I have quite a number of friends who participated in The Gap Year, taking a break between high school and college. The results were mixed. As a graduating high school senior, I thought the idea of a gap year was ridiculous (why put off something I had been planning on doing since elementary school?) but now that I’m nearing graduation I see its value a lot more clearly. Here are a few things I wish I had considered three years ago.
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Though my junior year was the most academically challenging of my high school experience, my senior year was easily the most stressful. Even though I only took three serious academic courses, none of which were particularly difficult, I found myself consistently swamped with work, short on sleep, and starved of social interaction. Between August and December, I applied to seventeen universities and twelve scholarships, wrote fifteen unique essays, took two SAT’s and three SAT II’s, spent hours with college counselors exploring financial aid options, and maintained straight A’s and a part-time job. The work was certainly worth it—I got more than 90% of my application fees waived, was accepted or waitlisted at 14 of the 17 colleges, and am now a UC Berkeley student studying on a full scholarship—but there are countless ways I could have spared myself unnecessary stress (and gotten a lot more sleep.) Here are a few of the things I’m glad I did (and a few I wish I had done) four years ago to prepare for application season.
Thanksgiving has come and gone, Winter Break is coming up. The semester has flown by with quizzes, tests, memorizing odd facts about Charlemagne and imaginary numbers. But before you can relax, you have to climb and conquer those treacherous peaks of your final examinations. Only then will you be able to rest and sleep long hours, forget about setting your alarm, and float into nothingness (with the exception of all that fun time hanging out with your friends and listening to Taylor Swift).
Oberlin College is a private liberal arts college in Ohio is a self-described “ideal laboratory in which to study and design the world we want.” From its beginnings in 1833, Oberlin has been a progressive school dedicated to social justice. Twenty years prior to the Civil War, Oberlin had already graduated the first black student to attend the College, George Vashon, who went on to be one of the founding professors of Howard University. They were the first college to admit students regardless of race in 1835, and the first to admit women in 1837. Oberlin’s abolitionist stance and active roles in both the Underground Railroad and the ensuing U.S. Civil War cannot be overstated. The College has remained committed to progressive causes throughout their history.
The Juilliard School was initially founded in 1905 as the Institute of Musical Art. By 1946 it had become the Juilliard School of Music, and included both undergraduate studies and a graduate program. Today, the school is named The Juilliard School (known informally simply as Juilliard) and includes music, dance, and drama curricula at both undergraduate and graduate levels. It is an urban school, located in New York City’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and trains just over 600 students. It reflects an exclusively artistic education where students specialize in their artistic major in combination with liberal arts.
Tufts University is located on a hill outside Medford, Massachusetts. This small suburban research university began in 1854 as a liberal arts college. In 1933, the University added Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, which was the first graduate school in the country for international affairs. Under the tenure of Tufts’ President, Jean Mayer, the college transformed into an elite research university. Today, Tufts boasts two undergraduate programs, the School of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Engineering, and eight graduate and professional schools in arts and sciences, engineering, veterinary medicine, dental medicine, international relations, nutrition science and policy, medicine, and biomedical sciences.
Bates College, a small liberal arts college located in Lewiston, Maine, it was founded in 1855 and was one of the most forward-thinking colleges of its time. It started out as a seminary and was a stop on the Underground Railroad; consequently, many of the first students were former slaves. Throughout time they have remained a diverse and inclusive school that promotes the importance of rigorous academia coupled with the betterment of oneself.
The College of William and Mary is located in Williamsburg, Virginia. For a small research university, they give new meaning to the phrase, don’t let the small size fool you. The second oldest college in the country, this school has a long history of packing a big punch. Graduates include sixteen signers of the Declaration of Independence, three U.S. Presidents, and a U.S. Supreme Court Justice; it has been dubbed “the alma mater of a nation.” Students at the College of William and Mary thrive in every area, from academics to athletics to the future prosperity of their students. If you are a person who finds mediocrity distasteful, then this public research university was created for you.
MIT is among the most prestigious colleges in the country. Students attending MIT will need to be driven and focused to tackle the academic requirements in any one of the five schools within this college. There are over 30 departments in the five schools, each with equal parts work and opportunity. MIT operates on a 4-1-4 academic calendar meaning a fall semester, a four week independent activities period in January, and finally a spring semester. The independent activities period is unique to MIT and gives students, staff, faculty, and even alumni the chance to sponsor, organize, and participate in various activities. This includes athletics, lecture series, films, tours, contests, how-to sessions, and forums among other things.
Wake Forest University, founded in 1834, is a private research university located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and sits on a 340-acre main campus three miles from downtown. The Winston-Salem college town is nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is also a four-hour drive from welcoming North Carolina beaches. There’s a little bit of everything: mountains, Piedmont, beaches, and city, all in proximity to this suburban university.
Stanford University is one of the world’s most prestigious universities and serves over 7,000 undergraduate students and over 11,500 graduate students. This private research university, founded in 1885 was tuition free until the 1930s; recent years have shown the university going back to its roots and offering open access to select Stanford courses for online learners around the world.
Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university is located on a 36-acre campus in the Upper Manhattan neighborhood of New York City. Founded in 1754, Columbia is the oldest university in the state of New York and fifth oldest in the United States. The university has 20 schools and is affiliated with Barnard College, The Julliard School, and Union Theological Seminary. Beyond its NYC campuses, Columbia has Nevis Laboratories, a facility for experimental particle and nuclear physics, in Irvington, New York, and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, a leading research institute in global sciences. It also has centers in Amman, Nairobi, Mumbai, Istanbul, Beijing, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, and Santiago. If that isn’t enough, Columbia has the distinction of administering the annual Pulitzer Prizes awarded in print and online journalism, literature, and musical composition.
Rhode Island School of Design is a small fine arts and design school located in Providence, Rhode Island and is the perfect college for those with creative flair. Students have the opportunity to receive bachelor’s and master’s degrees in over fifteen different majors. Unique opportunities like the European Honors Program offered to juniors and seniors, where they can study in Rome for half a year, make this school amazing. With its own museum, a strong and mutually beneficial relationship with Brown University, and an intriguing academic program, RISD creates the optimum environment for those who want to be in the fine arts, design, and architecture fields. At RISD the opportunities are endless and a great start to a promising future in the arts.
Georgetown University is the oldest Catholic university in the country. This private research university in the tony Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. was founded in 1789 by Bishop John Carroll, and is a member of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. Georgetown University is dedicated to a combination of faith, service, scholarship, and research to create the next generation of responsible and compassionate world citizens.
Thirteen is Colgate University’s lucky number. The story goes that in 1817 six clergymen and seven laymen, 13 in all, came together with 13 dollars, 13 books, and 13 prayers to form the Baptist Education Society, which wrote the 13 articles of the school’s original charter, hence Colgate’s love affair with the number 13. The school is situated on a 575 acre campus in rural Hamilton Village, NY, and has been recognized as among the most beautiful college campuses in the U.S. It has a strong commitment to sustainability with a goal of carbon neutrality by 2019.
Yale University is ranked #3 in the Veritas Prep Elite College Rankings. It is a private Ivy League research university located in New Haven, Connecticut. Yale consists of twelve constituent schools; the undergraduate college, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and ten professional schools. The undergraduate school makes up a little under half of the entire student body and is one of the toughest undergrad programs to get into. Yale is an extremely diverse university where half of the student body is women, more than half are minorities or international students, and 55% came from public high schools. This is a university for academic excellence and 97% of those who get in were in the top 10% of their graduating class. As one of the few need-based financial aid universities, students in need usually get grants or scholarships and parents are expected to have zero contributions making it easy on the students. Yale University is committed to providing its current and incoming students with a well-rounded and profoundly rewarding college experience.
Princeton University is ranked #2 in the Veritas Prep Elite College Rankings. It is a private Ivy League research university located in Princeton, New Jersey. Princeton University was founded in 1746 and is the fourth oldest college in the United States. This university is committed to cultivating young minds who are in the top percentile of their high school graduating classes and furthering their knowledge to become people who change the world. Princeton’s generous financial aid program ensures that no matter the student’s economic background, if they are talented enough they can go to Princeton. With all the things to discover at Princeton it would be hard to imagine leaving it, however, a shuttle train known as the “Dinky” can have you in New York City or Philadelphia within an hour.
The always-anticipated, always-talked-about US News & World Report Best Colleges Rankings were released today, and…
Not a whole lot has changed!
Which makes a good deal of sense. If it were possible for centuries-old institutions like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton or massive state-funded universities like the University of California system to experience wild shifts in quality, your college choices would be a whole lot more unpredictable. College is a long-term investment and these rankings tend to evolve slowly even as schools update their curricula and campuses to stay cutting-edge. Within the Top 25 for National Universities and the Top 25 for Liberal Arts Colleges, the biggest mover was:
Founded in 1636, Harvard University is the oldest academic institution of higher learning in the United States, the #1 university in the Academic Ranking of World Universities, and the #1 university in the Veritas Prep Elite College Rankings. It is easy to see why this prestigious research university is in such high demand among graduating high school seniors every year. Forty-seven Nobel Laureates, 48 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 32 heads of state – including eight U.S. Presidents have come out of Harvard University. Nearly 325,000 students have graduated from Harvard since it began conferring degrees. Its 5,076-acre campus in and around Cambridge, Massachusetts is home to over 27,000 students – 7,181 of which are undergraduates, and boasts the largest academic library in the world. Add to that 24 University Professors doing groundbreaking research across many disciplines, and you have a highly sought after private university.
Brandeis University is ranked #57 on the Veritas Prep College Rankings. Located in Waltham, Massachusetts, it is a small research university with a focus on liberal arts. Students get to experience all the great activities on campus and enjoy a bonus of having historical Boston just nine miles away. The University is notable for their involvement in and dedication to policies that address mental health, health, youth, families, substance abuse, child abuse, and elder abuse, as well as being pioneers in international and community development. The University’s philanthropic identity is the backdrop for developing young students into mature adults who wish to change the world on both a large and small scale.
New York University is ranked #56 among colleges in the Veritas Prep Elite College Rankings. This private, urban university is located in the iconic Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City. Founded in 1831, modern-day NYU serves over 22,000 undergraduate students and over 21,000 graduate students making it the largest private university in the United States. The unique borderless campus merges seamlessly into the surrounding neighborhood. It also boasts a comprehensive liberal arts college in Abu Dhabi through the NYU global network, research facilities and programs in nearly a dozen countries around the world, and the addition of the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering in Brooklyn.
The United States Air Force Academy, is ranked #42 among schools on the Veritas Prep Elite College Rankings. Located just north of Colorado Springs, Colorado, it is the third most visited tourist attraction in the state. The pine-covered 18,000 acre campus offers stunning views of the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of 7,258 feet; visitors can also often see cadets dotting the bright blue skies as they practice parachuting. Frequent maneuverings of Thunderbird jets during their practices offer yet another breathtaking experience. The 10th and the larger Air Force installation, including firefighting, medical support, security, civil engineering, and logistical support.
Macalester College, a small private liberal arts college in the Midwest, is ranked #54 among the Veritas Prep College Rankings. Located in an elegant old residential neighborhood, it is just minutes from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. The Twin Cities is a lively metropolitan area that boasts museums, eclectic restaurants, Fortune 500 hundred companies, a variety of shows, and much more.
Barnard College, a private women’s liberal arts college in New York City, is #51 among schools in the Veritas Prep Elite College Rankings and is one of the most selective women’s colleges in the United States. Founded in 1889, the four-acre urban campus is adjacent to Columbia University in New York City’s Manhattan neighborhood. Barnard has a complicated relationship with Columbia University, being both a wholly independent entity with its own governance, and also a college within Columbia. Barnard students graduate with Columbia University diplomas that are signed by the Presidents of both colleges.
Boston College is #53 among the Veritas Prep Elite College Rankings. Located in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, its campus is often referred to as “the Heights” due to its hilltop location and Collegiate Gothic architecture that includes the iconic Gasson Tower. Founded by the Society of Jesus in 1863, Boston College is a private research university dedicated to the traditions of its Jesuit Catholic origins where research, academic exchange, faith, and culture intersect.
The college motto, Know Thyself, succinctly demonstrates the philosophy of education at Hamilton College. The core belief is that all students should explore their individuality and develop an academic path that leads to their greatest expression in the world. Ranked #41 among colleges on the Veritas Prep Elite College Rankings, Hamilton College was chartered in 1812 and named after statesman Alexander Hamilton, one of its first Board of Trustees members. The beautiful 1,350 acre campus sits high on a hill overlooking the quaint village of Clinton, New York.
Let’s get back to getting creative on your college essay. First take a look at Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this blog series. Once you have brainstormed, refined your ideas, and finally gotten them down on the page, the most taxing part of the creative process is arguably behind you. No longer must you stare into the infinite void of a blank page. However, the fun doesn’t end with the first draft.
Colby College, a private liberal arts school, is set high atop Mayflower Hill overlooking picturesque Waterville, Maine. The 714-acre Georgian Revival-style campus is home to the nation’s first college-based anti-slavery society, first Greek society, and was the first to enroll women. Colby College is the 12th oldest liberal arts college in the United States, and today serves around 1,800 students. Campus highlights include a 128-acre arboretum and wildlife refuge, a student-run organic garden that produces two tons of vegetables annually, the largest American art museum in Maine, and a biomass-fueled heating facility that makes Colby one of four carbon-neutral colleges in the country. Colby College ranks #50 among schools in the Veritas Prep Elite College Rankings.
When the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill opened the doors to its first students in 1795, it was the first public university in the United States. Over the years it has grown into a leading research university that embraces the role of change agent, and supports its diverse student body in their quest for success and prosperity. It is ranked #47 among the Veritas Prep Elite College Rankings. The 729 acre urban campus is located in the downtown area Chapel Hill, NC, and is divided into three sections; north, middle, and south campus. Most student housing and classes are on north campus, most athletic facilities, the schools of government and law, and additional student housing are on middle campus, and the basketball facility, medical school, UNC hospital, and the newest student housing are on south campus.
Wesleyan University is liberal arts college that is ranked #40 in the Veritas Prep Elite College Rankings. Located in beautiful Middletown, Connecticut, this campus overlooks the gorgeous Connecticut River. Within Middletown, students have access to a variety of museums, restaurants, and shops, as well as outdoor activities like hiking trails and river cruises. Wesleyan offers small class sizes, elite professors, and rigorous academic programs. Faculty and staff are devoted to making each individual’s college experience one that is completely unique for them. This University is dedicated to shaping students into diverse, creative, driven, independent, and generous people of the world. Wesleyan is more than a University; it is a place for students to thrive both academically and personally.
In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I have guided you on how to structure your creative college essay and where you could look for stylistic inspiration. However, by its very definition, the college essay is a personal response to the most common interview question, “Why don’t you tell me about yourself?”
Emory University is located in the beautiful suburb of Druid Hills, Georgia, and is ranked #46 among colleges in the Veritas Prep College Rankings. This is an exceptional and exquisite campus just 15 minutes outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Surrounded by gorgeous trees, flowers, and shrubbery, it has a small town feel within picturesque natural surroundings. This school is in a perfect location for those who like to experience all four seasons and want variety in their life and education. It’s only a half-day trip to many South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida beaches, or the Blue Ridge or Great Smoky Mountains are also just a few hours’ drive. Attending Emory University allows you the opportunity to explore all Georgia has to offer.
Carnegie Mellon University is ranked #48 among the Veritas Prep Elite College Rankings. This private research university is a blend of the former Carnegie Institute of Technology and the former Mellon Institute of Industrial Research. The University became an epicenter for education in robotics, artificial intelligence, business, and the arts. Their pioneering “Andrew” computing network that linked together every computer work station on campus became a model for technology in education.
Ranked #43 among colleges in the Veritas Prep College Rankings is The University of Southern California. Located in Los Angeles, USC is one of the largest research universities in the nation. Set in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, the campus boasts breathtaking renaissance-style architecture surrounded by beautiful sculptures, water fountains, and well-manicured seating areas. The campus is an oasis of tranquil beauty, but once you step outside its comfort, you’re in the hustle and bustle of all things LA. A wide array of delicious eateries, cute shops, excellent nightlife, and the chance to spot a celebrity or two when grabbing your favorite chai are just a few of the perks of going to school in the City of Angels. If you want a well-rounded education in a city that is famous for making dreams come true, then the University of Southern California is the college for you.
In Part 1 of this series we looked at what makes for a good structure for a college essay. More specifically, we discussed that it won’t look like your typical high school expository essay. Even the most well structured college essay is ineffective without an idea to work with when molding your statement.
Unlike the essay prompt that resides at the start of the SAT Reasoning Test, the “personal statement” essay you will write for college admissions require a considerable amount of creativity. The template-based, mechanically structured essay that impresses SAT graders won’t fare so well in the eyes of an admissions committee, particularly at more selective colleges.
Introduction, body paragraph, body paragraph, body paragraph, conclusion. Once you’ve mastered the basic five-paragraph format for short essays, it quickly begins to feel tiresome and overly basic. Fortunately, though the main themes of the five-paragraph essay are important to nearly all levels of academic or professional writing beyond high school. The five-paragraph essay itself becomes less and less relevant to school and work after graduation. However, there are plenty of things you can do to make simple five-paragraph essays (like the one assigned by the SAT) more impressive, interesting, and intricate. Here are a few.
Of all of the decisions facing hopeful college applicants, the choice between admissions tests can be one of the most confusing. Should you take the SAT or the ACT? Do you need to take the ACT Writing Test? Will colleges think less of you if you submit scores from one test or the other? This quick guide provides an overview to understand the ACT.