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: The Most Important Parts Of Your College Application

Today's blog post comes courtesy Josh Anish over at Knewton. Enjoy!

I tutored for years before joining the tremendous team here at Knewton. And during those salad days spent lugging the Big Blue Book around Gotham, parents always asked me to prioritize the components of the college application for their students. Here was/is my unscientific answer that I nonetheless feel strongly about, ranked in order from greatest in importance to least.

Josh From Knewton, Sayin' Hey.

Josh From Knewton, Sayin' Hey.

1) Grades. There’s no substitute on your college apps for a strong GPA. Colleges are looking for good students, and the best way to show that you’re a good student is, well… to get good grades. Obviously you should strive to have an impressive GPA throughout your high school career, but if you had a few slip-ups early on, don’t worry too much; colleges give more weight to your performance during your junior and senior years.

2) SAT score. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the SATs still mean something. The SAT is not an intelligence test; students’ scores can jump up to 400 points if they prepare diligently and correctly. Hence the need for a good SAT course.

3) Personal statement. This is your one shot to really introduce your personality to an admissions board. It’s like you’re running for President and you’re on national TV at the convention: You get a podium and only a few minutes to make your case to the voters. The task of organizing all the admissions essays you need to write is a notoriously difficult one, but the good folks here at College Essay Organizer provide a tremendous tool that is extremely helpful.

4) Extracurricular activities. These might have ranked higher a decade ago (before Rushmore came out), but now they’re in their rightful place at #4. The marketplace is very crowded, and you can only start so many clubs. Nevertheless, colleges really want a vibrant campus, filled with students trying and doing new things. Show focus; do a couple of things and do them well. Don’t spread yourself too thin and/or try to preen for admissions officers.

5) Teacher recommendations. The challenge here is to choose your recommenders wisely. Colleges have seen great recommendations of all shapes and sizes, and a sweet letter surely works in your favor. It is more important, however, to be cautious of a bad or— more likely—a lukewarm recommendation. In short, play it safe and ask the teachers who really seem to have taken an interest in you, instead of the aloof teacher who has a reputation for writing flowery letters.

Josh Anish is the Senior Editor at Knewton. He’s getting fired up to help students with their SAT prep.

College Essay Help: Writing About Your Accomplishments

I Don't Mean To Brag, But... I Was An Incredibly Strong Baby.

I don't mean to brag, but... I was an incredibly strong baby.

One of the potential stumbling blocks many students face when writing personal statements or other pieces about their accomplishments is in navigating the fine line between self-promotion and bragging. We've seen "I don't want to brag, but..." in a startling number of essays. That part shouldn't be a problem. Here's a tip if you're including that line: don't.

But selling yourself is part of the deal, and you're going to need to get across what makes you great without ever seeming pompous. Here are three important tips:

1. Try to state what you've achieved, not what others have failed at. When you're trying to avoid bragging, remember context. The context you put your accomplishments in will make the difference between stating your achievements and just kicking dirt in your opponents' faces.

2. Talk about your decisions, and why they were unique. By discussing the things that were right, you imply options, and in the process, you articulate things that others have done and gotten wrong, without denigrating them or seeming like a sore winner.

3. Discuss how you expect to improve even further. This doesn't mean talking about what you did wrong, or even what you'd like to change about your past actions or accomplishments. Simply discuss in specific terms how you see a new level of development that was never available to you before, but that after all your hard work, you belong there.

You should be proud of all you've set out to achieve, and talking about what you are capable of rather than others' shortcomings is a huge boon to your writing. Make the most of it.

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College Essay Help: Last-Minute Tips

Truer words were never spoken.

Truer words were never spoken.

Though many of the big admissions deadlines have come and gone, there are still a fair number of regular decision dates coming up in the next week, along with rolling dates for larger schools. Have you put yourself behind the eight ball with your powers of procrastination? Wishing you'd started this writing already? Can I say I tried to warn you?

When rushing through your last-minute work, the main thing to avoid is show-stopping human error. Check for misspellings. Ensure that you are referring to the correct college if you are using its specific name. Don't let poor formatting drift into your final draft.

Most importantly, don't write just to fill the page. Content is king with these things, and it's important that every sentence you choose to include be there to support the overall idea you are trying to convey about who you are and what you can do. Don't treat a one page essay as a "one page essay," treat it as an essay about "the time I went to summer camp and discovered I love the ropes course" or something specific that gives insight into your character. When there are irrelevant details crowding your essay, the reader can tell, quickly, and it makes it easy to stop paying attention, which is anathema for short-form writing like this.

Remember our previous tips about the potential rewards of choosing an original concept and committing to it. Never be afraid to show off something that makes you, you unless that special something basically makes you look like a criminal. And if you are a criminal, well, remember our tips about not bragging.

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Getting Into Your Top College: Help Is On The Way

“Where do you really want to go?”

We’ve definitely all heard that one, and I think high school seniors are getting driven especially crazy by it this time of year. When you’ve got your heart set on a top choice school, having everyone bugging you about which one it is can make you feel like you’re about to jinx your application every single day.

The main reason why you can just relax is that you’re more qualified than you think you are.  You picked your top school because it fits you as a person, and because it offers classes and programs that people like you are made for.

What’s better, there are a lot of resources available to you to make you more interesting and accessible as an applicant than there were just a few years ago. Now you can make that nature of yours – which makes you such a good match for your top school – shine through.

Seek out advice on how to write, structure, and deliver your college essay in a way that makes who you are clear and understandable, while remaining unique, which, trust me, is a big priority.

Can you picture a pile of essays as high as your dining room table? Now picture ten more of those and you know what most big universities are up against. But lucky for you, finding a way to make your writing stand out from the pack has never been easier, and that makes your work on your most important application simpler and more effective.

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