How to Get Help With Your College Application?

How to Get Help With Your College Application?

College applications can be both difficult and stressful, especially if you don’t have someone in your life who’s familiar with the process.  But there are all kinds of resources for college application help—you just have to know where to look.

Not all help with the college application process is created equal.  Some are a little too hands-on, which can mean your application doesn’t sound like you.  Others may not offer the kind of help you need. When you’re looking for assistance, you need services that help boost your own skills, not ones that do the work for you.

It’s perfectly okay to get college application help.  This guide will walk you through some options for assistance, including what you should seek help for, what you shouldn’t, and some of the best places to find reliable assistance with your college application.

Should You Get Help With Your College Application?

If you feel like you’re not understanding your college applications or that you aren’t really doing as well on one portion as you’d like to be, you should absolutely seek outside help.  There’s nothing to be ashamed of—college applications are difficult! Because they’re meant to be one-size-fits-all, sometimes your needs and questions may not be addressed.

But no matter what questions you have, you should ask them!  Regardless of your circumstances, you deserve the opportunity to go to college.  Don’t let fear or a lack of understanding stop you from applying.

There are lots of reasons to want or need help.  The process can be pretty opaque, even with lots of tutorials and guides.  And if you feel like you don’t need any assistance with your college application, it’s still not a bad idea to look into it!  With so many resources available, you might as well take advantage of them.

What’s OK to Get College Application Help On?

The short answer to what parts of your college application it’s okay to get help with is pretty much everything.  The key word is help—getting someone to do the work for you is a big mistake. But if you want assistance, including guidance, brainstorming, or even some constructive criticism, you shouldn’t be afraid to seek it out.

Where Can You Get Help With Your College Application?

There are so many resources available that it can be difficult to figure out which ones you should pursue.  Do you need an all-around coach for your application? A tutor? Will a visit to a guidance counselor cut it, or do you need to spend money on a complete assistance package?

Don’t panic.  Take a moment to outline what problems you’re having so you can better solve them.  Even if you feel like you’re writing down every single thing about your application, it’s worth doing—if you can see the problem, you can come up with a plan to fix it.

Depending on what problems you’re having, you have a few options to handle it. Some common hangups are:

  1. You can’t figure out what colleges to apply to
  2. You don’t understand your application
  3. You’re not sure you can afford college
  4. Your grades aren’t where you’d like them to be
  5. You don’t know who to ask for letters of recommendation
  6. You’re not sure how to write your essay
  7. Your standardized test scores aren’t ready to apply

These problems may all feel insurmountable at first, but there’s always help available.  No matter what you’re struggling with, there are resources available—if you need help, consider asking:

  • Your school guidance counselor
  • The admissions office of the school you’re applying to
  • Teachers
  • A tutor

They may not have all the answers, but chances are that they can point you in the direction of someone who does.  Don’t let fear or embarrassment keep you from seeking the education you dream of.

These are just a few ideas—if what’s giving you trouble isn’t covered below, keep reading anyway!  A lot of issues overlap, and you may find your answer in a surprising place.

What If You Can’t Figure Out Which Colleges to Apply To?

Figuring out which college to go to is a huge decision—one that can be paralyzing if you don’t know where to begin.  But there are lots of resources to help you make your choice, even if you’re not sure what you want to study, whether you want to stay in your state, or whether you want to start at a four-year university.

However, this is a big question.  If you still have lots of time to make a decision—such as if you’re in your junior year—it’s time to start doing research.  There are lots of online resources to help with this, including college websites and our own guides, including how to figure out which schools to apply to, how many colleges you should apply to, and how to calculate your admission chances.

Fall of your senior year is typically when you’ll be applying to colleges, so if that deadline has passed, you may be looking at taking a little time off.  Taking some time off isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you’re struggling with your application, the extra time can help you narrow down what schools you want to apply to rather than forcing you to rush to a decision.  Don’t panic about running late; you still have good options!

Take time to do your research, don’t just apply to schools that come to mind.  Seek out college fairs if you can, and consult with your school’s guidance counselor to find schools that are right for your needs.

What If You Don’t Understand Your Application?

College applications can be a little dense, particularly if you’re not familiar with a lot of the language they use.  But there are lots of resources to help in this department, too—with social media and blogs, you can find all kinds of people online discussing how to handle a college’s application.

If you want something a little more personal, try speaking to your school’s guidance counselor (if there is one).  They’re experienced in this field, and can help walk you through the parts that are confusing. If speaking with your school’s guidance counselor doesn’t give you enough information, look up the admissions department of the college you’re applying to.  Some schools have direct liaisons between high school students and the admissions office, or they may just be able to answer general questions for you. One of the biggest challenges for students in Vietnam is that few schools have experienced college counselors who understand the process and requirements to excel in applying to overseas universities.

Contact our Everest Education team for a free consultation, looking over your application profile with our ATES framework (Academics, Testing, Extracurricular, and Skills Development).

It’s better to ask your question and know for certain than to not fill something out for fear of being wrong, so hang up your fear of the telephone or email and reach out.  

What If You’re Not Sure You Can Afford College?

College is expensive—that’s just a fact.  But there is lots of financial aid available, including grants, loans, and scholarships.  However, it’s rare that that money will offer itself up to you. You have to apply for it.

There are many different types of scholarships and contests you can apply to, many of which can offer a great deal of money for things you already do

Again, your school’s guidance counselor is a good resource if you’re feeling a little unsure about where to start.  Don’t be afraid to set up a meeting with them if you’re not sure how to apply or what documents you’ll need. No matter what your circumstances are, there are resources available to help you pay for college.  Students with no financial assistance from parents or guardians, undocumented students, and even students who may not be eligible for grants all have options, even if you have to make some concessions about where you want to go. Also refer to this “U.S. Financial Aid for international students” guidebook to be guided every detail about the process of applying for financial aid.

What If You’re Struggling With Grades?

Grades are one of the most important parts of your college education.  But if yours aren’t where they should be, that doesn’t mean you can’t get into college.

The earlier you get started on fixing your grades, the better.  But even if deadlines are looming, it’s never too late to make changes in your work process and study habits to improve things.

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help from teachers or counselors.  If you can demonstrate that you’re serious about improving, your teachers may be able to help you make a plan for how to do better.

Obviously, you can’t just change your grades.  But working hard to improve them is totally possible, and colleges want to see you actively working on self-improvement.  If you can show that you’re putting in the effort through an upswing in your GPA, a year of bad grades may not look as bad to admissions offices.

If you’ve experienced a slip in grades because of outside circumstances, be sure to address that in your college application.  Transparency and honesty are good things, especially when you can show through improvements that you’re working to do better.

Aside from teachers and counselors, a tutor may also be valuable. Tutors can help you identify weak points in your knowledge and address them, not only helping you fix your grades right now, but also preparing you with improved study habits and learning foundations that will help you in college, too.  Through Everest Education’s academic courses and private tutoring options, students are able to get extra help in almost any subject. At the same time, our teachers will help develop strong learning habits and study skills.

What If You’re Struggling With Letters of Recommendation?

Teachers are the standard for letters of recommendation, but if you’re struggling to find teachers to write your letters, don’t panic.  This may be particularly difficult for homeschooled students or those who may not have as close of relationships with their instructors.

But teachers aren’t the only people who can write a great letter.  You’ll want to stay away from family members and friends, who can’t really offer an objective view, but other people in positions of authority who know you and your work ethic can be good options, too.

Consider school counselors, athletic coaches, instructors outside of school (such as a piano teacher), or even supervisors at work as possible alternatives.  A good letter of recommendation will tell the school you’re applying to about your work ethic and your strengths, and any of those figures could be a great alternative to a teacher if you need one.


What If You’re Struggling With Your Essay?

College essays are an important part of the application, but they can also be intimidating to write. One of the most important things to know about seeking help for your essay is that you shouldn’t look for help writing or even coming up with topics—instead, look for help once you’ve written a draft.

Too much help can actually be a hindrance.  If a college doubts that you’re the sole author of your essay, it could count against you.  Feedback is great, and you should absolutely seek it out, but be sure that your essay is by you, not by whoever has helped you with it.

Essentially, always be sure that the sentences you write are your sentences.  Take any advice you get to heart, but don’t feel like the way that others suggest to write your work is inherently better than the way that you’d write it.

We offer an intensive personal essay course to help students identify their best stories and share them in a persuasive, engaging way.  This course is available standalone or part of our broader College Compass Admissions Consulting packages.


What If You Need Help With Standardized Tests?

SAT and ACT scores are a big part of your college application, but it’s easy to get intimidated by the process of studying and analyzing your strong and weak points.

First of all, know which test is going to benefit you most. Depending on what you want to study and what your strengths are, the ACT or SAT may be more beneficial to you. The simplest difference is that the ACT may be more beneficial for students who prefer the sciences, but the two tests are increasingly similar in format and skills. The earlier you start studying and practicing, the better. You can take both tests multiple times to make sure you get the best score you can. Take advantage of this, so that you’re not stuck with an unimpressive score down the road.

If you find that you’re not improving as much as you’d like, consider a test prep course or tutoring service.  Everest Education offers a SAT classes, with the personalized learning approach focuses on topics, skills, and strategies where you need the most support to give you the biggest possible; and a complete tutoring program to give you one-on-one coaching.

There are many books and other resources available, so start early and take advantage of them!

What Shouldn’t You Get Help With?

There’s nothing that’s entirely off-limits in seeking college application help, but be sure that you’re getting help, not having someone do the work for you.  Many college applications are reviewed holistically, meaning that though they may weigh one aspect more heavily than others (such as grades), the entire application is considered important.  If things don’t match up—such as your essay having a different writing style—it could give a bad impression.

That’s why if you’re going to use essay writing services, they should be geared toward helping you find ideas and refine your work, not helping you write the essay itself.

Obviously, you shouldn’t pay anybody money to do anything on your behalf, whether it’s writing your essay, improving your grades, or taking tests for you.  All your work should be original and completed by you.

Seek help if you need it, but be sure that the help you get is aimed at your growth, not doing work for you!

How to Get the Best Help

Any kind of service, including essay help and tutoring, can be expensive.  Be sure that you look into what a service offers in detail, including if there are free trials, money-back guarantees, or other offers to take advantage of.  Trials help ensure that a system will work for you, meaning you’re more likely to get the help you need.

Reviews can be a big help, especially because so many other students are experiencing the same thing that you are.  You can consult people you know or online reviews to find services that sound right for you.

One of the best things you can do is find people in your own life who have experience with applying to college, whether they’re teachers, counselors, family, or friends.  These people know you best, and are likely already invested in your success. It’s important that whoever you consult with understand that you should succeed on your own terms—that is, they should help you reach your goals by coaching and giving you feedback, not by doing work for you.

What’s Next?

Want to build the best possible college application?

We can help. College Compass is a college admissions consulting program for the most ambitious rising Grade 12 students in Saigon who aspire to attend top universities and colleges abroad.  The program is led by the two co-founders of Everest Education, Tony Ngo and Don Le, both of whom graduated from Stanford University and have served as alumni interviewers for Stanford.  We combine world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies. We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit, and we want to get you admitted to your dream schools.

Learn more about College Compass to maximize your chance of getting in.  We are now offering scholarships covering 100% of the tuition for the entire College Compass program worth $3,500 each.

Source: PrepScholar Admissions

What to Do If You’re Waitlisted by a College?

What to Do If You’re Waitlisted by a College?

Getting waitlisted at a college certainly isn’t a bad thing—your application was good enough to not get rejected!—but it’s definitely an uncomfortable place to be.  After all, when you’re on the college waitlist, you don’t know whether you’ll be admitted or not, and that alone is anxiety-inducing.

Luckily, there are many things you can do to increase your odds of getting off a waitlist.  This article explains how the college waitlist works, what steps to take if you’ve been waitlisted, and how to raise your college waitlist chances so you can attend your dream school.

What Is the College Waitlist and How Does It Work?

What exactly does it mean if you’ve been waitlisted by a college or several colleges?

The college waitlist is a list of applicants whom a school might or might not offer admission to.  These applicants are essentially put on hold by a college and would have been admitted had space allowed.  The total number of applicants offered a place on the college waitlist varies each year and at different schools.

If you are offered a spot on the college waitlist, you may either accept the invitation and allow your name to be added to it or decline it right away if you’d rather not wait for an admission decision or have already decided to attend a different college.

Applicants are typically only admitted off a waitlist starting after May 1, or the date by when admitted students must submit their decisions to attend the college of their choice along with the non-refundable deposit.  Colleges usually begin to admit students off the waitlist if and only if they need to fill more spots in their freshman class. Essentially, once the May 1 deadline has passed, if not enough applicants have decided to attend, the school will start to admit applicants off the waitlist with the hope they’ll accept the offer.  Waitlist acceptances often roll out gradually throughout May, June, July, and sometimes even August right before the school year starts.

Of course, not everyone on the waitlist will be admitted.  In fact, some colleges might admit just a few students or even none at all one year!

Finally, some college waitlists rank the applicants on it.  So if you’re ranked highly, you’re more likely to be accepted off the waitlist.  Nevertheless, most colleges don’t rank waitlist applicants and instead make their admissions decisions based on other factors such as what majors they want to have represented and which applicants will be most likely to attend if admitted.

What Are Your Chances of Getting Off the College Waitlist?

If you’ve been waitlisted at your dream school, you’re probably wondering what exactly your odds are of getting off the waitlist and moving on to a full-blown acceptance.  Your chances of getting off the college waitlist primarily depend on five factors:

  • How many spots the school needs to fill for its freshman class.  The fewer the spots there are, the less likely it is you’ll be admitted off the waitlist.  In contrast, the more spots available, the more likely it is you’ll be offered a placement.
  • What majors, locations, etc., the school wants to have represented in its freshman class.  If a school didn’t admit enough engineering majors, for example, it will most likely admit engineering majors off its waitlist first.
  • How likely you are to attend the school if admitted.  This factor mainly depends on how interested you are in the college and whether you’ve actively demonstrated your continued interest in attending.  Carnegie Mellon maintains a Priority Waiting List, for example, for applicants whose first choice is CMU.
  • How strong your overall application is, especially compared with other waitlist applicants.  While this is impossible to know, if you have strong qualities such as an SAT score well above the school’s 75th percentile, then it’s likely you’re a top candidate for admission.
  • How highly ranked you are on the waitlist (if the school ranks applicants).

Ultimately, how likely it is you’ll be admitted off a waitlist really depends on the particular school you’ve been waitlisted at.  Very popular and selective schools get applications from thousands of qualified students each year – many of whom end up on the waitlist – making it super difficult to determine how good your odds are of being admitted.

Moreover, the year you apply can have a big effect on how many applicants a college decides to admit off its waitlist.  This happens because both the quality and number of applicants usually changes slightly each year, along with the specific needs of the school (for example, a school might want to admit more majors one year than it did the previous year).

Let’s take a look at some real-life examples.  At Dartmouth, a highly selective school that’s also part of the Ivy League, “the number of candidates offered admission from the waitlist varies, from zero in some years to dozens in others.”

Similarly, here’s what the UC system says on the topic: “The number of students who are ultimately admitted varies from year to year, campus to campus. There is no way to tell how many students, if any, will ultimately be offered admission for any particular year.”

As you can see, in general, there’s no easy way to determine your odds of getting admitted off a college waitlist.  College waitlist acceptances can vary dramatically from year to year, mainly as a result of the changing number of qualified applicants and the school’s needs.

Got Waitlisted? 4 Steps Everyone Must Take

If you’ve been waitlisted at a college, you’ll need to take certain steps to ensure you’re ultimately able to attend college without issue. Regardless of whether you choose to stay on the waitlist or not, here’s exactly what you’ll need to do if you’re offered a waitlist spot.

Step 1: Make a Decision About the Waitlist
Do you want to stay on the college waitlist in the hopes you’ll get admitted, or would you rather decline the invitation and just go with a different college?

After you’ve gotten a waitlist invitation, take time to consider whether you truly want to be on the waitlist for this school.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this your dream school?
  • Are you comfortable with not hearing back from the school right away and feeling stuck in a sort of limbo state throughout the summer?
  • Are you OK with potentially losing money on a non-refundable deposit to a different school if you do end up getting admitted off the waitlist?
    Once you’ve made your decision about whether to stay on the college waitlist, it’s time to move on to Step 2.

Step 2: Officially Accept or Decline Your Waitlist Invitation

If you’ve been offered a spot on the waitlist, know that you won’t be automatically added to it—you need to officially accept the invitation to confirm your spot.  This usually needs to be done by a certain deadline, typically in mid-April or by May 1. Check with the school or look at your waitlist notification letter to figure out when the deadline is.

If you fail to confirm your placement by this deadline, you will not be placed on the waitlist and will have indirectly declined your spot on it.  If you’ve decided to not have your name put on the college waitlist and would rather decline your spot, be sure to notify the college of your decision by the deadline, ideally as soon as possible.

Step 3: Pick a College to Attend and Submit Your Deposit

Regardless of whether you’ve decided to stay on the waitlist or not, you’ll need to pick a college you’ve been admitted to that you want to attend, even if it’s not your top choice and you’re still hoping to get off the waitlist at the other school.

Go through all the schools where you’ve been accepted (not waitlisted) and, for each, consider important factors, such as what kinds of majors it offers, what kinds of professors work there, what extracurriculars are available, what its campus is like, where it’s located, etc.  You can do research on the schools you’re considering attending by looking at their official websites, visiting their campuses, and talking to current or former students. Once you’ve decided where you want to go to college – even if you’re holding out hope that you’ll get admitted off the waitlist at your top choice – it’s time to accept your offer of admission and submit your non-refundable deposit.  Both your acceptance of admission and deposit must be submitted no later than the May 1 deadline.

Step 4: Wait for Your Waitlist Decision

After you’ve decided on a college to attend, all that’s left for you to do is wait to get your waitlist decision notification.  When you hear back from a college regarding its waitlist decisions can vary considerably, from as early as May to as late as August, and there is no way of telling when you’ll receive your decision (and whether it’ll be a positive or negative result!).  If you do get admitted off the college waitlist, congratulations! You now have to make the decision between accepting this offer of admission and withdrawing your previous acceptance, or rejecting this offer and continuing with the other college you’ve agreed to attend.  If you decide to accept the offer of admission, note that you will not be able to get a refund on the deposit you submitted to the other school. If you don’t get admitted off the college waitlist, not much will change. You’ll still have the other college you agreed to attend waiting for you!

5 Key Tips to Raise Your College Waitlist Chances

Getting waitlisted doesn’t mean sitting around and waiting (as the word implies). Rather, there are several actions you can take at this time to increase your odds of getting off the college waitlist.

Here are our top fix tips to help you raise your chances of securing an acceptance from the waitlist at your top-choice school.

#1: Write a Letter of Interest

One of the best things you can do during this time is to write a letter to the school you’ve been waitlisted at emphasizing your continued interest and how the school is your top choice.  Remember that colleges want to admit applicants who are very likely to attend. And by confirming that you’ll 100% attend the school if admitted, you are effectively increasing your odds of getting off the waitlist.  (Note that this type of letter is non-binding, so you’re still allowed to change your mind later on!)

Your letter of interest can be an email to your admissions officer or regional dean, or even a note on your college’s waitlist response form (many schools use this form or a similar form to confirm whether an applicant wants to remain on the waitlist or not).

#2: Send Important Updates (on Accomplishments)

If you’ve had any notable accomplishments since getting waitlisted, you can actually enhance your application by sharing these successes with the school that’s waitlisted you.  In general, these should be highly relevant accomplishments and updates. If you’re not applying for a science major, it might not be that beneficial to tell the school about your successful science project, for instance.  You can typically update your school on what you’ve been up to via either the waitlist response form (which most schools will give you online) or a letter or email.

Even if you haven’t had any major achievements recently, try to draw attention to any positive changes in your life, such as awards you’ve received, good or better grades you’ve gotten, and so on.  Some schools, such as Johns Hopkins, allow you to send an updated resume if you wish to highlight any changes to or accomplishments in your extracurricular activities.

However, some colleges will not accept additional materials or information than what you originally submitted for your application.  In these cases, you won’t be able to update the school on any new achievements you have, so don’t try to send an update since it won’t have any effect on your chances of getting admitted!

#3: Keep Up Your Grades

Even though you’ll only have a month or two of high school left by the time you’ve been waitlisted, it’s still important to get good grades in all your classes.  Many colleges allow (and encourage!) waitlisted applicants to send updates relating to any (positive) changes in their grades or GPA. This could be a major improvement to a specific grade in a class you’re taking or new grades or transcripts that have only recently been released (and that are more recent than your mid-year report).  For example, Vanderbilt recommends that waitlisted applicants “consider submitting any substantially relevant new information (e.g., new grades that might be available).”  You can send an updated transcript or write a brief email or letter detailing your recent grades.

#4: Stay in Contact

Some schools give slight preference to waitlisted applicants who make an effort to stay in contact with the school, specifically the admissions committee/officer or regional dean.  This generally just means keeping in touch via email. You might occasionally send an email to notify the school/dean of any recent updates about you or to elaborate on your continued interest in the school.

On its official website, Franklin & Marshall College states that “continuing to maintain and achieve outstanding grades, as well as having occasional email contact with your Regional Dean, will supplement your interest in the College”.

#5: Get an Interview (If Possible)

Schools don’t typically allow this, but if a college is willing to interview waitlisted applicants or let them come to campus to interview, it’s worth it to take them up on this offer.  Make sure you prepare for the interview and are able to answer key questions such as why you want to go to this school and what you hope to do with your education in the future.

Recap: What to Do If You Are Waitlisted at a College

The college waitlist is a list of applicants who might or might not be offered admission to a particular college.  Schools usually start to admit applicants off the waitlist after May 1 and will continue to admit applicants until they’ve filled their entire freshman class.  How likely it is you’ll be admitted off the college waitlist depends mostly on the following factors:

  • The number of remaining spots in the freshman class
  • What types of students schools want to admit in terms of majors, locations, etc.
  • How likely you are to attend the school if accepted
  • How strong your application is overall
  • How highly ranked you are on the waitlist (if the school ranks waitlisted applicants)

If you’re waitlisted at a school, there are four steps you should take in this order:

  1. Make a decision about the waitlist
  2. Officially accept or decline your waitlist invitation
  3. Pick a college to attend and submit your non-refundable deposit
  4. Wait for your waitlist decision

Finally, here are five tips you can use to try to raise your chances of getting admitted off the college waitlist:

  • Write a letter of interest
  • Send important updates (on accomplishments)
  • Keep up your grades and GPA
  • Stay in contact with the school, specifically the (head of the) admissions committee
  • Get an interview (if offered by the college)

What’s Next?

Want to build the best possible college application?

We can help.  College Compass is a college admissions consulting program for the most ambitious rising Grade 12 students in Saigon who aspire to attend top universities and colleges abroad.  The program is led by the two co-founders of Everest Education, Tony Ngo and Don Le, both of whom graduated from Stanford University and have served as alumni interviewers for Stanford.  We combine world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies. We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit, and we want to get you admitted to your dream schools.

Learn more about College Compass to maximize your chance of getting in.  We are now offering scholarships covering 100% of the tuition for the entire College Compass program worth $3,500 each.

Source: PrepScholar Admissions


How Many Colleges Should You Really Apply To?

How Many Colleges Should You Really Apply To?

Many students stress over the same question: “How many colleges should I apply to?” How many is too many? How few is too few? There is so much disagreement on this topic, even among experts, that many students are left confused and unsure.

This article will give you an idea of how many schools you should apply to and explain the factors to consider when deciding how many colleges to apply to.  After reading this guide, you’ll feel confident about crafting your own college list and how long it will be.

There’s No Magic Number

The number of colleges you should apply to depends on your specific situation.  The standard thinking from counselors has been that the average college-bound student should apply to about 6-8 colleges: 2-3 reach colleges, 2-3 target colleges, and 2 safety schools.  Reach schools are colleges that are unlikely to offer you admission (less than a 30% chance), target schools are colleges that you have a decent chance of gaining admission to (a 30%-80% chance), and safety schools are colleges to which you’re almost guaranteed of admission based on your qualifications (greater than an 80% chance).

However, we have clearly seen a big trend in the number of applications colleges are receiving due to (1) rapidly increasing competition from international students, and (2) the rise in popularity of the Common App making it simple for one student to easily send one application to many more schools than before.  From our own experiences at Everest, we have seen many of our early students from years ago apply to 5-10 schools, while many from our most recent college applicant class applied to more than 20 schools.

The number of colleges you should apply to is dependent on your personal situation and your priorities when selecting a college.  For example, if you have a dream school that offers early decision or early action, then you may only have to apply to one college.  If you apply early decision, you’ll typically be submitting your application in November and should receive an admissions decision by December, before the application deadlines for most colleges.  If you’re accepted to a school that you apply to early decision, you have to attend.

You should still have a list of colleges to apply to in case you aren’t accepted or if you’re applying to any colleges, like University of California schools, that have an application deadline before December.  If you’re admitted early decision, you have to withdraw your applications to any other colleges.

Why You May Want To Apply to More Schools

If you’re determined to go to a very selective college, then you may want to apply to more colleges than the average person. If you apply to 10 colleges to which you have a 25% chance of gaining admission, then you’re likely to gain admission to at least one of them. In fact, if you apply to 16 colleges with an average chance of admission of 25%, then you have a 99% chance of gaining admission to at least one of them, statistically.

If you take this approach, though, you should prepare yourself emotionally to be rejected from most of the schools you apply to.  If, on the other hand, you’re not as concerned with selectivity and are extremely confident that you’ll be admitted to at least a couple of the colleges you apply to, you may only need to apply to two to four colleges.

Be Aware of the Costs of Applying in Time and Money

Applying to college can be costly. The application fee for each college you apply to can be up to $75.  However, students with financial hardship should absolutely apply for fee waivers, which will make it easier to apply to enough schools.  

Additionally, there can be costs associated with sending standardized test scores and AP scores to colleges.The SAT and ACT allow you to send four free score reports to colleges.  Each additional score report currently costs $11.25 per report for the SAT and $12 per report for the ACT. Also, you’re allowed to send one free AP score report, which contains all of your AP scores, to one college each year you take AP exams.  Each additional score report costs $15.

Therefore, if you apply to 20 colleges, you may have to pay over $2,000.  Consider your budget (or ask your parents how much they’re willing to pay) when deciding how many schools to apply to.  However, you should also view the costs of applying as an investment. If you get into a great college that fits your needs, then you’ll have an invaluable college experience that will enable you to have future professional success, and the money you spend on applying may end up being insignificant compared to the return on your investment.  Furthermore, keep in mind that the cost of applying will probably be much, much less than the cost of attending college.

Additionally, the application process takes time.  Even though more and more colleges are using The Common Application, which allows you to apply to many schools with one application, many colleges still have their own applications or require supplemental essays.  Each college application that requires additional essays will probably take you at least a few additional hours to complete. However, if well-planned, once you cross about 8 applications, you will find patterns in the questions, and you should be able to re-use the vast majority of your essays with slight modifications for each school.

Make sure you have enough time to complete all the applications successfully without sacrificing the quality of your schoolwork or neglecting any other priorities.

Important Rules Regardless of the Number of Colleges You Apply To

Follow these guidelines, regardless of the exact number of schools you end up applying to.

Rule #1: Have at Least 2 Safety Schools
It’s wise to prepare for a worst-case scenario.  If you only get into your safety schools, you still want at least a couple of options to consider.

Rule 2: Don’t Apply to Any Colleges You Wouldn’t Want to Attend
Considering the time and cost associated with applying to college, it’s pretty pointless to apply to a college that you have no desire to attend.  Even if your safety schools aren’t your top choices, they should be colleges that you’d be willing to attend.

Rule 3: Do the Majority of Your College Research Before You Apply
Before applying to college, you should have a good idea of what you’re looking for in a school.  There are about 2,500 4-year colleges. Use college finders, college search websites, guidebooks, ranking lists, and campus visits to help decide which colleges you should apply to.  Also, you can talk to your teachers, counselors, parents, current students, and alumni to help you narrow down your list of schools.

Rule 4: Rank the Schools You Apply to Before You Receive Acceptances
After you apply, continue to do your research and try to rank the schools assuming you were offered admission to all of them.  This will make the selection process easier. Once you receive your acceptances and review your financial aid packages (if you apply for need-based aid), you can factor in the cost of attendance for each school into your decision.

Rule 5: Be Realistic About Your Chances of Admission
Even though it’s perfectly fine to apply to reach colleges, at a certain point, a college may be too much of a reach, and you’d be better served to focus on schools that are more likely to admit you.  

Usually, if your GPA and standardized test scores are well below those of the average student at a very selective college (less than a 25% acceptance rate), your odds of gaining admission will be extremely low, and in some cases, virtually nil.

For example, in 2014, at Princeton University, only 2% of admitted students had a GPA below a 3.5.  At Yale, out of high schools that provided class rank, 97% of admitted students graduated in the top 10% of their class.

You may still have a realistic chance if there’s something exceptional in your application.  If you’re a world-class athlete, the child of a major donor, or you’ve overcome incredibly unique obstacles, you may still have a legitimate shot at admission with subpar grades and test scores.  Also, if your grades are on par but you have below average test scores for a selective college, you may still have a shot of getting in, especially if you’re from a disadvantaged or underrepresented background.

Final Advice

While there’s no cap on the number of schools you can apply to, some students, especially those from affluent backgrounds who want to go to a selective college, can consider applying to more than 20 colleges.

If you do the necessary research before you apply, you should be able to limit your list of schools to 25 or fewer.  On the other hand, some students, especially those who are low-income or the first in their families to go to college, often apply to too few colleges. If you don’t have very specific needs that are limiting your college options, and if selectivity is a factor in your college decision, try applying to at least 6 schools.

What’s Next?

Want to build the best possible college application?

We can help. College Compass is a college admissions consulting program for the most ambitious rising Grade 12 students in Saigon who aspire to attend top universities and colleges abroad.  The program is led by the two co-founders of Everest Education, Tony Ngo and Don Le, both of whom graduated from Stanford University and have served as alumni interviewers for Stanford.  We combine world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies. We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit, and we want to get you admitted to your dream schools.

Learn more about College Compass to maximize your chance of getting in.  We are now offering scholarships covering 100% of the tuition for the entire College Compass program worth $3,500 each.

Source: PrepScholar Admissions

5 Reasons Why Going to a Top University Matters

5 Reasons Why Going to a Top University Matters

As hundreds of thousands of students rush to fill out college applications to meet end-of-the-year deadlines, it might be worth asking them: Is where you spend the next four years of your life that important?

State universities and community colleges rock, but elite institutions offer many benefits you just can’t get at state universities or community colleges.  If a student has a choice between attending a state university or an elite university, she should definitely go with the latter option! Why?

The truth is, top universities still reign supreme among exclusive industries such as tech, consulting, and finance.

So, what advantages does going to a top university give you and why does it matter?

First off, what does a “top university” mean?

Before we begin, it’s important to understand what top universities mean in the context of this blog.

Top universities do not only refer to the top 10 or top 20 universities as listed by US News and World Reports or QS World University Rankings for the following reasons.

Stagnant rankings are inherently unhelpful.  As objective as they try to be, none of them capture the true essence of US colleges.  Picking US universities to apply to is an extremely personal process; one that requires you to think about numerous factors and their overall importance to your happiness, your education, and your success.  In order to find the right university, you need to compile your own list of “best-possible” universities based on your preferences.

So, for the sake of this blog, top universities refers to universities whose graduates tend to get high-paying jobs at large, lucrative companies.  These universities include, but are not limited to:

  • The Ivy League
  • A few “Public Ivies” (a term referring to public universities which are akin to the Ivy League in terms of selectivity, education quality, resources and image) such as University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (Michigan) and University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin).
  • New York University (NYU), University of Chicago (UChicago), Duke University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Stanford

As stated above, these universities are the top universities when it comes to lucrative industries such as tech, finance and consulting, they are in no way the only path to success but they can help you succeed more quickly.

Why applying to a top university matters?

#1. Access to virtually every resource

Most schools offer a variety of resources to their students, including libraries and study space, but the resources offered by elite universities and Ivy League schools are especially amazing!

Elite institutions are home to a variety of historic documents and artifacts, as well as state-of-the-art labs and research facilities.  Not only do elite universities offer these resources to their own students, but they also offer them to students of other elite universities as well!  Need access to an unfinished, unpublished Shakespeare manuscript? At an elite university, you can get it by the following week!

If students attend an elite university, they too will be a part of this academic community and have access to all of these amazing resources as well.

#2. Access to Alumni

Every single school has alumni who make their schools proud.  Do you know where Bill Gates went to college? You’ve probably heard it was Harvard (even though he dropped out).  How about Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google? You might have heard that they went to Stanford. And President Barack Obama went to Columbia as an undergrad and Harvard for law school.  Nearly all of the world’s most prominent leaders attended elite universities or Ivy League institutions. Oftentimes, these notable alumni return to their schools and make speeches, hold master classes, and sometimes they just come to hang out.

This really can generate positive feedback loops: the better the achievements at a school, the better the reputation it has; the better the reputation, the more funding it gets and the better the students who want to attend. The better the students, the better the achievements the school creates. And this continues perpetually so that places like Harvard will likely remain at the top of the education game for a very long time.

Attending top universities and colleges can help you build influential networks that open doors after graduation.  Faculty members and alumni can help you obtain references and job leads, and you can build a large network of friends at a top college that could eventually lead to job opportunities.

In addition, conferences and seminars at top colleges provide opportunities for you to connect with experts and specialists, which could lead to internships and full-time employment.

And, who knows – maybe someday, you will get to be one of these awesome alumni!

#3. Socialization amongst other elite students

You may be familiar with that old phrase, “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” So why not surround yourself with brilliant people?

It goes without saying that the professors at elite universities are brilliant (most professors are), but elite universities are unique in that every student is brilliant as well.  What makes these students so special? They really are the cream of the crop. These schools are incredibly tough to get into, and often having good grades is not enough. Each of these students proved to admissions that they are spectacular.

These are the students who strive to make change, and go out of their way to make the world a better place.

#4.  Job offers at prestigious big companies

Prestigious universities feed students into prestigious big companies.  Representatives from prestigious ‘name-brand’ big companies like Google and Microsoft would come to top schools career fair several times a year and do on-campus interviews to fill summer internship and full-time job openings.  Most of the students who wanted summer internships at such companies would be able to get offers after their sophomore and junior years. Although some companies are attempting to widen their recruiting network, elite universities do offer an advantage that most other universities do not.

You may be asking why don’t big companies do more outreach to students from normal (lesser-known) universities?  Aren’t they passing up lots of great candidates by not paying much attention to the vast majority of universities?  Yes, they are probably passing up lots of great candidates, but they don’t care because they can still get more than enough great candidates from name-brand universities.  Companies are not social charities dedicated to fair representation; they are out to maximize profits! If it’s most cost-effective to recruit at a name-brand school because they get a higher ‘hit rate’ of good employees, then so be it!  They will ignore lesser-known schools while fully knowing that they are passing up some great people. For example, if IBM can find 35 great candidates for every 50 they interview at MIT, but they can only find 5 great candidates for every 50 they interview at a normal school, then it makes financial sense to direct much more recruiting efforts to schools like MIT.

#5. More favorable starting positions and higher salaries

The most prestigious and super-high-paying front-office jobs (e.g., investment bankers, traders, quantitative analysts) are only offered to graduates of name-brand universities like Harvard and MIT, whereas the less prominent support jobs (middle-office and back-office) are open to graduates from normal schools.

In 2017, 11% of students at the University of San Diego went into finance/business with an average starting salary of $56,250 USD. In comparison, 8.6% of students at MIT went into finance and 4.3% went into investment banking with average starting salaries of $116,083 USD and $105,000 USD, respectively.

Let’s compare the income of an average Harvard graduate with than of an average ASU graduate:

As you can see, the average Harvard graduate has a higher starting salary than that of the average ASU graduate, and the average Harvard graduate has a significantly higher mid-career salary!

One of the main qualms parents have with sending their kids off to elite universities and Ivy League schools is that they are so expensive!

But if you think about it in terms of the return you’ll be making on your investment, you’ll realize that it is well worth it—a good education really is priceless.

The Real Advantages

In the aforementioned industries, the top universities have the upper hand when it comes to access to opportunities, recruiting and salary.  These universities (coupled with hard work) open doors to top internships, top jobs and ultimately top salaries.

Today, most people change careers at least three times before they are 32 so being part of an alumni network that will give you access to the top of any industries gives you the freedom you need to take risks.

“A low-tier school may get you in the door at a tech company but top universities get your foot in the door at banks, consulting firms, tech companies, government agencies, non-profits; wherever you want to work, a degree from a top university can get you there. The elite networks get you in the door in the long run,” says Crimson Strategist and Harvard alum, Bryan Moore.

At the end of the day, top universities give you the option to fail.

And having that option, in today’s fast-paced entrepreneurial world, is what you need to become successful.

Now that you’re aching to go to a top US university, you need to figure out how to get accepted, sign up for our College Compass program to be guided through the whole application process.

Also check out our ebook of U.S. Financial Aid for International Students to gain more understanding about the basic types of financial aid and how to apply for them.


5 strategies high school students should focus to get into their dream colleges

5 strategies high school students should focus to get into their dream colleges

If you are a high school student who wants to study abroad, it’s time to get serious about your college applications.  You may feel like you still have some time, but your college application process actually started a few years ago. Every extracurricular, class, volunteer activity, standardized tests, and internship you’ve done and plan to do in high school is building your college resume and giving you talking points for your application.

To help increase your chances of getting into the colleges of your choice, we picked five the best 5 out of strategies that can ace your college application, suggested by the U.S.News.

Read here for the full article

Much of what goes into the hard choices college admissions officers have to make is beyond students’ control, such as whether institutions are prioritizing matters like diversity, legacy applicants, or athletic recruiting in a given year.  So it’s crucial to know all about everything you can control and learn how to “position yourself throughout the process,” says Eileen Feikens, director of college guidance at the Dwight-Englewood School in New Jersey.

To that end, U.S. News asked guidance counselors, private counselors, and the people making the admissions decisions for tips on navigating the madness:

1. Get an early start and finish strong

Colleges want to see that you’ve focused from the start on getting the best possible education your high school has to offer.  “You really need a four-year plan,” says Katherine Cohen, whose IvyWise admissions consulting company begins working with some families as early as the end of the student’s eighth-grade year.  “High school shouldn’t just happen to you. You need to proactively make the most of your time there.”

If you want to take calculus in your senior year, which many selective colleges like to see, you generally have to start with geometry as a freshman in order to end up in pre-calculus when you’re a junior.  If it took you awhile to get on track, consider making up lost ground in summer school or by doubling up on math, science, or foreign languages in your junior and senior years. “We like to see candidates who turn things around,” says Kevin Dyerly, director of admission at Whitman College.

2. Challenge yourself responsibly

While grades remain the single biggest factor in admissions decisions, strength of curriculum is an ever-closer second.  In the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s most recent “State of College Admission” survey, 66 percent of staffers said they assign considerable weight to degrees of challenge.  Thank the evidence piling up that high schoolers who take more demanding classes are more likely to succeed in college.

So planning your course load becomes a balancing act.  You want to take the most rigorous courses you’re eligible

for and are interested in—without sacrificing your health or social life.

“So many families say, ‘I’m going to have this many APs, is that enough?’ but that’s not the right question, because there is no magic number,” says Greg Roberts, dean of admissions at the University of Virginia.  “You need to ask … things like:  Where are my strengths? Where are my interests? … What are the top students taking?  Which AP classes are more challenging, and which are not?”

Admissions officers will glean the answers from the “profile” of your high school that your counselor submits with your application, which outlines curriculum offerings, demographics, and grade distribution.

3. Don’t apply too broadly

Grace Oberhofer decided to apply to an even dozen colleges.  “I wanted to have options,” says the 2011 graduate of Tacoma School of the Arts in Washington.  She got them: Though wait-listed by first choice Harvard University, she was accepted at Tulane University, Oberlin College, Brandeis, Duke University, Sarah Lawrence College, and Tufts, where she is a sophomore this fall.

But she was taken aback by all the time and effort it took to present herself to each and write all those essays while “making sure my schoolwork was going well and still trying to hang out with my friends on weekends.” Indeed, a recent study by the College Board showed that the vast majority of students report that the more colleges they apply to, the more stressful the experience is.  Perhaps because of that pressure, overapplying can actually hurt your chances.

“It’s tough to put together a personal, genuine application that shows commitment to a particular school when you’re applying to 20 different places,” says Jeff Pilchiek, the director of guidance at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas.  “It’s much better to be an exceptional applicant at six schools than an average applicant at 12 or 20.”

4. Work the wait list

High schoolers aren’t the only ones who have to deal with unpredictability.  Because colleges now have such a tough time figuring out how many accepted students will actually show up on the first day of classes, many are being more strategic these days about using the wait list, taking a number of students from it in order to improve their stats.

“Don’t regard that letter as a polite denial,” advises author Peter Van Buskirk, former admissions dean at Franklin and Marshall College.  Many

enrollment officers, he explains, “are saying if they have to admit four to five students in regular decision to enroll one, maybe [they] ought to take more students from the waitlist, where they only have to admit maybe four to get three.”

He recommends staying in touch with the admissions office and making clear that you’ll attend if you’re accepted, then sending in new grades and honors and even visiting again.

5. Be true to yourself

All through his time at High Tech High International in San Diego, classmates and teachers kept telling Nathan Roberts that he should aim for the Ivy League.  So he put Harvard and Yale University on his list, even though he sensed he’d be happier at a smaller liberal arts school.

After visiting Carleton College, Roberts realized it was the ideal place for him, with its excellent neuroscience program, small classes, personalized attention from professors, and focus on providing need-based financial aid.  “I knew I could get just as good of an education there as anywhere else,” says Roberts, who was wait-listed at Harvard and Yale University but withdrew once he visited Carleton, where he’s now thriving as a junior.

As for Kira Gressman, she spent the week after getting her rejections moping around and feeling sorry for herself.  She then took another look at her only option—the University of Colorado–Boulder honors program, where she’s now in her second year—and realized that it was actually a great match. She saw that there would be “lots of opportunities for me to succeed and to make a contribution to the world at Boulder.” And that, she says, is “what I really want from my college experience.”

Source: U.S. News


If you are thinking about applying for financial aid of any colleges, just go for it. Everest Education published an ebook called “U.S. Financial Aid for international students” that guides students every detail about that process. To get the full version of this e-book, please register here.