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3 Admissions Officers Share How They Evaluate Extracurriculars

Oh, the dreaded "Activities" section of the college application where our students list their clubs, sports, awards, leadership, and everything they do when not studying, eating, and sleeping. The directions are often vague and unclear. But the truth is that admissions officers are looking for something specific. This week, three admissions officers share how extracurriculars are evaluated. Hint: More extracurriculars is not always merrier, and position titles have less weight than most people believe.

Dear Socrates, Feature


If your student hates tests and grades, college is still an option. Here’s one.

We often think that college is for those students with high GPAs, who care about report cards and transcripts, and who can somehow never get tricked by multiple choice tests. But does that mean curious young folks who love learning and hate obsessing over grades, tests, and lectures have no place in college? The answer is no. Here's one option for those students.

The Skinny


4 Things To Avoid on College Apps, from Admissions Deans

Don’t get too arrogant, don’t overload on schoolwork, don’t copy others, and don’t freak out. From Common App essay prompts to UC activities to teenage attitudes, 4 admissions deans give us practical advice on getting those college applications and essays submitted. Here’s what NOT to do on college apps this year, including tips from UC Berkeley’s admissions dean.

Parents of Teens: The Conversations to Prioritize Before College Apps

“There’s an urge to keep pushing teens to be thinking about college even when they’re coping with a really unusual year right now,” says Dr. Abigail M. Stark, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist who treats adolescents with anxiety at McLean Hospital, a major teaching hospital for Harvard Medical School. We discuss the ways parents can contribute to their teenage college applicants’ anxiety or resilience.

Back-to-school anxiety? How to manage it, according to a teen psychologist

“If [your teen] wants to go to in-person college one day, have a job, be involved with in-person interactions, have friends, and make connections, it’s really important to still practice putting ourselves out there and tolerating some feelings of anxiety,” says Dr. Abigail M. Stark, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist treating adolescents at McLean Hospital, a major teaching hospital for Harvard Medical School. We chat about teenage anxiety during back-to-school times.


The Skinny

No need to save for college tuition if you work here

  • This mega corporation is promising to pay college tuition for its workers. Which one?
  • This East Coast college just divulged their admissions review secrets. Which one?
  • Covid cases have increased 30x in a month at this college. Where?

Teens spend time online to reduce stress

  • This top college known for its noteworthy commencement speakers just welcomed its biggest class in history. Which one?
  • What do last year’s Common App numbers tell us?
  • Research says teens spending more time online can actually be helpful. How?

Want free college? Sure, just wait 40 years

  • Worried about student loans? These colleges just forgave tuition and fee debt worth $2.28 million.
  • 31 colleges have agreed to give free tuition to students over a certain age. What age?
  • This Ivy League affiliated university is shutting down. Which one?

Crazy supplement prompts: This college is famous for them

  • These popular colleges have record high enrollment this fall, despite Covid. Which ones?
  • Which top college’s supplements are making some of us go crazy?
  • Some colleges have implemented permanent test optional policies. But which college is guaranteeing test-blind policies until 2023?



A Legal and Fun “Side Door” To Getting into College

For all the talk about the “back door” or “side door” to college admissions that involve bribery and other illegal acts, many students don’t know about one that is actually legal and possibly fun. This one was tailor-made for seniors with lower GPA’s who wouldn’t qualify for admission — and who are ready for a bigger adventure.

Students Don’t Need More Time Management Tips

Your teenager stays up ’til 1 a.m. finishing homework, turns in assignments late, and hardly has time to eat. You suggest joining clubs, getting a job, or adding more activities to their schedule. When college applications are left until the last minute, we assume it’s those darned time management skills — or lack thereof — to blame. But what if time management simply isn’t the problem? A new idea proposes energy management as the key to high performance and success. Here’s how college applicants can manage their energy — not time — for personal happiness.

A Simple College Essay Writing Trick

I’ve seen a lot of online resources floating around on how to write college essays. From outlines to brainstorming journals to YouTube video tips to $85k hotel lobby bootcamps, the options for college essay writing prep are boundless. But among these endless options is one that I find simple and approachable (and you’ll address what admissions officers look for). It’s called the three-part college essay. The three-part college essay involves — yup, you guessed it — three parts. We can do anything when it’s only three little parts, right? Read details of the simple three-part college essay.

College acceptance rates are a trap. Here’s why you should ignore them.

The truth is that acceptance rates are like traps. They give applicants a false illusion about their admissibility or lack of admissibility into a school. Read our simple analogy and analysis on why a 6.8% acceptance rate to Northwestern does NOT mean your student has a 6.8% chance of getting in.

What is the USC Trojan Transfer Plan?

If your student wants to be a Trojan, but doesn’t make the cut, can they still get into USC (University of Southern California)? It’s possible. Enter the USC Trojan Transfer Plan with a 10% higher acceptance rate than regular admission. This is a lesser-known admission decision offered to select freshmen applicants who do not get admitted.

Admission to Undergrad & Med School as a High Schooler – Is This Right for Your Student?

Is your high schooler sure she wants to go to medical school and has the 3.8+ to prove it? She might be a great candidate for a program offered by select universities. High school applicants get admitted to grad school at the same time they get admitted to undergrad. With a guaranteed spot in medical school or dental school and the potential to skip the MCAT / DAT, these programs are typically geared toward health professions, like medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, or physician’s assistant. Read our overview, recommendations, and analysis of these programs here.

Why Do We Need to Write Multiple College Essays?

Common App. It makes college apps easy, right? Just write one personal statement, hit submit, and 15 colleges see the same personal statement? Or write one personal statement and one supplement essay tops per college, right? Sorry, not exactly. It turns out that your student may be stuck writing 9 different personal statements just to apply to 4 colleges — not including supplements. To most parents’ surprise, your student should prepare to write more than one personal statement for college, before even counting supplement essays. This week, we do the math and explore why.