The cost of college is a serious issue in the United States. Remember though, that the US has the best colleges in the world, and like anything else, there is a price to pay for that. Nevertheless, the true cost of college is misleading. Top colleges are cheaper than you think, says the New York Times, which compiled data from an online calculator.
The key finding is that top colleges are more affordable than many people realize – both for poor and for middle-class students.
Low-Income, Middle Class, and The Affluent
How much do lower-income students pay? Lower-income students – defined as families with $50,000 or less in annual income – pay only $6,000. Students can often cover that cost through part-time work and a small annual loan.
Middle-class families pay a higher price, but nowhere near the list price. Only affluent families pay close to the list price. New York Times defines affluent families with an annual income of at least $175,000 and a net worth of a half-million dollars or more. College bill at many private colleges, including tuition, fees, room and board, has reached the sum of $70,000 a year. For affluent families this can be unpleasant, but not enough to disrupt their lives, which is what colleges look at.
The findings are summarized in the figure below.
High vs Low Prices
The New York Times argues that colleges with huge list prices aren’t the biggest problem because they often offer substantial financial aid and have high graduation rates. Low-income students at least graduate with manageable amounts of debt and get good jobs.
The real problem is with lower list prices -- private and public colleges -- because of lower graduation rates. So students emerge with debt and no degree, which is a terrible combination. You can find more info here.
Costs at colleges are not identical. Not surprisingly, colleges that charge more tend to have smaller endowments, giving that they have fewer resources to pay for financial aid. Some of the least expensive selective colleges for poor and middle-class students often have the largest endowments. Amherst, Dartmouth and Williams are all examples. Yale stands out for providing the most financial aid to middle-class students, charging them only slightly more than poor students. Harvard, Princeton and Stanford have similar policies.
For both poor and middle-class students, such colleges tend to be significantly cheaper than even four-year public universities! So don't assume that private colleges are more expensive than the public ones. Often they are not. Do your research and find out.
Are you prepared for college? Many high schools do not adequately prepare students for the rigor of college, and many students struggle during their freshmen year. Some burn out. Some quit. If high school was easy for you, make sure you take more advanced classes, including programming in Python and Java, if you are pursuing an engineering, math or science degree. There are many college courses available on Coursera and edX. Check them out to see if you are ready or not for college. We at Hillview Prep would be happy to guide you through the process.
It is important to plan carefully for college, as you very well know. However, given people's busy schedules, it is easier said than done. We at Hillview Prep specialize in college test prep, scholarships and applications. We would be happy to help you with college consulting -- from finding the best scholarships to financial aid to choosing the colleges that fits you the best. If interested, sign up below!
How Many Colleges Should You Apply To?
There are many answers, but experts suggest that you should have no more than eight or nine colleges on your list. We recommend three target schools, three safety schools, and three reach schools. Safety schools are colleges and universities that are almost certain to admit applicants. Pick two four-year colleges, and one community college if your GPA and test scores are low. Also, if you cannot afford a four-year school, a community college is a good alternative to save money and transfer to a four-year college later. Target schools are likely to take applicants and reach schools are those that are highly competitive and is going to be tough getting in, but well worth it and usually are the 'dream' schools. You can determine which category a school falls into based on the average test scores and GPA for its incoming students.
If you apply to too many school, it will cost you money (application fees, visits, etc.) and loss of focus. And it can be quite challenging when it's time to write application essays, which is one thing where you can differentiate yourself. You want to do a great job with your application, including visits and on going communication with schools of your choice. Having too many schools poses a challenge to your time, money and energy.
Although the Common Application has made college application easier, you still have to pay admissions fees for each institution. And we recommend visiting the specific campuses of interest and to make connections with faculty and staff. All of this takes time, money and energy.
Preserve your money and energy and focus only on a few schools. Applying to colleges takes work, and submitting applications to a large number of schools may ruin the quality of your applications. If you don’t know the school really well, then it’s hard to write really good essays and stand out from the thousands of applications the school receives each year. Remember, the acceptance rate is very low nowadays, mainly because anyone with a computer from around the world can apply. So standing out from the crowd is really tough. So focus on a few applications.
However, do not apply to a very small number either, say one or two. This may prevent you from maximizing your financial aid offers. If you apply to more schools, you are likely to get multiple financial aid offers, and you can use those offers to negotiate aid with schools.
Also, consider the academic quality and range of schools. If you apply to only two or three schools, and if they happen to be academically similar, you might risk getting rejected from all of them.
The only exception is if you are going for an early decision school. Schools like Duke University and University of Chicago offer early decision admissions, which requires you to attend the school if you are accepted early! This is different from the early action admissions, which allows you to apply before the regular admissions cycle, but does not require you to enroll if you are admitted.
And finally, you should think of the fit. Which schools will really prepare you for success? Are you really excited about going to the school? Or, are you going there because of family and peer pressure, or because it is well known? What is the campus size? Where is it located? Etc. You have to think of your own values and make a decision. Be motivated by love of your values and not by fear from peer pressure or anything else.
In college applications, quality trumps quantity. Focus on nine schools and create a compelling application for each. Even the safety schools should be the ones you would want to go to. Don't short change yourself. If you work hard, you deserve to go to a school of your choice.
And we at Hillview Prep are here to help you guide through your journey if you need some test prep or counseling help. We will work hard with you to maximize your chances of getting into your target and dream schools. Do not hesitate to contact us!
List of reasons why applicants overreach and are disappointed in April with their college admission outcomes:
Most students (and parents) make several seemingly benign errors in their college admissions process that can cost them dearly. Below are nine ways families make common mistakes and suggestions how to avoid them. If you like the tips, do let us know what you think.
1. Dropping Context
Context is critical in the admissions process. What is context? It is your background. Your family's background. For example, applicants from low socio-economic backgrounds are measured with a different yardstick than affluent applicants who have had numerous opportunities for personal and academic growth and exploration. Those who have to work to help with family finances simply do not have the time to take extracurricular activities or even AP classes. Some students may have a learning disability or a physical handicap, or a difficult family situation. Colleges look at all of this information.
Make it easy for colleges to know your context. Where do you live? What kind of family responsibilities do you have? What kind of difficulties do you face? What opportunities you have had that you made good use of? Do not leave our vital personal story. If you do, you will lose out in the admission game. You want to stand out and therefore make sure that the admissions committee sees the real you.
2. Lack of Balance
Be mindful of the number of times you use “I” in your essays. Do you give credit to teachers, mentors, parents, and others who have helped you along the way? Of course, you have to write about yourself and talk about yourself as the unique individual you are. At the same time, however, you have to talk about how you can contribute to the college. For example, if you an art major and the school of your dreams has a great theater program, think of how you can add to the value of the program. Or, if you have an interest in science, think of what unique work you want to do that will help the science program at your college. Etc.
3. Lack of Ambition and Vision
If you are applying to a top school, you must demonstrate ambition and a clear vision of what you want to accomplish there. Don't say that I just want a job after graduation. You can go to a community college (and save a lot of money) and do just that.
Think about what you want to do after college. What will you learn in the school that will help you achieve your goals? Which courses? The more specific you are, the more you will impress the admissions officers. Plus, it will show that you know what you want and have done your homework about the school.
4. Not Improving your IQ (Interest Quotient)
Today, college admissions are ultra competitive. Many students have similar GPAs, test scores, and even extracurricular activities. You will need recommendations and your Interest Quotient (IQ)--your demonstrated interest--to tip the scale in your favor.
According to the National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC), from 2003 to 2011, the percentage of colleges rating demonstrated interest as a “considerably important” factor increased from 7% to 21%.
Schools want to admit students who genuinely know and like the school, and if admitted, want to attend the school. How do you then demonstrate your interest? First, you have to increase you IQ (interest quotient).
5. Writing One Essay for All
It’s tough applying to 10 schools while you’re juggling a busy school schedule. It’s tempting to try to answer the essay prompts for all 10 supplements with that one great essay you worked so hard on -- but be careful. You can score low marks on the demonstrated interest test if it is obvious to the reader that you have repurposed an essay for another school. Admission officers usually know the prompts from competitive institutions, so they could notice and be unimpressed with your essay.
6. Poor Grammar & Punctuation
You are expected to have a strong command of proper grammar and punctuation. In today's age, you have no excuse given the grammar tools available. You don’t want to give the admission committee ANY reasons to put your application in the reject pile, but poor grammar and punctuation will get you there quick. Even if English is your second language, try to have a native speaker review your application for glaring errors in grammar, word choice, and punctuation. Use a grammar and spelling tool to correct obvious mistakes.
7. Not Proofreading
Having mentioned spell-check and other word processor tools, don't just rely on them. They can also fail you. There is a lot riding on your college application. Treat it as very important and not a chore you got to do. That is not the attitude you should have. And that is why we advise to focus only on your top 10-15 -- one by one.
8. Forgetting the Admissions Rubric
Admissions officers use a “rubric” as a guide. They differ from school to school, but their function is to evaluate core components of a student’s profile:
Be aware of this rubric. Make sure you have addressed the rubric in your application.
9. Not Understanding the 'Yield'
Yield in college admissions is the percent of students who choose to enroll in a particular college or university after having been offered admission. [Source: Wikipedia]
Schools like to manage their yield, or the percentage of admitted students who actually enroll, and IQ can be a great predictor for that. Many students do not enroll due to various reasons: money, girl or boy friend, family, fear of the unknown or distance from home, etc. The top, top students may not go to a specific college, given they have a plethora of choices. You can increase your opportunity by helping the school increase its yield. Increase your IQ (interest quotient) for the colleges in your list.
If you need support and have questions, do not hesitate to consult with the Hillview Prep team!
“I am absolutely, unequivocally and categorically scared to enter the college admissions process. And chances are that if you are a rising high school senior, you are too. In the increasingly competitive milieu that is college admissions, no college is a “safe school.” Acceptance letters from dream schools couldn’t be more hard found, nor rejection letters more prevalent.”
Following is a list of students' concerns:
1. What if I don’t get accepted?
Admission rates at the 100 or so most selective colleges have declined significantly over the past 30 years, from 54 percent in 1984 to 32 percent in 2012. Numbers at the Ivies are daunting: 6 percent at Harvard, 6 percent at Yale, 7 percent at Columbia. It is 5 percent at Stanford.
However, top colleges have gotten a lot bigger. Many of the universities have added seats (like Michigan, Berkeley and Boston University), while some huge schools have joined the ranks of the elite (think NYU, USC and UCLA).
There are 55 percent more seats available today than there were 30 years ago. Even considering the increase in international applicants, there are 44 percent more seats for every American student than in the early 1980s.
While it's more difficult to get into any one top college, getting into one of the top colleges is much easier. We suggest to apply to several schools and not to set your heart on one or two schools only.
2. Am I SMART enough?
“My biggest fear was not being good enough. I knew that I was going to a big college where many brilliant students were going to attend, so competition for scholarships was going to be tough. I overcame this fear by focusing on my learning. Instead of thinking about average exam scores or grades in a class (which can be easy to compare yourself to), I thought about how I could improve my test scores and focused more on what I wanted my grade to be, regardless of others.”
If you got into the college, the admissions department obviously thinks you can handle the work. So don’t sell yourself short. Surround yourself with people who want to succeed, too. They’ll be the people to turn to when times get tough. Start by getting organized: follow the course syllabus and meet your professors.
3. How am I going to pay for college?
Fill out the FAFSA form, even if you don't qualify for the Federal needs based criteria. Did you know that any student who fills out a FAFSA—no matter how wealthy—can take a federal “unsubsidized” loan? The key word here is “unsubsidized”. Check out Advice from Students About Paying for College for some great tips.
Finally, check out Hillview Prep's Ultimate Guide for Scholarships. Here you can find many different scholarships that you can apply for and help pay for college.
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"They need to fall in love with you."
College admissions @Duke
“I tell kids that their job is to make the [officer] fall in love with you,” Toor says. “I’ve written many notes to students asking them to meet me as soon as they get to campus.”
~ Hillview Prep: Showcase your unique personality with your essays. Contact us if you want our help.
Assistant Director @USC
"Become familiar with what the university can offer you in terms of academic and extracurricular experiences, but then think one step further. What do you offer the university? Imagine being here--how will you spend your time? What do you want to explore or improve? What will be your contributions to the community? Don't underestimate yourself! Articulating your potential impact will give us a better sense of who you are and whether USC is a good fit for you."
Dean of Admissions @MIT
“What I tell students, and my own kids, is that you don’t have to take every advanced class. My high school daughter, for example, is taking advanced math and science courses but chose not to take advanced English and history. You should challenge yourself. For some students this might mean taking the most advanced classes, but it also might mean taking the most advanced classes appropriate for that student, and not spreading themselves too thin.”
Applicants do not need to tick off a laundry list of engagement in every field, like art, music, sports, Mr. Schmill explains. “M.I.T., and other highly selective colleges, want students who prioritize quality over quantity.” Mr. Schmill offers high school students this litmus test when choosing extracurricular activities: “If you couldn’t write about this on your college application, would you still do it?’ If the answer is ‘no,’ then you shouldn’t be doing it.”
Assistant Director @USC
"Identify all of your strengths and interests, and do your homework on how you could fit in here at USC. Do not be afraid to step out of your box and be unique."
Associate Director, Office of Admissions @Texas A&M University
"I wish students knew to contact their universities of interest and research the steps of the application process before their senior year. Pre-planning can eliminate some of the trials and errors of applying to school. The sooner students conduct research on the application process and what it takes to be admitted, the better they understand which classes they need to take and how they should organize their past, current and future activities."
Senior Assistant Director @USC
"Take chances. Allow your application to be a true representation of who you are, not who you think we want you to be. By demonstrating your individuality – your quirks, your unique perspective, your heart – you will set yourself apart from other applicants."
~ Hillview Prep: How do you set yourself apart? Contact us if you want our help.
Former Admissions Officer @Cornell
Friedfeld says universities are essentially looking for community residents with a four-year lease. “As an admissions officer, you’re picking people to enroll in your community, your space, for the next four years. They’re going to choose who they like and who they want to get to know.” At AcceptU, Friedfeld hands out sample essays, then asks students their thoughts. “They’ll say they liked the writing. It’s not about that. It’s about whether you liked who wrote it.”
Senior Assistant Director @USC
Choose a major that you are actually passionate about and want to pursue. Your interest (or lack thereof) for that field is obvious. If you don’t know what you’re interested in, or are still deciding, then choosing “undecided” is okay, you have plenty of time to figure that out.
"I’ve run into many students over the years who are not aware that some colleges to which they are applying track every contact point the students has had with that college or university as a way to gauge a student’s “demonstrated interest.”
My advice to students is to do whatever you can do to leave a paper trail that demonstrate interest in the colleges you to which you apply (i.e. visit, email their admissions offices, call them, join their mailing lists, open their emails, interview etc.)."
Micah A. E. Canal
Chief Admission Officer @Antioch College
College ‘Fit’ Goes Both WaysI wish more students applying to college understood just how important “right-fit” is. Do we want to see people who were successful in high school and had a bunch of extracurricular activates? Yes, absolutely. But you can make an even better case for admission by showing us that you are going to be able to be highly successful and benefit most from the uniqueness of our institution.
Do your research. Don’t only make the case that you’re great, make the case that you’re a great match great for us.
International Admission Officer @USC
"Tell us your unique and individual story – and if you don’t think you have one, I promise you that you do. Consult your friends, teachers, parents, counselors if you’re stuck. Don’t tell me what you think I want to know to hear, because I have probably seen it before and it will not help you stand out. Have confidence in yourself and your story and convey it to us with passion and enthusiasm. These small things can make a huge difference!"
College admissions @Duke
“Two letters of endorsement are enough,” she says, “unless a third can really shed new light on the student.” The record at Duke was 32 letters, though Toor once heard Georgetown had an application with 70. “We used to joke that the thicker the file, the thicker the kid.”
"The three rates that give parents and students peace of mind"
Associate VP and Dean of Admission @University of Richmond
“As my son prepares his college list, I’m going to hand him a spreadsheet. Across the top will be the schools, and down the side will be the list of things he feels are most important to him in a college. When he visits these schools and does his research, he’ll fill in the spreadsheet, and it will be a nice road map for him. At some point, once you visit two or three schools in a day or five schools a week, they begin to blend, and you definitely want some bread crumbs to remind you of where you’ve been.”
“On the same spreadsheet, I’ll have him track what I call the ‘three rates’ for each college. The first is the retention rate: Are students returning as sophomores? Because if they are, then I make the argument that they have had a very good experience, their needs are met. Next is the graduation rate. A fifth year or a sixth year in a college represents forgone income or time that you are not in graduate school — and you are not going to get that back. The last rate is the placement rate or ‘student outcomes.’ What are students doing six months, a year or five years after graduation? Are they employed, are they in graduate school, what type of companies or organizations do they work for? The three rates gives parents and students peace of mind that they’ve done their research.”
VP of Enrollment Management @Valparaiso University
"Choosing a college is a long but rewarding process. It takes time to find which college is the best fit for you. The sooner you complete your application (including transcripts, test scores, personal essay, and so on) the sooner you will receive a decision and your merit scholarship award. This provides you more time to investigate and weigh your options."
The 2018-19 Common Application Essay Prompts
Now you have the prompts. How should you proceed? If you need help, please do not hesitate in contacting us for help in writing your essay. Remember, you get only one chance to impress the college admissions committee!
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When a colleague puts down the phone and exclaims, 'That person was rude!,' I would immediately ask which applicant or prospective student was involved. Once the applicant or prospect is identified, a note gets promptly placed in the student's file. Duly noted!"— José Román, Former Assistant Director of Admissions, Yale University.
1. You are Tracked!"
Your and your family interaction matters. Be aware that treating people poorly has consequences. As the quote about shows, people will note it and hold it against you. Especially, be nice to the administration staff. They are there to help you. A kind gesture can go a long way.
College admissions is a stressful process because the outcome is uncertain. Do not fall into the trap of "resulting". Do not focus on just the results. Trust your process. You cannot control the results. Someone else has to make a decision for the result to go your way.
College admissions is a stressful process. But that never means you can be rude or pushy to anyone (ANYONE) working in or near an admissions office. Many schools track your or your parents' communication with that college, and even if they don't actively track your interest, admissions officers still take notes!
Even on the phone with administrators, make sure you present yourself the way you want to be viewed by your application reader. This one is good life advice in general: Be nice.
"As an admissions evaluator at Brown, we really had to keep up a rigorous reading pace with the regular decision applicant pool. We were expected to read 5 applications per hour, which equates to twelve minutes per application. In those twelve minutes, I reviewed the application, standardized test scores, the transcript, the personal statement, and multiple supplemental essays—all while taking notes and making a decision on the admissibility of the applicant."—Erica Curtis, Former Admissions Evaluator, Brown University
2. You have only 12 Minutes!
Think of the admissions officer! She has only twelve minutes to read and make a decision. Knowing this, how would you construct your application? What should come first? How organized should you be? How many extra letters of recommendation would you send? How much more do you want to convey in 12 minutes? Or, should you be precise and up to the point?
Let us know if you want craft a laser sharp application material. We will be glad to help you with your essays and application material.
"At Stanford, when reading applications, we did use one acronym in particular—SP ("standard positive"), which indicated that the student was solid and had an overall positive application, but unfortunately was just standard."—Anonymous, Former Admissions Reader, Stanford University
3. Don't be a "Standard Positive"!
Given that there are thousands of applicants from all around the world, how do you stand out? You do not want to just be 'standard', or in another words 'good'. You want to be memorable, or to use another Stanford lingo - angular!
"Before a student gets her admissions decision, she can go from admit to defer/waitlist or vice versa. Until the Dean of Admissions starts to shape the class, nothing is final. Sometimes admissions officers get lucky and can add back in one or two of their favorite students (who made it through committee, but for one reason or another were moved to "defer" or "waitlist" along the way). Admissions officers really care about the students for whom they advocate, but often it comes down to the needs of the school and the desire to have a well-rounded incoming class."—Natalia Ostrowski, Former Assistant Director of Admissions, University of Chicago
4. Beware of the Shaper!
Even if they expect you be 'angular', the schools want to develop a well-rounded class. You can be an outstanding candidate, but because of the desire to shape the class, you will go into the defer or waitlist.
If you find yourself in such a predicament, talk to us. We have some advice for you.
"As an admissions officer, I analyzed students' personalities. If I read an admissions essay, and the student came off as arrogant, entitled, mean, selfish, or, on the flip side, funny, charming, generous, witty, I wrote that exact trait in my notes. It's not enough just to be smart at top schools. Students must also show that they'll be good classmates and community builders."—Angela Dunnham, Former Assistant Director of Admissions, Dartmouth College
5. Showcase your Personality
Personality matters to admissions officers. They want to know you. Unfortunately, they have only twelve minutes to make a judgment. Don't come off as entitled or arrogant. Be polite and come across as passionate about your interests and goals. Take a look at this story of Eni here. We are sure you will be inspired by her.
If you need help with your essay, do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to show you how to write an essay that can make you stand out.
"If you are assigned an MIT alumni interviewer, definitely take advantage. There is a slightly higher admit rate for those applicants who take advantage of the interview." --Vincent James, Former Assistant Director of Admissions, MIT
6. Interview Matters
Just like for job applicants interviews matter. And getting an interview is a key to getting a job or admissions to a college. If you got called for an interview, do not blow it. A college interview is your chance to bring some more color and personality to your application. Conduct a great interview and you can potentially get into the college of your dreams.
"My biggest pet peeve as an Admissions Officer was when a kid would visit the office, expect to have an audience with me, and then have no questions at all. Not even easy ones the website could answer! That tells me a lot about the student, not much of it good."
7. Be Curious. Ask Questions!
Ask questions! A big mistake students and job applicants make is not asking questions. You make a big impression on the other person or people. Remember, a lasting impression lasts more than a first impression, and you can leave a lasting impression by standing out -- with questions.
What questions should you ask? Well, that depends on your goals and the schools. We would be happy to help you craft some great questions that will not only impress your interviewer but also inform you where you stand in the admissions process.
Do not hesitate to contact us, if you need any help with your college admissions.
Words have the power to influence your audience.
If you are applying to college, your audience is the admissions committee. They receive thousands of essays each year. Many of them are boring and the language is cliched. You can make your essay stand out by using the power words and avoiding weak words.
Remember, when it comes to language, less is more. In your essays, avoid the following words.
1. Stop protecting yourself with “Just”, "I think..." and "Arguably"
You may be using words that protect yourself, words like "just', "I think" and "arguably". You are either afraid of offending someone or bracing for a strong disagreement. You may not realize it, but these words broadcast to the world that you may be wrong but that is okay because it is only what you think. It projects that your view is not important. It is a way to protect yourself from an attack, should someone hold a different opinion, or may dislike you. This can come across as passive aggressive, which can create resentment and lessen your value, or simply confuse people what you are communicating about.
The words you use to protect yourself from a verbal attack or negative impressions are undermining your power. You are entitled to your opinion. Don’t undermine your viewpoints. Sharing your opinion without hesitation, even if others disagree, can help you garner respect and influence people. This is really critical in your essays for college admission. You want to come across as a critical thinker and a good communicator. Remember, you are communicating your value to the college. What is in for them to have you as a student? If you are not clear about that, you will reduce your chances of getting in.
2. Stop the Drama with “Very,” “Absolutely” and “Totally”
Words such as “very,” “absolutely” or “totally” do not add value to the noun you want to describe or highlight. You do not need to say, “I’m very afraid.” Saying “I’m afraid”, or better, "I'm terrified" does the trick. Superfluous adverbs and adjectives can add unnecessary drama, but they do not convey much. Here is a list of words to substitute "very". Reviewing the list will also improve your vocabulary.
When you appreciate the power of words, you use less of them to communicate the same thing. When you use fewer words, each word becomes more powerful and can be better appreciated by others. So stop using"very", "absolutely" and "totally" in your writing.
3. Stop using filler words: “Like,” “Whatever,” “Etcetera” and “…and so on and so forth”
Keep the “likes” and similar phrases to a minimum. These are common filler words used in everyday speech. They are not for writing essays because they dilute the potency of the words you use. Remember, spoken language is different than formal, written language.
4. Don't act superior. Avoid “Actually” and “Obviously”
Words such as “actually” and “obviously” can rub people the wrong way. "Obviously" makes an assumption that they overlooked something simple. They may feel stupid or inferior. "Actually" doesn't really add anything except pointing that the other party overlooked something. Do not make assumptions about people. You could come across as someone who shows a lack of understanding and can annoy or frustrate others and cause people to disrespect you.
5. Avoid common crutches like "That"
"That" whenever possible. “That” is a handy word that isn't always useless. However, it's also commonly a crutch without a purpose. Whenever you're about to use the word, ask yourself if there is a better way to avoid it. Consider this sentence: “I found a gem that is beautiful.” The sentence is weak. "That" here is similar to "very" here. Change “that” by rewriting it to “I found an exquisite gem.” The sentence sounds much more powerful and conveys the message clearer.
6. Avoid the credibility killers: "Basically", "Probably", "Definitely", "Virtually", "Certainly"
These "credibility killers” -- fluency disruptions -- communicate doubt. Also, some people use these words, especially "basically" repeatedly. That sounds annoying as well. Avoid such language in your essays. It makes people think you don't know what you are talking about.
College Selection Questions
College Admissions Questions
Standardized Testing Questions
High School Class Questions
Growth & Potential Questions
Interests & Activities Questions
Character & Personality Questions
Contribution to the College Questions
If you feel you are not getting appropriate guidance at your school, or would like another view, the Hillview Prep team would be happy to help you with your preparation for college, from choosing wisely to writing essays. Please feel free to reach out to us as below.
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Are you worried about what your student loans might mean to your future?
You are not alone. Parents fret about it and so do some colleges and universities. In fact, several colleges and universities have adopted generous “no loans” financial aid policies, where grants replace loans in your financial aid package. While most institutions offer a no-loans policy to families from low-income backgrounds, a small number extend the policy to all of their students.
A no-loans policy replaces federal student loans with grants that the university pays.
However, note that most colleges with “no loans” financial aid policies aren’t truly eliminating all loans. Many of these colleges require a minimum student contribution that could include part-time student employment and/or student loans. Instead of a “no loans” policy, some colleges have adopted a low cap on the amount students can borrow. Even so, your average debt at graduation is likely to be much lower than at other schools.
Here is one secret that you may not know. All of the Ivy League institutions (Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, Brown and Dartmouth) have “no loans” policies.
See the next page for a list of no-loan schools. Also, if you are interested in a college consultation with our experts, let us know.
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Work on you daily character and you can enter the school of your choice! ~ Hillview Prep
What is Character?
A dictionary definition of character is: "the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual."
That is exactly what schools are looking for. They want to know you -- your mental and moral qualities. Many students get A+ grades and perfect or almost perfect test scores, but what about their distinctive mental and moral qualities--their character?
Most people accept moral values from people around them and never even think of building their own character. They also absorb mental qualities and habits by osmosis, by mimicking others, or go by whatever works in the moment. There is no technology out there that helps them build it. But that is about to change.
Angela Duckworth, is the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, a New York Times best seller, and Founder & CEO of the Character Lab. According to her, there is now overwhelming scientific evidence that character strengths are as important as IQ and socioeconomic status to academic achievement and well-being. Although character strengths are known to be malleable, surprisingly little is known about how to cultivate them intentionally. The key word here is intentionally.
Prof. Duckworth categorizes three distinct clusters of character strengths. They are 'Strengths of Heart', 'Strengths of Mind', and 'Strengths of Will'.
Most people do not focus on working on their character. Yes, it is actually work. You might have heard of the phrase 'character building', but how do you do that?
How to Build your Character?
In order to build and strengthen your character, you have to know what to focus on. We will follow Angela Duckworth's clusters and discuss on how to work on your character.
1. Strengths of Heart
These are the "emotional" strengths. They help you relate in positive ways to events and people. Examples of this strength are expressing gratitude and having purpose.
Gratitude is the quality of being thankful to opportunities, abundance, good fortune and kindness of other people.
Those who demonstrate gratitude—and those who don’t—see life differently. Individuals demonstrating gratitude tend to emphasize language related to gifts, blessings, fortune, and abundance. Individuals who don’t demonstrate gratitude, on the other hand, tend to focus on deprivation, deservingness, regrets, lack, need, scarcity, and loss.
How do you cultivate gratitude? According to psychologist Martin Seligman, if you write three good things that happened to you each night before going to bed, it will increase your happiness. It inculcates gratitude about the good things in life you already have. Try the exercise yourself and see what happens.
Parents: Write three good things that happened to you each day and share them with your teen. Sharing good things is a great way of building a bond with your family.
Teens: Try the exercise and share it with your family. I know you want to watch Youtube or be on Instagram/Snapchat, but take some time to share three good things with your family.
2. Strengths of Mind
These are the "intellectual" or “thinking” strengths. They enable a fertile and independent life of the mind.
Curiosity is a strong desire to learn or know something—a search for information for its own sake. It’s also about leaving your mind open to possibilities and being honest about what you do and don’t know. Curiosity is an important aspect of learning because it is a source of motivation.
Most kids are naturally curious. Unfortunately, by the time most children hit their teens, their curiosity diminishes and they become 'I know it all' types. This attitude stunts growth and achievement.
How can you flex your curiosity muscle? Yes, it is a muscle like anything else!
Teachers: Curiosity is contagious. If you are curious so will your students. Ask open ended questions, who, what, how, when and why. Don't just lecture or give facts. Try the following.
Teens: Be curious about things around you and not just Instagram or Snapchat. Ask your family to take a trip to a new place. Learn a new skill.
Zest—also referred to as vitality—is an approach to life that is filled with excitement and energy.
Zest is about exhibiting enthusiasm and feeling energized. But zest doesn’t need to be loud—a quiet, introverted artist can approach her latest project with zest, even if she is alone in her studio.
Most kids have enthusiasm for something. Unfortunately, as kids grow older, the zest for life often gets diminished because of negative feedback, fear of what others think, fear of failure, and pressure from peers and family.
How can you increase or maintain your zest?
Teachers: Did you know that zestful teachers are better at their jobs? Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, be zestful. Try these:
Teens: Actively participate in your classes, do more sport, sleep well, and be curious.
Image from Pixabay
Guest post by Anna Salieva, a Hillview Prep student
If you’re planning on studying some form of an art major, you may be considering going to an art school. But is it really that much better? Both art schools and universities have their own advantages when it comes to studying your art major. Here’s what you need to know.
Many art schools don’t require you to submit your test scores and GPA, and instead evaluate you solely based on your talents. This may give you an advantage in getting in, if you feel like your skills greatly outweigh your academics. However, if you are a strong student all around, but may still want to show that off to your colleges.
Art schools have many more options when it comes to artistic majors. Whether you’re planning on majoring in animation or environmental design, without a doubt a school that specializes in art will give you many more fields of study to choose from, unlike a standard university, which will have a much smaller art department and only a handful of majors.
In an art school, everyone you know is an artist. Surrounded by like-minded people, it could be extremely easy for you to make friends, and what better place to get advice and inspiration than from the hundreds of other artists surrounding you every day of your life? Exchanging ideas and asking for help on your projects and portfolios is extremely. Not to mention the sense of spirit you feel around people who have the same passions and ideals.
However, there are many more benefits from going to a regular university.
Diversity: not everyone may be an artist, but so what? You are surrounded not just by painters and designers in your regular classes, but by scientists, mathematicians, engineers, writers, critics, historians, athletes. Having such a great diversity around you can help you not only in terms of inspiration, but life skills as well. Communicating and spending time with all kinds of people will fill up your internal reserve of ideas even more. Life is the best place to gain inspiration from, and such a great diversity can inspire you and give you even more ideas.
You get more options in terms of career. If you plan on taking a double major, a university can give you much more options in what you can study. If you’re planning on being an interface designer, computer science is a good major or minor to be interested in. If you want to be a writer and illustrate your own books, a double major or a major and minor combination of illustration and creative writing will definitely interest you. Art schools may have more options in terms of art, but a big university will have more options open for you in general.
Whether you choose an art school or a university to study in is up to you. Just know all the benefits of both and choose wisely.
Image from Pixabay
Guest post by Anna Salieva, a Hillview Prep student
One of the biggest challenges you face in high school is applying for colleges. Yes, it’s exciting. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s nerve-wracking to talk to your parents about it. The most important part to remember about this stressful time is to be smart about what colleges you’re applying to, and not simply doing what the people in your life want you to do.
Being smart about your college list means to understand where your chances are in getting into all of them. You should always have one or two backup colleges, just in case the worst case scenario happens, but make sure the colleges you pick for that position are ones you wouldn’t mind going to. If you’re picking backups for the sake of backups, you’re just going to be disappointed if you end up going to one of these schools. If the academic requirements are lower than what you are capable of, find other aspects of the college that you may enjoy. It may be their clubs, or their sports, or their campus, but if there’s something in that college that draws you in despite the low average GPA, apply to that one.
Being smart also means that your list is balanced. Having 90% of your picks be Ivies or other exclusive colleges will only lower your chances of getting into any of them. If you want to apply to an Ivy, do that, but most of your applications should be to schools that are at your level, or “target schools”. If your GPA matches their average, or is slightly below that, what you’re looking at is a target school. These schools will give you a good challenge when it comes to academics, but are less likely to burn you out than an Ivy is.
Visit your colleges. You may thing your first choice is the college of your dreams, but when you get into it, you realize that the dorms have no air conditioning. Now, this may not deter some people, but others will be very disappointed. Researching every aspect of college life is important when it comes to picking your college. And seeing the environment and the people that go there may greatly impact your decisions when it comes to picking it.
Finally, don’t let peer pressure influence your decisions. Talk to your parents about your college list, but don’t be a doormat at apply to only the colleges they want you to. Remember, it is your life you are deciding, not theirs. Do your best to strike a compromise if your idea and their idea of colleges are disagreeing. College applications are a stressful time to everyone, but getting support and encouragement from your family will greatly help you in the process.
How America Pays For College
Students and parents equally share responsibility for paying college costs
While scholarships and grants remained the number one source of funding, the contribution from students was the highest since 2011-12, and nearly equaled the contribution from parents.
Nearly half of families use scholarships for college
Students expect to step up when it's time to pay back
Amounts spent and attitudes vary across the country
Most families expect their child to go to college, but many don’t have a plan for paying
Not all B Students are the same. Some got 'B' grades because they did not have test taking skills and/or lacked precision in their concepts. If you are a bright student and deserve to get into a great school, how do you compensate for your B grades and get into a great school?
Your grades are the most important factor that colleges use when they determine whether or not to admit you. This is even true today when there is grade inflation and close to 50% of students are getting A grades! If you get a few B grades you are going to fall behind and may not get into the school of your choice. If you still have time before you submit your college applications, we recommend you focus on improving your grades and/or taking honor or AP classes.
A student who got all B’s in regular classes is going to be a much less qualified applicant than a student who got B’s in honors and AP classes. The difference will be reflected in your weighted GPA, which is what most colleges use to assess your GPA for admission.
Given the intense competition—from all over the world—you have to treat your academics almost like a sport. Just like in the 100m dash, fractions of seconds matter; the same goes for your grades and test scores, and well, even your essays. Talk to a Hillview Prep advisor on how to select the best honors or AP classes for you to boost your weighted GPA.
Test Scores Matter
Given that close to 50% of students are getting A grades, your test scores are one key way to differentiate yourself. We recommend to take both and SAT and the ACT. This way you will have both bases covered as well as be able to differentiate yourself.
And yes, you can get a great score! Remember, the tests cover material that you have already studied. If you are struggling, it is either you are not strong conceptually or are making silly errors and not pacing yourself. Our Smart Scoring System can help you improve your scores dramatically by pinpointing, very quickly, where you are struggling, and how to use your strengths to conquer your weaknesses.
There is a raging debate in the country about the value of a college education. Partly, the rising cost of education has prompted this debate. The average cost for a public 4-year college degree is over $80,000 and for private ones are $180,000. The burden of paying for a college education, both for rich and for middle class families, has considerably increased over the past 30 years. Some families find themselves too wealthy to qualify for financial aid, but are too strapped to pay out-of-pocket for college education. This is how federal financial aid works since it is needs based. If you are in this situation, check out our blog that addresses this issue and provides a guide for action.
Plus, given globalization and the slow growth economy worldwide, competition for jobs have intensified. The rising cost of a college education increases debt levels for students, and they struggle to pay the debt for a long time.
How can we empower families to deal with the rising cost of college education? Weighing a college's value has been done using soft metrics like reputation, selectivity and alumni networks. This type of evaluation cedes all power to university admissions algorithms, committees and various pressure groups seeking favors. You may be rich enough to send your kid to the top colleges, but you are not the decision maker.
It's time to challenge the way we look at the college admissions process. We want to empower the students and their families with useful information about the value of their college education.
You are an excellent student. You got good grades, but you bombed the SAT. You are disappointed and still want to go to a top school. What do you do now? Here are some tips.
1. Take the ACT!
This is a no-brainer. If you have not taken the ACT, you must. It will enhance your chances of getting into an Ivy league school. Prepare for the ACT with the Hillview Prep's Smart Scoring System and get a great ACT score. The Smart Scoring Systems can quickly diagnose why you failed to obtain a great SAT score and help you pinpoint your weaknesses. Working with one of our tutors, you can use the Smart Scoring System to lean faster, test smarter and score higher.
Image from Pixabay
According to Harvard, prior to the start of the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative (HFAI), fewer than 20,000 students applied for admission. This year, nearly 40,000 students applied to Harvard.
One big reason is the availability of financial aid by the HFAI. According to Sarah C. Donahue, Griffin Director of Financial Aid. “The majority of Harvard students receive need-based aid, and their families pay an average of only $12,000. Students are not required to take out loans.”
Since launching HFAI in 2005, Harvard has awarded nearly $1.6 billion in grants to undergraduates. Over that time, Harvard’s annual financial aid award budget has increased more than 114 percent, from $80 million in 2005 to more than $172 million in 2016.
The majority of undergraduates receiving financial aid pay just 10 percent of annual family income, and this standard holds for families earning up to $150,000 per year. Families with higher incomes can also receive need-based aid, depending on individual circumstances, including other children in college or unusual medical or other expenses.
Another big reason is outreach. According to William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid, most students — about 80 percent — go to college within 200 miles of their homes, so outreach—domestic and international—has been critical for recruitment to maintain the excellence of Harvard's student body.
Theater and Dance
Countering a national trend, interest in the humanities has been rising at Harvard. This year, applicants with an interest in the field saw a 3 percent increase from last year’s applicant pool. Students are drawn to Harvard by the opportunity to pursue a top-notch liberal arts education along with strong, almost conservatory-like training in theater and dance. The revamped Harvard Art Museums, myriad programs sponsored by the Office of the Arts and the American Repertory Theater and the new theater, dance & media concentration have created excitement and interest.
The Harvard Paulson School and the computer science concentration also continue to drive student interest in Harvard, with a 12.3 percent increase in the number of students intending to concentrate in computer science. In November 2014, the University announced plans for a 50% increase in the size of the CS faculty, thanks to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer AB ’77.
Do you think you cannot afford Harvard?
Think again. You need only $12,000 for Harvard! Do your due diligence. If you need help, do not hesitate to contact us to help you plan your application for Harvard, and help with tests: the ACT and the SAT.
Enroll today by clicking below!
College admission committees want to know who is getting into their college. It is just like anything else. You want to know who is coming to your house. Right?
GPAs and test scores helps them determine how well you are doing academically and the probability of how well you will do in college, but they also want to get to know you beyond that. They want to learn your character, your interests, like, how you spend your time outside of the classroom, how you would deal with a challenge, etc. They are interested in getting to know your personality and the life experiences you may have had up until this point. They also want to learn why you are interested in going to their college. They want to learn from your teachers or counselors their perspective on who you are as a student and human being. They can’t get all that information from numbers: GPA and test scores.
Admission to top colleges is ultra-competitive. They are many, many qualified students who are applying to top colleges—from all around the world. Colleges do not have spots for all of them. Many students have excellent grades and test scores—some perfect grades and test scores. So they have to use qualitative measures such as essays, projects and letters of recommendations to make distinctions among the many excellent candidates.
In the international bestseller, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, the renowned psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical.
A perfect essay appeals to both systems. Here are two steps to write your perfect college essay.
Image from Pixabay
Responsibility And Timeliness
Clark Brigger, executive director for undergraduate admissions, Penn State University, tells his kids, “Do not wait for the deadline to submit your applications.” Admissions officers see a huge spike in applications when the deadline comes around. That's when the procrastinators send their applications in. It is to your advantage to get ahead of the crowd, according to Brigger.
Think strategically. Thing about the poor admissions officer. She has to read thousands of applications. If you get yours in early, the reader may be more relaxed and in a better mood at that point in the process. You also show that you value their time and are responsible.
How do you determine the popularity of a school? According to US News there is a concept called, 'yield'. The yield is the percentage of students who enroll at the school after being admitted. A higher yield typically indicates a school's popularity and desirability in a student's eyes and is often associated with a "first-choice school," experts say.
Not surprisingly, Stanford University had the highest yield among any National University for fall 2015, according to the data that 295 ranked National Universities submitted to U.S. News in an annual survey. Stanford University boasted a yield of 80.4 percent followed by Harvard University at 79.8 percent.
Here is a list of the top 10 most popular national universities.
Interested in learning more about these colleges? Hillview Prep thought leader Sean Massa recently shared his insights on thoughts on his educational journey at Penn and Yale. You can listen to his views below, and feel free to contact us to consult with him about your application.
You put in the hard work and have the grades and SAT/ACT scores to get into your dream college. So do tens of thousands of students from all over the world! How do you stand out?
The admission committee decisions and their processes are not in your control. You cannot change them. But you can stand out and influence them by using your personal statement to shine and demonstrate the value you will bring to the college.
The key word is 'value'. It is not about your awesome grades and scores. That is a given and is used to filter out candidates. You have to figure out ways to stand out and get in. One way is take the subject SAT and demonstrate your interest in your field (assuming you know that). Another way is to write a great personal statement. We suggest you do both.
How do you communicate your value?
Noticing that nearly 150,000 edX learners (in 2014) were high school students, edX announced its high school initiative addressing the crucial need of college readiness gap.
Studies show that nearly 60 percent of first-year U.S. college students are unprepared for postsecondary studies. This readiness gap between college eligibility and preparedness is costly not only to students, but also to families and institutions.
MOOCs are offering courses from top high schools, secondary schools and universities to help students prepare for Advanced Placement (AP®) Exams and CLEP® Exams, as well as introductory-level courses to help you get ahead of the game. Examples are edX specially designed courses and FutureLearn's special collection of courses targeted to help students prepare for university.
How can MOOCs help you?
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