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College Admissions Secrets
Acceptance rates to the nation’s top universities are plunging—to 6, 5, even 4%. Yet, a majority of our students are accepted to their dream schools each year. What’s their secret? They work with us to avoid these 10 mistakes:
Pursuing too many extracurriculars: Students overexert themselves with extracurriculars. Between DECA, robotics, NHS, debate, a nonprofit they started to look good on college apps, and the sport that they no longer like but keep doing out of obligation, they never sleep, they aren't happy, and they're just like every other high-achieving student applying to highly selective universities. I help students be more unique, more impactful, and more strategic with their extracurriculars.
Wasting their summer: It's hard to know which summer programs are "pay to play" (welcoming any student willing to pay $$$) versus prestigious. And, with the pandemic cancelling many opportunities, it's incredibly difficult to find a program or internship whose doors are still open. I help students find prestigious internships, conduct research at top universities, and take stand-out (and free!) online courses, obtaining experience that top colleges love to see.
Picking competitive majors: Universities have higher standards for applicants to certain majors. I use hidden data regarding top universities’ most and least popular majors to help my students edge out their competition (while staying true to their academic interests and studying exactly what they wish to study in college).
Writing generic “Why Us?” essays: Don’t write generic essays about the "esteemed" faculty, "happy" students, and "beautiful" campus; instead, handcraft “Why Us?” essays just for the school in question. In every supplemental essay my students write, I have them think about the university's mission and values. They personalize essays that resonate with Yale's spirit of 'and', Georgetown's Jesuit values, the Penn Integrates Knowledge program, and more. Same kid, some recycled elements (to reduce students' stress), but an essay that makes admissions officers say "she gets us".
Taking the wrong classes: Universities care deeply about the rigor of students' curricula, and not just in terms of # of AP courses taken. Universities have a hierarchy of AP classes, preferring Calculus BC, Physics, English Literature, and Biology over courses like Psychology, Environmental Science, or Human Geography. Roughly 5% of the applicant pool will go beyond their high school's offerings to take courses at the college level—and they are heavily rewarded for doing so within the admissions process. I help my students weigh the pros and cons of their course lists so their transcripts stand out amongst the crowd.
Receiving generic letters of recommendation: With 500:1 student-to-counselor ratios at some public schools, I've seen some college counselors decline to write letters of recommendation for certain students because they don't know them well enough. And with classes online due to the pandemic, many students fail to develop rapport with their teachers. Tell your recommenders how their class transformed your learning, how you contributed to class dynamics, and how you left a legacy at your high school. With that information, they’ll paint a 3D picture of the value you offer universities.
Writing about what they do and not who they are: Your essay shouldn’t regurgitate your activities and achievements—it should be about how you think, feel, or view the world differently as a result of your experiences. I love to write, and I love to help my students write; together, we brainstorm essays so students write refreshingly reflective, original, and authentic essays.
Not preparing for interviews: With insight into top universities’ criteria for evaluating interviewees, I prep my students to be confident, articulate, and natural in their interviews. They answer difficult questions with ease, embracing their quirks yet embodying exactly the qualities these universities seek.
Rushing an application: This process takes time, and my students work early and often on their essays so as to reduce their stress levels and prepare stronger applications.
Not building a brand: Often, students lay out their entire life in their applications with no cohesive theme and no clear reason why highly selective universities should admit them. I don't hand every student a one-size-fits-all roadmap to getting in to these universities; instead, I help students to develop brands that are unique, that pull together the disparate parts of their application, that align with a strategic major, and that create a clear vision for the admissions officers why they have to have them on campus.
As a former Berkeley Admissions Reader, a former UChicago Admissions Reader, and a college admissions consultant, I work tirelessly to demystify the admissions process and help students make their reach a reality.
Our package provides comprehensive guidance throughout the college application process. From the earliest brainstorming session to receiving your letters of acceptance, we'll guide you every step of the way. Our package provides the best value of all our offerings for students and families seeking a complete (and very hands-on) solution.
Up to 15 Applications
College Selection Guidance
Many 1-on-1 Meetings
Unlimited Essay Revisions
Personalized Application Advice
Comprehensive Application Review
Free Access to Admissions Guides
Availability on Weekends & Holidays
Help Even Up To the Deadline
Priority Response to Emails
Health & Wellness Checkins
Pay AS YOU GO
For seniors, this package provides all the tools you need to identify reach, target, and safety schools; brainstorm and write essays; and apply using insider strategies to gain the greatest chance of acceptance to your dream universities. We also help reduce stress during an otherwise very stressful process.
optional Junior Summer Planning Package available +$8,000
For younger students and those who need less support than the Senior Package offers, we offer hourly services. Use our help for the college admissions process and everything leading up to it (from extracurricular and academic planning, building your "brand", applying to prestigious summer programs and internships, and more).
$700/hr (classes 2026 and younger; transfer applicants)
$800/hr (class of 2025)
For more information, contact Marcella@HelpWithApps.com