When college students graduate, they have a grace period of a few months before they need to start repaying their student loans. As that grace period is coming to an end, we have some thoughts on getting started on the repayment portion which we share on the latest episode of our podcast, Getting In: A College Coach Conversation. In other segments, we’ll discuss who should consider a gap year, and offer suggestions for next steps if you are deferred in the early round from any of your colleges of interest. To listen, say, “Alexa, play Getting In: A College Coach Conversation.”
When college students graduate, they have a grace period of a few months before they need to start repaying their student loans. As that grace period is coming to an end, we have some thoughts on getting started on the repayment portion. In other segments, we’ll discuss who should consider a gap year, and offer suggestions for next steps if you are deferred in the early round from any of your colleges of interest.
I’ve often been asked how U.S. colleges go about admitting international students. The questions are usually centered upon quotas—limits to how many students can be admitted from a particular region of the world. Because certain countries often send such “incredible” students to U.S. colleges, and only a few of them are admitted year to year to a given school, there must be a predetermined number of admission slots per country goes the thinking. Right? Wrong. Most admission officers don’t have an imagined number of admits in mind when comparing applicants from one country against another’s. Instead, when sifting through a set of applications, they might pivot towards the “best” applications they’ve seen in a given context, regardless of country. “Best,” you see, is often variable; there’s more than one version of it. What’s valued in one part of the world might look different in another. For more on how the international student admissions process works at U.S. universities, check out the College Coach Insider blog at blog.getintocollege.com.
There are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. And while the media tends to focus on just a handful of schools, we at College Coach encourage students to think outside the box during their college selection process and explore a wide range of colleges, including this week’s School Spotlight, University of Kansas. The University of Kansas may be big on spirit, but that doesn’t mean students will get lost in the shuffle. With just over 19,000 undergraduates, KU provides a big school feel with an amazingly strong sense of community. First year students are especially made to feel at home through a series of welcome programs and seminars, one of which – aptly named University 101 – provides students with the ins and outs of making the most of their new collegiate environment. KU attracts many top students within the Sunflower State, but there’s a major financial incentive for out-of-towners to attend, too. Non Kansas residents can earn up to $16,000 per year (renewable for four years) if they present a top GPA and SAT/ACT scores; this is equivalent to paying in-state tuition! Known for its dedication to teaching and research, KU provides outstanding opportunities for undergraduates to pursue independent research. Students can receive a $1000 Undergraduate Research Award to conduct original research on topics as diverse as trans-affirming healthcare (in the School of Social Welfare) and microbiomes of amphibians from the Philippines (in the department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology). Fun fact: Jayhawks know how to stay busy outside of the classroom, too! There are over 550 clubs and organizations for students to get involved in, and over 80,000 hours of community service were performed by students last year.
There is a scholarship (or many scholarships) out there for everyone. In this week’s Scholarship Spotlight, we look at the Clark Global Scholars Program Scholarship. International students who wish to study in the United States often have limited opportunities for funding. The Global Scholars Program (GSP) at Clark University, however, provides scholarship dollars to incoming international students who have demonstrated considerable leadership skills in their home countries. The program allows the good work of recipients to continue on campus with mandatory community service participation. Additionally, scholarship winners benefit from a dedicated mentor during their entire college experience. For more information on this scholarship and how to apply, check out the College Coach Insider blog at blog.getintocollege.com.
The Bowdoin supplement asks applicants to first identify which of the lines from “The Offer of the College,” a poem written in 1906 by Bowdoin president William DeWitt Hyde, most resonate with them. Applicants are then invited to provide an optional short essay of 250 words to reflect on their chosen line and how it has meaning for them.
Now, in the world of college essay supplements, there are optional essays and “optional” essays. This supplement falls into the latter category: it is optional in name only. Bowdoin admits about 15% of its applicants and, while they don’t publish statistics on admit rate for students who do and do not respond to this “optional” prompt, we’d be willing to bet that non-respondents are rarely offered a space in the freshman class.
So that means you’re writing it! And if you’re interested in Bowdoin, we think you should be excited to do so. This is a great prompt for two reasons. First, it does a wonderful job of introducing students to Bowdoin. In this short piece, you learn that Bowdoin has over a century of history, that it is defined by its community, that it places value in both humanity and the Earth. Second, the prompt gives applicants so much freedom to provide an answer that is deeply personal. Instead of responding to one narrow question, you have the opportunity to choose from among nine possible options, connecting aspects of who you are to who you might be at Bowdoin.
And it’s the person you’re allowed to be at Bowdoin that I would encourage you to emphasize in this short response. Your essay should be aspirational with a hint of retrospective. Find the line that makes you most excited about being a college student and ask yourself why it holds such sway for you. Someone who has never felt the freedom of conducting an independent research project in a well-stocked chemistry lab might be drawn to the line about having “…resources behind you in whatever task you undertake.” A student who grew up in a concrete jungle might look forward to four years of learning in Nature, and the relationship with the natural world that can be developed in the upper right of the United States. It is the rare essay supplement that finds its way to being deeply personal, and you should be excited at the space you’re given here to share what you most look forward to about life as a Bowdoin undergraduate.
The spirit of this piece is poetic, but you needn’t provide any kind of literary analysis here. It’s a version of “Why Bowdoin?” but won’t require research into courses or professors or the number of clubs available to incoming freshmen. It’s 250 words where you’re invited to imagine what college might mean to you—how your life might be different for the next four years—and the flavor of the opportunities that might be your most prized. Enjoy sharing that excitement with the Bowdoin admission office!
To read the full poem and see more of College Coach Ian Fisher’s insight on how to approach the Bowdoin supplement, check out our blog at blog.getintocollege.com.
The first time College Coach Sally Ganga read over Smith College’s supplemental essay question, her response was, “Wow! This one is different!” See for yourself:
We know that colleges ask a lot of hard questions on their applications. This one is not so hard and we promise, there is no hidden agenda – just have fun! If you had a theme song – a piece of music that describes you, what would it be and why? Please include the name of the song and the artist. (200 words)
As she describes in her recent blog post, Sally loves that the Smith admission officers clearly do want students to have fun with this. As they say, there is no hidden agenda. Instead, they are looking for a playful, non-academic way to learn more about who you are outside the classroom and your structured extra-curricular activities. So, don’t choose a song because you think it will impress them! It doesn’t need to be on the soundtrack for Hamilton or something similarly revered (although it could be if it really is your theme song). If you want a Rihanna, Beyoncé, or Taylor Swift song to be the subject of this essay, go for it! Pop music is fine. Side note: In Sally’s experience, essays about romantic love do not impress in the admission process, so you may want to stay clear of love songs.
After you’ve settled on your theme song, make sure to explain WHY you chose it. And the “why” shouldn’t just be because it is pretty. Think carefully about why you picked this song above all the others you could have. Be authentic. Being overly clever in order to try and be original will likely backfire. Feel free to discuss lyrics, melody, etc.,—all aspects of the song are fair game. But, also remember you only have 200 words to use, so an essay focused on one or two aspects of why this song represents you will be likely be more effective than one that tries to catalog everything about the song, which may result in a more surface discussion.
And, in case you’re wondering, Sally’s theme song would be Joni Mitchell’s “Free Man in Paris.” While she don’t feel the same sense of melancholy about a past life the protagonist of the song does, Sally does relate to the descriptions of those moments when you feel free and unencumbered and the joy in those moments, whether in Paris or elsewhere.
There are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. And while the media tends to focus on just a handful of schools, we at College Coach encourage students to think outside the box during their college selection process and explore a wide range of colleges, including this week’s School Spotlight, Agnes Scott College. Agnes Scott College, a private, liberal arts school, enrolls almost 1,000 undergraduates (all women!) on its 100-acre campus, located just six miles from downtown Atlanta. An amazing 48 percent of students study abroad during their time at Agnes Scott, and students also enjoy participating in one of the oldest honor systems in the country. Although Agnes Scott is a liberal arts college (where majoring in biochemistry and minoring in human rights is both possible and probable), students can also study professionally aligned programs including business management, engineering (through a dual degree with Georgia Tech), and computer science (through a dual degree with Emory University). What are some of the benefits of attending a women’s college? In addition to creating both a supportive and empowering learning environment, Agnes Scott also places a heavy emphasis on developing students’ leadership qualities. Whether through leadership retreats, the LeaderStories speaker series, or the Women’s Bridge to Business program, the women at Agnes Scott are taught how to create meaningful change in their communities. Good to know: Any applicant who has a 3.75 GPA, 1250 SAT, or 26 ACT (and meets the College’s minimum application requirements) is automatically qualified for a $25,000 merit Trailblazer Scholarship, renewable for up to four years!
There is a scholarship (or many scholarships) out there for everyone. In this week’s Scholarship Spotlight, we look at the Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Scholarship. Recently, College Coach Robyn Stewart’s daughter figured out how to balance a spoon on her nose. “You will be great at parties,” Robyn told her, “now finish your dinner.” Unusual talents are another area to focus on when searching for scholarships, so what’s your party trick? For students who not only know the difference between a diving duck and a dabbling duck, but can imitate a merganser and a scoter as well, this duck calling contest may be right up your alley. For more information on this scholarship and how to apply, check out the College Coach Insider blog at blog.getintocollege.com.
You know you love Harvey Mudd, but now it is time to articulate why by clearly showcasing the synergy between you the college and providing the admissions committee with a holistic picture of who you are and what you will bring to their community.
In addition to the Common Application Personal Statement, Mudd requires two additional essays. The first essay is essentially asking you, “Why Harvey Mudd?” while the second gives you four prompts to choose from. When writing these essays, remember that words are precious real estate; an opportunity for you to pop out of the computer screen as a multidimensional human being and showcase elements of yourself that aren’t found elsewhere in your application. This is a space to reflect deeply, to show that you are a strong fit for Mudd (and Mudd for you) and that you will bring wonderful skills, passion, and enthusiasm to the campus.
Essay 1: What influenced you to apply to Harvey Mudd College? What about the HMC curriculum and community appeals to you?
Before you starting writing this essay, spend at least half an hour exploring the college’s website and identifying clear connections between who you are as a scholar and person, and the core values and strengths of Mudd. I encourage you to start by reading HMC’s Mission and Strategic Vision. They are very clear that they want their alumni to emerge as not only practitioners of engineering, science, and math, but as leaders and innovators in their fields. Their alumni are not only leaders in the sciences, but they value a holistic and well-rounded education and care deeply about making a positive impact on society. Explore majors, student affairs programming, research opportunities, and the Discover page to find specific examples of how Mudd is the right school for you. As you write this essay, be careful not to fill the space with general statements about the college’s prestige or ranking (they know they are excellent) or elements of their education that can be said about most colleges; be specific.
As a member of the Claremont Colleges consortium, the Mudd experience is deeply impacted by the ability to make friends and take advantage of programming and offerings across all seven campuses, so take some time to learn about the consortium before writing this essay.
Essay 2: Choose from four prompts
For this essay, take some time to review the four options, determine which prompt resonates with you most, and then do some brainstorming. This space should either share a part of your life or experiences that is not elsewhere in the application OR be a deep dive and reflection on something briefly listed in your activities section or other parts of the application. Notice that these supplements are geared toward getting to know YOU: your story, your holistic interests beyond science, the human being that will join their campus. This essay should not read like a narrative resume listing all of your accomplishments, but rather a thoughtful reflection on your life and experience.
Best of luck finishing your application, and make sure to check out blog.getintocollege.com for more info.