Friday, December 5, 2014

College Application Checklist

College Application Checklist

Print and use this checklist to keep track of your college application requirements, tasks and deadlines.
Application ChecklistCollege:_________
Get the application 
Make a note of the regular application deadline 
Make a note of the early application deadline 
Request high school transcript sent 
Request midyear grade report sent 
Find out if an admission test is required 
Take an admission test, if required 
Take other required or recommended tests (e.g., SAT Subject Tests, AP Exams, IB exams) 
Send admission-test scores 
Send other test scores 
Request recommendation letters 
Send thank-you notes to recommendation writers 
Draft initial essay 
Proofread essay for spelling and grammar 
Have two people read your essay 
Revise your essay 
Proofread your revision 
Interview at college campus 
Have an alumni interview 
Send thank-you note to interviewer(s) 
Complete college application 
Make copies of all application materials 
Pay application fee 
Sign and send application 
Confirm receipt of application materials 
Send additional material, if needed 
Tell school counselor that you applied 
Make a note of the priority financial aid deadline 
Make a note of the regular financial aid deadline 
Submit FAFSA 
Submit PROFILE, if needed 
Submit college aid form, if needed 
Submit state aid form, if needed 
Receive letter from office of admission 
Receive financial aid award letter 
Meet deadline to accept admission and send deposit 
Accept financial aid offer 
Notify the colleges you will not attend

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sample College Essays

Accepted by Harvard

Of all the characters that I've "met" through books and movies, two stand out as people that I most want to emulate. They are Attacus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird and Dr. Archibald "Moonlight" Graham from Field of Dreams. They appeal to me because they embody what I strive to be. They are influential people in small towns who have a direct positive effect on those around them. I, too, plan to live in a small town after graduating from college, and that positive effect is something I must give in order to be satisfied with my life.

Both Mr. Finch and Dr. Graham are strong supporting characters in wonderful stories. They symbolize good, honesty, and wisdom. When the story of my town is written I want to symbolize those things. The base has been formed for me to live a productive, helpful life. As an Eagle Scout, I represent those things that Mr. Finch and Dr. Graham represent. In the child/adolescent world I am Mr. Finch and Dr. Graham, but soon I' ll be entering the adult world, a world in which I' m not yet prepared to lead.

I' m quite sure that as teenagers Attacus Finch and Moonlight Graham often wondered what they could do to help others. They probably emulated someone who they had seen live a successful life. They saw someone like my grandfather, 40-year president of our hometown bank, enjoy a lifetime of leading, sharing, and giving. I have seen him spend his Christmas Eves taking gifts of food and joy to indigent families. Often when his bank could not justify a loan to someone in need, my grandfather made the loan from his own pocket. He is a real-life Moonlight Graham, a man who has shown me that characters like Dr. Graham and Mr. Finch do much much more than elicit tears and smiles from readers and movie watchers. Through him and others in my family I feel I have acquired the values and the burning desire to benefit others that will form the foundation for a great life. I also feel that that foundation is not enough. I do not yet have the sophistication, knowledge, and wisdom necessary to succeed as I want to in the adult world. I feel that Harvard, above all others, can guide me toward the life of greatness that will make me the Attacus Finch of my town.

This essay is a great example of how to answer this question well. This applicant chose characters who demonstrated specific traits that reflect on his own personality. We believe that he is sincere about his choices because his reasons are personal (being from a small town, and so forth). He managed to tell us a good deal about himself, his values, and his goals while maintaining a strong focus throughout.

For access to 100 free sample successful admissions essays, visit, the company The New York Times calls "the world's premier application essay editing service." You'll also find other great essay and editing resources (some free and some fee-based) at EssayEdge.

Sample College Essays

Accepted by Stanford

When I look at this picture of myself, I realize how much I've grown and changed, not only physically, but also mentally as a person in the last couple of years. Less than one month after this photograph was taken, I arrived at the [school's name] in [school's location] without any idea of what to expect. I entered my second year of high school as an innocent thirteen year-old who was about a thousand miles from home and was a new member of not the sophomore, but "lower-middle" class. Around me in this picture are the things which were most important in my life at the time: studying different types of cars and planes, following every move made by Tiger Woods, and seeing the latest blockbuster movies like "The Dark Knight" or "Spider Man 3." On my t-shirt is the rest of my life -- golf. Midway through my senior year at the special [school's name] school, the focuses in my life have changed dramatically.

If there is one common occurrence which takes place for every single person in the diverse student body at [school's name], it is that we all grow up much faster for having lived there. I do not know whether this speeding up of the maturing process is generally good or bad, but I definitely have benefited.

The classroom has become a whole different realm for me. Before, the teachers and students alike preached the importance of learning, but it was implicitly obvious that the most important concern was grades. At [school's name] teachers genuinely believe that learning is the most importance objective and deeply encourage us to collaborate with each other and make use of all resources that we may find. In fact, in a certain class this year, my teacher assigned us to prepare every day of the week to discuss a certain book; there were only two require-ments in this preparation -- we had to maximize our sources, gleaning from everything and everyone in the school, but we were not allowed to actually look at the book. As a result, I know more about that book than any other that I have actually read. It is teaching methods such as this which ensure that we will learn more. Indeed, this matter of "thinking" has been one of the most important aspects of my experience. Whether in Physics or English, I'm required to approach every problem and idea independently and creatively rather than just regurgitate the teacher's words. In discussion with fellow students both inside and outside of class, the complex thoughts flowing through everyone's brain is evident.

However, I believe that the most important concepts that I have espoused in being independent of my parents for half of each year, deal with being a cosmopolitan person. The school's faculty and students are conscious about keeping all of the kids' attention from being based on the school. Every single issue of global concern is brought forth by one group or another whether it be a faculty member, publication, ethnic society, or individual student. Along with being aware of issues of importance, after attending [school's name] my personality has evolved. First, my mannerisms have grown: the school stresses giving respect to everyone and everything. Our former headmaster often said, "Character can be measured not by one's interaction with people who are better off than him or herself, but by one's interactions with those who are worse off." The other prime goal of the school's community is to convert every single timid lower-classman into a loud, rambunctious senior. Basically, if you have an opinion about something, it is wrong not to voice that opinion. Of course, being obnoxious is not the idea. The key is to become a master of communication with teachers, fellow students, all of who are a part of the community, and most importantly, those who are outside of the community.

I do not want to make [school's name] sound as if it produces the perfect students, because it doesn't. But the school deserves a lot of credit for its efforts. Often, some part of the mold does remain. As the college experience approaches, I am still the same person, only modified to better maximize my talents. Although I still have some time to play tennis and see movies, perhaps one of the few similarities between this photograph and me now is my smile.

This essay is fairly well written. The essayist makes boarding school his focus, using it to explain and describe how and why he has changed over the years. A lot of students write about what wonderful people they have become, but they fail to do a good job of understanding and explaining the forces that prevailed to make them change. This writer focuses on the strengths of the school itself. He demonstrates the sort of values it tries to instill in its students such as, "Encouraging us to collaborate with each other and make use of all resources that we may find," and "Giving respect to everyone and everything." Because the writer does so, the reader never doubts that the applicant possesses all the qualities that he credits to the school. Using this method has two advantages. First, the positive, upbeat attitude he has toward his institution is rare. Second, Stanford, for one, recognized that this would reflect well on his ability to adapt to and be a positive force at their school.

10 Things Colleges Seek From High School Applicants Printer-Friendly Version

College-bound? This article provides an overview of the kinds of things admissions offices seek from applicants -- and is especially useful for high school sophomores and juniors as you begin your college planning, but it can also be useful for seniors as you prepare your college applications.

So, what are the 10 things college admissions offices seek from high school students when you apply to college? Admissions officials mention these items as important to their decisions when evaluating applicants.

1. Strong Scores on Standardized Tests. Of those colleges and universities that require the SAT or ACT as part of your application -- and a small (but growing) number of schools do not -- admissions counselors seek scores that match of exceed the scores of their current students. For better or worse, standardized college entrance exam scores are seen as the most objective measure of your college potential. In the process of conducting your research on colleges, you should easily be able to find a profile of the most recently admitted class. (Note: colleges that do not require a standardized test for admission consideration do usually require supplemental materials, such as a graded paper from a core academic course and a portfolio that showcases your strengths, interests, and achievements.)

2. High Grade Point Average. It goes without question that grades are an extremely important element of your college application. Colleges will ask you to submit official transcripts from your high school and possibly recalculate your grade point average based on some internal system they use for weighting different types of courses. Your goal, from the first year of high school forward, is to achieve the best grades you can. If you had a rough freshman year, but have since rebounded with much stronger grades, fear not, because colleges certainly look for trends in academic achievement -- and a record of constant improvement when your GPA is not as strong as you would like is a good sign to most admissions counselors about your growth and potential.

3. Challenging College-Prep Courses. Your challenge is not just to get the best grades you can -- but to get the best grades you can in the most academically challenging courses as you can. You certainly do not need to enroll in an International Baccalaureate (IB) Program at your high school, but where you have the strengths, skills, and aptitude, you should at least strive for Honors or Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Most colleges will place greater weight on these "tougher" courses -- and even go so far as to rate a B in an advanced class (IB, Honors, AP) on a higher scale than an A in a comparable mainstream class.

4. Top Percentage of Class Standing. Class rank and class standing are moving a little further to the back of the pack, partly because class rank means almost nothing in high schools that are at the extremes -- horrible or exceptional. In some of the top high school programs, class rank has been found to actually hurt some of the very best students -- because only so many can be in the top 1, 5, or even 10 percent of the class. Grades obviously drive class rank, so you should of course strive for the very best grades -- and then just hope that the ranking works in your favor or that the colleges you apply to don't use rank as a top criteria for admissions.

5. Leadership Positions in a Few Organizations. Most colleges and universities are seeking leaders from within their applicant pool, and you can make your application stand out by having one or two leadership positions over the course of your high school career. Being a leader in one or two organizations means much, much more than simply being a member in 10 clubs and organizations. Not only does leadership show a certain level of maturity and character, but colleges also have an eye to all their student organizations and their need to recruit future leaders. You don't need to be the president of an organization, but you should be an officer of at least one group by the time you're a senior.

6. Active Involvement in Community Service. There's no requirement for community service to gain admittance to college, but just about all college-bound high school students have jumped on the bandwagon, volunteering throughout the local community. It seems to be one of these unwritten rules that applicants who volunteer many, many hours in the service of supporting others will become a key campus activist. Regardless of the importance for admission to college, most experts agree on the value and self-fulfillment people get in helping others.

7. Insightful and Well-Written Essay(s). Of all the 10 items on this list, the essay either gets the most attention or the least respect -- depending on who you ask. Like some of the other 10 elements on this list, not all colleges require an essay as part of the admissions application. The essay -- or essays -- are a tool used by some universities to learn more about you and why you want to attend their school. Definitely take the time to carefully consider the questions and write, edit, rewrite, and proofread your essays -- with an eye to what the essays reveal about you and your personality. Some admissions counselors admit that an amazing essay can push a marginal applicant into the accepted student group. Learn more about college essay writing in our article, Writing the Successful College Application Essay.

8. Quality Recommendations from Teachers and Guidance Counselor. The recommendation letters that you ask your teachers and your guidance counselor to write can play a key role in your college application. Ideally, you have a few favorite teachers -- teachers who not only know the quality of your work and academic acumen, but also can talk about some of your personal qualities. It's best to ask your teachers for letters as early as you can so that they have the time to write a quality letter; obviously the most popular teachers will need even more time if they have requests from many of their students.

9. Relevant Recommendations from Professionals and Others. One other nice touch -- especially for a college you really want to attend -- is to ask a professional such as a former (or current) boss to write a letter of recommendation for you. Even better if that person has some sort of tie to the college as a donor or alumnus. Other possibilities include your supervisor from one or more of your volunteering/community service projects or a coach from one of the teams you have played for. If you have run your own business, you might ask a favorite customer to write a letter. Finally, you can also ask a family friend or religious leader to write a letter -- but personal references are not as strong as academic or professional ones.

10. Work and Entrepreneurial Experiences. While you certainly do not need to have ever held a part-time or summer job or started your own business, if you have some unique experiences, writing about your experiences can be a great essay topic as well as showcasing your professionalism and time-management skills. College admissions folks love self-starters -- applicants with a strong entrepreneurial spirit -- so proudly tell the story of your babysitting, lawn mowing, car detailing, tutoring, painting, or pet-sitting business (or whatever YOUR business is).

Final Thoughts on College Admission Success

While this article is a quick overview of the types of things college admissions offices are looking for from college-bound high school seniors, you can find much more information and depth in our free College Planning Tutorial.

College Essay Questions

The essay: It’s one of the most important parts of your college application, and it can be the hardest. But it doesn’t have to be. Take a look at some of the most commonly asked essay questions and use them to prepare for your applications. Brainstorm ideas, do some research or create your own “stock” of application essays from the commonly used questions below.
Current Events and Social Issues
To test your skills at problem-solving and check how up-to-date you are on current issues, many applications include questions about problems and issues facing society.
  • What do you consider to be the single most important societal problem? Why?
  • Pick a controversial problem on college campuses and suggest a solution.
  • What do you see as the greatest threat to the environment today?

Personal Achievements
Colleges are looking for students who have achieved in some area of their lives. So you shouldn’t be surprised to find essay topics that ask you to brag a little.
  • Describe how you have demonstrated leadership ability both in and out of school.
  • Discuss a special attribute or accomplishment that sets you apart.
  • Describe your most meaningful achievements and how they relate to your future goals.

Background and Influences
Who you are is closely tied to where you’ve been and who you’ve known. To learn more about you, some admissions committees will ask you to write about your background and major influences.
  • Pick an experience from your own life and explain how it has influenced your development.
  • Who in your life has been your biggest influence and why?
  • How has your family background affected the way you see the world?
  • How has your education contributed to who you are today?

Future Plans and Goals
Colleges look for applicants with vision and motivation, so they might ask about your goals and aspirations.
  • Briefly describe your long- and short-term goals.
  • Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
  • Why do you want to get a college education?

Random Topics
Some essay questions don’t seem directly related to your education or life experience, but committees use them to test your creativity and get a better sense of your personality.
  • Choose a person or persons you admire and explain why.
  • Choose a book or books and that have affected you deeply and explain why.

While you can’t predict every essay question, knowing some of the most common ones can give you a leg up on applications.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Open House for Colleges

College Open Houses
Barton College – November 15.  Register online at

Bridgewater College – October 18 & November 1.  Register online at
Campbell University – Sept. 13, Oct. 11 & Nov. 11. .Register at

Campbell University PGA Golf Management Visitation Day:  If you are a high school junior or senior and are interested in a career in the golf industry, then register to reserve your spot at Visitation Day.  You’ll get to play a round of golf as well as learn about Campbell’s PGA Golf Management Program.  The event will take place on November 7.  Register online at

Catawba College – September 27 & November 15.  Register online at

East Carolina University – October 25.  Register online at

Greensboro College – Nov. 1 & Nov. 11. Register at
Johnson & Wales University –   Oct. 25 & Nov. 15.  Register at

Lees McRae – September 20 & November 15.  Reserve your spot online at

Meredith College – September 27 & October 18.  Register at

NC School of the Arts –  October 3. You may register online at

North Carolina State University – October 18. Register online at

UNC Asheville – October 18 & November 15.  Register online at

UNC Charlotte – October 18 & November 1.  Register online at

UNC GreensboroOctober 25.  Register online at

UNC Pembroke – November 15.  Register online at

UNC Wilmington – September 20 (seniors only).  Register online at

Western Carolina – September 20 & November 22.  Register online at


U.S. Senate Youth Scholarship Program:  The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Social Studies section is looking for two outstanding high school students to join other delegates for the program’s Washington Week experience.  The U.S. Senate Youth Program is a scholarship program that provides an educational opportunity for juniors and seniors who are currently serving in an elected or appointed capacity in student government or a related organization. The deadline is October 12.  The eligibility requirements and application information can be found at

UNC Charlotte’s Levine Scholars Program:  Levine Scholars receive a scholarship for full tuition, room, board, and mandatory fees.  Scholars also receive a new laptop computer and participate in four summers of experiences to develop leadership skills.

Davidson College - The John Montgomery Belk Scholarship:   The Belk Scholarship recognizes and rewards students of demonstrated intellectual and personal achievement and significant leadership ability.   Up to eight Belk Scholars will be chosen in Davidson’s Class of 2019, each receiving an annually renewable scholarship equivalent to the college’s comprehensive fees as well as two special study stipends to pursue international study and other enrichment opportunities.

NC State’s Centennial Scholarship:  Administered by the College of Textiles, the Centennial Scholars Program will provide up to ten incoming freshmen with scholarships to attend NC State University and major in Textiles.  The actual value of this scholarship is set at $10,000 per year.  In addition, recipients will also have access to a $7,500 enrichment fund. 

 Horatio Alger Association:   Applicants must demonstrate critical financial need, be involved in co-curricular and community service activities, display integrity and perseverance in overcoming adversity, maintain a minimum grade point average of 2.0 and be a US citizen.  Apply at
Coca-Cola Scholars Program:  Each year Coca-Cola awards 50 scholarships of $20,000 and 200 scholarships of $10,000.  Interested students must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and plan to attend an accredited post-secondary institution.  The deadline is October 31.  Apply online at

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards:  If you’ve made a difference by volunteering in your community over the past year, you could win $1,000 and a fabulous trip to Washington, D.C.  Students in grades 5-12 are eligible to apply. The deadline is November 4.  Apply now at

UNC-Chapel Hill – The Thomas Wolfe Scholarship:  This UNC‑CH scholarship offers a full four-year financial support for one incoming freshman per year.  The scholarship seeks to identify and reward students with exceptionally focused literary ability and promise.  Applicants must apply for early admission to UNC-Chapel Hill by October 15 and apply for this scholarship by November 15. For more information, visit

Gates Millennium Scholarship:  For minority students (African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American or Hispanic American).  Students must have a 3.3 unweighted GPA, meet Federal Pell Grant eligibility criteria, and have demonstrated leadership abilities through participation in community service, extracurricular or other activities.  Apply online at  The deadline is January 14.