Last-Minute Essay Writing Tips

Despite our pleas to students to start their essays early, even during the summer before their senior year, there are always students who for whatever reason are unable to get a head start, or even a timely start. And here we are, entering the final week before the January 1 deadline, and students are continuing to upgrade their College Essay Organizer accounts in order to seek out some last-minute advice on how to write a standout essay, and more importantly, on how to get started writing.

The New York Times Choice Blog is also dishing out advice for late-blooming applicants. Definitely refer to this post by Daniel Grayson, associate director of undergraduate admissions at Tufts University, if you fall into that category. We've included a few highlights to help inspire and motivate you to put your best foot forward.  After all, you haven't worked this hard for the last four years to fizzle out so close to the finish line.

  • Don't be afraid to be different: "Being honest and forceful about yourself may make some adults around you nervous; it’s not “safe.” They will worry that you are being too controversial or informal. You should listen carefully and try to see your writing from their perspective. But you should feel comfortable ignoring advice that does not feel right."
  • Think from the point of view of the college: "We want to fill our seats with students who have things to say, who will challenge conventions and advance conversations, who will learn from each other."
  • Stand up for what you believe in: "You need to be confident and proud enough to stand behind those ideas because if you won’t, why would an admissions officer choose to stand behind you?"


Being Asian May Count Against You When Applying to Ivy League Schools

Caltech's Asian growth rate accurately reflects the growth rate of the Asian-American population.

As college applicants eagerly await notification letters from their top-choice colleges, they may be thinking about the factors colleges will be considering when choosing to accept or reject a student. When it comes to Ivy League schools, a new factor in the decision-making process is getting lots of attention. According to this article in the New York Times, being Asian may count against you:

"Just as their predecessors of the 1920s always denied the existence of “Jewish quotas,” top officials at Harvard, Yale, Princeton and the other Ivy League schools today strongly deny the existence of “Asian quotas.” But there exists powerful statistical evidence to the contrary."

The California Institute of Technology, which follows a race-neutral admissions policy, has seen its enrollment of Asian-Americans grow parallel to the growth of the Asian-American population while other Ivy League schools have remained largely similar over time.


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College Application Help Line Available

We all need a little help sometimes.

This is a big week in the college application process. Successful early applicants may be able to say goodbye to the process for now, while deferred and rejected applicants may have lots of questions about what happens next. If you're still applying regular decision, you're probably working hard to finish those essays before the January 1 deadline so that you can actually enjoy some of your holiday break. Wherever you are in the process, The New York Times Choice Blog has made a live college application help line available this week.

Marie Bigham, a former college admissions officer and college counselor at Greenhill School in Texas, will be answering questions Wednesday from 8 to 9 p.m. Eastern time. For those who won't be able to tune in, a transcript of the session will be posted on The Choice Thursday morning.



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Early Applicant Notification Dates Extended

While most schools are continuing to stick with mid-December as a notification date for early applicants, some schools such as New York University and Princeton have a delayed notification date of December 18, giving them a bit of extra time to make up for Hurricane Sandy-induced extended early application due dates. This late announcement gives procrastinating students even less time to turn around their other applications by the January 1 deadline if they're not accepted early. Definitely be one of those students who doesn't wait till the last minute, but is prepared to face the worst-case scenario in advance.

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Guidelines for Early Applicants

This is probably not the best place to open your decision letter.

As early applicants mentally prepare themselves to receive a response from their top-choice schools, it's necessary to review a few guidelines for how to handle the news that will be received. The New York Times Choice Blog posted a great article here about (virtual) envelope etiquette. A few highlights include:

  • Even if you receive the news in a public place via your mobile device, wait till you are at home to open it. While you may feel prepared whatever the outcome, it's always better to give yourself some personal space to digest the news.
  • Sometimes parents feel like it's their process rather than their child's. Be sure to step back during this moment and let your child let you know what/if anything he or she needs from you.
  • Don't rush to tell the world. While it may be tempting to broadcast your positive or not-so-positive news on Facebook, think twice before posting anything, especially if it's something you will regret saying later.
  • If you do get the news that you are hoping for, remember that not everyone is as fortunate, so be respectful of others' feelings.

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Early Decision Results for Penn Will Be Announced December 12

This is an important week for seniors who applied early to their first-choice schools as most schools notify students in mid-December. Early Decision results for Penn will be announced to students slightly earlier than some schools, with the release scheduled at 6:00pm on Wednesday, December 12.

While many will be celebrating this week, countless others will be bearing down to finish the rest of their applications in the few short weeks that precede regular college deadlines. Don't forget to log into your College Essay Organizer accounts to make this last part of the process as efficient and stress-free as possible. It will truly save you hours of time and help you churn out those remaining essays in record time.

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December Guide for Seniors

For those seniors who are putting off their applications till the last possible minute, The New York TImes Choice Blog has posted some wise words here offered by David Burke, the director of college counseling at Pembroke Hill School in Kansas City, Mo.:

"Seniors: Let me start by saying, I feel your pain. Even though I tell myself every year that I won’t wait until the last minute to finish my tax returns, I just can’t make myself do them sooner. (Remind the adults in your life of this fact the next time they nag you about procrastinating on your college applications.)

But now that Thanksgiving and Black Friday are in the past, it really is time to get serious about applying to college if you haven’t already."

For those seniors who are finished, make sure to be appreciative of all those who have helped you get to where you are, be considerate of others still struggling through the process, and keep in mind that you still need to do well in your senior year classes.

For seniors who are anxiously waiting to receive early notifications, make sure that you have a backup plan in case you don't get in early, and start preparing those other applications!

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