Newly Released College Scorecard Helps Students Choose Best College for Them

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

College Scorecard logo

Promising to create a program to help protect families from crippling college debts, the Obama administration recently released its new “College Scorecard.”

This website allows families to compare college costs, and to make smart financial decisions about where to enroll for higher education.

In a nutshell, the College Scorecard is an online interactive tool that lets users sort and choose schools by a number of options – including location, size, campus setting, degree, and major programs. Each Scorecard includes five key pieces of data about a college: costs, graduation rate, loan default rate, average amount borrowed, and employment information such as how much graduates earn. In this way, families can determine if the cost of a particular school is worth it. What many families will find is that there is sometimes little connection between cost and student earning potential, and families who are considering large debt packages may realize they’d be better off choosing a lower priced college.

In Florida for example, if you compare a private school like University of Miami with a public school like University of Florida, you can see that the salary after attending is pretty close. However, the cost of attending UM is significantly higher than the cost of attending UF.

These data will be updated periodically, and the Department of Education plans to publish information on earnings potential in the coming year.

Students and parents can access a College Scorecard for every degree-granting institution starting at, and they can email comments or questions about the tool to

***Learn more about International College Counselors take on the College Scorecard, by watching Mandee Heller Adler’s recent interview on NBC.

About International College Counselors

The expert educational consultants at International College Counselors are dedicated to helping students and their families from across the country and all over the world find, apply to, and gain admission to the college of their dreams. If you would like to learn how to successfully navigate the college admissions process, please contact our expert college advisors at or call 954-414-9986.

13 Haunting College Admissions Errors

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

Halloween, October 31st, is the night before the Early Decision and Early Action deadlines of many colleges and universities. Ghosts and witches are scary but a missed application deadline is absolutely terrifying.

High school students, take heed and avoid these nightmares:

  1. Waiting until the deadline: Unseen spirits wreak havoc, computers and websites go down. Many students who wait for the last minute to submit their applications find that all their hard work is not received on time. Colleges and universities expect students to confirm that their complete application has been received. Students who wait until the last minute to submit everything have no time to follow up. Make sure that the application has been received or be afraid. Very afraid.
  1. Repeating information again and again: Applications have only so much space. Make best use it. Make sure that every part of the application adds something to the story, and does not say it again.
  1. Asking the wrong questions: Do not spook the admissions team or a college interviewer by asking for information that is easily found on the Internet. Good questions are the ones with answers that cannot be Googled or found on a college website. A treat for a counselor is to be asked what his or her favorite things are about the school. Do the research and ask thoughtful questions.
  1. Asking the wrong recommenders for letters, or asking too late: Students should only ask for recommendations from teachers who like them and know them well enough to write about their particular strengths and specific abilities. Wait too long to ask, though, and students will find those teachers in a zombie-like state. Close to the deadline, many teachers get burnt out writing letters and students who waited may not get the thorough and thoughtful letters colleges want to see. Choose teachers early, talk with them, and provide them with information on each college/program being applied to.
  1. Missing the curriculum requirements: Many schools have specific curriculum requirements for incoming freshmen. High school students who look into the course requirements too late risk not having the time to take them. Make sure all the required courses are taken before senior year. Start researching colleges as early as freshman or sophomore year.
  1. Making sloppy mistakes: Bad luck can never be blamed for careless errors. Make sure the name of the college is correct on the application and in the essay. Do not leave any part of the application blank. Do not make grammatical errors or misspell words. Reread each application carefully, make sure all lines are filled in correctly, and have someone else proofread it, too.
  1. Writing a less than great essay: Poorly written essays and generic essays will not trick colleges into sending an acceptance letter. Students need to show that they really want to attend a school. They also need to show that they are ready to attend. Essays give schools the opportunity to learn more about a student. And this is a chance for students to shine. Do not get tricked into thinking optional essays are optional. They are never optional. Take the time to provide a thoughtful answer.
  1. Changing names: Penelope, Penny, Lope…or Dracula, Drak, Vlad the Impaler. Students should only use their legal name when completing a college application. Specifically request that counselors and teachers use the same name. Using variations of a legal name may result in materials being lost, misfiled, or credited to different people.
  1. Choosing extracurricular quantity over quality: Pursue passions when not in school and boost the college application. Show consistency and commitment by choosing a few activities and sticking with them. Do more than the minimum required in each of those activities and take on leadership roles. Students with an idea of their career path (i.e. health care) should take part in at least one activity that demonstrates interest in the area (i.e. volunteering at a hospital).
  1. Missing deadlines: The college admissions process is all about deadlines, and missing one can mean rejection or lost financial aid. Yes, there are dozens of dates to remember from application deadlines to financial aid to scholarship deadlines. Keeping track of them all is a student’s job. Miss them and be haunted forever.
  1. Not demonstrating interest: To get on a college’s radar, students need to show that they are interested in attending the school. Fill out a request form for more information, connect with a school via social media, attend a college fair and check in, call or email an admissions officer, visit the campus, or do a number of these things. Schools track what students do.
  1. Catching Senioritis: Do not get lazy during senior year. After 11 years of hard work, this is the final year, and colleges are watching. Keep up the grades and do not start taking easy classes. Most college acceptances are provisional, meaning the admissions team will review final transcripts after graduation. Do poorly and schools have a right to withdraw acceptance. Senioritis can be fatal.
  1. Going the dishonest route: Do not lie on the college application. If a college finds out there will not be a ghost of a chance of getting in. Dishonesty discovered after an acceptance can lead to rescinded admissions.

Have a safe and boo-tiful Halloween!

Quick College Application Checklist for College Bound Seniors

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

Class of 2016, you are in the home stretch! While your main task for the next month is to complete those college applications, it’s actually not that simple. Every college has its own process, its own forms, and its own requirements. Plus, many different pieces are needed to complete the applications.

To make this easier, Stay Organized.

Use this list to remember things you need to do to meet the college application requirements:

  1. Meet application deadlines. Many schools have November 1 or November 15 deadlines for Early Decision, Early Action, or Priority consideration. Also be mindful of application deadlines for scholarship consideration, which may be much earlier than actual application deadlines.
  2. Finalize your essays and have them proofread.
  3. Pay application fees.
  4. Sign and send applications.
  5. Order transcripts from your high school(s) and any college(s) at which you’ve taken courses. Make sure these transcripts go out on time and check your application portals to ensure they have been received by your schools.
  6. Check that letters of recommendation were submitted by your counselor.
  7. Check that letters of recommendation were submitted by your teachers.
  8. Send thank you notes to recommendation writers.
  9. Send SAT/ACT test scores and Subject Test scores (if needed) to your colleges.
  10. Coordinate an interview (if recommended by the college).
  11. Send thank you notes to interviewers.
  12. Visit your top colleges.
  13. Check your online portals for any outstanding items and to confirm that all items were received.
  14. Send additional materials (such as portfolios or other information), if needed.
  15. Apply for scholarships.

Although there are several elements of your application that need to be submitted by others – such as your teachers and guidance counselor – ultimately, you are the one who is responsible for everything arriving on-time. Be sure to check in with your teachers and guidance counselor to confirm that they sent the items, and check your online portals for each of your schools to confirm receipt of all your materials.

It’s a busy time, filled with both excitement and anxiety. However, next year, when you have moved on to the next part of your life, you will look back sentimentally on this chaotic time. You’re almost done – you can do it!

12 Tips to Start the High School Year Off Right

Friday, September 4th, 2015

Wide-eyed freshman to confident seniors, this is the time to commit to making the most of the year. Four years may sound like a lot, but it’s not, considering high school is time to set the groundwork for the rest of your life. The goal is college. And not just any college, but the right one. To help start the school year right, International College Counselors made a general Top 12 Checklist.

  1. Consider courses and teachers and decide if the right choices were made. Students want to be sufficiently challenged, but not overwhelmed. It’s important to take challenging courses, but it’s just as important to do well in thBack to schoolem. Now is the time to switch classes.
  1. Look at the school’s clubs, activities, sports, and classes. The beginning of the school year is the best time for exploring interests. Once a student decides what to try, the next step is finding out how to get involved in those activities and organizations. Students who did not like what they were doing last year should make a change. Try something new. It’s impossible to know if something is liked, until it is tried.
  1. Start looking into scholarships. They are out there for freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. Write down the deadlines and stay on top of them. Don’t wait to see how much school costs. Scholarships are always good. They are free money. International College Counselors Annual Scholarship for 9th-11th graders is already open and accepting applications.
  1. Make a commitment to work hard for the good grades. If help is needed, seek that help before falling behind.
  1. Do the homework and try hard whether the teacher and the class are liked or not. Like all people, some will be better than others. It’s good practice for a future career to try to get along with people of all types. Plus, teachers are where college recommendation letters come from.
  1. Build a great vocabulary. READ. READ. READ. Doing well on the PSAT, ACT and SAT all require a good vocabulary. It is much easier to build this slowly and naturally than to cram it. Reading will also help with writing, thinking and speaking.
  1. Stay organized. One of the easiest ways to keep from getting stressed is to keep everything organized. Organized people can avoid those feelings of dread that they missed an exam or homework assignment.
  1. Work on a unique skill or develop a unique mindset. Determine to be really good at something, and set aside some time for it each week. Expand personal knowledge by surfing wherever current whims and inspirations may lead: become an expert on the Black Plague or knot tying. Learn to make sushi. Learning new things can be fun and exciting.
  1. Don’t put anything on social media that is embarrassing or even potentially embarrassing. Give it the grandma check. If a post is not something grandma (or the admissions director of a favorite college) should see or read, don’t post it.
  1. Make smart decisions on alcohol, sex and drugs. And don’t text and drive or drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. One dumb mistake can lead to a ruined life.
  1. Maintain a positive attitude. Not just at the beginning of the year, but all the way through it. Positivity will help with your personal relationships and towards getting things done.
  1. Be nice to the parents. They mean well and want the best.

SAT Subject Tests: What are They and What are My Alternatives?

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

Although less and less common, some schools still ‘recommend,’ ‘welcome,’ or ‘encourage’ students to take the SAT Subject Tests for college admissions. At a number of selective schools, scores on the SAT Subject tests are mandatory requirements for admissions. And at other schools, students have the option to take other standardized tests like the ACT, IB or AP exams in lieu of the SAT Subject Tests. So what exactly are the SAT Subject Tests? Should students take them? And what are alternative options?

SAT Subject tests

SAT Subject Tests Overview

SAT Subject Tests are hour-long tests that allow students to showcase their excellence in five general subject areas: English, history, languages, mathematics and science. SAT Subject Tests allow a student to differentiate her or himself in the college admission process and-or to show readiness to study specific majors or programs in college. Some colleges also use Subject Tests to place students into the appropriate courses. High scores on the Subject Tests may also allow a student to fulfill basic requirements or receive credit for introductory-level courses. There are 20 SAT Subject Tests which can be found here.


Should Students Take the SAT Subject Tests?

For students applying to selective schools, we highly recommend taking the Subject Tests after completing the year-long course in that particular subject. The reason is simple: the information is still fresh in students’ minds and schools can change requirements again next year. The best bet is to have them, in case a school requires them. Additionally, if a highly selective school, like Princeton or Yale, says it does not require Subject Tests, but they are recommended, do not be fooled. There are thousands and thousands of students sending their scores in. “Recommended,” “encouraged,” and “welcomed” are the new “required.” There is absolutely no downside to sending a school a high score on any of the SAT Subject Tests.


Alternatives to Taking the SAT Subject Tests

At some schools, students have the option to take the ACT in lieu of a combination of the SAT and SAT Subject Tests. Other schools allow students to use IB or AP exam scores. For students who dislike standardized tests, these options are perfectly acceptable, and at the same time, help families save money by not having to pay the SAT Subject Test registration fees.


Colleges that Require, Recommend or Utilize SAT Subject Tests

For a list of colleges that require, recommend or utilize SAT Subject tests in admission or for placement/credit for the 2015-2016 school year, click here. In all cases, however, be certain to double-check with the school(s) to which you are applying to assure that information on SAT Subject testing is both accurate and up-to-date.


About International College Counselors

The expert educational consultants at International College Counselors are dedicated to helping students and their families from across the country and all over the world find, apply to, and gain admission to the college of their dreams. If you would like to learn how to successfully navigate the college admissions process, please contact our expert college advisors at or call 954-414-9986.

6 Tips for the Common App Activities List

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

The Common Application, as well as many individual college applications, provides room for students to list out extracurricular activities. Students should spend time filling out this important part of the application. Here are a few tips for making a good impression in the activities section.extra-curricular-activities

1. Create your activity list

Extracurricular activities can include everything a student has participated in during freshman to senior year in high school. This includes summer activities, volunteer work, political activism, and employment; both in and out of school clubs and organizations like speech and debate, music, drama, art, sports, or Boy Scouts / Girl Scouts; as well as unstructured – yet productive – activities like baking, robotics, family responsibilities, cultural activities, and more.   Look at the options for extracurricular activities on the Common Application drop down menu for ideas.

2. List activities in order of importance

The Common App instructions say list your activities “in order of importance to you.” Follow this instruction. The assumption of the admissions officers reading the application will be that the activity listed first is the most important. First impressions count.

An activity that a student has devoted a lot of time to and was important to his/her development has the potential to come across better than the one that sounds the most impressive to other people, if it is presented correctly.

3. Write a clear description of all activities

Students are only allowed 100 characters for details, honors won and accomplishments and then 50 characters for position/leadership description and organization name. This is not a lot of space, so students need to be as efficient as possible with their writing and use abbreviations when possible. Start with an action verb and try to tell a few specific things that were done.

Of great importance is that the description written for each activity makes sense on its own. Readers of the Common Apps will not be able to call and ask for clarification. If the description is not clear, then students may lose the credit they deserve.

While a student might know that Beachcomber is the name of their school newspaper, the admissions team reading the Common App most certainly will not know that. When writing about a position held like editor or president of a club, include the responsibilities. Also, be sure to note any specific achievements. Students who really believe they need more space to explain their role in an activity may be able to include it in the additional information section on the Common App or they can integrate the information into their essay.

If a student has participated in an activity like a club for three years but has only been president for one year, add the grade level: “President (11).” If a student has held multiple positions for a single activity, these should be listed in order: “VP (10); Pres (11).”

The question of how many hours a student has typically devoted to an activity can be estimated if hours were not recorded.

4. List only important activities

While there are ten spaces to fill in activities, there is no need to list ten activities if you do not have ten quality activities to list. Colleges are more impressed by dedication and commitment, rather than quantity. Signs of commitment and dedication include an activity participated in continuously for several years and-or an activity where a student has gained some level of distinction, either as a founder, leader or officer; made a significant contribution; or was publically recognized or won an award.

It is important to note that most accepted students to elite colleges fill in 8-10 activities on the Common Application. The exception is typically a student who has stellar achievement in at least one activity.

Students should work to make sure their extracurricular list is diverse. For example, students devoted to the orchestra should also try to list community service or athletic activities. Students who show that they have a wider range of interests will appear better-rounded to an admissions officer and convince them that they are a student who will be open minded to new opportunities on campus.

5. Use action verbs and numbers

Action verbs show what a student has accomplished. A description for an activity can start by finding an action verb. Boston College’s helpful list of resume action verbs is organized by category.

Numbers quantify achievements and make for easy reading, so students should use them when possible. For example, if you collected donations, say how much. Saying, “Collected 1,000 books for youth center” sounds better than “Collected books for youth center.” If you were a manager, mention how many people you directed. Saying, “Supervised 4 vendors,” sounds better than saying, “Supervised vendors.”

6. Proofread the Application

Students will get a chance to preview the application before they submit it. They should triple check to make sure the order of activities, spelling, and other details are correct. Students should also have a trusted adult and/or their college advisor read over the whole application before it is submitted.

The Common App is Live: 8 Tips for Staying Organized

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

The Common Application went live this Saturday, August 1. Although some of the state school systems like the University of California schools, the University of Florida, and Florida State University do not use the Common App, the colleges and university members are of all sizes and missions and include public and private schools, even the Ivy League schools.

Keeping organized is the best way to complete what will seem like a daunting task.

1. Keep pertinent information easily accessible

common app photoPrint out the following and put it in an expanding file folder or other file folder.

  • Your social security number
  • Family information— your parents’ or guardians’ legal names, addresses, occupations, employers, colleges they attended, years they graduated, and degrees they hold
  • Your high school’s information—address, your date of entry to the school, and your guidance counselor’s full name and contact information
  • Scores on standardized tests, including the SAT or ACT and AP, IB TOEFL, or SAT Subject test scores
  • A copy of your high school transcript so you can enter your previous courses and grades.
  • A list of the high school courses you’re currently enrolled in
  • A list of the college credits earned if taken through a college
  • A list of summer jobs, extracurricular activities, honors and awards received
  • A credit card for the payment of the application and to send the test scores
  • Financial aid plans. (Do you intend to apply for need-based financial aid or merit-based scholarships?)

Students applying as an in-state resident will usually need to show a few documents for proof. For example, the requirements in Florida can be seen here.

2. Get started on or keep finessing your Common App essay

Most colleges require students to write an essay on one of five topics. The 2015-16 Common Application Essay Prompts can be found here. This year, a few Common App colleges have made the Common App essay optional, which means that students are not required to write the essay; however, we strongly recommend sending in an essay for every college. For tips on writing the Common Application essays, go here.

3. Keep track of your progress on the Common App

Students can preview each part of their Common App, screen by screen, to make sure they’ve completed each of the sections. Applicants can also keep track of their entire progress by checking the Dashboard. When submitting the application, some materials must be submitted together, while others can be submitted independently. The ENTIRE Common App must be completed before it is submitted.

4. Track all dates and deadlines on a calendar

You can do this on an old-fashioned wall/desk calendar or program the dates into your phone and set it up to alert you as the deadlines approach.

5. Keep a folder for each college of interest to you

This will help ensure that you keep all the printed materials, notes, correspondence, passwords, and photos together. They will all start running together otherwise.

6. Know the requirements of each college

Some colleges require applicants to submit writing supplements. These supplements may only be submitted after the application materials have been submitted. Optional writing supplements are not really optional. Some colleges give interested applicants the option to complete and submit and Arts Supplement as part of their application. Some member schools replaced the Arts Supplement with integration. Make sure you know the requirements of each college.

7. Make printed records or screenshots

Whenever you send an email to a school or interviewer, or receive a response, make sure you print it out and add it to the folder. You will also want to take screenshots of completed applications and confirmations. One of our students used a screenshot to prove his application was not late. And it worked. It’s best to keep all this together.

8. Break down your tasks. Set manageable goals for yourself

You won’t be able to complete the application in one night or even one weekend. And if you take it all on at one time, it’s going to be overwhelming. Pick a date for contacting teachers, counselors, or coaches who are writing recommendations. Set time aside to really work on your essays. Then remember to check the Application over multiple times before you send it.

College Preparation Should Start in Middle School

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

The time to start college planning is…in middle school. Starting the process now, before high school and the real pressure of college applications begin, will make the process easier.

In middle school, the focus of parents and their middle school students should be different than it will be in high school. Unless a student is taking high school level classes in middle school, grades do not appear on the college application. Seventh and eighth grades are the time to set a student up to have the strongest possible start in high school.middle school pic

Parents and middle school students should be doing the following:

1. Establishing good study habits

Middle school is the opportune time to work on good time-management, organizational and study skills. Things to work out include choosing the best study spaces, establishing a homework and study routine, and making sure to have all the needed materials to complete assignments. It’s easier to address these issues now than it will be when the work gets more challenging.

2. Exploring extracurricular activities

On their college applications, students will need to show depth and leadership in at least one or two extracurricular areas. Middle school is a great time for students to try new things and figure out what activities and community service they enjoy most. Students should try different volunteer opportunities, talk to different people about their careers, and explore sports, hobbies and interests. If your child enters high school committed to one activity or with a career goal in mind, it will be much easier to for them to focus on developing the necessary skills and resume during their four years of high school.

3. Reading, reading, reading

Reading strengthens a student’s verbal, writing and critical thinking abilities. The more a student reads, the stronger he or she will be. Reading is great preparation for the SAT, ACT and high school reading assignments. Almost anything a pre-teen or teenager reads – from comics and graphic novels to books and blogs – will improve their vocabulary and introduce new ideas.

4. Choosing challenging courses

Colleges look closely at what high school courses students take. The more students challenge themselves in middle school, the easier high school will be, and the more opportunities students will have later on. Many middle schools offer high school courses in biology, algebra I, geometry, and Spanish. Don’t be afraid to tackle these classes. Students want to position themselves to take full advantage of the AP / IB or other upper-level courses their high school offers. To get on the right track, parents and their students should meet with their guidance counselor or their independent college counselor and discuss the courses that can be taken in middle school to prepare for high school.

5. Getting caught up and-or ahead

Middle school is a good time for students to seek out extra help and tutoring if they are not doing well in a particular academic area. Students who can improve their academic performance in middle school will be positioned to earn better grades. Parents need to stay on top of their child’s grades on tests and report cards, and stay in contact with teachers and counselors so that they can inform about any changes in behavior or schoolwork.

6. Talking about college

Envision the future with your child. Talk about his or her interests, and how college is needed to translate their dreams into a career. Parents need to let their middle school student know their expectations for their child. Parental expectations have a huge influence on what children expect of themselves, even if they don’t say or show it.

7. Getting familiar with college costs and how to save money

Start learning how to make college affordable. Options to cut college costs include scholarships, low-interest loans, work-study, taking college classes in high school, and attending a community college before going to a four-year school. Knowing how the system works can save families a lot of money and prevent panic. Students can cut costs by earning college credits by taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes in high school or dual-enrollment classes at a local community college.

Keep in mind, middle school is not the time to stress about college. This is the time to get study habits, academics, and extracurriculars on the right track so there will be less stress in high school.

2015-16 Common Application Supplements and Essay Prompts

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

On August 1 the 2015-16 Common Application will be released; however, several colleges have already released their supplemental essay prompts, and the new essay prompts for the Common Application are also available.

The summer is an opportune time to start brainstorming, drafting, and writing essays. Students applying to a healthy mix of target, reach, and safety colleges can expect to write 20 or more supplemental essays during the college application process. With an average word count of 300-500 words, this is a lot of work, and will be much harder to accomplish when school starts.

Supplemental essays help the college learn more about a student – from that student. The questions usually enable prospective students to showcase their talents, tell their unique story, demonstrate interest, and emphasize their ability to contribute on campus. A great supplemental essay can give admissions officers more reason to admit the student.

These supplemental essays are important. They will take time to write!

Here are 2015-16 essay prompts for a number of individual schools. Students who are applying to schools not on this list should check each college’s websites for their essay prompts. Some schools have them and some do not. To make completely sure, call and check with the admissions office of each college or university.
Amherst College
Boston College
Florida State University
Georgetown University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Indiana University
Tufts University
University of California
University of Central Florida
University of Chicago
University of Colorado – Boulder
University of Florida
University of Michigan
University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
University of Pennsylvania
University of Richmond
University of Virginia
Vanderbilt University
Wake Forest University
Wellesley College
Yale University

Amherst College
Choose One:

Option A: Respond to one of the following quotations in an essay of not more than 300 words. It is not necessary to research, read, or refer to the texts from which these quotations are taken; we are looking for original, personal responses to these short excerpts. Remember that your essay should be personal in nature and not simply an argumentative essay.

“Rigorous reasoning is crucial in mathematics, and insight plays an important secondary role these days. In the natural sciences, I would say that the order of these two virtues is reversed. Rigor is, of course, very important. But the most important value is insight—insight into the workings of the world. It may be because there is another guarantor of correctness in the sciences, namely, the empirical evidence from observation and experiments.” Kannan Jagannathan, Professor of Physics, Amherst College

“Literature is the best way to overcome death. My father, as I said, is an actor. He’s the happiest man on earth when he’s performing, but when the show is over, he’s sad and troubled. I wish he could live in the eternal present, because in the theater everything remains in memories and photographs. Literature, on the other hand, allows you to live in the present and to remain in the pantheon of the future. Literature is a way to say, I was here, this is what I thought, this is what I perceived. This is my signature, this is my name.” Ilán Stavans, Professor of Spanish, Amherst College. From “The Writer in Exile: An Interview with Ilán Stavans” by Saideh Pakravan for the Fall 1993 issue of The Literary Review.

“It seems to me incumbent upon this and other schools’ graduates to recognize their responsibility to the public interest…unless the graduates of this college…are willing to put back into our society those talents, the broad sympathy, the understanding, the compassion… then obviously the presuppositions upon which our democracy are based are bound to be fallible.” John F. Kennedy, at the ground breaking for the Amherst College Frost Library, October 26, 1963

“Stereotyped beliefs have the power to become self-fulfilling prophesies for behavior.” Elizabeth Aires, Professor of Psychology, Amherst College. From her book: Men and Women In Interaction, Reconsidering the Difference.

“Difficulty need not foreshadow despair or defeat. Rather achievement can be all the more satisfying because of obstacles surmounted.” Attributed to William Hastie, Amherst Class of 1925, the first African-American to serve as a judge for the United States Court of Appeals

Option B: Submit a graded paper from your junior or senior year that best represents your writing skills and analytical abilities. We are particularly interested in your ability to construct a tightly reasoned, persuasive argument that calls upon literary, sociological or historical evidence. You should NOT submit a laboratory report, journal entry, creative writing sample or in-class essay.

Boston College

We would like to get a better sense of you. Please select one of the questions below and write an essay of 400 words or less providing your response.

  1. What contemporary issue or trend relating to politics, culture and society, or foreign policy particularly concerns you and why?
  2. Many human beings throughout history have found inspiration and joy in literature and works of art. Is there a book, play, poem, movie, painting, music selection, or photograph that has been especially meaningful for you?
  3. Contemporary higher education reflects a tension between preparing for a meaningful life and preparing for a career. What are you looking for in an undergraduate education? Which emphasis is important to you at this moment and why?
  4. “Magis”, a Latin word meaning “more,” is often cited in reference to the goals of Jesuit education, which seeks to help students become better, do more, and have as much impact on society as possible. How do you hope to achieve the Magis in your life?

Florida State University (FSU)*

We firmly believe that every person is unique and of value. Our university is enriched by embracing individual differences and creating a community that is much more than the sum of its parts. In 650 words or less, share your story with us. Tell us how you came to be the person you are today, and about your passions and future expectations. Describe how you will benefit from our community and how our community will benefit from you.

* Note: As of 8/13 the FSU essay has not been updated on their website, but the new essay has been confirmed by FSU admissions.

Georgetown University* 

  • In the space available discuss the significance to you of the school or summer activity in which you have been most involved.
  • As Georgetown is a diverse community, the Admissions Committee would like to know more about you in your own words. Please submit a brief essay (approximately one page), either personal or creative, which you feel best describes you.
  • Indicate any special talents or skills you possess.
  • Applicants to the McDonough School of Business: The McDonough School of Business is a national and global leader in providing graduates with essential ethical, analytical, financial and global perspectives. Please discuss your motivations for studying business at Georgetown.
  • Applicants to the School of Nursing & Health Studies: Describe the factors that have influenced your interest in studying health care. Please specifically address your intended major (Health Care Management & Policy, Human Science, International Health, or Nursing).
  • Applicants to Georgetown College: Please relate your interest in studying at Georgetown University to your goals. How do these thoughts relate to your chosen course of study? (If you are applying to major in the FLL or in a Science, please specifically address those interests.)
  • Applicants to the Walsh School of Foreign Service: Briefly discuss a current global issue, indicating why you consider it important and what you suggest should be done to deal with it.
  • Transfer Applicants: As Georgetown is a diverse community, the admissions committee would like to know more about you in your own words. Please submit a brief essay (approximately one page), either personal or creative, which you feel best describes you. If transferring from a four-year institution, please indicate your reasons for transferring.

* Note: As of 8/13 the Georgetown essay has not been updated on their website, but the new essay has been confirmed by Georgetown admissions.

Georgia Institute of Technology

  • Beyond rankings, location, and athletics, why are you interested in attending Georgia Tech? (max 150 words)
  • A Georgia Tech experience and education provides you an unbound future. What will yours be? (max 150 words)
  • Georgia Tech’s motto is Progress & Service. In 25 words or less, what is your personal motto?

Indiana University

Describe your academic and career plans and any special interest (for example, scientific research) that you are eager to pursue as an undergraduate at Indiana University. Also, share any unusual circumstances, challenges, or obstacles you have encountered in pursuit of your education and how you overcame them. This essay may be used in scholarship consideration for student who submit a Selective Scholarship Application. Attach your brief essay (200-400 words) to your application.


Tufts University

Think outside the box as you answer the following questions. Take a risk and go somewhere unexpected. Be serious if the moment calls for it but feel comfortable being playful if that suits you, too.

  1. Which aspects of Tufts’ curriculum or undergraduate experience prompt your application? In short: “Why Tufts?” (50–100 words)
  1. There is a Quaker saying: “Let your life speak.” Describe the environment in which you were raised – your family, home, neighborhood, or community – and how it influenced the person you are today. (200–250 words)
  2. Now we’d like to know a little bit more about you. Please respond to one of the following six questions (200-250 words):
  1. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf—the first elected female head of state in Africa and winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize—has lived a life of achievement. “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough,” she once said. As you apply to college, what are your dreams?
  2. What makes you happy?
  3. Science and society are filled with rules, theories, and laws such as the First Amendment, PV=nRT, Occam’s Razor, and The Law of Diminishing Returns. In baseball, three strikes and you’re out. A green light on a roadway means “go.” Pick any law and explain its significance to you.
  4. It’s cool to be smart. Tell us about the subjects or ideas that excite your intellectual curiosity.
  5. Nelson Mandela believed that “what counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” Describe a way in which you have made or hope to make a difference.
  6. Celebrate the role of sports in your life.

University of California

All applicants must respond to two essay prompts. Responses to your two prompts must be a maximum of 1,000 words total. The shorter answer should be no less than 250 words.

Freshman applicant prompt

Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.

Transfer applicant prompt

What is your intended major? Discuss how your interest in the subject developed and describe any experience you have had in the field — such as volunteer work, internships and employment, participation in student organizations and activities — and what you have gained from your involvement.

Prompt for all applicants

Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?

University of Central Florida (UCF)

We ask that you respond to two of the topics below. Your responses should be no longer than a total of 500 words or 7,000 characters.

  1. If there has been some obstacle or bump in the road in your academic or personal life, please explain the circumstances.
  2. How has your family history, culture, or environment influenced who you are?
  3. Why did you choose to apply to UCF?
  4. What qualities or unique characteristics do you possess that will allow you to contribute to the UCF community?

University of Chicago

Question 1 (Required)

How does the University of Chicago, as you know it now, satisfy your desire for a particular kind of learning, community, and future? Please address with some specificity your own wishes and how they relate to UChicago.

Question 2 (Optional)

Share with us a few of your favorite books, poems, authors, films, plays, pieces of music, musicians, performers, paintings, artists, blogs, magazines, or newspapers. Feel free to touch on one, some, or all of the categories listed, or add a category of your own. (Optional)

Extended Essay Questions: (Required; Choose one)

  1. Orange is the new black, fifty’s the new thirty, comedy is the new rock ‘n’ roll, ____ is the new ____. What’s in, what’s out, and why is it being replaced? —Inspired by Payton Weidenbacher, Class of 2015
  2. “I learned to make my mind large, as the universe is large, so that there is room for paradoxes.” –Maxine Hong Kingston. What paradoxes do you live with? —Inspired by Danna Shen, Class of 2019
  3. Joan of Arkansas. Queen Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Babe Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Mash up a historical figure with a new time period, environment, location, or occupation, and tell us their story. —Inspired by Drew Donaldson, Class of 2016
  4. “Art is either plagiarism or revolution.” –Paul Gauguin. What is your “art”? Is it plagiarism or revolution? —Inspired by Kaitlyn Shen, Class of 2018.
  5. Rerhceseras say it’s siltl plisbsoe to raed txet wtih olny the frist and lsat ltteres in palce. This is beaucse the hamun mnid can fnid oderr in dorsdier. Give us your best example of finding order in disorder. (For your reader’s sake, please use full sentences with conventional spelling). —Also inspired by Payton Weidenbacher, Class of 2015. Payton is extra-inspirational this year!
  6. In the spirit of adventurous inquiry, pose a question of your own. If your prompt is original and thoughtful, then you should have little trouble writing a great essay. Draw on your best qualities as a writer, thinker, visionary, social critic, sage, citizen of the world, or future citizen of the University of Chicago; take a little risk, and have fun.
  7. In the spirit of historically adventurous inquiry, to celebrate the University of Chicago’s 125th anniversary, please feel free to select from any of our past essay questions.

University of Colorado – Boulder

(250-500 words) The University of Colorado Boulder’s Flagship 2030 strategic plan promotes exceptional teaching, research, scholarship, creative works, and service distinguishing us as a premier university. We strive to foster a diverse and inclusive community for all that engages each member in opportunities for academic excellence, leadership, and a deeper understanding of the world in which we live. Given that statement above, how do you think you could enrich our diverse and inclusive community, and what are your hopes for your college experience? 

University of Florida

Choose one (500 word maximum)

  1. You have been elected President of the United States. Write your inauguration speech for us.
  1. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.” Describe a time when your perspective changed. How did your perspective change and why did it change?
  2. If you were offered the role of the villain or the hero in a movie, which role would you accept and why?
  3. If admitted to the University of Florida, tell us three SPECIFIC things you plan to do during your time here.

University of Michigan

Essay #1 (Required. Approximately 250 words.)

Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by (among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, ideology, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you belong, and describe that community and your place within it.

Essay #2 (Required for all freshman applicants.500 words maximum.)

Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School (including preferred admission and dual degree programs) to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests? 

Essay #2 (Required for all transfer applicants. 500 words maximum.)

Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests?

University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

For first-year applicants (freshmen): Choose one prompt and respond in an essay of 400-500 words.

  1. Teen activist and 2014 Nobel Peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai said, “I raise up my voice-not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard”. For whom have you raised your voice?
  2. Students learn both inside and outside the classroom. What would other members of the Carolina community learn from you?
  3. You get one do-over of any moment in your life. What would you do over, and why?
  4. You’ve been invited to give a TEDtalk. What is yours about?
  5. There are 27 amendments to the Constitution of the US. What should be the 28th?

Transfer applicants: Transfer applicants will submit two essays.

  1. The first essay is from the main part of the Common Application. Respond to the following prompt in an essay of 250-650 words: Please provide a statement that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve.
  2. Choose one of the following prompts and respond in an essay of 400-500 words:
    • What bothers you about your world? What could you do to change it?
      • How do you define wisdom?
      • You were just invited to speak at the White House. Write your speech.
      • Why do you do what you do?
      • UNC Computer Science Professor Frederick P. Brooks discovered what has become known as Brook’s law – “adding more man-power to a late project will make the project later.” Tell us about a counterintuitive or surprising solution to a problem you stumbled upon in your life.

University of Pennsylvania

How will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania? Please answer this question given the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying. (400-650 words) *For students applying to the coordinated dual-degree programs, please answer this question in regards to your single-degree school choice.  Interest in coordinated dual-degree programs will be addressed through those program-specific essays.

University of Richmond

Please choose ONE of the two essay prompts: (1) From small, faculty-led classes to funded undergraduate research, the University of Richmond offers the benefits of both a liberal arts college and the opportunities and resources typically found in large research universities. Tell us how you would utilize these resources in order to reach your goals; OR (2) Tell us about Spiders.

University of Virginia

  1. We are looking for passionate students to join our diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists. Answer the question that corresponds to the school/program to which you are applying in a half page or roughly 250 words.
  • College of Arts and Sciences – What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way?
  • School of Engineering and Applied Sciences – U.Va. engineers are working to solve problems that affect people around the world, from our long-term water purification project in South Africa to continuing to research more efficient applications of solar power. However, most students start small, by using engineering to make a difference in daily life. If you were given funding for a small engineering project that would make your everyday life better, what would you do?
  • School of Architecture – Describe an instance or place where you have been inspired by architecture or design.
  • School of Nursing – Discuss experiences that led you to choose the School of Nursing.
  • Kinesiology Program – Discuss experiences that led you to choose the kinesiology major.
  1. Answer one of the following questions in a half page or roughly 250 words.
  • What’s your favorite word and why?
  • We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions. Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.
  • Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the U.Va. culture. In her fourth year at U.Va., Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why?
  • U.Va. students paint messages on Beta Bridge when they want to share information with our community. What would you paint on Beta Bridge and why is this your message? 

Vanderbilt University*

Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (150-400 words)

* Note: As of 8/13 the Vanderbilt essay has not been updated on their website, but the new essay has been confirmed by Vanderbilt admissions.

Wake Forest University

Help us get to know you better by responding briefly to these questions. No need for research, just be creative and enjoy the process.

  1. List five books you have read (with authors) that piqued your curiosity. Discuss an idea from one of these works that influenced you.
  1. We want to know what makes you tick intellectually. A paper? A project? An academic passion? Describe it.
  2. Hashtags trend worldwide. Give us a hashtag you wish were trending. #________________________ Why?
  3. Give us your top ten list.
  4. There is a nationwide dialogue about cross-cultural interactions. Like most college campuses, Wake Forest is currently in a place of conversation about what it means to engage across difference. As a country, why do you think we have reached this point?
  5. What outrages you and why?

Use the following essay to give the Admissions Committee insight into your character and intellect. Watch this:

  • Right now, what is uniquely you? 

Wellesley College

When choosing a college community, you are choosing a place where you believe that you can live, learn, and flourish. Generations of inspiring women have thrived in the Wellesley community, and we want to know what aspects of this community inspire you to consider Wellesley. We know that there are more than 100 reasons to choose Wellesley, but the “Wellesley 100” is a good place to start. Visit the Wellesley 100 and let us know, in two well-developed paragraphs, which two items most attract, inspire, or energize you and why. (PS: “Why” matters to us.)

Yale University

Please reflect on something you would like us to know about you that we might not learn from the rest of your application, or on something about which you would like to say more. You may write about anything—from personal experiences or goals to interests or intellectual pursuits. (Please answer in 500 words or fewer). We encourage you to visit, where you will find helpful advice.

Optional essay for prospective engineering majors: If you selected one of the computer science or engineering majors, please tell us more about what has led you to an interest in this field of study, what experiences (if any) you have had in computer science or engineering, and what it is about Yale’s program in this area that appeals to you.

Little Known Facts About the ACT

Wednesday, 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

International College Counselors
3107 Stirling Road, Suite 208
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33312 USA
(954) 414-9986

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