Little Known Facts About the ACT

July 1st, 2015

The ACT is an achievement test like the SAT, and ALL colleges accept either one. In recent years, the ACT has gained in popularity over the SAT (one of the reasons why the SAT is undergoing major changes). Other than the obvious differences between the tests like scoring, number of sections, science section, etc., here are some little known facts about the ACT:ACT logo

  1. Some schools can automatically see your ACT scores even if you do not report them. Some states, including Florida, are considered automatic reporting states for the ACT. This means a student’s ACT scores get automatically reported to the State Department of Education. And while it is not sent to colleges directly, public universities in Florida do have access to those records. These scores are primarily used for Florida Bright Futures, but can also be used for other research and information. Scores will be reported unless you specifically direct the ACT organization, in writing, not to do so. To direct them not to report your scores, students need to send a letter postmarked by the Monday immediately after the test date you don’t want reported. Address your letter to: ACT Institutional Services, PO Box 168, Iowa City, IA 52243-0168. This will not affect the reporting of scores to the colleges you listed.

    Importantly, Florida schools look at the BEST scores. So if you do badly on one test and better on the next one, only the best scores will count; however, it is important to contact schools with rolling admissions policies directly to ensure they know that new scores are on the way in order to postpone a decision if needed.

  1. Most colleges do NOT superscore the ACT. Superscoring means a college takes the highest subscores from various test dates to get a new, higher final score: the superscore. The subscores come from the four components of the test: Math, Reading, English, and Science. Some of the more popular colleges known to have superscored the ACT include: American University, Amherst College, Boston College, Brandeis University, Bryn Mawr College, California Institute of Technology, Florida Atlantic University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida State University, Georgia Tech, Johns Hopkins University, New York University, Northeastern University, Tufts University, University of Chicago, University of Georgia, University of Miami, University of Mass Amherst, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, University of South Florida, Vassar College and Williams College. And there are more, as well. If your choice colleges are not on this list, call the college’s admissions department and ask if they superscore the ACT. Most colleges superscore the SAT.
  1. Many top schools accept the ACT with Writing instead of the SAT and two SAT Subject Tests. Several colleges require or recommend SAT Subject Test scores for admission and placement of incoming students. Many of these colleges actually accept the ACT with Writing as a substitute for the SAT and SAT Subject Tests. This flexibility saves families time, money, and convenience by not necessitating additional tests.
  1. Where you take the test can matter. Testing conditions can contribute positively – or negatively – to a student’s scores. When registering for the exam, be mindful of the testing location. Some problems our student clients have encountered at various test sites, for example, include proctors eating crunchy food while students took the test, proctors leaving doors open, and tests stopped early. Students should ask older friends where they took their SAT/ACT, and if they experienced any issues at their test site. Clients of International College Counselors should contact us for advice on testing locations.
  1. Bombing on the ACT – or the SAT – is not the end of the world. Roughly 860 colleges and universities are test-optional. That includes more than a third of the nation’s 100 top liberal arts colleges. A list of test-optional schools can be found at

Final Thoughts

When choosing an ACT tutor, remember that the tutor should be an expert with the specific strategies and content given on the ACT. Not all tutors have the proper materials and know how to prepare students for the ACT. For recommendations on tutors who specialize in the ACT, or to contact an educational consultant at International College Counselors, please visit us at

Questions to Ask on College Visits

June 11th, 2015

Visiting the college is an important part of your college decision process. It’s one thing to read about a school, but quite another to visit it. Once on campus, students should talk with as many people as they can. This list can include admissions officers, professors, students, and coaches. Students shouldn’t leave until all their questions have been answered and until they feel they are able to make an informed decision about what life on campus is truly like. Here is a list of sample questions to ask during campus visits:

Academic Qs

  • Are professors accessible outside of class?
  • What is the typical way to get in touch with a professor? Email? Phone call?
  • Do you usually get in all the classes that you need to register for?
  • How many courses are taught by professors and how many by a teaching assistant?
  • What are the most popular majors? The least popular majors?
  • What is the grading system like?
  • Are the classes discussion/project-oriented or mostly lecture-orientated?
  • What is the study abroad program here like?
  • What are the strengths of the program or department?
  • What kinds of coursework can I expect to complete for my particular major?
  • How successful are college graduates in finding jobs?

Financial Qs

  • If you have financial need, will you be able to get a financial aid package that meets all of your demonstrated need?
  • Are there work-study jobs available on campus? Off campus?
  • If you don’t qualify for work-study, what jobs are available near campus that you could apply for?

Safety Qs

  • How safe is the campus? How often are crimes reported?
  • Is the campus well lit?
  • How large is the campus security force? Does it patrol campus regularly?
  • Is there a pick-up or shuttle service for students walking at night? How late does it run?
  • What services are offered by the campus health center? How large is it?
  • Is there a hospital nearby? How big is it?

Campus Qs

  • Does the campus seem too big? Or too small?
  • Does the campus look well cared for?
  • Do you feel comfortable and safe?
  • Do most of the students seem to be like you, or are they completely different?
  • Are you required to live on campus your first year?
  • Are the dorms single sex or coed?
  • Do freshmen live in their own dorms?
  • Are the dorms quiet or noisy? Do they seem crowded?
  • What are the rules for students living in dorms?
  • What types of meal plans are available?
  • What hours are food services available?

Social Qs

  • What do students do on weekends? Stay on campus? Go home?
  • What are the most popular extracurricular activities?
  • What are the biggest student hangouts in and around campus?
  • Are there sororities and fraternities on campus?  How many students participate?
  • Are parties allowed on campus?

Athletic Qs

  • Is the college considered an athletic school?
  • What sports are the most popular?
  • Do athletes have to miss a lot of classes in order to participate in games?
  • Do athletes have their own dorms?
  • What’s the condition of the playing fields and the sports equipment?

Qs for Students or Alumni

  • Why did you choose this particular college?
  • What’s your least favorite thing about (name of school)?
  • Are professors helpful and accessible?
  • What do you do on a typical weekend?
  • What are your favorite school traditions?
  • What has been your favorite class you’ve taken so far and why?
  • How hard do you have to work to get good grades?
  • If you had to do it over again, would you still choose to attend?

Community Qs

  • Do you like the surrounding city or town?
  • Is the city or town big enough for your taste? Does it have enough entertainment for you?
  • How easy is it to get to places off campus? Will you need a car? Are there places within walking distance?
  • What is the city’s public transportation system like?

10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Summer Internship or Job

June 9th, 2015

Summer is here. If you have a job or internship, plan on making the most of your opportunity. At the end of the summer you’ll want to be in a position where you can get a recommendation fromsummer intern your employer. Your other goal should be to turn your experience into a resume builder. Internships are an important way to impress a college, gain experience and even launch your future career.


  1. Stand out with your professionalism. Show the company you’re the one they should be watching and giving the best assignments to. Be professional, serious and responsible. This should earn you more respect and responsibility. Be on time for work, meetings, conference calls and team building exercises. Even better – come early. Make sure you dress for success, too.
  1. Be realistic. Sometimes realities don’t match expectations. Rather than dwell on any negatives of the job or internship, seek out and embrace the opportunities offered. Chances are you won’t be given an assignment that saves the company and makes you a star. But, that’s not why you’re there. You’re there to learn, expand your horizons, and add to your resume. No matter what, always be enthusiastic and upbeat.
  1. Be proactive. Even if your assignments appear to be a sea of menial and repetitive tasks, don’t complain. Ask to have a meeting with your supervisor to ask about new opportunities or projects. You won’t know, unless you ask. However, if they say no, respect the answer. Even if they say no, you will gain the respect and attention of your older colleagues for demonstrating initiative and motivation. Very importantly, always do the best job you can no matter what the task.
  1. Learn about yourself. Use this time to find out more about yourself. See what kind of people you relate to. What kind of work you like to do.
  1. Develop your professional people skills. Compare yourself to people on the job who you admire. Study the qualities you admire in them. Do they have skills you lack or can work on acquiring? Take notes on their dress and what character traits put them ahead. Then try to emulate those traits.
  1. Build up your resume. Volunteer for extra tasks and look for opportunities. The best first step is to prove that you’re responsible and resourceful. For example, if you’re working in an ice cream shop and your boss needs to leave a few hours early, volunteer to be put in charge. If you’re given the responsibility to lead, this counts on your resume as Management. If you’re working in an advertising firm and think you might want to be a copywriter, ask for the current assignments. Write the ads then ask for feedback. Who knows, they may even love your ad so much, they’ll run it.
  1. Ask questions. Always remember that a summer job or internship is a learning experience for you. While your employer expects to get some work from you, you are expected to be interested in what’s going on. So ask questions and take notes. This is your chance to get advice and learn. Find a mentor, if possible.
  1. Learn to take criticism gracefully. No one likes to be criticized, but you’re sure to encounter many negative opinions throughout your life and career. Criticism can help you. Every so often, ask your manager for their thoughts on your performance. If an answer is negative, follow it up by asking what you could have done better. Then put that information to use. The best part about a summer job or internship is that you’re not expected to know everything. Both you and your employer know that you are there to learn.
  1. Make connections and stay connected. After the summer is over make sure to stay in touch with the people you met and connected with – and stay connected. It’s never too early to start building your professional network. A professionally geared site like is a good place to keep in touch.
  1. Treat the internship like a real job. If you want an employer to take you seriously, you need to take the job seriously.

14 Tips for High School Athletes: How to Get Recruited

June 1st, 2015

High school athletes who want to get recruited by a college need to get noticed by the right coach. Although in some cities, athletes in Class 8A, 7A, and 6A football, basketball and baseball may have scouts come to their games, and in metropolitan areas, many sports are frequently covered in widely distributed newspapers or newscasts, every year, thousands of other outstanding athletes are overlooked for one simple reason: the coaches didn’t know they were out there.student athlete

Have a power drink and breathe. Whatever sport you participate in, from football to fencing, or bowling to basketball, student-athletes can do more to get themselves on the radar of a coach. All they need is a game plan.

Below are some tips for student-athletes from International College Counselors:

  1. Research the ins and outs of recruiting, regulations, colleges, coaches, and sports programs. Read the NCAA and NAIA Guide for the College Bound Student-Athlete and watch Know exactly how coaches can contact you and how you can contact coaches. These are two separate rules.
  2. Use the Internet. Visit college websites, and collect information about the different sports programs. Look for schools that fit your talents, athletically and academically.
  3. Don’t just focus on NCAA Division I sports. There are more than 1,800 colleges with athletic programs. The vast majority of college scholarship opportunities are at the Division II, Division III, NAIA, or Junior College level. Expand your search to give yourself a better opportunity.
  4. Attend college sports camps, if you can. The colleges’ coaching staff usually leads the sports camps. You also get a chance to enhance your skills.
  5. Join travel teams or clubs. At some events there can be hundreds of teams and thousands of athletes competing. Scouts prefer going to where the better players are competing. Additionally, it gives you a chance to really check out your competition. Keep in mind, you can’t rely on being ‘discovered’ at a camp or showcase.
  6. Depending on the sport, contact coaches in desired programs and build relationships with them as early as possible. For example, send them some newspaper articles about you and the teams you play for, or a link to a particularly spectacular achievement. If there is an opportunity to meet a coach, go and introduce yourself with a quick rundown of your best achievements.
  7. Create a sports video of yourself in action that you will send to programs of your choice during your Junior year along with an athletic “resume” highlighting your achievements. Include stats, win/loss record, awards, high school transcripts, information on SAT/ACT scores, and letters of recommendation from coaches and teachers. Don’t forget your contact information. (The best video is a combination game video and skills video.)
  8. Start a YouTube channel or website of yourself. Post videos of your achievements and scans of articles. (Don’t just post links; some papers disconnect the links after a period of time). Create a professionally prepared resume that highlights your athletic and academic achievements. Post it online.
  9. Get evaluated, if you can. Many third-party people serve as the eyes and ears of the coaches who don’t have time to see every player.
  10. Keep up your academics. Get good grades, meet with your college counselor to make sure you are academically eligible, try to take the SAT/ ACT in your junior year, and maintain a good attitude.
  11. Answer any requests from colleges immediately. If a coach or school is requesting more information, chances are they are seriously considering you. Ask your high school coach to complete any requests for information about you as soon as possible, as well.
  12. Register with the NCAA and NAIA Eligibility Centers to be cleared for athletic scholarships.
  13. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear from coaches. NCAA rules only permit them to contact student-athletes at certain times.
  14. Take care of your body and keep working hard to get stronger, faster and fitter. It’s competitive out there – but if you’re a true athlete at heart – knowing that should push you more.

One last note, many colleges are now providing scholarship athletes with monthly payments, as a result of a new NCAA policy. The Power 5 conferences — ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference), Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC (Southeastern Conference)— voted on the ruling, allowing colleges and universities to pay their student-athletes an additional $1,400 to $5,666 for “cost of attendance.”

By taking control of the process and being proactive, student-athletes can greatly increase their chances of getting recruited.

20 Tips to Help You Thrive During Freshman Year at College

May 14th, 2015

When you start college, you start with a clean slate. Nobody in college cares what you were like in high school. For first year college students, it won’t matter if you were class president, prom queen, valedictorian, secretary of the art club, or person who liked to hang out in the parking lot during lunch. What you are known for in high school does not automatically apply to college. What will count are the decisions you make and the actions you take. college freshman

  1. Get Organized. In college, no one will be nagging you to complete the homework. Many professors will post the assignments and expect you to be prepared. Your parents won’t be there to remind you when meetings are being held or to double-check your appointments. Use a planner or an app, get a wall calendar, keep a to-do list.
  2. Plan ahead and stay motivated. By the end of your first week, you’ll know when almost every assignment for the semester is due. There’s no reason you should be stressing over papers or big tests the night before they’re due.
  3. Go to class. College isn’t free. Why pay for something and not use it. Make sure you get the most of your investment by going to class. You’ll also learn more and know what you need to successfully complete tests and assignments. You also don’t want to test a teacher who may fail you for not showing up.
  4. Meet with your professors. Attend their office hours. Professors can help you out and provide guidance as well as academic support. You may also want a letter of recommendation one day if you’re seeking admission to a graduate or professional school.
  5. Get to know your academic adviser. This is the person who can help you navigate the transition to college. Among the things they can do is help you get in touch with campus resources including: tutoring resources, financial aid services, scholarship opportunities and ways to get involved on campus. They also help with course conflicts, adding or dropping courses, scheduling of classes for future semesters, and choosing a major.
  6. Find mentors. Many of the world’s most successful people — from businessmen to politicians to writers to musicians — found a mentor early on.
  7. Strive for good grades. Some jobs do actually care what grades you received and so will grad schools. It’s also a good life lesson to set goals and achieve them.
  8. Use the study resources on campus. Most colleges have learning labs and tutoring available. If you’re having trouble, these resources are great tools to take advantage of.
  9. Make time for you. Set aside some time and find a place where you can sit and relax.
  10. Be a joiner. There are activist and religious groups, sports teams, volunteer organizations, and clubs for almost every college major or hobby. You’ll gain knowledge and skills, and the power of a group can help you achieve your goals. College clubs can help wallflowers to make friends, athletes to stay in shape, and future politicians to develop their first contacts.
  11. Make connections. Discard your preconceptions and make it a point to meet people that don’t look or act exactly like you. And definitely don’t let an inferiority complex get in the way. You no longer have to be the person you were in high school. Make it a point to meet at least one new person in each class. Get to know your roommate.
  12. Visit the Career Services Office. It’s never too early to explore career option and get started on planning, preparing, and acting on your future.
  13. Stay healthy/Eat right. You’ll feel much better if you get enough sleep, eat right and stay hydrated. (We’re talking water here.) Avoid the dreaded extra “Freshman 15″ pounds by sticking to a balanced diet.
  14. Set realistic goals. Whether its in academics or social aspirations, goals set too high will wear you out, and leave you feeling frustrated and disappointed in yourself for not achieving your goals. Setting goals too low may leave you with too much time on your hands and a feeling of emptiness. Set goals should be a bit of a stretch, but not so much that they can’t be achieved.
  15. Learn to cope with homesickness. Almost everyone gets homesick at one time or another. Call home, text a parent, or send an email.
  16. Manage your money. Create a budget and find ways to save money. If you get a credit card, use it wisely. Pay your bills on time and don’t charge more than you can afford to pay each month.
  17. Simplify. Don’t take on too many tasks and responsibilities, to try to do too much, or to try and please too many people. Seek balance.
  18. Know its normal to feel overwhelmed. College is a lot to handle, from the coursework to making new friends to making your own decisions. You’re not alone in feeling that way.
  19. Enjoy your college experience as much as possible. It’s one of the most rewarding experiences of your life and it goes by very quickly. More quickly than you’d think.
  20. Call your parents

Get a Summer Internship While in High School

April 29th, 2015

Do an internship in high school and it can do a lot for you. Few other activities can have a greater impact on a student. Internships are opportunities for students to explore their interests, learn more about possible careers, and gain real world experience while still in school. Through an internship, a student can also strengthen a resume and meet professionals to turn to for letters of recommendation and as mentors in the future. Not sure where to start? Here are five tips on where to look for internship opportunities: internship photo

  1. Start at your school. The office of the high school guidance counselor may have a current listing of opportunities and programs available in the area.  High school administrators and-or teachers may also have connections to businesses with internships.
  2. Contact companies and organizations of interest. For students interested in medicine, Google to see if healthcare related businesses in the area, like hospitals, offer internships. For students interested in architecture, Google architecture firm internships. Many different organizations and companies offer internships; students just have to find them. Check a company’s website. Or make a quick call. Even if the business does not have a formal internship program in place, they still might consider hiring a hard working student who wants to learn. Students interested in a particular field or type of company should send out cover letters and resumes to a top 10-15 list of businesses. Many companies respond positively to students who take such initiative, and even if they don’t have an established internship, they might create one for a student who takes initiative.  Research local colleges and universities to see their internship opportunities, as well.
  3. Ask your family and friends of the family for help. Parents are encouraged to introduce their students to people they know who may help connect them to an internship. Parents, make sure your student is ready for an interview and understands the responsibilities of a work environment.
  4. Look for an internship online. If a student is not sure what kind of internship he or she wants to do, type: “high school” internship <> into Google and see what comes up. com is a source of high school internships. Students in Miami-Dade can also visit
  5. Look for volunteer opportunities. Volunteer work can be very similar to an internship. The difference is the student will not get paid. Though, an internship can be unpaid as well. No matter. The real value is the experience.

The educational consultants at International College Counselors highly recommend internships for high school students in any grade. In addition to the benefits listed above, internships can help build a case for a “passion” and help students set themselves apart from their peers.


April 23rd, 2015

To report the AP exam or not to report the AP exam, that is this week’s question.

Starting on May 4, over 2 million students will take almost 4 million AP exams. After taking one of the many various exams, there are usually three ways a student will feel:  Great!  Good.  And Awful.

If you think you did great or good, congratulations!

If you’re sure you didn’t do well and scored a 1 or a 2, or you’re not sure how you did, you can withhold or cancel your score.

Because AP grades are released in July, any request for changes in reporting must be received by June 15 of the year in which you took the exam.

Note that it’s not likely that any one AP grade you submit, no matter how low, will fatally wound you.

Canceling vs. Withholding

Canceling AP scores

Canceling an AP score permanently means you’ll never, ever see the grade and it’s deleted from your record forever.

The option to cancel a score helps a number of students.  Some of those students took an AP course but found that the class didn’t cover all the information on the test or they didn’t study for the test as much as they should have.  (And this happens more than we’d like to think.)  This option also encourages the risk takers, the students who take an AP exam in a subject they might not have taken the class for. (They’re the ones who study a lot on their own).

To stop a score or scores from being sent to the college indicated on your AP registration answer sheet, you must send the College Board a Score Cancellation Form – filled out correctly with your parent/guardian’s signature — and mail or fax it to the address on the form by June 15 of the year in which you took the exam.

Keep in mind, if you make a request for a score cancellation before you get your score, your exam will not be scored, and a score for that exam will never be available.

Withholding AP scores

Withholding a score means you may have one or more scores withheld from the colleges you indicated on your answer sheet.  This gives you the chance to see your scores before the colleges.

You may later release the score to that college by sending AP Services a signed written request.

What we suggest to the students we work with at International College Counselors is to not send your scores to any colleges before the beginning of July.

Our reasoning is as follows: with your test, as explained to our education consultants by an AP representative, you only get to send your scores to one school free, any others are $15.   In other words, if you choose to withhold your scores from all the colleges until you see them, you’re only “losing” $15.   Many students can think of the $15 as “insurance”.  It’s easy to see your scores and then send them in if you want to.

You can withhold a score if you already sent them in, but if you took them this year, we recommend waiting until early July.  Sometime during the first two weeks of July, scores for the 2015 exams can be viewed online at

To withhold a score, you must notify the College Board by sending them a Score Withholding Form – filled out correctly with your parent/guardian’s signature — and mail or fax it to the address on the form by June 15 of the year in which you took the exam.

Note that unlike a canceled score, a request to withhold a grade does not permanently delete your grade. A withheld AP grade will be sent to your high school. It will count in your AP average and affect AP scholar designations. This means you can choose the scores that work to your advantage and feel confident taking some extra AP exams.

Make sure you keep a copy of all your correspondence with the College Board.

Additional Information

Before July, make sure you sign up for a College Board account. Use the same information on your College Board account and your AP answer sheet or they just may think you are two different people.

2015-2016 Common Application Essay Prompts

April 14th, 2015

Attention Juniors: The 2015-2016 college application season has officially begun. The Common Application, otherwise known as the Common App, released its list of essay prompts. While it is true that the Common Application essay prompts are flexible enough for any personal statement or story, it also helps to know just what admissions officers look for when they read them.

The application doesn’t go live until August, but this is important enough that you should start thinking of an answer now. Keep in mind, students only have to choose and respond to one of the five choices.

Overall, admissions offices are looking for you to reveal something that distinguishes you or sets you apart from others in your own voice.

PROMPT #1: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

This first question is broad and gives you a lot of latitude. The prompt asks you to write about either a passion or something that defines you as a person. This common app essay should be built around something unique and specific to you and no one else. If your “background” is central to your identity, it could involve anything in your life that shaped you. This can include your religion or ethnicity, living in a foreign country, experiencing a challenging issue growing up, or a unique family situation. Make sure you describe how your background affected who you are, what you value, and how you approach your life. Same with your “identity,” it’s important to choose a topic that has shaped who you are on a fundamental basis. If you choose to write about an “interest” or “talent,” (i.e. sports, the arts, speech and debate, stamp collecting, bird watching, performing magic tricks, etc.), make sure you include your reflection on how it shaped you. It’s critical that you find a way to write about it that reveals more about you than what you like to do or how good you are at doing it.

PROMPT #2: The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

While the prompt asks about failure, admissions really wants to know how you thought you failed with the addition of how you turned it into a personal success. How you answer this question will reveal to the committee how do you deal with hardship. Also, if you are the kind of person who can bounce back and learn from an experience. Do not choose a trite failure like not winning a race. Also, do not draw attention to something you did that was dangerous, like distracted driving. If you can’t keep your story positive, do not choose to answer this question. The admissions office does not really want to know about your failure, but in how you overcame it.

PROMPT #3: Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

You need to speak passionately about a belief or an idea, in a compact story with a beginning, middle and end. Responses are supposed to be deeply personal, but make sure your idea of belief is not controversial. You do not know who will be reading your Common App essay and you certainly do not want to turn anyone off to you. And don’t preach. The admissions committee includes this prompt for students who define themselves by what they believe in and/or what they are willing to stand up for.

PROMPT #4: Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

By giving this prompt, admissions officers’ are hoping to see more intellectual expression in the personal statement. Students who elect to tackle this particular question will have the opportunity to demonstrate creative and critical thinking skills. Admissions directors are asking for a problem so that it is easier to build a story around your core answer. Note the emphasis that this problem needs to have “personal importance.” However they also add “no matter the scale.” One variation of this can be your community service project. Another variation can include not eating meat, bullying, not having money, school tests, etc. So don’t stress about not having a significant issue to write about. Even an everyday problem with significance to you can be turned into a great essay.

PROMPT #5: Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

In this prompt, both “accomplishment” and “event,” leave themselves open to interpretation. This means, you can write about anything from a formal event to a very small happening. However, when choosing a story remember that the admissions reader is looking for a moment in your life that really changed you as a person. Everyone is different so an event or accomplishment might encompass anything from birthdays and weddings (formal), to achievements like earning an award or winning an election (informal). Other topics can be something as simple as working with a mentor, visiting a relative’s old neighborhood, or eating a particularly meaningful meal.

You know you found the right story when it has that element of transition and transformation. The event or accomplishment you discuss should be something that helped you understand the world around you in a more adult way or forced you to “grow up.” In other words, you should choose an event, challenge or experience where you learned something that made you feel more capable and grown up.

IMPORANT SUMMARY NOTE: Admissions wants a glimpse of your personality, your values, your interests and your passions. They want to get an idea of what kind of attitude and energy you will bring to the classroom and campus life.

Do not wait to write your essay. The sooner you start the better.


About International College Counselors

The college advisors at International College Counselors help students from all over the world find, apply to, and gain acceptance into the college of their dreams. The expert educational consultants at International College Counselors are dedicated to helping students and their families successfully navigate the college admission process.

For more information on answering the 2015-2016 Common App essay prompts or for information on college admissions, visit or call 954 414-9986.

Seven College Admissions Realities That Seem Like April Fools Jokes

April 1st, 2015

However, people who think they know everything there is to know about getting into college may not really know as much as they think.


  1. NOT A JOKE: Well-rounded kids are not who colleges are looking for.

April foolsColleges want students who excel at something. Why? Because colleges want a well-rounded class and it’s easier to put one together by choosing kids who are easy to identify: athletes, artists, musicians, mathematicians, leaders, activists, etc. In one word, they want passion. To demonstrate passion, a student needs to show commitment. They’d rather see a student with one or two activities they’re dedicated to and in which they’ve achieved a leadership position than a laundry list of activities. Other factors that round out a class include geographic, racial, ethnic and economic diversity.


  1. NOT A JOKE: Essays do count.

The essay is what makes a student unique. Grades and GPAs are numbers that help colleges sort students into groups. The resume gives the college an idea of what a student’s interests are, and if they were able to stick with activities and succeed in them. The essay is an incredible opportunity for students to stand out and make themselves memorable. Make sure it is well thought out, coherent, captivating, and positive. The essay is an opportunity for a student to show a different side of him or herself and tell why a college should pick him or her.


  1. NOT A JOKE: It’s a buyer’s market

Don’t believe it when the media says it’s harder than ever to get into college. Highly competitive schools may not accept a high percentage of the students who apply, but there are hundreds of colleges out there. Many colleges are actually worried about getting enough enrollments, including many excellent and well-regarded schools. Students can use the situation to their advantage. Families who look beyond the most selective colleges may also find more options for financial aid


  1. NOT A JOKE: Admission officers may check a student’s social media.

Admissions offices are checking out applicants’ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media accounts. This is especially true if a student is being seriously considered for prestigious scholarship awards at a school. All inappropriate pictures, objectionable comments, or mean posts should be deleted.


  1. NOT A JOKE: Even competitive private colleges may be cheaper than you think.

Families should not get discouraged by the high sticker prices at colleges. This is a big mistake because many colleges with the highest sticker prices offer the lowest net prices to certain students, like those who do not have a lot of money. The sticker price is the total yearly cost of a college education. This price includes the total cost of yearly tuition, books, room and board, and any fees the campus might charge like a parking permit or library card fee. The net price is the sticker price minus a student’s financial need, scholarships, grants, and other forms of aid from the total. The net price is what a student will actually pay to attend a college. This truth even applies to the Ivy League schools. Look at the net price calculator on a school’s website. Students can use this tool to estimate their net price to attend a particular college or university.


  1. NOT A JOKE: The application process starts in freshman year.

The sooner a student starts preparing for the application process the better. In ninth grade everything starts to count, from extracurricular activities to summers. Students need to create a four-year plan with their goals in mind. This includes planning the right academic coursework, meaningful summer activities, extracurriculars and more. All four years of high school are needed in order to become a competitive applicant. Keep in mind, even ninth grade grades count in calculating a GPA. It’s also never too early to start to meet, become friends, and make a good impression on teachers. When applying to college, letters of recommendation are usually required.


  1. NOT A JOKE: Colleges want to hear from students.

More and more colleges are tracking the number of times a student has contacted them. Contact points include attending a college fair and filling out a form to receive more information, meeting with the college representative, or attending a campus visit. When a student shows interest, the college believes the student is more likely to attend. In general, colleges accept a certain number of students knowing that only some of them will actually attend. However, the more students who attend a college after being accepted, the better it looks for that college’s rankings. Students who show interest in a school, gain extra points in the admissions process.

Volunteering in High School—Do Admissions Boards Really Care?

March 19th, 2015

Although grades and test scores are what colleges look at first, volunteer work is important because it shows a college that a student is compassionate, involved, and well-rounded. Community service is also said to be growing importance among admissions officers.

A 2011 survey conducted by ranked it number four in importance of factors considered for admission, above reference letters, interviews, and legacy. To really impress admissions officers, students need to show dedication to a cause. Rising to a position of leadership is important. Wanting a significant role in an organization shows that the student cares and that their colleagues trust them enough to either elect them or promote them tovolunteer photo such a position.

Tips and Tactics for Volunteering

  • Start as a freshman or sophomore. The more time a student dedicates to community service, the better it looks on college applications.
  • Find activities within the volunteer work to demonstrate organizational, leadership, and teamwork skills. Find community service opportunities that build on these skills.
  • Find something that aligns with a potential chosen major. Colleges like to see volunteer work that aligns with a student’s major. This will also make the work both more enjoyable and interesting. And if a student does not find it to be enjoyable and interesting, it may be a sign that a student may want to look at other majors.
  • Ask around for excellent volunteering opportunities. Counselors, family members, and community leaders may have good ideas for a student on what they can do for their neighborhood.
  • Commit to a few activities over time. Colleges are looking for quality, not quantity. Sticking with a few causes demonstrates commitment and interest.
  • Consider starting your own charity or volunteer project.
  • Do not just seek to join an already established volunteering project, be proactive to identify a need, and fulfill it.

Showcase Community Service Projects in the Best Way Possible
Students need to make sure they position their volunteer activities to their greatest advantage.

  • Show WHY a particular issue was chosen, WHAT goals were trying to be achieved and describe HOW those goals were achieved.
  • Have a long list of causes? Consider dedicating one essay to explaining how all those issues actually fit together under one larger theme like “poverty” or “human rights.”
  • Get personal and focus on how the student changed as a result of their experience(s), rather than just outlining what was done, how many hours, etc. For example, did a student experience a change in world view as a result of their community service.
  • Use specific language that can be more effective: Words like “commitment,” “leadership,” “initiative,” and “passion” should be used instead of “required,” “mandatory” and “brief.” Also good words: “engaged,” “meaningful” and “transform.”

The right match of volunteer work can help a student meet new friends, get involved in the community, learn new skills, explore careers, expand their network, and give them an advantage on their college application. For more information on volunteering in high school, or for help with applying to colleges, contact International College Counselors at or 954 414-9986.

International College Counselors
4700 Sheridan Street, Suite J
Hollywood, Florida 33021 USA
(954) 414-9986

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