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Ashley Celada, Stanford ’25 admit, Wrote Her College Essay on the Little Things

"I thought I was a very bland person. But then I began to look more for little events, the little things. So, for example, my Common App essay, I ended up writing about my transition from middle school to high school," says Ashley Celada, a Long Beach, Calif. native headed to Stanford University this fall. Ashley is one of the less than 5% of applicants who received an offer of admission.

Dear Socrates, Feature


When Can My Student Stop Retaking the ACT/SAT?

I've encountered countless parents who insist on their children scoring at least a 1590 before giving up. I've even met parents who highly incentivize their kids to earn a perfect score on the SAT or ACT, by promising them their dream car or something crazy like that. Too often, these students are the ones already scoring 1400+ or 32+ on the SAT and ACT respectively. When my students' parents ask me how admissions officer see SAT and ACT scores, I use the analogy of tax brackets. If you know this, you'll know when your student can stop studying for the SAT or ACT.

The Skinny

Grads of this college get a guaranteed post-grad salary

  • Want a guaranteed starting salary? This college offers income insurance for its alumni.
  • Admit rates plummet as diversity numbers rise. Which university system is seeing this trend?
  • College rankings might be surprisingly useless. Why?


Top Admits: Hananeel Morinville, Vanderbilt University

“When I walked into my high school, the mascot was the Indians… I committed myself to changing my atmosphere. Having an Indian as our mascot is racist, because an ethnicity is not a mascot. Next year, we’re going to be Bisons… it’s really powerful to see all of that pay off,” says Hananeel Morinville, a Princeton Prize in Race Relations winner, Coca-Cola Scholar, social justice leader, and one of 6.7% of applicants admitted to Vanderbilt University despite B’s on her transcript and denials from NYU and U Mich. Hananeel learned that creating impact is the top priority for selective college admissions.

Top Admits: Daniel Min, UPenn Wharton

“Our school had probably every single AP class that you would ever want to take… All of the super academic, excelling students would have taken all of the hardest classes, but I never felt the pressure to take the hardest classes,” says Daniel Min, one of the 5.68% of applicants admitted to UPenn. Class president, Boy Scout, swimmer, and Key Club governor Daniel Min shares how he got into Penn’s Wharton undergrad business program without tutors and consultants, while opting out of SAT/ACT, choosing regular classes over Honors, scoring 3’s on AP tests, and writing his UPenn essay the night before the deadline.

Top Admits: Eva McCord, UChicago

“When you’re doing things that you genuinely care about and you want to dedicate your time to, it doesn’t feel like balancing time. It feels like living your life,” says Eva McCord, one of the 6% of applicants admitted to the University of Chicago. Michigan’s Student Journalist of the Year and Coca-Cola Scholar who earned a 4.33 GPA, 1570 SAT, and 35 ACT shares.


The Skinny

This college will soon be 100% tuition free, with a catch

  • All public colleges in this state will be test optional now. Which one?
  • This private liberal arts college just added two new application perks. Which school?
  • A welcoming 4-year college will soon be tuition-free…with a catch. Which college?

Teens are hot hires amidst labor shortage

  • Which universities’ graduates earn the highest starting salary? Here are the top 3.
  • Want to get $10k for college as a transfer from community college? You can get that here.
  • Now is the easiest time for teens to get summer jobs. Why?

Yale drama students get free tuition

  • What are signs that your teenager is suffering from anxiety?
  • Want a free degree from Yale University? These students can now get one.
  • These special students can qualify for in-state tuition in Colorado. Which ones?

A college located in an old grocery store

  • In this state, pick a high demand career and get free college tuition. Where?
  • This public college system is adding a new campus. Which one?
  • This old grocery store is getting turned into a college campus. Where?



Have a kid applying to college? Make sure you’re not overinvolved. Here’s how.

Your baby is applying to college. You are most likely paying for it. You may want to be involved with every step, from brainstorming to essay writing to college selection. While you are not alone as a parent who wants to know everything going on with your kiddo’s college apps, hovering over your child during this process can backfire. Here’s how.

The College Application Process, Simplified

Most people fail to see how simple the college application process is. Your student really only has to complete a handful of steps before applying. I break down the steps to applying for college, cutting out the fluff and optional stuff that everyone stresses over. If you want to see how easy it really can be, read this.

Teacher Columnist: Why I Deny Recommendation Letter Requests

Sally and Timmy loved to hang in my classroom and eat lunch with their friend group. I’d join them every once in a while and had a chance to get to know the students. They both asked me to write their recommendation letter to UC Berkeley. I wasn’t the best person who could attest to what the admissions team was looking for. Read high school STEM teacher Daniel Lieu’s column this week to make sure your child’s teacher won’t deny his request for a college letter of recommendation.

Colleges are like shoes. They look the same, but don’t fit the same.

A small California college once asked if my international student would have family living nearby. I asked why that mattered. From the international applicant’s perspective, U.S. colleges might all look the same, just with different names and locations. But international applicants receive varying treatment from U.S. colleges that may cause more expenditures, less flexibility, and a living situation that involves mom as a roommate. Here are 3 things international applicants should look out for when choosing U.S. colleges.

Teacher Columnist: Get great college recs with a low GPA and shy personality? Yes, it’s possible.

TEACHER COLUMNIST: “Just like how the fashion industry continues to perpetuate unrealistic beauty characteristics as the majority look, education often perpetuates a reality of a student with an excellent GPA, involved in sports, and involved in all the extracurricular activities as the norm.” Teacher Columnist Daniel Lieu shares 3 ways students with low grades and shy personalities can still receive meaningful teacher recommendations for college.

Self-Study AP Tests: Should We Do It?

A parent in the audience of a recent college admissions presentation asked me this: “A lot of students at school self-study for AP tests. Should my student be worried about this and self-study for a few tests too?” Teens should not be worrying about what others do and don’t do in their free time. Let’s break down the types of students who SHOULD and SHOULDN’T self-study for AP tests.