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

Questions to Ask on College Visits

Thursday, 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

Tuesday, 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

Monday, 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

Thursday, 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

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

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