How to score band 7 and above in IELTS

How to score band 7 and above in IELTS

IELTS Band 7 is the ultimate goal for most international students.  A score of IELTS 7.0 or 7.5 is evidence that your English is good enough to join any university course, even at elite Oxbridge and Ivy League institutions.  It is also determined by your level of comfort and fluency with the English language in general. A majority of prestigious universities and organisations acknowledge this achievement, which will open up a number of doors for your future education and career. 

Although the idea of obtaining a high score in IELTS may seem daunting, it is perfectly achievable.  This article tells you exactly what you need to do in order to get IELTS Band 7 in each of the four modules of the test. 


In IELTS, you get one point for each correct answer, giving you a ‘raw score’ out of 40.  In order to earn band 7 or above, your module score, or ‘sub-score’, can be either 7.0 or 7.5 depending on whether you meet these minimum requirements, or exceed them slightly.

Your overall IELTS score will also be classified as either 7.0 or 7.5 depending on the average band score among each of the four modules.  For example, Listening Band 7 + Reading Band 8 + Writing Band 8 + Speaking Band 7 = IELTS 7.5. Learn more about how IELTS scores are calculated in our article: An introduction to IELTS test.


The IELTS listening test will take around 30 minutes to complete and is comprised of four parts.  In order to achieve a score of band 7 or above in this test, you will need to answer 30 or above out of 40 questions correctly.  Difficulty levels will vary for each question. From training solutions to how to tackle the test itself, here’s some techniques for you to score band 7:

  • Predict answers before you listen.  During the test, you will be given some time to read the questions before you listen to the recording.  In this time, use your training in skim reading to highlight phrases and sentences which contain facts or figures.  Doing so can help you to identify the type of information required and leads to ‘targeted listening’.
  • Identify parallel meaning.  Be ready to make the connection between what the speaker says and what the question asks.
  • Check grammar carefully.  In sentence completion tasks, you may need to change the speaker’s words to make them fit the question grammatically.
  • Practice using different skills at the same time.  You will need to use reading, listening and writing skills at the same time during the listening section of IELTS.  Simple solutions to help you train in the complexity of the English language before the test is listening to English-speaking podcasts, news and documentaries, all of which are easily accessible online.  It might be useful for you to pick out words you don’t understand and make notes of them as you watch and listen. This technique will help train your ears to listen out for specific words. 
  • Improve your spelling.  Your answer may be marked incorrect if not spelt correctly.


The IELTS writing test is made up of two tasks.  The test evaluates your ability to write appropriate responses, your competency in English spelling and grammar and how well you structure ideas.  You must answer both questions in full to achieve band 7 or above. Here are our tips to help you prepare and achieve this score, including how to structure your answers:


  • Always make a paragraph plan before writing.  A useful way to plan your answers is by properly analysing each task and writing notes.  You could also try underlining key words in the question to help you focus on the task at hand.  To manage your time accordingly to achieve greater results, it is advised you spend 20 minutes on Task 1 and 40 minutes on Task 2.  
  • Avoid repeating the same words too many times.  Paraphrase the questions and vary vocabulary as much as possible in both IELTS writing tasks.
  • In Task 1, do not attempt to explain or present reasons for the data.  You should only describe what it shows.
  • In Task 2, remember that you can write about other people’s ideas as well.  Practice using reporting verbs and passive structures to give your writing a more academic style.
  • Mistakes are much more obvious in writing than in speaking.  You should be continuously working to improve your English grammar while preparing for IELTS. Achieving a high score in the IELTS writing test requires you to be proficient in your spelling and grammar.  Luckily, you can find many online resources that will teach and help you practise the fundamentals. Apps can also be helpful for your exam preparation, including ‘Practice English Grammar’, ‘Learn English Grammar’ (UK and US edition available) and ‘Grammarly’.
  • Be conscious of word count, Task 1 will require a minimum of 150 words, whilst Task 2 requires a minimum of 250.  In addition, learn and practise what the word counts look like in your handwriting prior to the test, as you don’t want to use up your time counting words during the exam.  


The IELTS reading section of the test is separated into three parts, with a total of 40 questions.  You are given one hour to complete this section. You will also need to answer a minimum of 30 questions correctly (out of 40) to achieve band 7 or above.  Here are our top tips on how you can achieve this:

  • Skim-read quickly.  Try to find the main idea of each passage and of each paragraph.  Don’t read all the supporting details. Ignore any unfamiliar words at this stage.  Ensure you spend time nurturing this skill, as you must take in information as you quickly read it.  Skim reading without practise will prohibit you from processing important information accordingly. You are tested on your ability to efficiently locate answers during the time given, and understand the sentences containing key information.  This is where training your scanning skills will come in handy.
  • Identify key words.  Scan the passage and the questions for words you know will be in the passage such as names of people, names of places, and dates.
  • Identify paraphrase.  Look for similar meaning between what the passage says and what the question asks.  Participants with a wide vocabulary are at a huge advantage, and more likely to score band 7 or above.  This is because the IELTS reading test is designed to assess how varied your vocabulary is by using the following components correctly in sentences:
    • Synonyms – words or a phrase that means almost the same as another word or phrase. E.g. ‘important’ and ‘essential’, or ‘positive’ and ‘optimistic’
    • Paraphrasing – expressing something using different words
    • Singular nouns – naming one person, place or object
    • Plural nouns – naming more than one person, place or object
  • Manage time.  Some questions will be extremely difficult so you should concentrate first on the questions that are easiest for you to answer.  Take no more than 60 seconds to consider your answer before moving on to the next question.
  • Expand your vocabulary.  You will find the academic module of IELTS Reading much easier if you expand your academic vocabulary.  This academic word list is a great place to start.  To best prepare, you should comprehensively read and research words, phrases, and all elements of the English vocabulary, to train yourself in the foundations of the language and how it is structured.  There are many useful online resources and apps to help your learning. The British Council provide useful and free online vocabulary tests. is an excellent vocabulary training app which works as a dictionary and allows you to practise and make a list of words you would like to learn.  In addition, you can also make your own notes of various words and context surrounding these words, such as their meaning, examples of using them in a sentence, or pictures associated with them.


The speaking section of the test will take 11-14 minutes in total and has three parts.  You will be required to speak fluently and at length to score well in this section. The speaking section is an opportunity for you to vocally showcase your hard work and dedication to learning the English language.  To improve your chances of achieving band 7 or above, when speaking with the examiner, first make sure you speak more than they do, and ensure you are expressive and as fluent as possible. You will be assessed on your ability to communicate accordingly, therefore it is important you have immediate answers ready:

  • Memorise some checking questions. Be ready to use these when you don’t understand the examiner’s question. Examples include: I didn’t catch that, sorry; Are you asking… ; I’m not sure what you mean exactly.
  • Avoid ‘parroting’ (repeating back) the words in the question.  Always attempt to rephrase in your answer or use a substitution such as ‘Yes, I do.’
  • Avoid silence or hesitation.  Being silent is worse than making mistakes!  Memorise some ‘filler expressions’ for use when you can’t come up with any ideas.  Examples: That’s an interesting question; Let me think; What I want to say is…
  • In Part 2, try to keep talking for two minutes.  This is more important than answering all parts of the question.  The question prompts on the card are only there to help you, not direct you.
  • In Part 3, try comparing different ideas and opinions.  This should help you to keep talking even when you don’t have any strong views of your own.  You may want to practise improving your confidence in both presentation and conversational skills with a native English speaker, friend or family member, and someone you might know who is taking the IELTS test too. 


Finally, some tips that will serve you well no matter which band score you are aiming for…

  • Don’t Panic – It is natural to feel apprehensive before and during the IELTS test.  Before you take the test, ensure you are well rested and practise calming techniques to ensure your mind is clear of stress before the exam.  During the test, if you are unable to answer a question, try to not waste time panicking. It is important you try and attempt every question, however, if you are stuck, quickly move on to the next question to avoid wasting time and causing yourself further stress. 
  • Read Instructions Carefully – Ensure you read and follow the instructions on the Listening, Reading and Writing sections carefully.  Make sure you understand every question and what is expected of you from the test. This is crucial if you want to achieve high marks.
  • Take Practice Tests – In addition to preparation tips given throughout this guide, it is essential you study practice papers to prepare yourself for the exam.  You can find IELTS Practice Tests here.


10 questions to test your IELTS knowledge

10 questions to test your IELTS knowledge

Do you really know as much about the IELTS test as you think?
Or do you want to learn a bit more about it in a fun way?
This IELTS Quiz has been created for you to test yourself on how much you know the IELTS test. It takes only 3 minutes to see how well you did!

4 steps to build your IELTS study plan

4 steps to build your IELTS study plan

How to prepare yourself for the IELTS step by step, from day one to test day.

Preparing for the IELTS usually starts when you find out you need to get a particular IELTS score for your visa or your university application.  Many students spend months alternately worrying about the test and preparing for it. But if you think about it, your IELTS preparation actually began many years ago, when you first started learning English.

It’s important to remember that a language is a skill (like driving a car or playing the piano).  The more you practise the better you will become, and if you don’t practise then you won’t be able to do these things well at all.  Even if you speak English fluently, it’s important to spend a bit of time preparing for your IELTS test so you don’t face any unpleasant surprises on the day of your test.  In fact, some native English speakers score less well on their test than non-native speakers. Why? Because they didn’t know what the examiners were looking for when scoring their language skills.

So below we will outline a general strategy for the four sections and also more specific strategies to keep you on the right track in preparing for your IELTS preparation.

STEP 1: Learn about the IELTS test format

Improving your English is not enough to get a great IELTS score.  A native English speaker who takes the IELTS won’t get a perfect score if he doesn’t study for the test itself.  You need to have a thorough understanding of what the IELTS is, how it works, how it is assessed, etc. There can be essential little things like:

  • Should I guess at an answer if I’m not sure, or skip that question?
  • How many times will I get to hear a recording in the listening section?
  • What if the examiner can’t read my handwriting?

This step is about using the skills you have to get the best possible score on test day.  There are websites and IELTS preparation books to help you understand the IELTS test structure better.  Two overviews are available from and the British Council that will explain more about this and the different question types.  Or you can also refer to our article An introduction to IELTS test if you want to have a clear and visualized summary information in both English and Vietnamese.

Your goal in this step is to go in to your IELTS test session already very familiar with the types of questions you’ll be asked, how they will be scored, and what your strategies are to optimize your score.

STEP 2: Find out where you stand

If you don’t know what your current English level is in terms of the IELTS scale, you don’t know how far you are from reaching your goal.  So before making the exact plan, you can do a full length practice test to check your level. There are lots of practice tests out there but the easiest way to check your current score on the IELTS is to take the EFSET Plus.  It’s a two hour test and because it will give you an EFSET score and an IELTS equivalency score for both reading and listening, it’s 2 hours very well-spent.  Unless your speaking and writing skills are at a very different level, now you know where you stand.

Besides, we highly recommend you have a consultation with a professional IELTS teacher, they can look at your writing and speak to you and get some idea of why you didn’t get the score you want, and offer advice as to what needs to improve.  If you don’t know anyone, our professional teachers are happy to help, just leave us a message on our website or fanpage!

STEP 3: Create a balanced study plan

As with the IELTS, and with all things, the “secret” is to have regular and consistent practice.  This is true in all activities, whether learning a language, learning to play an instrument, or whatever.  The people who are successful are those who put in the hours, it really is that simple! As a general rule, for most people to increase their overall band score by 0.5, it can take around 200 hours of guided study and practice.  

So set yourself a time frame for your study.  Decide how much time you can spend each day or each week on your IELTS study.  It is far better to do a smaller amount every day to build skills than to spend 6 hours at the weekend.  Little and often is the key.

Don’t just go through a whole test – this takes a long time and you won’t have time for learning:

  • Do one or two sections of listening and one reading passage
  • Time the reading – but make sure you finish (see how much longer than 20 minutes you take and try to reduce this gradually)
  • Check your answers and then go over the listening and reading again to make sure you see why the answers are incorrect
  • Write down any words you don’t know – find out what they mean and try and learn them over the next week – make sure you can spell them
  • Can you use these in your writing? Or speaking? Are they words connected with a particular topic that may come up again?
  • Create vocabulary lists for different topics – they do come up over and over and you will see many of these words appear again
  • Now do some writing – depending on how much time you have – write a plan for task 2 or some notes for task 1 if you haven’t got time to write the task
  • If you need speaking practice then do this now – pick a topic and record yourself speaking about this for 2 minutes. Listen and then do the same task again and make it better. If you have time, do it again until you are happy it is well delivered.

When you get feedback from your writing, check grammar mistakes and practise these with a grammar book or online grammar site so you are clear about how to use this grammar in your next task.  Write down a list of things to check, so you can avoid showing mistakes to the examiners in the exam.

Finally, take some time off to do non-IELTS English things – watch a movie (use English subtitles to help with understanding), listen to a radio programme or podcast or some music or go out with friends and have an ‘English chat session’.

Sample weeks study plan

This is just an idea as to how it might look in general.  As you can see, you need to cover as much ground as possible, the general strategy of reading and listening, and the more focused strategy of getting to know the difference between the question types and the techniques you need to answer them. Also, you need some time for lessons and having your writing corrected, and general speaking practice with a study/language exchange partner, and the more skill specific sessions with your teacher.

This plan can be tailored according to your particular needs and time availability.  Even if you don’t have time to complete all the listed tasks for a given day or week, do what you can!  The goal of the study schedule is to keep you organized, motivated and on track with your IELTS preparation.

Click here to download our free, printable IELTS schedule template.

STEP 4: Test yourself again

When you can tell that you’ve improved your English and you’ve familiarized yourself with the IELTS test, there’s one more step before you sign up to sit the exam.  Test yourself again. If you took the EFSET Plus in step 2, take it a second time to see how much you’ve improved. If you can take an IELTS speaking or writing practice test, do that too.  Whatever you do, don’t skip this last step. It’s the only way you’ll know if you’re ready to spend money to sit the official exam. There’s no point signing up to take the IELTS if you’re not ready to get the score you need.

With this 4-step IELTS preparation plan, we hope you can go into your test session confident that although it will be challenging, you are ready to get the score you need.  When you get your IELTS score, that’s when you’ll know that your IELTS preparation has paid off.

If you need any help or have any questions, leave your comments below, our IELTS experts and teachers will promptly respond!

Everest Education is now offering you a reliable, high-quality IELTS prep to help you along the way. For more information, please go to our website: or make a visit to our learning center for an IELTS mock test.


An introduction to the IELTS test

An introduction to the IELTS test

1. What is IELTS?

IELTS, the International English Language Testing System, is designed to assess the language ability of candidates who need to study or work where English is used as the language of communication.  IELTS is required for entry to university in the U.S., U.K. and other countries.

IELTS is recognised by universities and employers in many countries, including Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S.  It is also recognised by professional bodies, immigration authorities and other government agencies.

2. Why choose IELTS?

It is the test for study – thousands of the world’s most reputable universities and colleges will accept your IELTS results as evidence of your English language proficiency.

It is the test for professionals – professional registration bodies in many fields will accept an IELTS result, including accounting, engineering, law, medicine, nursing, pharmacy and teaching bodies in many countries.  This means that after completing your studies, you may need to take the test in order to gain professional registration in an English-speaking country.

It is the test for migration – IELTS scores are required by governments in more countries than any other English language test as a requirement for permanent residency.  Unlike other providers, the IELTS General Training test is the only non-academic test available for migration to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, The United Kingdom and The USA.

It’s the test that help you waive many other tests – In Vietnam, since 2015, the Ministry of Education has decided to waive the Foreign Language test for high school students if they have an IELTS 4.0 or higher certificate.  Thus, by having an IELTS 4.0, which is quite easy to get, students a lot of pressure in the national high school exam. Particularly, if a student have an IELTS score of 6.0 or higher, students will be considered equivalent to 10 English subjects to some universities.

It’s the test that’s fairer to you – IELTS assesses you on your practical communication abilities and provides an accurate assessment of the four skills being tested.  It focuses on testing the language abilities rather than specialist knowledge of the candidate and offer two versions – Academic and General Training.  Plus, it allows for a one-on-one Speaking test one with an examiner in a private room with no distractions.

3. What’s on the IELTS?

There are two versions of the IELTS: Academic IELTS and General Training IELTS.  As you might guess, Academic IELTS is used for school admissions. General Training IELTS is used most often for immigration and employment.  However, Academic IELTS is still used for medical jobs and medical skilled migration. The Academic and General Training versions of the exam have the exact same Listening and Speaking sections.  However, the Reading and Writing sections on these exams are somewhat different.

The IELTS is divided into four sections, each of which focuses on one language skill.  The sections are: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. Listening, Reading and Writing must be completed on the same day, with no breaks in between them.  The order in which these tests are taken may vary.

The Speaking test will either be after a break on the same day as the other three tests, or up to a week before or after the other tests.  This will depend on your test centre. Below, we’ll take a closer look at each of the four sections individually.

  1. IELTS Listening Test

    The IELTS Listening test will take about 30 minutes, and you will have an extra 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet.  The Listening test is the same for both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training modules.

You will listen to four recorded texts, monologues and conversations by a range of native speakers, and write their answers to a series of questions.  These include questions which test the ability to understand main ideas and detailed factual information, ability to understand the opinions and attitudes of speakers, ability to understand the purpose of what is said and ability to follow the development of ideas.  A variety of voices and native-speaker accents are used and you will hear each section only once.

The IELTS Listening test consists of four sections:

  • Section 1: A conversation between two people set in an everyday social context, e.g. a conversation in an accommodation agency.
  • Section 2: A monologue set in an everyday social context, e.g. a speech about local facilities.
  • Section 3: A conversation between up to four people set in an educational or training context, e.g. a university tutor and a student discussing an assignment.
  • Section 4: A monologue on an academic subject, e.g. a university lecture. 
  1. IELTS Reading Test

    The IELTS Reading test will take about 60 minutes.  It consists of 40 questions. A variety of question types is used in order to test a wide range of reading skills.  These include reading for gist, reading for main ideas, reading for detail, skimming, understanding logical argument, recognising writers’ opinions, attitudes and purpose.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

IELTS General Training Reading Test

The IELTS Academic Reading test includes three long texts which range from the descriptive and factual to the discursive and analytical.  The texts are authentic and are taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers. These have been selected for a non-specialist audience but are recognisably appropriate for anyone entering undergraduate or postgraduate courses or seeking professional registration.

The IELTS General Training Reading test includes three passages with tasks.  It requires you to read extracts from books, magazines, newspapers, notices, advertisements, company handbooks and guidelines.  These are materials you are likely to encounter on a daily basis in an English speaking environment.

  1. IELTS Writing Test

The IELTS Writing test will take 60 minutes.  Task 1, which is worth ⅓ of the scores, must be at least 150 words long.  Task 2 is worth 2/3 of the scores and must be at least 250 words long.

IELTS Academic Writing Test

IELTS General Training Writing Test

The IELTS Academic Writing Test includes two tasks.  Topics are of general interest to, and suitable for anyone entering undergraduate or postgraduate studies or seeking professional registration.

Task 1: You will be presented with a graph, table, chart or diagram and you will be asked to describe, summarise or explain the information in your own words.  You may be asked to describe and explain data, describe the stages of a process, how something works or describe an object or event.

Task 2: You will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem.  

Responses to both tasks must be written in a formal style.

The IELTS General Training Writing test Writing includes two tasks, which are based on topics of general interest.

Task 1: You will be presented with a situation and asked to write a letter requesting information or explaining the situation. The letter may be personal, semi-formal or formal in style.

Task 2: You will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem.  The essay can be slightly more personal in style than the Academic Writing Task 2 essay. 

  1. IELTS Speaking Test
    The IELTS Speaking exam is an in-person interview. The interview takes 11–14 minutes and contains three sections.

Task 1: You will be asked to answer general questions about yourself and a range of familiar topics, such as your home, family, work, studies and interests. This part lasts between 4 and 5 minutes.

Task 2: You will be given a card and you will be asked to talk about a particular topic. You will have one minute to prepare before speaking for up to two minutes. The examiner then asks you one or two questions on the same topic to finish this part of the test.

Task 3: You will be asked further questions connected to the topic in Part 2. These questions give you an opportunity to discuss more abstract issues and ideas. This part lasts between four and five minutes.

4. IELTS band scores: how they are calculated?

The Overall Band Score is the average of the four component scores, rounded to the nearest whole or half band. The component scores are weighted equally.

If the average of the four components ends in .25, the Overall Band Score is rounded up to the next half band, and if it ends in .75, the Overall Band Score is rounded up to the next whole band. If the average ends with a fraction below .25 or .75, the overall score is rounded down. For examples:

  • Reading 6.5 + Writing 5 + Speaking 7 + Listening 6.5 = 25
    25/ 4 = 6.25 → Overall band score = 6.5
  • Reading 6.5 + Writing 5.5 + Speaking 6.0 + Listening 6.5 = 24.5
    24.5/ 4 = 6.125 → Overall band score = 6.0
  • Reading 3.5 + Writing 4.0 + Speaking 4.0 + Listening 4.0 = 19.5
    19.5/4 = 3.875 → Overall band score = 4.0

    If you want to see a few more examples, look at the first table in this score conversion article.

On the British Council website, you can find official Speaking Band descriptors and Writing Band descriptors. These rubrics apply to both versions of the exam, and they give you a good idea of what each IELTS band looks like.

5. What is a Good IELTS Score?

Regardless of why you’re taking the IELTS, the better question to ask is, “What is an acceptable IELTS Score?”

The IELTS score is used by a vast number of institutions and organizations to figure out whether or not your English is ‘good enough’ for eligibility – immigration, admissions, hiring, etc. If you are taking the IELTS for immigration, what they’re looking for will depend on the type of visa you need (e.g. work, business, for investors, for students, etc.). If you’re taking the IELTS as an international student, both the government and the institution may have a say about what is acceptable. So needless to say, there’s no one answer to the question of what a good IELTS score is. But all institutions will give you guidance on what an acceptable score is for the institution’s purpose.

It’s also quite important to remember that institutions don’t just require different IELTS scores. Different organizations also sometimes require different versions of the test. IELTS Academic is used for school admissions and medical jobs. IELTS General Training is used for just about everything else; it’s the go-to exam for immigration and most employment. And the score requirements for General Training can be very different, depending on the visa or job. This makes perfect sense. After all, a factory worker won’t need the same English proficiency as a technical writer, to give just two examples.

Now, let’s look at the IELTS scores that schools may want to see on your applications. The universities in the chart below are all top, world-class universities, with competitive requirements for admission. As you can see, every university has its own unique IELTS requirements. This gives you an idea of the IELTS range you’ll need in order to get into a top school.

IELTS Requirements at Top Schools Worldwide

All data taken from these schools’ official websites, as of late 2017.



Undergraduate IELTS Requirements

Graduate IELTS Requirements

Oxford University

United Kingdom

7.0 (whole test and individual sections)

Varies depending on program

Cambridge University

United Kingdom

7.5, whole test, 7.0 for individual sections

Varies depending on program

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

United States

IELTS not accepted (TOEFL only)

Varies depending on program, but most commonly 7.0

UC Berkeley

United States



University of Melbourne



Varies depending on the program, but is usually either 6.5 or 7.0

University of Auckland

New Zealand

6.0, with 5.5 in each section (higher in some programs)

6.5, with 6.0 in each section (higher in some programs)

Queen’s University




It’s clear to see that if you’re planning to apply to top-ranked universities, you should strive to achieve at least a 7.0. But if you’re not applying to the world’s top schools, a “good” score will likely be lower for you. Be sure to check those requirements on each university’s website.

Everest Education is now offering you a reliable, high-quality IELTS prep to help you along the way. For more information, please go to our website: or make a visit to our learning center for an IELTS mock test.

In next articles, we will deep dive into exam tips for each section of IELTS, as well as what and how you need to prepare for an outstanding IELTS result. Stay tuned for more!

Also leave comments below if you have any questions, our IELTS experts and teachers will promptly respond!









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