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A Step-by-Step Guide to Filling Out a US College Application.

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. The admissions committee reads hundreds, if not thousands, of application essays, so the best way to make your essay stand out is to simply be yourself.

Take enough time to write it. You should give yourself enough time to put your writing aside for a few days so you can look at it with a fresh eye and have time to polish it up and check for grammatical and spelling errors before you send it out.

The Common Application and most school-specific applications have specialized sections for artists and athletes. Artists can include samples of their work, be it a CD of original music, a short story or a piece of visual art, and athletes can list all sports played and honors won.

If appropriate, you also can add other types of supplemental materials to your application. Most of the rest of the application needs to be filled out by your secondary school counselor and the teacher or teachers who are writing your recommendations. The Common Application has a supplement for international students, to be filled out by a counselor, which includes an evaluation and a list of all standardized test scores taken outside the States O-level, IB diploma, etc.

One article even decries a " New Snake-Oil Industry ," which it claims is "increasingly propelled by greed, it preys on the fear of families, especially parents.

He also doubts the self-marketing approach of one admissions consultant, especially for his shy child. Rynearson , president of Higher Education Consultants Association, takes on some popular perceptions of her profession:. While a few outliers may employ such tactics, the vast majority work hard to alleviate stress by providing accurate information and guidance. Working with some students as early as 10th grade, consultants, like those at IvyWise, help students build their portfolios and identities in the "soft factors" like interests and activities, in efforts to aid the admissions process.

After much research on the web and discussion with his son, he narrowed down the Division II schools with track programs for a mathematically inclined, artistic student, who wants to avoid urban schools and stay on the west coast. He and his son are in the process of applying to 11 selected institutions of higher education. What about the application essays? More specifically, what about the "coherent message" and "packaging" that consultants offer?

Consultants are unnecessary luxuries. In contrast, another parent was thrilled at having hired a college consultant to help her daughter apply for college. Alla Gershberg, a San Francisco real estate agent, put it this way to me. People can do it themselves, but they are often much safer and more successful with the help of a professional.

Can every student and parent gain such a peace of mind? Clearly, shedding light on the admissions process helps students and their families.

There are many helpful websites to check out. Here are a few to start. Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you. No matter what their background, all teens need to learn that they have powerful stories to tell. Applying to college is an audition process; only the student can set foot on the stage and perform. They are experts, and they can see disconnects. They can also see the other essays each student writes and can observe wild shifts in style and tone.

Teachers, coaches, parents, do what good mentors and editors do: They want to hear fresh stories that reveal the unique experiences of students growing up in their era, not yours.

Also, anyone who helps students should be a mentor and a guide -- not a ghostwriter. Drafting essays takes time and is often painful, requiring students to find the allegorical stories that share powerful evidence of how they will enrich a campus.

External advice, not rewriting, can be very helpful for your students.

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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.