:

"When they say, 'I'm taking a fourth year of language, I'm taking AP (Advanced Placement) this and AP that,' and when you see their final transcripts, it is underwater basket weaving and intro to breathing ... you wonder if you are on the same planet," said Admissions Director Philip Ballinger. "They don't look the same. You were duped."

So take it easy, but not quite that easy. Keep those APs going and your foreign language too. And pass those classes, friends.

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As the Moment Approaches, Remember to Keep a Positive Outlook

Keep a positive outlook!

As the date approaches for you to finally receive a decision from colleges after months, perhaps years for some (especially parents), of waiting, many will have pearls of wisdom to share with you both before and after one of the tensest moments of your life.

Of course we have our own opinions on how important it is to maintain a positive outlook and remember to see the bigger picture. After all, what you will walk away with from your college experience, wherever you end up going, is really about what you put into it.

Our own acumen aside, perhaps the best (and most entertaining) counsel we’ve heard, is a letter addressed to seniors written by Mitch Albom, writer for McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. Check it out. You won’t regret it, and you might even have a few laughs! Nothing like bringing humor into a situation to keep things in perspective.

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Does Commitment (to a college) Thrill Or Chill You?

Are you ready to commit?

As you anxiously await to hear back from colleges, you might still be daydreaming about your top choice. Perhaps you have gotten deferred from your early decision option, or you made a late decision on which college you really want to attend. Either way, wouldn’t it be wonderful to channel that energy into something tangible that could actually increase your chances of getting in?

Experts suggest that writing a Commitment Letter will not only help reduce your stress but might also be just what the college needs to tip the balance in your favor.

As the end of February nears and March approaches, college admissions officers are at their desks struggling to determine how many students will accept their offers. After all, they don't want to accept students that are not likely going to actually attend. A Commitment Letter lets the college know that you are passionate about enrolling, and that if admitted, you would definitely accept the offer. This love letter should demonstrate your enthusiasm for the school and important updates on your academic and extracurricular life. There's no need to repeat what you've already told them - this should be new info, along with the heartfelt expression of hope that you'll be accepted. Don’t you want your favorite school to know that you’re still working hard on your AP courses, and have now become president of the chess team, or whatever else you might be up to these days - and that all the while you’re dreaming of the day when you can pack up your things, leave home, and finally be on their campus?

Now is the time to write this one last college essay, and after this one, you really can relax knowing you’ve done all you can to get into your dream college. But beware not to be unfaithful. Committing to a school and not attending can reflect negatively on your high school, affecting future students’ chances. Also, colleges sometimes share notes on applicants, and if they realize that they have all gotten the same Commitment Letter, it might hurt you. No one wants a player.

Try to get your Commitment Letter out before the end of February.