Welcome to The Princeton Review’s College Admission Counseling. We are very excited to work with you on your path to your dream school!

We know this can be an extremely stressful time, but we are here to help!  With years of experience under our belt, our College Admission Counseling team will work with you and your family to guide you on the path to success.

Your College Coach is here to answer any admission related questions you have along the way.  In the meantime, check out some advice we have gathered for future Applicants from our  College Hopes and Worries Survey .

Parents' Advice for Future Applicants

  • Start sooner! — Linda, Tampa FL

  • Start early, and save early for their future. — Loreli, Chandler, AZ

  • Start Early! Visit schools in sophomore year, concentrate on testing in junior year, apply in senior year. — Karen, Woodinville, WA

  • Start preparing in your child's first year of high school. Don't wait until third year. — Carlene, Roseville, CA

  • Start the whole process a year earlier than you think you need to. — Amy, Glen Ellyn, IL

  • When thinking about which schools to consider, our daughter seemed stuck because she isn't sure what she wants to be. We tried to help her just think about 3-5 things she likes and would want to learn more about. That seemed to help take off the pressure and get her "unstuck" with choosing some schools to visit. — Ellen, New Paltz, NY

  • Create a calendar with deadlines, test dates , college events and visits, etc. This will eliminate a lot of stress for you and your child. — Sandee, Los Gatos, CA

  • Treat the application process like a job. Set a regular time each week to tackle some aspect of the process. — Laura, ME

  • After your child applies, the schools will allow you access to their website to track your application information. Keep track of all of your child's passwords and website access information. Because schools use different safety systems, you can end up with different user IDs and passwords at each school. If you apply to more than 3 schools, this can be quite confusing. — Cheryl, Stevenson Ranch, CA

  • Do what you can to make sure your child "owns" the entire application process. Start the FAFSA and CSS early as they require a lot of information and pay careful attention to the instructions. Don't wait until the last day to apply for anything as the servers frequently get overloaded. — James, CA

  • Relax! Somehow, it all comes together. Everyone goes through it, so ask your family and friends for advice/help. You will be surprised at the great advice you can gather that way. — Sharon, Brielle, NJ

  • Your child will not be nearly as stressed as you will be. — Lynda, Sunrise, FL

  • Don't spend too much time comparing notes with others going through the process. Makes people crazy. — Sarah, Newton, MA

  • Try not to stress too much — enjoy the process and make the most of the time you spend with your child, talking about his/her interests, helping them take that big step. — Sharon, Amherst, MA

  • Don't stress out your child. They're under enough pressure already! Life is not a straight line. Have faith in your parenting skills and your child's ability to succeed on their own terms. — MaryAnne, Westwood, MA

  • Make sure to take the college process in steps and you won't feel so overwhelmed. — Denise, Sea Girt, NJ

  • Make sure your child understands the importance of doing well on the SAT and ACT. They need plenty of time to study for them. Last minute cramming does not work, especially for the SAT. — Teresa, Chino Hills, CA

  • Let your child know how important the SAT really is. My daughter thought it wouldn't matter, but every point counts. — C., Monroe Township, NJ

  • Make sure your child takes the SAT or ACT early so if they are not satisfied with their score, they can retake it. — Mary, Duluth, MN

  • Take SAT early as possible so that if any special attention or classes are needed they can be taken earlier to improve the SAT score before the application process begins with a solid score. — Bob, Alpharetta, GA

  • Get all the paperwork together. Take an SAT prep course and make sure the grades stay up senior year. — Rebecca. Placerville, CA

  • Take practice ACT/SAT tests as often as possible — the more your child takes the more comfortable she/he will be at the test. — Amy, Glen Ellyn, IL

  • Take the ACT/SAT during their Junior year when they are taking "core" classes. — Lisa, Chandler, AZ

  • Visit as many schools as you can. A visit can change your view of a school. — Jeanne, IN

  • When visiting colleges, don't just take the packaged tour. Eat in the dining halls and talk with the students. — John, Orange, CT

  • Visit colleges when they are in session. — Mariko, Jamaica, NY

  • Do college visits with your child and make it a fun experience. Spend a night if you can in the city you are going to to get a feel of the surroundings. Also, it is fun to experience the excitement of your child when they have decided on a college! The special family time is never going to be the same, so cherish this important decision on the right college. — Katlin, Olathe, KS

  • Visit the school more than once and take pictures because when you visit it all becomes a blur. — Lucy, NY

  • Listen to your child! — Maureen, Middletown, NY

  • Allow your child to dream about anything he can be! — Susan, Remsenburg, NJ

  • Be a guide and not a choice-maker. Believe in your child's own intuitions and advocate for their personal interests. — Alice, Randolph, NJ

  • As a parent, allow your kid to experience the college application for themselves. While it is imperative to gently look over their shoulders, taking over full control doesn't allow them to make important decisions for themselves. — Danielle, Lambertville, NJ

  • Be encouraging but not micromanaging. Remind your child of upcoming deadlines and help them proofread their essays. Start early in researching colleges that might be a good fit. Visit a bookstore and help your child pick out a good review manual for the ACT and/or SAT. — Carole, Livonia, MI

  • I know some parents who are literally obsessing over this whole process. I hope they don't forget that it is their child that is going to college, not them. — Nancy, WI

  • Focus on your child and what is best for him/her and try not to focus on all the competition between parents. This is about your child, not about you. — Carol, Tarrytown, NY

  • Parents, Back off! Applicants, Relax! — D.B., Monterey, CA

  • Start saving even before your children are born. — Carla, PA

  • Save a lot, save early. — L.S., Glen Rock, NJ

  • Make sure to get taxes done early, and fill out FAFSA soon after. — Mary, MN

  • Expect the FAFSA to indicate that you can contribute more than you really can. Look for local scholarships and ask each college about what they have available as well as state and national sources. — Mark, Jackson, MI

  • Learn about the FAFSA well in advance of the Jan 1 date. — Tricia, FL

  • Look at the average financial aid package, not just cost, and don't say no to yourself (your child) on behalf of a school by never applying to it. — Charles, Philadelphia, PA

  • Dare to dream. Don't limit your child's vision of their future by your own financial worries. — Karen, VA

  • Understand that money saved in a 529 must be exhausted before your family will qualify for financial aid. — Julie, Brooks, CA

  • Don't be scared off from applying to private schools as opposed to public universities. Private schools can be very generous with scholarship offers. — Diane, Chicago IL

  • Let your child free to see what schools will accept your child and see what the financials are later. In other words, do not assume a school is too much money as a reason not to apply. Particularly if your child has done well on ACT/SAT, the tuition number at a private school is not going to be the number you will have to fund. — Alan, MI

  • Do your homework on the entire process, including understanding how the financial aid process works, and don't wait until the last minute to delve into this stuff. — Ken, Colorado Springs, CO

  • Our experience: Getting in was the easy part (state schools' application). It was figuring how to afford it, then eliminating some for cost alone: that is the hard part. — Amy, Fort Worth, TX

  • Buy Paying for College Without Going Broke when your child is born. (I'm convinced every family should get this book when they leave the hospital with their first child!). — Robin, Bridgewater, MA

  • Let your student take the lead in defining interests and schools that could be a good fit. Don't focus on labels. An excellent education can be had in schools you've never heard about before. — C.L., Ridgewood, NJ

  • Don't be overly focused on "brand name" colleges. There are other excellent choices that offer very good value, and are quite affordable. — Mark, Macungie, PA

  • Don't focus on a major so much as interests and opportunities. Nobody is sure at 18 what they want to do. They beauty of college is you have a chance to expand your horizons and perspective. — Larry, Bayside, NY

  • Try to think about the best fit for your child, not what others think is the best or most prestigious. — Mary, Brunswick, ME

  • There are many good colleges out there — not just the 10 that everyone is applying to. — M.M., Far Hills, NJ

  • Don't make the choice of a college for your student. They're the ones going to school, not the 'rents. — Peggy

  • Make the final decision after receiving all the financial aid packages. — Kathleen, FL

  • It's not the same as when we went through it. — Cori, Lake Forest, IL

  • Everything will be OK. Kids are happy in lots of places and for different reasons. It is important to remember they bring their own world with them and can create good things wherever they are. — Laurie, Madison, OH

  • Most boys are in denial that they have to get ready so soon. — Nancy, Los Angeles

  • Start your college search EARLY. I wouldn't wish these last few weeks we have had on anyone. — J., Brooklyn, NY

  • It matters more what your child does at the college he/she gets into than which college he/she gets into. — L. T., Cincinnati

  • No matter what school they go into, they will likely be happy. If not, college is not a jail sentence. They can transfer. — J., Cheshire, CT

  • Don't make any plans for the holidays, Sept. through Dec. — D.V., Santa Rosa CA

  • Pray for a miracle. — Dennis, San Antonio, TX

  • Pray for the wisdom to help your child make good choices. — Michael, Los Alamos, NM

  • In the end, it will all work out. — Mildred, Glendale, NY

  • It does end. — Linda, Agoura, CA

  • Make sure you use Princeton Review for checking out colleges online! — Sheri, Springfield, PA

  • Buy Princeton Review's Best Colleges guide. This guide was a tremendous resource for the application process for our three children. — Celie, Winston-Salem, NC

  • Begin search for potential colleges early. We have used The Princeton Review The Best Colleges which has been very informative and helpful in selecting potential college choices. — Ingrid

  • If your child is having trouble with the standardized tests, The Princeton Review is a big help in raising their score. — Connie, Covington, IA

  • The Best Colleges by The Princeton Review is a very good reference when choosing colleges to apply. — Mari

  • I really like the college rankings on the Princeton Review website. I look at "happiest students" ; "best classroom experience" ; and "best career services." Also I look at other things that are important to my kid (nice dorms, etc). — Serena, San Diego, CA

  • Have the Princeton Review SAT tutor class come to your child's school. The class was given to 9 students at my child's school, and all students improved their scores. My child improved by almost 200 points! — Rhonda, GA

  • An invaluable tool for us has been the Princeton Review website. We used it to guide us through the whole college search experience. We chose 2 safe schools, 3 match schools and 1 reach school. Thank you, Princeton Review. You have been our best guidance counselor! — Maria, Greenwood, SC

Students' Advice for Future Applicants

  • Start early. As a matter of fact, start now. — Diego, Moreno Valley, CA

  • Two Words: Start Early! Deadlines creep up quicker than you may anticipate. In addition, there are little things that you need to do to fulfill the application requirements. By starting early you can reduce stress levels and assure that you have enough time to get everything finished without rushing. — A.S., Naperville, IL

  • Start early and work together (students and parents). — Lauren, Columbia, MD

  • Research, research, research. The better educated you are about the colleges, the better chance you will get the education you really want. — Elizabeth, Cohasset, MA

  • Apply early and research early. Visit college campuses in your sophomore year. Take ACT/SAT several times. Take an online ACT course  to improve your score. I did! — Edward, Lakeland, FL

  • Keep your grades up, be a part of lots of activities, and do well on your standardized tests. The earlier you apply, the better, and don't stress too much because it'll eat away at you. — Lindsey, Oviedo, FL

  • Be excited to write your college application essays. They WILL definitely be tough, but in the end, you'll look back at the experience and smile because you learn so much about yourself as a human being. It's actually quite a wonderful experience, but only if you're willing to make it a wonderful experience. — Evelyn, Arcadia, CA

  • Make sure that you apply or consider all the schools that you could possibly conceive yourself going to. Nothing is worse than "February syndrome" in which you realize you didn't apply to a school that you could see yourself attending. — Kelly, IL

  • Do not let the application process get in the way of your current academic responsibilities. This may be counterproductive. — Vanessa, Chula Vista, CA

  • Don't freak out. College is not the end of your life. Everything will be OK. — Michael, MA

  • College is about finding your happiness, not your parents' happiness or what would look good on your bumper. Be open-minded. — Jenny, CA

  • Don't get frustrated with applications. Just think of how good you'll feel in the fall walking the halls of your chosen college. — Tyonna, MD

  • Calm down. It's only four years! — R.H., Springfield, MO

  • Have fun with it! If you enjoy the process along the way, the outcome will hopefully be more beneficial. — Abbey, LaGrange IL

  • Do not get too nervous. It's not always about getting into the most known school. — Susan, McMurray, PA

  • Don't worry! It's going to be okay. — Rachel, Los Alamitos, CA

  • Relax. Everything will work out. — Morgan, Laguna Hills, CA

  • Try not to get too stressed out even if your parents are. — Will, Norwalk CT

  • Do everything possible to get ACT/SAT score as high as possible — most important to getting $$. More important than activities, if already top 10%, more important than being #1 in class. Can't stress score enough. — Sarah, New Braunfels TX

  • Take the SAT or ACT early in your junior year so you have plenty of time to take a class, find a tutor, or study like crazy on your own. — J. H., Pickerington, OH

  • Commit to your classes because your GPA and SAT and ACT scores will really determine what school you will go to. — E., Houston TX

  • Get plenty of sleep before testing. — Richard, Waco TX

  • Get an SAT tutor to get the best possible score. — M., Santa Ana CA

  • SAT classes really help to get your child a better SAT score. — Karissa, Las Vegas NV

  • Practice from an SAT review book frequently to get a higher test score and get into a better university. — Leeza, CA

  • Stagger your standardized tests —you don't want to be taking the APs at the same time as the SATs and SAT Subject Tests! — Allyson, Scarsdale, NY

  • Take the time to prepare for tests like the SAT and ACT. And even if you scored high enough, take it again to see how you do because the higher the score, the more likely you'll get a scholarship for the college you're applying to. — G., Mission TX

  • Take the standardized tests multiple times to get the best score possible, and start looking at colleges early. — Nicole

  • Finish taking all standardized tests by junior year so in the fall of senior year, you can focus on your applications — A., Lake Ronkonkoma, NY

  • Visit! The feel of a school is entirely important. I visited what I thought would be my top school and campus didn't feel like home. On the other hand, I visited a college I didn't think I would be interested in and it just felt right. — Kiley, Aurora, IL

  • Visit as many colleges as possible and talk to students in college asking what you like the most and least about their college. — Patricia, Yonkers, NY

  • A college may look great on paper, but you have to go visit it. You need to rely on your gut reaction to the college itself, people on campus, and surrounding community. Do you see “people like you” on campus — people you could be friends with? Does it feel comfortable? It will be your home for 4 years. — Andrea

  • Visit every college you can! Get interviews, tours, info sessions, overnights, and attend classes. While information sites and books from companies like the Princeton Review give great information on which schools you should put on "The List," making the final decision can be largely intuition-based. This sense of intuition cannot be gained without experiencing the campus for yourself. — Bethany, Rochester, NY

  • Visit more schools than you would like to apply to. The visit (even if during the summer) is the most important part. It gave me an idea of what it would be like to live there. I saw the location, toured the buildings and met administrators. I ended up choosing a college I never imagined I would like over ones I had dreamed about for years. — Theresa, Rochester, MO

  • Visit schools sooner and spend an entire day/overnight to get a feel for what will be offered to us to help us get ready for the world. Sitting in on classes that would be part of my major would also give me an indication of what is expected of me so I could be a better student. — Larissa, Hawthorne Woods IL

  • Go where you want, not where your parents want. — T.M., Mason, OH

  • The most important thing to remember is you are the one going to college, not your parents. The colleges you look at should have what YOU want because you have to live with whatever decision is made. — R., Fairlawn, NJ

  • Support your kid in whatever they do as long as it's not illegal! — U., Mercer Island, WA

  • To Parents: Listen to your child about what they want, don't just simply try to force them into attending a college your child has no interest in. — Miranda, Lafayette IN

  • I would advise parents to listen to your student. Your child is becoming an adult, so it is about time to let them make their own decisions, especially one this important. Do not be afraid of letting them go because your children need to experience independence firsthand. — Stacy, Greensboro NC

  • To parents: be understanding, save, and try your best not to say they can't go. — Stephanie, New York, NY

  • Parents should at least be somewhat involved in the process. — N., Seattle WA

  • Parents: Be encouraging. Recognize when your children are stressed out and do all that you can to maximize their potential to create the best possible application. — N., Garden Grove CA

  • Parents, try not to be too overbearing. Applicants, try to realize that parents only want what's best for you! — Ariel, New York NY

  • The best thing to do is always keep talking to your parents because no matter where you go they will support you. Also your guidance counselor will make a huge difference if you keep in contact with her. — K.J., Dix Hills, NY

  • Receiving support from parents is the best thing to help the student. — Gabriela, Santa Ana, CA

  • Take a deep breath and let your parents help. They may actually know something. — Robert, CT

Getting into college is the easy part. Paying for it, on the other hand, is difficult. — Tabitha, Phoenix, AZ

Don't let the cost of a college scare you. Apply anyways because financial aid is always available. — Erica, Hamburg, NY

Apply to all colleges you want to go to, even if you cannot afford it. You may be surprised how much the colleges are wiling to help you out. — Sarah, Fairlawn, NJ

Do not think that you will not have a chance to go to college due to finances, there are scholarships everywhere. — Erin, King, NC

Money is a huge factor for both you and your child. It is extremely important that you give your child a "budget" for your peace of mind and theirs. — K., Marlboro, NY

Scholarships! Make sure you apply for as many scholarships as possible and take the practice SATs multiple times because unfortunately colleges take that into big consideration. — E., Fairfax, VA

Don't give up, apply to your dream school even if you can't afford it, you might be surprised by how much financial aid is offered. — R., Farmington Hills, MI

More expensive colleges are not always better colleges. — Daniel, Ocala, FL

When you think you didn't get into the school you wanted, you might be getting into the school you needed. — Amy

You are smart. Don't let a rejection letter make you feel depressed. — A.P., Knoxville, TN

You may not be able to get into the top 25 schools in the country, but you will find the one that wants you as much as you want it. — H., Barrington, IL

There is a place for everyone. Relax and think of it as a journey — not a race to be won, but a home to be found. — Megan, Chapel Hill, NC

It's not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. Don't worry so much about where you're going. Worry more about the mindset you go to school with. — Samuel, Wasilla AK

Try not to stress too much about the possibility of not being accepted into your first choice college, because you'll go half mad if you do so. — Sarah, IN

Breathe, and believe that everything happens for a reason. A good education comes in many forms. — M.K., WA

College is a match, not a prize! — K., Minneapolis

Don't worry so much about what other people think is the best college for you. The only opinion that matters is your own because you will be the one spending four years of your life there. Pick the college you feel most comfortable at. — Stephanie, Windham, OH

Learn as much as you can about the college application process. Things have changed so much from the time my parents went through this. — Meghan

Don't rule out schools just because they aren't Ivy League caliber. Smaller schools have a lot to offer. — Erin, Woodridge, IL

Don't be afraid of traveling far from home and don't go somewhere just cause friends are going there. — Robert, Shorewood, WI

Choose the college that is right for you and nobody else. — K.T., Valdosta, GA

Don't focus on your first choice. Widen your eyes to keep your options open. — Christina, Pullman, WA

It's ok not to know what school you are going to right away, it takes time. Don't think you have to be the first application in because you don't — it's almost better that you are not. Don't overdo it. Apply to 4 or 5 and you will be great. Take advantage of your college counselors — they are there to help — and do a great job! — Paige, St. Louis, MO

Aim for the best fit. There is no "best college." — Elaine, Chapel Hill, NC

Apply to different types of schools; big, small, public, private — you never know what you may end up liking! — Dana, Minnetonka, MN

If you have the ability to go to college at all, you ought to be proud of yourself, because it is an accomplishment, a privilege, and a gift. — Julia, Chicago IL

Get started early, work on volunteering, study for the SATs, and just get As in school! — J., Plainview NY

Learn as much as you can about the college application process. Things have changed so much from the time my parents went through this. — Meghan

Applying to college is no different than buying groceries. It involves shopping around and finding which college tastes the best. — N.A., Littleton, CO

Clam down to deal with it. — X., Fresh Meadows, NY

Pray. A lot. — Kirsten, Medford, OR

Whoever said that senior year is the easiest is a liar. — H., Fairfax, VA

As scary and expensive as college may seem, it will all be worth it in the end. — Madeline, NC

Everything you are doing right now will all be worth it. — Janeth, Los Angeles

Education is the best investment in ones' life. — Tirun, Tirapati AP (India)

College is worth it, no matter what. — Ashley, Tiburon, CA

The college application isn't the worst part. Waiting to hear back is! — Courtney, Ashburn, VA

It is a long process, but it will be worth it in the end when you receive your first acceptance letter. — Demetria, Ridgecrest, GA

The Princeton Review's website is extremely helpful in determining good colleges, majors, and careers to pursue — Erin, Alpharetta, GA

Use The Princeton Review and take their SAT courses. It has made the whole daunting college experience so much less stressful. Also, START EARLY! — Annie, Seattle, WA

Buy a Princeton Review book (I read The Best Colleges ) to help you decide where to apply. It helps so much determining what schools have a personal fit, which I think is more important than anything. — Kelly, Lees Summit, MO

Use Princeton Review SAT prep books and classes . They really do help to improve scores, and make the overall testing a much less stressful event. — K.M, Hillsborough, NJ

The Princeton Review and The College Board both provide excellent information on all schools. — Christian, Grapevine, TX

The Princeton Review was a lifesaver. — Chase, LaJolla, CA

Buy Princeton Review's "Best Colleges"! — Jacob, Rockville Center, NY

Don't let it overwhelm you. Purchase Princeton Review Books and refer to them at all times. — Arielle, Miramar, FL

Your College Prep Timeline

Open school planner

Not sure which test to take or when? We've put together these step-by-step timelines with some recommendations you can follow from freshman to senior year.

You’ll know what you need to do and when you need to do it to reach your goals with the confidence that you are doing all the right things for your future.

Freshman & Sophomore Year

Now you’re in high school—your first major step to deciding what you want. Here's how the timeline will help you:

  • Start high school off on the right foot by getting all your Freshman Year questions answered
  • Stay on track during the early years of high school by printing out Freshman and Sophomore Year timelines
  • Learn the benefits of quality over quantity when it comes to extracurricular activities

Download the Freshman & Sophomore Year Timeline

Junior Year

You’ve hit your stride in high school now. It’s an important time to take key steps toward reaching your future goals. Here's how the timeline will help you:

  • Hang the Junior Year Checklist on the fridge to mark off all your accomplishments
  • Learn the differences between the recommended and traditional testing timeline
  • Figure out how you should be spending your summers and when to investigate financial aid

Download the Junior Year Timeline

Senior Year

You did it! You have made it to that pivotal time when the steps you take now matter more than ever toward achieving your goals. Here's how the timeline will help you:

  • Keep track of the college application process with a Senior Year Checklist
  • Print out your Senior Year Testing Timeline and hang it on the fridge
  • Find out what to do once you've been accepted to college

Download the Senior Year Timeline

Feel free to share these prep timelines with as many people as you wish. It's important for parents, students, and educators to be as sensibly informed as possible.


  • You will most likely complete this online, either through the Common Application or on a school's website.
  • The Common App makes it easy to apply to multiple schools with just one form, but each college will have different requirements for essays and test scores. Read the application instructions for the colleges of your choice carefully.
  • You will be asked to list basic information about yourself, your school, and your family, as well as your GPA, standardized test scores, extracurriculars, and any awards you earned in high school.
  • If you start to fill out an application and realize you need more information from your school or parents, you will be able to save an in-progress application and return to it before submitting.

Application Fee

  • Usually $30–$60 for U.S. applicants and higher for international applicants.
  • Many schools offer fee waivers for applying online, by a certain date, or a student's circumstances.


  • You will need to request official transcripts from your high school for each college where you're applying.
  • Some colleges require that transcripts be mailed directly from the high school.
  • Some colleges require you to collect your transcript in a sealed envelope and submit it with any other paper application materials.
  • Remember that the administrators and counselors at your high school are helping all the other seniors in your class at the same time, so be polite--and patient.

SAT or ACT Score Report

  • When you take the SAT , ACT , and SAT Subject Tests , you can request that a score report be sent directly to your prospective colleges. You can also decide later whether colleges see one, some, or all of your scores.
  • Schedule your test with enough time first to receive your scores (2–8 weeks for the ACT, about 3 weeks for the SAT) and then to request reports for the colleges on your list. Both ACT and the College Board offer rush or priority report options, for a fee.
  • Confirm the test policy at every college on your list. A school may consider:
    • all test scores from all dates;
    • your highest overall score from a single test date;
    • your superscore ,   in which case you'll submit all your scores and the admissions committee will consider only the highest score on each section; or
    • test scores may be completely optional.

Letters of Recommendation

  • Most colleges require two or three letters of recommendation from high school teachers or guidance counselors.
  • Pick someone who knows you well and can speak to your strengths.
  • Some schools may ask for one recommendation to be from someone who can speak to your character over your academic work, like an employer or family friend.
  • Request your recommendations—politely—about two months prior to the application deadline
  • Give your recommenders all of the information they need to complete the recommendation, whether it's a website with login information or stamped envelopes with hard copy forms. Don't forget to say thank you!

Personal Statement

  • Your college essay will probably be the most time-consuming part of your application—start early.
  • Use your essay as an opportunity to tell admissions counselors what makes you unique and what you can bring to a given campus community.
  • The prompt or question will be provided in the application along with length guidelines (usually 300 to 500 words).
  • Ask a teacher or guidance counselor for feedback on your drafts.
  • Revise, proofread, and repeat!

Financial Aid

  • Be aware that applying for admission and applying for financial aid are two separate processes.
  • Complete and submit your FAFSA as soon after January 1 as possible.
  • Check every school's financial aid policies—some will require additional forms like the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE®.
  • Research loan options thoroughly before borrowing.

Have more questions about your college apps? Read up on navigating college admissions  and check out our video:

Most selective colleges require you to submit an essay or personal statement as part of your application.

It may sound like a chore, and it will certainly take a substantial amount of work. But it's also a unique opportunity that can make a difference at decision time. Admissions committees put the most weight on your high school grades and your test scores . However, selective colleges receive applications from many worthy students with similar scores and grades—too many to admit. So they use your essay, along with your letters of recommendation and extracurricular activities, to find out what sets you apart from the other talented candidates.

Telling Your Story

So what does set you apart?

You have a unique background, interests and personality. This is your chance to tell your story (or at least part of it). The best way to tell your story is to write a personal, thoughtful essay about something that has meaning for you. Be honest and genuine, and your unique qualities will shine through.

Admissions officers have to read an unbelievable number of college essays, most of which are forgettable. Many students try to sound smart rather than sounding like themselves. Others write about a subject that they don't care about, but that they think will impress admissions officers.

You don't need to have started your own business or have spent the summer hiking the Appalachian Trail. Colleges are simply looking for thoughtful, motivated students who will add something to the first-year class.

Tips for a Stellar College Application Essay

  • Write about something that's important to you.

    It could be an experience, a person, a book—anything that has had an impact on your life.

  • Don't just recount—reflect! 

    Anyone can write about how they won the big game or the summer they spent in Rome. When recalling these events, you need to give more than the play-by-play or itinerary. Describe what you learned from the experience and how it changed you.

  • Being funny is tough.

    A student who can make an admissions officer laugh never gets lost in the shuffle. But beware. What you think is funny and what an adult working in a college thinks is funny are probably different. We caution against one-liners, limericks and anything off–color.

  • Start early and write several drafts.

    Set it aside for a few days and read it again. Put yourself in the shoes of an admissions officer: Is the essay interesting? Do the ideas flow logically? Does it reveal something about the applicant? Is it written in the applicant’s own voice?

  • No repeats.

    What you write in your application essay or personal statement should not contradict any other part of your application–nor should it repeat it. This isn't the place to list your awards or discuss your grades or test scores.

  • Answer the question being asked.

    Don't reuse an answer to a similar question from another application.

  • Have at least one other person edit your essay.

    A teacher or college counselor is your best resource. And before you send it off, check, check again, and then triple check to make sure your essay is free of spelling or grammar errors.

Check out our video on how to perfect your college essay:

We know you want to impress colleges with your accomplishments in the classroom, but your academics aren’t the full picture to who you really are. Yes, colleges want bright students. But even more, they want bright, well–rounded students.

Grades and test scores are very important, but so is what you choose to do on your own time. Admissions officers are looking to create a class made up of students with diverse interests and backgrounds. They'll look closely at your extracurriculars to get a sense of the person you are and what you care about.

How much you do isn't as important as being committed to what you do

A college application with scattered interest and involvement over four years looks flakey. A student that runs track and sings in the choir throughout four years of high school shows passion and commitment. Find out early on what sparks your interest and stick with it.

Demonstrate leadership

If you have the opportunity and drive to be the captain the tennis team, president of the French club, or editor of the school lit mag, seize the opportunity. Colleges like responsible leaders who earn the respect of their peers.

An after–school job shows maturity

Don't worry if an after-school job prevents you from participating in extracurriculars. If you have to work so that your family can make ends meet, be sure the colleges you apply to understand that. Helping to support a family is a serious responsibility that demonstrates character. And just as with extracurriculars, it's impressive if you retain a job for an extended period and rise to a position of responsibility.

Extracurriculars can be valuable experience

If you have a career goal or study interest that you can pursue outside the classroom, take advantage. Think you might be interested in medicine? Try volunteering at a local hospital. Are you destined to be a writer? Join your school's newspaper or yearbook. These activities can help give you a strong foundation should you decide to pursue them further, academically or professionally.