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Mehrbano Raja Mehrunnisa Noon Natasha Noorani

Student Council

CRITERIA FOR COUNCIL SELECTION: Good O'level grades. Good attendance in A'level. Academic performance in A'level. Discipline. Teachers' recommendations.  Student Council's recommendations. Conduct within school. Appearance. YOU ARE AUTOMATCALLY DISQUALIFIED IF...


Enthusiastic and hopeful students of LACAS form clubs they believe in and which are for the betterment of the society they live in. The Animal Rights and Environmental societies aim to promote awareness about these issues and to stand up for those living things who are unable to do it for...


In LACAS there are three main houses: Sir Syed Iqbal Jinnah. At the end of each year, the house with the most points recieves the Annual House Cup. The categories considered when  awarding house points include: ACADEMICS Percentage of As scored in the December and June...

College Counselling

A guide to applying to college, SAT, A level past papers etc.

Dress Code

Know what the school allows you to wear on ordinary days and special school events! UNIFORM (SUMMER) GIRLS: Plain White Shalwar Qameez with half or full sleeves (no patterns, embroidery or chikan) Shirt should be knee length White dupatta with Red trim Flat Black Shoes or...

College Counselling

A guide to applying to college, SAT, A level past papers etc.


Pulling Your Applications Together

  • Narrow your list of colleges to between 5 and 10 and review it with your counselor. Get an application and financial aid info from each. Visit as many as possible.
  • Make a master calendar and note:
    • Test dates, fees, and deadlines
    • College application due dates
    • Required financial aid applications and their deadlines
    • Recommendations, transcripts, and other necessary materials
    • Your high school's deadlines for application requests, such as your transcript
  • Ask for recommendations. Give each person your resume, a stamped, addressed envelope, and any required forms.
  • Write application essays and ask teachers, parents, and friends to read first drafts.

Applying Early Action or Early Decision?

  • November 1: For early admissions, colleges may require test scores and applications in early November. Send your SAT® scores at
  • Ask if your college offers an early estimate of financial aid eligibility

Get Financial Aid Info

  • Attend financial aid info events in your area.
  • Talk to your counselor about CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE® and learn about it with Completing the PROFILE.
  • Use Scholarship Search at, review scholarship books, and ask your counselor about local and state funding sources.


Application Details

  • Most regular applications are due between January 1 and February 15. Keep copies of everything you send to colleges.
  • Have your high school send your transcript to colleges.
  • Contact colleges to make sure they've received all application materials.

Financial Aid: Apply Early. Apply Right.

  • You and your family should save this year's pay stubs to estimate income on aid forms that you'll file early next year.
  • Submit your FAFSA as soon after January 1 as possible. Men 18 or older must register for the selective service to receive federal financial aid.
  • Many priority financial aid deadlines fall in February. To get the most attractive award package, apply by the priority date. Keep copies of everything you send.


When the Letters Start Rolling In

  • You should get acceptance letters and financial aid offers by mid-April.
  • Use Compare Your Aid Awards to compare awards from different colleges. Questions? Talk to financial aid officers. Not enough aid? Ask if other financing plans are available.
  • If you haven't already, visit your final college before accepting.

May 1: Making Your Final Choice

  • You must tell every college of your acceptance or rejection of offers of admission or financial aid by May 1. Send a deposit to the college you choose.
  • Wait-listed? If you will enroll if accepted, tell the admissions director your intent and ask how to strengthen your application. Need financial aid? Ask if funds will be available if you're accepted.


Next Steps

  • Ask your high school to send a final transcript to your college.
  • Start preparing for the year ahead.

College Application Calendar

Save the Date for College

College applications can seem overwhelming at first glance. What needs to be done, and when? Use this calendar to get a bird's-eye view of the college application process.

Summer Before Senior Year

  • Visit colleges that interest you. Call ahead for the campus tour schedule. Schedule an on-campus interview with an admissions representative.
  • Finalize your list of colleges. Be sure your list "safety" schools, as well as good "match" and "reach" schools.  Request college applications and informational packets. Organize materials into separate files by college.
  • Keep a college calendar of all admissions deadlines.
  • If you plan on competing in Division I or Division II college sports and want to be eligible to be recruited by colleges, you must register with the NCAA Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse.
  • If you took AP® Exams in May, you will receive your AP Grade Reports in July.
  • Register early for fall SAT® tests.

Related links:


  • Your counselor plays a big role in helping you get into college, so keep her informed. Meet to talk about your college plans and review your transcript.
  • Get started on your applications right away if you plan to apply through an early decision or early action program. Deadlines for early applications tend to fall in October or November.
  • Start working on your college essays. Write essays that focus on your experiences and make you stand out from the crowd.
  • Update your resume—your list of accomplishments, involvements, and work experiences—with your senior year activities. Your resume will help you complete your applications and essays.

Related links:


  • Ask your counselor, teachers, and coaches or employers for letters of recommendation. Give them plenty of time to meet your deadlines and make sure to provide them with stamped and addressed envelopes.
  • Take SAT tests. Make sure your scores are sent to each of your colleges.
  • If you are applying under an early decision or early action program, be sure to get all forms in as soon as possible. Applying online might be the right option for you.

Related link:


  • Submit early decision and early action applications on time.
  • Work hard at completing your college essays. Proofread them rigorously for mistakes.
  • Follow up with your teachers to ensure that letters of recommendation are sent on time to meet your deadlines.
  • Mail applications as early as possible for colleges with rolling deadlines (admissions decisions are made as applications are received).
  • Take SAT tests. Make sure your scores are sent to each one of your colleges.

Related links:


  • Try to wrap up college applications before winter break. Make copies of each application before you send it.
  • Take SAT tests. Make sure your scores are sent to each one of your colleges.
  • Early decision and early application responses arrive this month.


  • Early decision and early application responses arrive this month.
  • Some colleges include your first-semester grades as part of your application folder. This is called the mid-year grade report. Have your counselor send your grades to colleges that require them.


  • Contact your colleges and confirm that all necessary application materials have been received.
  • Don't get senioritis! Colleges want to see strong second half grades.

Related links:


  • Some admissions decisions arrive this month. Read everything you receive carefully, as some of it may require action on your part.

Related links:


  • Most admissions decisions and financial aid award letters arrive this month. Read everything you receive carefully, as some of it may require action on your part.
  • Make a final decision, and mail the enrollment form and deposit check to the school you select before May 1 (the enrollment deadline for most schools).
  • Notify each of the schools to which you were accepted that you will not be attending in writing so that your spot can be freed up for another student.
  • On the waiting list? Contact the admissions office and let them know of your continued interest in the college and update them on your spring semester grades and activities.

Related links:


  • AP Exams are administered. In 2008, AP Exams are scheduled for May 5-9 and May 12-16. Make sure your AP Grade Report is sent to your college.
  • Study hard for final exams. Most admissions offers are contingent on your final grades.
  • Thank your counselor, teachers, coaches, and anyone else who wrote you recommendations or otherwise helped with your college applications.

Related link:


  • Have your counselor send your final transcript to your college choice.
  • If you plan on competing in Division I or Division II college sports, have your counselor send your final transcript to the NCAA Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse.


  • Make travel plans. Book early for the best prices.
  • Finalize your housing plans.
  • Shop for items you will need in college.
  • Make sure to sign up for first-year orientation.
  • Plan your first-semester courses with an eye towards eventually selecting your college major.

Related links:

This calendar is only a general guide and will not apply to all colleges. Consult application materials, admissions offices, and institution websites for the specific requirements and deadlines for each of your colleges.

Financial Aid Calendar

Apply Early. Apply Right.

There's no need to be intimidated by the prospect of applying for financial aid. Millions of families apply for aid successfully each year. Use this calendar to stay a step ahead of deadlines—when you're applying for aid, time is money.

Summer Before Senior Year

  • Request college applications and financial aid information. Organize all college materials into separate files by college. You can use My College List to keep track of deadlines and materials.
  • Keep a college calendar of all admissions and financial aid deadlines.
  • Start to research scholarships online.  Find out if your parents' employers offer scholarships or tuition reimbursement. Check with all the organizations and associations to which you and your parents belong.
  • If you have questions about how financial aid eligibility is determined, a good source of information is Meeting College Costs, available online in the College Board store. CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE® filers can order this publication at a discount directly from the PROFILE site.

Learn More:

Create a College List
Scholarship Search
Meeting College Costs


  • Meet with your school counselor to talk about college applications and financial aid.
  • If you're not sure if your family will qualify for financial aid you can use the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) Calculator to help you determine your eligibility for both federal and non-federal financial aid programs.

Learn More:

EFC Calculator


  • Early decision or early action applicants who are applying for financial aid usually have to fill out a supplemental aid application using estimated income figures.
  • Some colleges require early submission of "regular decision" applications for priority consideration for merit- or need-based scholarships. This means that your admissions and financial aid applications might be due in the winter in order to qualify for some types of scholarships. Find out if your colleges have institutional scholarship deadlines by visiting their websites or reviewing their literature.
  • Ask your counselor for information on state and local scholarships. Many of these programs require the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the PROFILE, or both. Make sure these forms are submitted to all scholarship programs that require them.
  • PROFILE Online is available beginning October 1 for early decision and early action applicants who are applying for financial aid. You can search the PROFILE website to see which institutions require the PROFILE and to research their priority filing dates.
  • Male students who will be 18 at the time they complete the FAFSA are required to register with Selective Service to be eligible for federal and state aid. Students can register for Selective Service at the post office or through the FAFSA form. Call Selective Service toll-free at (888) 655-1825 for more information.

Learn More:

Selective Service
Where the Scholarships Are


  • Apply for scholarships in time to meet application deadlines.
  • You and your parents should request a Department of Education PIN number. The PIN serves as an electronic signature for FAFSA on the Web and significantly reduces processing time.
  • If you're applying for regular decision admissions and for financial aid it is not too early to submit the PROFILE application. Visit PROFILE Online to learn more about the PROFILE service and how to submit the application online. Remember, unlike the FAFSA, you do not need to wait until after January 1 to submit PROFILE.

Learn More:

How to Apply for a Scholarship


  • Apply for scholarships in time to meet application deadlines.
  • Get a FAFSA from the guidance office before winter vacation begins.
  • If you are planning to submit FAFSA online (highly recommended), you should visit FAFSA on the Web and familiarize yourself with the website's content and features.
  • Start gathering identity and financial documents necessary to complete FAFSA. Visit FAFSA on the Web for a list of required documents.
  • Early decision and early action responses should arrive this month. If you are admitted to your early decision school and you have applied for financial aid you should also receive a financial aid award. (Note: some early action programs may admit a student but not send a financial aid award notice until later in the spring. Check the college's literature for more information.) Read the award letter carefully. Some awards require you to submit a written acceptance. If you have questions about the financial aid award, contact the financial aid office directly. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of the award before making a final decision.

Learn More:

FAFSA on the Web
FAFSA: Required Documents


  • Income and asset figures from your tax return are needed to complete the FAFSA, so it's a good idea for you and your parents to prepare returns as early as possible this year. However, it is not necessary to submit your tax return to the IRS before submitting the FAFSA.
  • If a college requires the PROFILE, start filling out the application as soon as possible to meet February priority deadlines. PROFILE filers who complete the application after January 5 can print out a FAFSA worksheet, which provides answers to most of the FAFSA questions.
  • Sign and submit the FAFSA as soon as possible, but after January 1. Applying early improves the chances of receiving aid from as many sources as possible.
  • If you are submitting FAFSA online you might find it helpful to complete the preapplication worksheet, available on FAFSA on the Web. This worksheet is designed to help your family organize your financial information for the online version of FAFSA and should not be submitted to federal processors.
  • Don't forget to complete the institutional financial aid application for each college, if one is required.
  • If you're applying to one or more colleges or scholarship programs that participate in the Institutional Documentation Service (IDOC) service, you may be asked to send tax returns and other documents to the IDOC customer service address. IDOC:
    • Is free to students
    • Streamlines the financial aid application process
    • Reduces costs to families for copying and mailing required forms

Learn More:

How to Complete the FAFSA
Learn about IDOC


  • February is Financial Aid Awareness Month. Participate in activities, such as financial aid information nights, scheduled by your high school or local colleges. These activities will offer you the opportunity to learn more about how financial aid eligibility is determined.
  • Most priority deadlines for PROFILE fall in early to middle February. Make sure the application is received in time to meet these deadlines.
  • Priority financial aid deadlines tend to fall in February. Applications received by the priority deadline are given the highest consideration.
  • The Student Aid Report (SAR) should arrive anywhere from two to four weeks after the FAFSA is submitted. The EFC figure is printed on the front page at the upper right. If the SAR has not been received four weeks after submitting the FAFSA, call (800) 4-FED-AID or (800) 433-3243/ TTY (800) 730-8913. If there are any errors on the SAR, make corrections and mail it back immediately.

    If you provided a valid email address on the FAFSA, you will be sent a link to an electronic version of the SAR. Make corrections to the SAR online at FAFSA on the Web.

Learn More:

Your EFC: FAQs
FAFSA on the Web


  • Your FAFSA may be chosen for a routine process known as "verification," in which the information reported on the FAFSA is checked against copies of signed tax returns. An asterisk next to the EFC figure on your SAR means your application has been selected for verification. If selected for verification, be sure to submit all requested documentation to the financial aid office in a timely fashion.
  • The SAR should arrive anywhere from two to four weeks after the FAFSA is submitted. The EFC figure is printed on the front page at the upper right. If the SAR has not been received four weeks after submitting the FAFSA, call (800) 4-FED-AID or (800) 433-3243/ TTY (800) 730-8913. If there are any errors on the SAR, make corrections and mail it back immediately.

    If you provided a valid email address on the FAFSA, you'll be sent a link to an electronic version of the SAR. Make corrections to the SAR online at FAFSA on the Web.
  • Some admissions decisions and financial aid award letters arrive this month.
  • Start looking for summer jobs or internships.

Learn More:

Why Your EFC Isn't Set in Stone
FAFSA on the Web


  • Admissions decisions and financial aid award letters arrive this month. Read aid award letters carefully and be sure to meet deadlines for accepting awards.
  • Use the Compare Your Aid Awards tool to see a side-by-side comparison of aid awards.
  • If full need has not been met, or if your family's financial circumstances have changed, consider appealing the aid award.
  • Make a final decision and mail the enrollment form and deposit check to your final-choice college before May 1, the reply deadline for most colleges.
  • Hit the books for next month's AP Exams. Your AP scores will determine how much credit is granted—college credit for AP Exams can mean big savings.

Learn More:

Your Aid Award Explained
Compare Your Aid Awards Tool
Selecting a Financial Aid Package


  • Take AP Exams. Make sure scores will be sent to your final-choice college.
  • If it will be difficult for your family to pay the Expected Family Contribution for the semester, it's time to start pursuing alternatives such as parent loans or private loans to close the financial aid gap.
  • If student loans are part of your financial aid package, the college will send instructions about the loan application process. You will need to complete and sign a form called the Master Promissory Note (MPN) in order to receive your Stafford Loan.  This is necessary whether you are borrowing your Stafford Loan from the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFEL) or the Direct Loan Program.

Learn More:

Your College Loan Options

Summer Before College

  • The fall semester bill will arrive over the summer. Be sure to return it with proper payment as quickly as possible.
  • If all forms have been completed correctly and all deadlines have been met, financial aid funds should be credited to your student account before the beginning of the semester.
  • Work to help cover your first-year college expenses.
  • Make travel plans. Book early for the best prices.
  • Finalize your housing plans.
  • Set up a bank account near campus and talk to your parents about how to use credit cards responsibly.

Learn More:

College Tuition Payment Plans
Your Financing Options


  • Federal requirements state that Stafford Loan recipients must complete loan counseling (or an "entrance interview") before loan funds are disbursed. This is to ensure that the recipient understands all loan obligations. The college's financial aid office will provide you with information about the counseling process—in most cases, you must simply complete a brief online questionnaire.
  • If you have been awarded a Perkins Loan you must sign a promissory note.
  • If you've been awarded a work-study position, you will be placed in a student job.

Learn More:

10 Essential Borrowing Tips
Loan Repayment and Debt

Note: This calendar is only a general guide and will not apply to all colleges. Consult financial aid materials, financial aid offices, and institution websites for the specific requirements and deadlines for each of your colleges.

How Many College Applications?

Finalizing Your College List

Some students send as many as 15 applications, while others send only one. To ensure a successful match, apply to a diverse group of schools and be realistic about the strength of your application.

Apply to a Range of Colleges

Your college list should include approximately five to eight colleges, but there isn't one magic number.

  • One or two colleges where you feel you'll most likely get in—a 90-100 percent chance. These are usually called "safeties."
  • Two to four colleges that are overall good "matches"—a 75 percent chance of getting in. These are colleges that fit academically and socially.
  • One or two "reach" colleges—a 25 percent or less chance of getting in. These are colleges that present an admissions challenge.

The key is to plan your list now, so you're not making last-minute decisions. Here's a worksheet you can use to help get a handle on your college list:

Safeties Matches Reaches

Don't Go Overboard

There are several reasons to apply to only those schools where you're sure you want to go.

  • The average application fee for college is around $35. Applying to a large number of schools can be expensive.
  • Applications involve a lot of time and effort. There are many steps and each item must be done carefully. Quality is better than quantity when it comes to college applications.
  • You may be taking a spot away from another applicant who really wants to go to that school.

Seek Help

Your high school counselor or college advisor can help you find the right number of colleges for you. They know you and your academic history and can recommend good fits.

Action Plan: A1 STUDENTS



Start Your College Search

  • Start with you: Make lists of your abilities, preferences, and personal qualities. List things you may want to study and do in college.
  • Jumpstart your college planning by reading about majors and careers.
  • Use College Search to find colleges with the right characteristics.

Start Thinking about Financial Aid


Plan Your Spring Testing Schedule

  • You can take either the SAT Reasoning Test™ or up to three SAT Subject Tests™ on one test day. Plan your testing schedule carefully if you want to take both types of SAT®. See the SAT schedule of test dates and register online for the SAT.
  • Use the access code on your PSAT/NMSQT score report to sign in to My College QuickStart™. With this personalized planning kit, you can prepare for the SAT using a study plan based on your PSAT/NMSQT results and explore lists of suggested colleges, majors, and careers.


Get Ready for the SAT

Explore Colleges

Prepare for AP® Exams

  • Do well on AP Exams and receive credit or placement at most colleges. Get AP Exam preparation.

Plan Ahead for the Summer & Senior Year


Keep Your Momentum Up This Summer

  • Visit colleges. Take campus tours and, at colleges you're serious about, schedule interviews with admissions counselors. Be sure to bring your campus visit checklist.
  • Request applications from colleges to which you'll apply. Check important dates; some universities have early dates or rolling admissions. Consult the College Application Calendar and the Financial Aid Calendar for a basic idea of the applications timeline.

College Application FAQs

Get the Inside Scoop on Applying to College

We asked two experienced college counselors to help answer students' frequently asked questions about the college application process.

Do I have a better chance of getting in if I apply early?

Nadine K. Maxwell: Many students apply early decision because they believe that there is an advantage to applying early and that their chances of being admitted are greater. Actually, this can vary from school to school and year to year, and may depend upon the applicant pool at the school where you are applying. Do your homework first and check to see what percentage of the students in the previous graduating classes at your high school were admitted early decision to a specific college or university. Are you qualified to apply as early decision? If you are, and this is a school you really wish to attend, then apply early decision.

For more information, read Early Decision and Early Action.

How much time should I give my teachers to write letters of recommendation for me?

Mary Lee Hoganson: Teachers should always receive a minimum of two weeks notice, prior to the postmark date. Be sure to ask in a way that allows a teacher to decline comfortably if he/she does not have time to do an adequate job. For example: "Do you feel you know me well enough, and do you have enough time to write a supportive letter of recommendation for me to . . . " Give the teacher a stamped envelope addressed to the college, along with any recommendation form provided by the college.

For more information, read Letters of Recommendation.

What is the Common Application? Should I use it?

Mary Lee Hoganson: The Common Application has been developed by a group of colleges and universities that belong to the Common Application group. They accept this application in place of their own without any penalty. You fill it out once (on the computer is the easiest way) and then mail copies of the same application to any school that participates. Some of the participating colleges accept the application online and some have a supplement that must be submitted in addition. The Common Application and all information pertaining to it is available at This is a great time saver—but remember to do a good job and proofread no matter what application format you use.

How many times should I take the SAT® tests?

Nadine K. Maxwell: How well did you do on the SAT the first time you took it? Some students are satisfied with their SAT scores the first time they take it. Students who have taken the PSAT/NMSQT® more than once and feel prepared to take the SAT often only take the SAT twice. Sometimes students will take it three times, but most students will take it in the spring of the junior year and the fall of the senior year.

My SAT scores are very low and my grades are very high. Will this affect my chances of admission?

Nadine K. Maxwell: While SAT scores are an indicator of success in college, admissions staff members look at many different factors when making a decision about whether to admit a student or not. One of the main things they are looking for is to see if your high school academic profile indicates that you have the potential for academic success on their campus. What kind of courses have you taken? Have you taken rigorous courses such as AP® courses? Have you taken AP Exams so that there are scores to indicate how you may perform in a college-level course?

My parents don't make a lot of money—will colleges hold this against me?

Mary Lee Hoganson: Colleges should tell you whether or not they have a "need-blind" admissions policy. Those that do never consider ability to pay as an admissions criterion. Other schools, which are "need-conscious," may consider ability to pay, but only for a very small proportion of the admitted group. My advice always is: don't worry about this.

For more information, read How Financial Aid Works.

I want to send additional material that I think will support my application? Is this okay?

Nadine K. Maxwell: It depends on what you want to send. Most colleges and universities read hundreds or maybe thousands of applications, and they expect to find the information that they need to make an admission decision about you in their specific application form. It is okay to send an additional letter of information to explain something that cannot be explained on the application forms, but other items that students sometimes send are not helpful and may be viewed as trying to distract the admissions staff members from the actual application. Talk to your school counselor about any additional items that you are thinking about sending. Their knowledge and experience will be helpful to you in making this decision.

How can I improve my chances of getting in off of the waiting list?

Mary Lee Hoganson: If a college is your first choice, let the college know that—although the college ethically may not ask for this information. Write a letter to the director of admission expressing your continuing strong interest and updating the admissions office with any new information that reflects well on your ability to contribute to the quality of the freshman class. In addition, you may wish to ask your counselor to make a call on your behalf. Many colleges keep track of these kinds of contacts and students who are enthusiastic and persistent will get looked at first. Colleges want to admit students off the waiting list who they believe will accept the offer of admission.

For more information, read What to Do If You're Wait-Listed.

Do colleges really care about your senior year grades?

Mary Lee Hoganson: Absolutely! Many colleges will not make a decision until receiving first semester grades. They expect to see a performance that indicates you are ready for college-level work. The college at which you make your enrollment deposit will ask for a final transcript at the end of the senior year. (Admission letters often contain something like, "Your admission is contingent upon your continued successful performance.") It is not at all rare for a college to withdraw an offer of admission when grades drop significantly over the course of the senior year. (I have a folder full of copies of these letters.)

For more information, read What to Do about Senioritis.

College Application Checklist

Keep Track of Your Applications

Use this college application checklist and stay on top of your application tasks, paperwork, and deadlines.

Application Checklist College 1 College 2 College 3
Request info/application      
Regular application deadline      
Early application deadline      
Safety? Match? Reach?      
Request high school transcript sent      
Request midyear grade reports sent      
Test Scores
SAT® required      
SAT Subject Tests™ required      
Release SAT Subject Test scores      
Send SAT scores      
Send AP® grades      
Letters of Recommendation
Request recommendations      
Send thank-you notes      
Write essays      
Proof essays for spelling and grammar      
Have two people read your essays      
Interview at college      
Alumni interview      
Send thank-you notes to interviewers      
Send and Track Your Application
Make copies of all application materials      
Apply online      
Include application fee      
Sign application      
Confirm receipt of application materials      
Send supplemental material, if needed      
Financial Aid Forms
Priority financial aid deadline      
Regular financial aid deadline      
Mail FAFSA      
Mail PROFILE, if needed      
Mail institutional aid form, if needed      
Mail state aid form, if needed      
After You Send Your Application
Receive letter from office of admissions      
Receive financial aid award letter      
Send deposit      
Good luck!      

College Application Requirements

There's More Than Just a Form

Applications vary from college to college, but most require some or all of the following parts:

Application Form

In the old days (well, a few years ago), you had one application option—a handwritten or typed form. Today you can often apply online directly to an individual school or use the Common Application, entering your information just once.

Application Fee

The average college application fee is around $35. (Some colleges charge up to $60, while others don't have an application fee at all.) The fee is usually nonrefundable, even if you're not offered admission. Many colleges offer fee waivers for applicants from low-income families. If you need a fee waiver, call the college's admissions office for more information.

High School Transcript

This form is filled out by an official of your high school. If it comes with your admissions materials, you should give it to the guidance office to complete as early as possible. Some colleges send this form directly to your school after receiving your application.

Admissions Test Scores

At many colleges, you have to submit SAT®, SAT Subject Test™, or ACT test scores. Test scores are a standard way of measuring a student's ability to do college-level work.

Letters of Recommendation

Your entire application should create a consistent portrait of who you are. Many private colleges ask you to submit one or more letters of recommendation from a teacher, counselor, or other adult who knows you well. When asking someone to write such a letter, be sure to do so well before the college's deadline.


If you're applying to private colleges, your essay often plays a very important role. Whether you're writing an autobiographical statement or an essay on a specific theme, take the opportunity to express your individuality in a way that sets you apart from other applicants.


This is required or recommended by some colleges. Even if it's not required, it's a good idea to set up an interview because it gives you a chance to make a personal connection with someone who will have a voice in deciding whether or not you'll be offered admission. If you're too far away for an on-campus interview, try to arrange to meet with an alumnus in your community.


If you're applying for a program such as music, art, or design, you may have to document prior work by auditioning on campus or submitting an audiotape, slides, or some other sample of your work to demonstrate your ability.

The Sum of the Parts

Your entire application should create a consistent portrait of who you are and what you'll bring to the college. The more the pieces of the puzzle support one impression, the more confident the admissions committee will be in admitting you. If the essay or interview contradicts information you gave on other forms, you may cause them to have doubts about accepting you.

If all the parts of your application are filled out honestly and carefully, with an attention to your conviction that each school is a good match for you, you will come across in the best light possible.

Early Decision and Early Action

If you find a college that you're sure is right for you, consider applying early. Early decision and early action plans allow you to apply early (usually in November) and get an admissions decision from the college well in advance of the usual spring notification date. You’ll know by December or January whether you've been accepted at your first-choice college.

Sometimes, students who apply under these plans have a better chance of acceptance than they would through the regular admissions process. These plans are also good for colleges, because they get students who really want to go to the school to commit early in the process.  

Early Decision vs. Early Action

You should be aware of the differences between early decision and early action before sending in your applications. The exact rules may vary somewhat by college. Check with your counselor to make sure you understand your rights and obligations.

Early decision plans are binding. You agree to attend the college if it accepts you and offers an adequate financial aid package. Although you can apply to only one college for early decision, you may apply to other colleges through the regular admissions process. If you're accepted by your first-choice college early, you must withdraw all other applications. Usually, colleges insist on a nonrefundable deposit well before May 1.

Early action plans are similar but are not binding, unlike early decision. If you’ve been accepted, you can choose to commit to the college immediately, or wait until the spring. Under these plans, you may also apply early action to other colleges. Usually, you have until the late spring to let the college know your decision.

Single-choice early action is a new option offered by a few colleges. This plan works the same way as other early action plans, but candidates may not apply early (either early action or early decision) to any other school. You can still apply to other schools and are not required to give your final answer of acceptance until the regular decision deadline.

Application Type Binding Can Apply Early to Other Colleges Can Apply to Other Colleges Under Regular Admissions
Early Decision Yes No Yes
Early Action No Yes Yes
Single-Choice Early Action No No Yes


Should I Apply Under One of These Plans?

You should apply under an early decision or early action plan only if you are very sure of the college you want to attend. Do not apply under an early decision or early action plan if you plan to weigh offers and financial aid packages from several colleges later in the spring. Also, you shouldn't apply early if it is advantageous to have more of your senior year work to show a college.

Which Colleges Offer Early Plans?

More than 400 colleges offer an early decision plan, an early action plan, or both. Use our College Search to look up each college you're interested in and see if it offers these options. You can also find this information in the College Handbook.

Some colleges have chosen to discontinue their early decision and early action plans because they are potentially unfair to students who rely heavily on financial aid.  There is a concern that students who apply early may be limiting their financial aid opportunities and feel forced to make a decision without adequate time to consider all aid awards available.

Do Your Research

Before applying to an early decision or early action plan, research all your options to decide which college is the right one for you. You can use College Search to find schools that match your preferences.

Get Input

You do not have to apply early decision or early action; they are simply options you might want to consider. Talk with your parents about whether it is in your best interests. It’s important that they understand there might be financial implications.

Get advice from your high school counselor and other trusted advisors before applying to a college as an early decision applicant. Your counselor is a trained, objective professional who serves as your advocate in the college search process.

A Last Word of Advice

In the fall, it may seem appealing to get the college decision over with, but you may find your goals changing as your senior year progresses. On the other hand, you may be confident of thriving at a certain college. If so, you're the type of student early decision was created for.

Early Decision and Early Action Calendar

If you are even considering the option of early decision or early action, here are the steps you need to take:

Junior Year


  • Take the SAT® and/or ACT.
  • Visit colleges during spring break.


  • Take SAT Subject Tests™, if required.
  • Work hard and keep up good grades (colleges only have a transcript through junior year).

Senior Year


  • Work on and complete applications.
  • Get teachers to fill out recommendation forms.
  • File early decision or early action applications according to school deadlines and procedures.
  • Take the SAT or ACT if necessary (Note: October is the last test date that makes scores available in time for early decision and early action programs).
  • If necessary, register for CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE® online or by using a printed form.


  • Continue filing early decision or early action applications according to specific school deadlines.
  • Follow up with teacher recommendations.
  • Work on regular-decision applications as a backup if not accepted early decision or early action.
  • File the PROFILE and any other college-based financial aid forms that may be required of early decision candidates.

International Students

How to Study in the United States

Applying to college in the United States can be exciting and challenging. It can also at times be frustrating. The key to a successful experience lies in careful planning and timely completion of the required steps.

Step 1: Think about Why You Want to Study in the United States

For example, many students come to the United States because of the diversity of educational opportunities available. There are more than 600 major fields of study offered at more than 3,800 colleges and universities. What are your reasons?

Step 2: Research College Opportunities

Answer questions about your needs and preferences, such as:

  • What do I want to study?
  • Where do I want to live?
  • Is the institution located in a large city or a small town?
  • How is the student life at a particular institution?
  • How competitive is the admission process?

Create a list of U.S. colleges that meet these needs. College Search can help.

Step 3: Visit an Overseas Educational Advising Center

Overseas Educational Advising Centers are located in major cities worldwide and are affiliated with the United States Information Services (USIS) and/or the United States Embassy. There you can find advisors and information to help you understand college searches, the admissions process, and financial aid opportunities. Overseas advisors are experienced and well-informed about American university systems and admissions procedures.

Use the Overseas Educational Advising Centers Search to find the advising center closest to you.

Step 4: Apply to Colleges

Begin the application process as soon as you've decided which college best meets your needs, and no later than 12 months before your expected start date. Remember to send all required documents and forms as soon as possible. U.S. colleges usually review applications only when everything has been received.

To learn about a college's admissions policy, select "International Students" on a college's profile page in College Search.

For More Information

The College Board's International Education office provides support for people interested in issues related to accessing U.S. higher education from other countries.

International Education
1233 20th St. NW, Suite 600
Washington, D.C. 20036

Letters of Recommendation

How to Stand Out from the Crowd

Most college applications request two or three recommendation letters from people who know you in and out of the classroom.

Whom should I ask?

Read the application carefully. Often colleges request letters of recommendation from an academic teacher (sometimes a specific discipline), your school counselor, or both. If a non-specified academic teacher is requested, your English or math teachers usually make good candidates. Also, you should use a teacher from junior year, or a current teacher if they have known you long enough to form an opinion. It is best not to go back too far, as colleges want current perspectives on their potential candidates. All the better if you get a recommendation from a teacher who's also been involved with you outside the classroom, but unless a college specifically requests it, don't use a coach or someone who can't speak to your academic achievements and potential.

When should I ask?

Make sure to give your recommendation writers plenty of time—at least one month before letters are due—to complete and send your recommendations, but as with anything, the earlier the better. Many teachers like to have the summer to write recommendations, so if you asked last spring, you're doing great. If you apply under early decision or early action plans, you'll need to ask at the start of the school year, if you didn't request one last spring.

How can I get the best possible recommendations?

Talk to your recommendation writers. For teachers, it's important that they focus on your academic talents and accomplishments within their classroom, because that's what colleges are looking for in teacher recommendations. Talk to them about what you remember about their class and your participation in it. Highlight a particular incident, paper, or anything else that might help them provide anecdotal information and specific examples of your achievement, rather than just vague praise.

It's also important that you spend time talking with your counselors and ensure they know about your plans, accomplishments, and involvements. You may want to provide them with a brief resume of your activities and goals; a resume can provide the best overview of your high school involvement and contributions. Also, if there is some aspect of your transcript that needs explaining—perhaps low grades during sophomore year—it's helpful to talk with your counselors to explain why and how you've changed and improved.

Helpful Tips

  • Don't be shy. Teachers and counselors are usually happy to help you, as long as you respect their time constraints.
  • Include addressed and stamped envelopes for each school to which you're applying.
  • Provide teachers and counselors with deadlines for each recommendation that you are requesting, especially noting the earliest deadline.
  • On the application form, waive your right to view recommendation letters. This gives more credibility to the recommendation in the eyes of the college.
  • Typically, you know your teachers well enough to know who can provide favorable reviews of your accomplishments. If in doubt, don't hesitate to ask if they feel comfortable writing a recommendation. In some cases, you may have no choice as to who to use, but when you do, make the best choice possible.
  • Follow up with your recommendation writers a week or so prior to your first deadline, to ensure recommendations have been mailed or to see if they need additional information from you.
  • Once you have decided which college to attend, write thank-you notes to everyone who provided a recommendation and tell them where you've decided to go to college. Be sure to do this before you leave high school.

Three Steps to a Great College Essay

You, in 500 Words or Less

The college application essay is a chance to explain yourself, to open your personality, charm, talents, vision, and spirit to the admissions committee. It's a chance to show you can think about things and that you can write clearly about your thoughts. Don't let the chance disappear. Stand up straight and believe in yourself!

The Essay Writing Process

Okay, boot up your computer and let's get to it. To write a college essay, use the exact same three-step process you'd use to write an essay for class: first prewrite, then draft, and finally, edit. This process will help you identify a focus for your essay, and gather the details you'll need to support it.


To begin, you must first collect and organize potential ideas for your essay's focus. Since all essay questions are attempts to learn about you, begin with yourself.

  • Brainstorm: Set a timer for 15 minutes and make a list of your strengths and outstanding characteristics. Focus on strengths of personality, not things you've done. For example, you are responsible (not an "Eagle Scout") or committed (not "played basketball"). If you keep drifting toward events rather than characteristics, make a second list of the things you've done, places you've been, accomplishments you're proud of; use them for the activities section of your application.
  • Discover Your Strengths: Do a little research about yourself: ask parents, friends, and teachers what your strengths are.
  • Create a Self-Outline: Now, next to each trait, list five or six pieces of evidence from your life—things you've been or done—that prove your point.
  • Find Patterns and Connections: Look for patterns in the material you've brainstormed. Group similar ideas and events together. For example, does your passion for numbers show up in your performance in the state math competition and your summer job at the computer store? Was basketball about sports or about friendships? When else have you stuck with the hard work to be with people who matter to you?


Now it's time to get down to the actual writing. Write your essay in three basic parts: introduction, body, and conclusion.

  • The introduction gives your reader an idea of your essay's content. It can shrink when you need to be concise. One vivid sentence might do: "The favorite science project was a complete failure."
  • The body presents the evidence that supports your main idea. Use narration and incident to show rather than tell.
  • The conclusion can be brief as well, a few sentences to nail down the meaning of the events and incidents you've described.

An application essay doesn't need to read like an essay about The Bluest Eye or the Congress of Vienna, but thinking in terms of these three traditional parts is a good way to organize your main points.

There are three basic essay styles you should consider:

  • Standard Essay: Take two or three points from your self-outline, give a paragraph to each, and make sure you provide plenty of evidence. Choose things not apparent from the rest of your application or light up some of the activities and experiences listed there.
  • Less-Is-More Essay: In this format, you focus on a single interesting point about yourself. It works well for brief essays of a paragraph or half a page.
  • Narrative Essay: A narrative essay tells a short and vivid story. Omit the introduction, write one or two narrative paragraphs that grab and engage the reader's attention, then explain what this little tale reveals about you.


When you have a good draft, it's time to make final improvements to your draft, find and correct any errors, and get someone else to give you feedback. Remember, you are your best editor. No one can speak for you; your own words and ideas are your best bet.

  • Let It Cool: Take a break from your work and come back to it in a few days. Does your main idea come across clearly? Do you prove your points with specific details? Is your essay easy to read aloud?
  • Feedback Time: Have someone you like and trust (but someone likely to tell you the truth) read your essay. Ask them to tell you what they think you're trying to convey. Did they get it right?
  • Edit Down: Your language should be simple, direct, and clear. This is a personal essay, not a term paper. Make every word count (e.g., if you wrote "in society today," consider changing that to "now").
  • Proofread Two More Times: Careless spelling or grammatical errors, awkward language, or fuzzy logic will make your essay memorable—in a bad way.

This article is based on information found in The College Application Essay, by Sarah Myers McGinty, which is available through our online store.

College Essay Writing Tips

Write an Effective Application Essay

A great application essay will present a vivid, personal, and compelling view of you to the admissions staff. It will round out the rest of your application and help you stand out from the other applicants. The essay is one of the only parts of your application over which you have complete control, so take the time to do a good job on it. Check out these tips before you begin.


Keep Your Focus Narrow and Personal

Your essay must prove a single point or thesis. The reader must be able to find your main idea and follow it from beginning to end. Try having someone read just your introduction to see what he thinks your essay is about.

Essays that try to be too comprehensive end up sounding watered-down. Remember, it's not about telling the committee what you've done—they can pick that up from your list of activities—instead, it's about showing them who you are.

Prove It

Develop your main idea with vivid and specific facts, events, quotations, examples, and reasons. There's a big difference between simply stating a point of view and letting an idea unfold in the details:

  • Okay: "I like to be surrounded by people with a variety of backgrounds and interests"
  • Better: "During that night, I sang the theme song from Casablanca with a baseball coach who thinks he's Bogie, discussed Marxism with a little old lady, and heard more than I ever wanted to know about some woman's gall bladder operation."

Be Specific

Avoid clichéd, generic, and predictable writing by using vivid and specific details.

  • Okay: "I want to help people. I have gotten so much out of life through the love and guidance of my family, I feel that many individuals have not been as fortunate; therefore, I would like to expand the lives of others."
  • Better: "My Mom and Dad stood on plenty of sidelines 'til their shoes filled with water or their fingers turned white, or somebody's golden retriever signed his name on their coats in mud. I think that kind of commitment is what I'd like to bring to working with fourth-graders."


Don't Tell Them What You Think They Want to Hear

Most admissions officers read plenty of essays about the charms of their university, the evils of terrorism, and the personal commitment involved in being a doctor. Bring something new to the table, not just what you think they want to hear.

Don't Write a Resume

Don't include information that is found elsewhere in the application. Your essay will end up sounding like an autobiography, travelogue, or laundry list. Yawn.

  • "During my junior year, I played first singles on the tennis team, served on the student council, maintained a B+ average, traveled to France, and worked at a cheese factory."

Don't Use 50 Words When Five Will Do

Eliminate unnecessary words.

  • Okay: "Over the years it has been pointed out to me by my parents, friends, and teachers—and I have even noticed this about myself, as well—that I am not the neatest person in the world."
  • Better: "I'm a slob."

Don't Forget to Proofread

Typos and spelling or grammatical errors can be interpreted as carelessness or just bad writing. Don't rely on your computer's spell check. It can miss spelling errors like the ones below.

  • "After I graduate form high school, I plan to work for a nonprofit organization during the summer."
  • "From that day on, Daniel was my best fried."

This article is based on information found in The College Application Essay, by Sarah Myers McGinty, which is available through our online store.


Sample Admissions Essays - Accepted by Harvard (Courtesy of EssayEdge



Influence? Why is it that the people who influence us most influence us in ways that are not easily quantified? Through her work with abused children, my mother has shown me the heroism of selfless dedication to a worthy cause. By being an upstanding individual, my playwriting teacher in middle school acted as an inspiring male role model at a time when I needed one most. By being approachable and interesting, my World History teacher in my freshman year of high school opened my eyes to the connections between a society's culture and its history and broadened my view of cultures and the world. While these influences mean much to me and have contributed greatly to my development, they came too easily to mind.

The fact that I could sit down and write a list of how these people influenced me suggests that the influence did not alter me in any profound way. These people are all my elders, and perhaps I feel distanced from them. The person whose influence shook me to the deepest level is a person whose influence is nearly impossible to describe. Mike, the best friend I’ve ever had, changed me, and I changed him at one of the most crucial times in our lives: the seventh grade. We developed our personalities, our senses of humor, and our love for girls at the same time and in the same manner. It would cheapen his influence to quantify it; I am what I am because of him; I cannot say that about anybody else.

Mike came to my school in the seventh grade, and we immediately clicked. Before he came, I didn’t feel like an outcast by any means, as I had my friends that I had known since first grade. However, until Mike, I never had anyone my age to identify with completely. Mike made me feel confident in who I was; he reaffirmed my drives and my thoughts and my inspirations. At this awkward stage in our lives, we found uncritical appreciation in each other. We both were obsessed by movies and had a similar sense of humor. We had the same problems and the same thoughts. That was all it took.

Halfway through that same year, Mike and I became inseparable. In fact, our yearbook had a section that lists the names of students and what they were never seen without. Under Mike, it read: “Ted, ” and under Ted: “Mike.” I became a staple at his house and he at mine. We no longer had to ask our parents if it was ok to have a sleepover on weekends, they assumed we would. On weekdays, we usually walked over to his house, which was near school, and hung out there till I had to go home. Our favorite past time on those long afternoons after school was to walk to the nearby food mart and get a bag of chips and two 24 oz. Coca-Colas. Watching a movie, we would sit on his couch with our chips and Coke and talk about our dreams of working together in the movies. Mike wanted to be a director and actor, and I wanted to be an actor and a playwright/screenwriter. It was the perfect combination. We even tried writing a few scripts together.

Of course, as two seventh grade boys, it wasn’t all skips through the park either. We were extremely competitive and would get into brutal fights for seemingly no reason at all. One time, I pulled out a chunk of his hair, but I don’t remember what started the fight. I think that our connection was so intense that we could not have normal emotions toward each other. As friends, we were best friends, but in an argument, we wanted to fight each other to the death. Still, the Wrestlemania days were rare; ordinarily, the intensity of that connection was a good thing. I was pretty shy about girls, and when I did talk about them with guys, I would usually just say a girl was "hot." With Mike, I could really talk about girls and who they were; with Mike, I didn’t have to put on my public “cool” façade but could really say what I felt about a girl.

Then we went to separate high schools. We tried to maintain the friendship, and you might think we would have been able to since we had been so close, but we drifted apart. Our friendship was based on being near each constantly, of growing up in the same town, under the same conditions, with the same hopes, fears, and dreams. Now we still go to movies occasionally and hang out, but it's not the same, and we both know it. I thought Mike and I would be friends forever, and maybe we will be. I mean, we have to make those movies together, right? But the way things look right now, I doubt we will ever reconnect. Our friendship in the seventh grade was magical, and lightning doesn’t strike twice.

My playwriting teacher from middle school left, but I handled it. I learned a great deal from him, and I appreciate him for the subject he taught and the way that he taught it. I will probably miss my parents when I leave for college, but I doubt the separation will pain me deeply since the connection between parents and children will always be there. With Mike, I lost the best friend I ever had, and I lost that forever. Losing that kind of bond cuts deep, and I know it's the type of wound that doesn't heal. It’s the type of wound you just live with.

But just because we're not friends anymore, it doesn't slight the times we had when we were friends. Those times are what influenced me so deeply. No, Mike did not work some lesson into my heart, he worked himself into my heart, and even if I never see the guy again he changed me forever. I think that finding someone who you truly connect with and feel that you were destined to meet, someone who you feel truly understands you and makes you feel special, I think meeting someone like that is one of the most profound experiences you can have.



Sample Essay #1


Accepted by Princeton

Hiking to Understanding

Surrounded by thousands of stars, complete silence, and spectacular mountains, I stood atop New Hampshire's Presidential Range awestruck by nature's beauty. Immediately, I realized that I must dedicate my life to understanding the causes of the universe's beauty. In addition, the hike taught me several valuable lessons that will allow me to increase my understanding through scientific research.

Although the first few miles of the hike up Mt. Madison did not offer fantastic views, the vistas became spectacular once I climbed above tree line. Immediately, I sensed that understanding the natural world parallels climbing a mountain. To reach my goal of total comprehension of natural phenomena, I realized that I must begin with knowledge that may be uninteresting by itself. However, this knowledge will form the foundation of an accurate view of the universe. Much like every step while hiking leads the hiker nearer the mountain peak, all knowledge leads the scientist nearer total understanding.

Above tree line, the barrenness and silence of the hike taught me that individuals must have their own direction. All hikers know that they must carry complete maps to reach their destinations; they do not allow others to hold their maps for them. Similarly, surrounded only by mountaintops, sky, and silence, I recognized the need to remain individually focused on my life's goal of understanding the physical universe.

At the summit, the view of the surrounding mountain range is spectacular. The panorama offers a view of hills and smaller mountains. Some people during their lives climb many small hills. However, to have the most accurate view of the world, I must be dedicated to climbing the biggest mountains I can find. Too often people simply hike across a flat valley without ascending because they content themselves with the scenery. The mountain showed me that I cannot content myself with the scenery.

When night fell upon the summit, I stared at the slowly appearing stars until they completely filled the night sky. Despite the windy conditions and below freezing temperatures, I could not tear myself away from the awe-inspiring beauty of the cosmos. Similarly, despite the frustration and difficulties inherent in scientific study, I cannot retreat from my goal of universal understanding.

When observing Saturn's rising, the Milky Way Cloud, and the Perseid meteor shower, I simultaneously felt a great sense of insignificance and purpose. Obviously, earthly concerns are insignificant to the rest of the universe. However, I experienced the overriding need to understand the origins and causes of these phenomena. The hike also strengthened my resolve to climb the mountain of knowledge while still taking time to gaze at the wondrous scenery. Only then can the beauty of the universe and the study of science be purposefully united. Attaining this union is my lifelong goal.



Sample Essay #2


Accepted by Cornell

Question: Tell us about an opinion have you had to defend. How has this affected your belief system?

I chuckle to myself every time I think about this topic. I am perceived as a mild-mannered, intelligent individual until I mention that I am involved in riflery. It is interesting to watch someone's expression change. It is as if I instantaneously grew a pair of horns and a sharp set of claws. Believe me this gets worst; I am a member of the NRA. I try to tell these folks that I belong to the NRA to fire my rifle. "Oh my God! You fire real guns? with real bullets?!?" they remark with a perplexed look on their face. Besides having horns and claws, I now possess a tail and leathery wings.

This is how it began five years ago. I had played on a soccer team for several years. As I grew older I began having difficulty playing soccer because of shortness of breath. I was diagnosed as having mild asthma which ended my soccer career and eliminated my participation in most physical sports.

Shortly afterward, during a Boy Scout summer camp, I participated in riflery at their shooting range. This was the first time I had ever touched a firearm. To my amazement, I won the camp's first place award for marksmanship. I was more than eager when a friend of mine asked me if I would like to join a shooting club.

My parents were wary when I asked to join the rifle club. My mother feared guns, but my father felt there was no problem with trying this sport. Gratefully, he gave me the opportunity to try rifle marksmanship, despite secretly hoping that I would quit. Both of my parents were afraid of what people would think about their son's involvement with guns.

Like my parents a majority of people believe that all firearms are dangerous to our society. All they remember are the hysterical news releases of street violence and injured children. I am often asked how many deer I've shot. Frankly, I could never bring myself to injure another living creature and neither would most of the competitors I have met. Yet, I keep finding myself defending the sport from all of the misconceptions that surround it. Most people have developed a negative impression of the sport and I have found that these prejudices are difficult, if not impossible, to rectify.

Because of this conflict, I have become an open minded individual. I express my opinions without reservation, and I have learned to accept opinions and viewpoints contrary to my own. I do not intend to alter what I enjoy because of the ignorance of friends and acquaintances. If people have a negative view of me simply because of the sport I am active in, then they must be so superficial that they cannot see the person who I really am. I am no longer apprehensive of being perceived as a gun toting, trigger happy fanatic, even though I still endeavor to educate my friends and relatives on the beauty of this sport.




Sample Essay #3


Accepted by Wellesley

It took me eighteen years to realize what an extraordinary influence my mother has been on my life. She's the kind of person who has thoughtful discussions about which artist she would most want to have her portrait painted by (Sargent), the kind of mother who always has time for her four children, and the kind of community leader who has a seat on the board of every major project to assist Washington's impoverished citizens. Growing up with such a strong role model, I developed many of her enthusiasms. I not only came to love the excitement of learning simply for the sake of knowing something new, but I also came to understand the idea of giving back to the community in exchange for a new sense of life, love, and spirit.

My mother's enthusiasm for learning is most apparent in travel. I was nine years old when my family visited Greece. Every night for three weeks before the trip, my older brother Peter and I sat with my mother on her bed reading Greek myths and taking notes on the Greek Gods. Despite the fact that we were traveling with fourteen-month-old twins, we managed to be at each ruin when the site opened at sunrise. I vividly remember standing in an empty ampitheatre pretending to be an ancient tragedian, picking out my favorite sculpture in the Acropolis museum, and inserting our family into modified tales of the battle at Troy. Eight years and half a dozen passport stamps later I have come to value what I have learned on these journeys about global history, politics and culture, as well as my family and myself.

While I treasure the various worlds my mother has opened to me abroad, my life has been equally transformed by what she has shown me just two miles from my house. As a ten year old, I often accompanied my mother to (name deleted), a local soup kitchen and children's center. While she attended meetings, I helped with the Summer Program by chasing children around the building and performing magic tricks. Having finally perfected the "floating paintbrush" trick, I began work as a full time volunteer with the five and six year old children last June. It is here that I met Jane Doe, an exceptionally strong girl with a vigor that is contagious. At the end of the summer, I decided to continue my work at (name deleted) as Jane’s tutor. Although the position is often difficult, the personal rewards are beyond articulation. In the seven years since I first walked through the doors of (name deleted), I have learned not only the idea of giving to others, but also of deriving from them a sense of spirit.

Everything that my mother has ever done has been overshadowed by the thought behind it. While the raw experiences I have had at home and abroad have been spectacular, I have learned to truly value them by watching my mother. She has enriched my life with her passion for learning, and changed it with her devotion to humanity. In her endless love of everything and everyone she is touched by, I have seen a hope and life that is truly exceptional. Next year, I will find a new home miles away. However, my mother will always be by my side.

The topic of this essay is the writer's mother. However, the writer definitely focuses on herself, which makes this essay so strong. She manages to impress the reader with her travel experience, volunteer and community experience, and commitment to learning without ever sounding boastful or full of herself. The essay is also very well organized.


Sample Essay #4


Accepted by Harvard

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

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

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

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


Sample Essay #5


Accepted by Stanford

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

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

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

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

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

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