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A Step-by-Step Guide to Filling Out a US College Application.
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They all count as extracurriculars. Colleges like to see what kind of person you are apart from your grades and test scores. The more well-rounded you are, the better your application will look to admissions departments. If you have had part-time or summer jobs in high school, colleges want to know about them. It will help show that you are responsible and capable. Something is always better than nothing. The writing sample, or samples, give you a chance to affect how the people reading your application will regard you.

The Common Application requires one of words or less, which elaborates on one of your extracurricular or work activities, and one of words. Some colleges that accept the Common App also ask for an additional, school-specific admissions essay.

Be sure to check with the college before submitting your application. You can explain who you are in the personal statement. However, there are certain topics to stay away from. You never know who will be reading your application.

Writing about how a painting at the Louvre changed the way you think about art is good especially if art is one of your main interests. Whatever you decide to write about, make sure it reflects you and not what you think the colleges want to read. Does your high school student need a private admissions consultant? It depends on your situation. Can you afford one? The first step might be to consult the professional organizations that offer affiliation: All of these associations post a series of requirements and ethical standards for private consultants.

It might be helpful to understand who your consultant is and what kind of preparation he or she has. As the market for independent consultants becomes increasingly crowded, many choose to enhance their knowledge of the admissions process as well as their ability to promote their own businesses through new certification programs, which are available through many university continuing studies programs. For example, The University of California at Berkeley, Extension has two different tracks for certification.

The Certificate Program in College Admissions and Career Planning is open to candidates with a Bachelors degree and requires five courses for a total of 15 semester units hours of instruction.

In addition to attending certification courses, some private admissions consultants have worked as admissions readers at universities. Many of their brochures will advertise that they are college application readers and can help with application writing. In most cases, this means they are temporary "external readers" hired for application season. That is, during every admissions reading period from December to February, most large universities hire temporary readers to help sort the great pile of applications.

Does your child have an idea where he or she would be comfortable in higher education and what learning environment will be best? It may even be -- surprise -- you, the parent or a family member. Professional guidance neither guarantees success nor is always warranted. In this case, pick a consultant with organizational affiliations, accreditation, good recommendations and clear explanations of their services and associated costs. Their assistance in application writing remains confined to stylistic, organizational suggestions, never to writing anything for the student.

A string of generic superlatives is not as useful as a specific, thoughtful discussion of your strengths. All applicants for first-year admission should request two letters of recommendation from teachers who have taught the student in core academic subjects: These teachers will best speak to your recent progress, your preparation for rigorous collegiate coursework, and your potential contributions beyond the classroom.

Supplementary materials can provide broader context to some parts of your application, but they can just as often be superfluous and distracting. But a third recommendation that raves about you, just as your other letters do, will not necessarily enhance your application.

In fact, it may dilute the effect of the two required recommendations. For more information visit our page on supplementary materials.

Your transcript is a significant part of your application. We look at your overall record, from all four years of high school.

We always remain mindful of context: Did you take a rigorous curriculum given these course offerings? Are there patterns to your transcript that reflect on your academic potential?

We rely on school profiles and guidance counselors to give us an understanding of your school and the ways in which you have been academically engaged. We also consider your standardized test scores. Think of testing as just another part of the application. Only retake a test if you feel you will significantly improve your scores.

If your testing is in the right ballpark, then it probably will not be the deciding factor for your candidacy.

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To apply to college, keep in mind that you need to start early in high school and do your research to find the right fit. The tips in these articles will help you tackle the application essay.

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Need college application help? Work with your very own advisor and receive the guidance you need to succeed in admissions. Informing students of solid college-resource tools can help demystify applications. Here are seven websites and apps we recommend toward that goal.