Asked by Anonymous
Firstly, a word about “chancing,” stats competitions, and the like: what works for one person isn’t gonna work for you, and will probably just work you up when her SAT was twenty points higher everything is doomed I’m never gonna go anywhere etc. etc. Not really how it works, especially when most colleges (especially the Ivies) are hunting for a mix of different skills sets—they want at least one musical genius AND jock king AND philosophy master and so forth. (You can, however, start making more educated guesses by asking your school for historical data on acceptances from your school from your college/guidance office. They should have this, and it can be helpful for getting a feel for what kind of numbers past students were ballparking, as these can trend higher at selective private schools. What it takes to stand out from the pack at, say, Exeter is different from elsewhere, somewhat to your detriment.)
To wit, some college advice I’ve dropped on here before (assuming you’re not in the athlete pipeline, which is a bit of a different thing):
-Do absolutely as best you can in high school. Bump that GPA up as high as you can get it, join whatever honor societies you can, etc. Ditto for your SAT scores. Take it once, reassess your weak points, study till you bleed. Sounds excessive, but frankly, you’re looking at about 8% acceptance from a pool of self selecting applicants, many, many of whom go in with perfect SAT scores.
-Maximize any admissions advantage; cultural/ethnic status, alumni ties, whatever.
-Do something (actually several somethings) that show long term commitment to a hobby/club/other. That is to say, “I joined _____ club freshman year, in junior year I was elected treasurer, in senior year I became the president.” Show that you have longstanding interests and do things other than study. This is key: I know well qualified but not genius applicants who seemed to strike out because they didn’t have lives outside of academics. I’m convinced things like sports and school government worked in my favor.
-Win stuff. Academic prizes, sports medals, you name it. There’s a common app section for these things for a reason.
-Have an esoteric or weird interest. Be able to talk about it. Saying “I like English” or “I find science interesting” won’t make you stand out as an applicant. Waxing poetic on your absolute love of 14th century English sonnets or your incredible fascination with plate tectonics will. Take a passion and explain the why and what- be original.
-Write good essays. Have good interviews. These come with practice, practice, practice. Seek out trusted secondary opinions on both. Don’t try to do things last minute.
-Visit the campus. Have specifics why you want to attend. Try to swing by departments you’re interested in. Most every school will make you write a “why _____ ?” essay; a good reason is “Well, since I love plate tectonics so much, I visited the Geology department where I met Prof. _______, and I was incredibly impressed by the depth and breadth of his knowledge. I’d love to take his course, “Plate Boundaries 102” my freshman year, and major in Geology.”
At the end of the day, don’t beat yourself up about it if you don’t get in. There’s a strong element of luck here as well; they may simply not be taking any more of your “type” (geo major, sonnet lover, whatever) or may simply have made a random choice. Even having succeeded at this process attended school with others who won the proverbial admissions lotto, I can say both that there are equally smart or smarter students at myriad other schools and that it’s a weird, byzantine process that will always let deserving students slip through the admissions net.
Asked by Anonymous
Life is all about design flexibility, but that rule really ends in about three places in life: the altar (you’re not the bride—nix the white) the casket (yeah, it’s gotta be black I’d say) and the endzone (it’s gameday kid, put some school color on).
Asked by Anonymous
I touched a little bit on backpacks here, but I’m all about team will-use-it-forever leather shopper: Cuyana makes some good looking stuff at the right price point, and there are plenty of Etsy sellers that can also bang something out for you at a pretty market rate.