Available now! A Completely Revised and Updated College Admission

College Admission: From Application to Acceptance Step by Step has been completely revised and updated for changes to the Common Application, testing, the essay, financial aid and more, including information for transfer students and  undocumented students, and timelines for the college application process. Look for the red banner! You can find it here.

Our Updated Guide to The Application Form is Available Now!

The Common Application goes live next week -- on Friday, August 1! So we're bringing you a real-time digital supplement to College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step -- our completely revised and updated guide to The Application Form .

It's a complete guide to filling out the college application, which serves as the cornerstone of a student's admission file, including:

Writing Your High School Story: College Admission Advice for 9th and 10th Graders

Speak up in class, learn a system of note-taking, be kind, don't worry about testing until 11th grade, and read, read, read... Mark Moody, Co-Director of College Counseling at Colorado Academy, joins us again with advice for 9th and 10th graders about how to write a high school story that will have a happy ending. 


You’ve made it to the end of another school year! Before you totally shift out of school mode and into your summer adventures, it’s a good time to take a minute to reflect on your school journey as it’s shaping up. Do you feel confident, not so great, or indifferent to your academic record and extracurricular life so far? Now that you have the lay of the high school landscape, you have the tools to directly shape your response to that question for next year and the years after.

Trevor Rusert, Sewickley Academy

We want to tell you a story. A story that we think gets to the heart of who most high school college counselors are -- at least the ones every parent wishes for their son or daughter. This is a story about Trevor Rusert and a student named Amanda.

Amanda lives with her father, a single parent. Her family is working class and Amanda had a significant scholarship to attend Sewickley Academy in Pennsylvania where Rusert is Director of College Guidance. But her scholarship didn't cover everything, so Amanda worked 30 hours a week at McDonald's as shift manager -- 6 p.m. to midnight, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and then full shifts on the weekend -- to make up the difference. In the summertime, she worked with Sewickley's maintenance crew during the day and was back at McDonald's at night -- 70-plus hours a week.

Big Changes Coming to the SAT in 2016

A redesigned SAT will debut in the spring of 2016 with more "relevant" vocabulary words, a return to the old 1600 scoring scale, an "optional" essay and new policies to help low- and middle-income students. David Coleman, president of the College Board announced the changes, citing the fact that only 20% of teachers see the test as a fair measure of the work students have done in school.

            The big news?

Fred Hargadon on College Admission and the Dodecahedron

Last week Fred Hargadon passed away. Hargadon worked in admissions at Swarthmore, Stanford and Princeton. In any room where college admissions people meet, there will be Fred Hargadon anecdotes. (We have several in our book!) He was a great communicator, with a dead aim for the college application process, conveyed with compassion and a wry sense of humor.  His acceptance letters from Princeton famously began with the single word "YES!," a phrase now carved in stone in front of Princeton's Hargadon Hall, the dormitory named in his honor.

Joyce Smith, executive director of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, recently shared a letter Hargadon wrote to prospective students and we'd like to share it with you. You have to love a letter that citesThe Phantom Tollbooth, Harry Potter's sorting hat, SAT scores and becoming bilingual. 

Here's one of our favorite pieces of advice:

Juniors, Taking the ACT or SAT? Practice, practice, practice...

The winter testing dates for the ACT and SAT are coming up soon:  the SAT will be administered on January 25th and the ACT on February 8th. For many students, practice can improve scores. But if you're listening to your iPod while you're thumbing through the test or not taking a timed practice test, you probably won't experience that improvement. Here's how to practice so you get results:

                Practice under actual test conditions. Both tests require students to perform in a fixed amount of time. Sit down in your kitchen with a test book and your No. 2 pencils and have a family member time you.

Our New Guide to the Application Form, Including Changes to the Common App

It's here -- our completely revised and updated guide, The Application Form, a real-time digital supplement to College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step.

It's a complete guide to filling out the college application, which serves as the cornerstone of a student's admission file, including:

  • A walk through the new Common Application, step by step.
  • An explanation of why colleges want this information and our best advice for how to provide it.
  • Answers to students' questions about extracurricular activities, academics, testing, and essays are addressed.
  • Guidance on fee waivers, deadlines, "fast apps," and resumes.
  • A To Do List for the many moving parts so students can put their best foot forward when completing their applications.

Download your complete free copy here.

Juniors: It's Time to Think about a Testing Plan

Most students will want to take either the SAT or ACT once by the end of junior year -- usually taking either test for the first time in the winter or spring. (The SAT is first offered in January; the ACT in February. Make sure to check deadlines for sign-up!) This timing allows you to capitalize on having just completed Algebra II, as well as further coursework in English. No timetable suits all students, but all students should begin thinking of creating a testing plan, taking into account planning for the SAT or ACT, Subject Tests, and AP exams (if enrolled).


Juniors: Are you Taking the PSAT?

The PSAT/NMSQT will be administered on October 16 and October 19 to high school juniors. The PSAT is a "practice" test for the SAT and colleges do not see scores. So there is no need to prep for the test. But it can provide important feedback about where you need improvement.

Also, scores on the PSAT taken in the junior year are used to qualify students for the National Merit Scholarship competition, the best- known scholarship program in the country. So a strong score could translate into scholarship money.