Tag Archives: college applications

The College Essay: Getting Started

This piece is from Andrew at CollegeEssayOrganizer.com. He’s been in the SAT game for years, and he’ll post here from time to time with college essay tips.

A lot of the time, the hardest part of a college essay is just getting started. Too many schools, too many questions, not enough time. Not to mention, the way the essay prompts are written, they make it seem like you need to know what your life’s work is before you even graduate high school.

The name of the game for starting your college essay isn’t so much knowing exactly what you’re going to write, but which prompts you’re going to have to deal with in the first place. Once you have those assignments figured out, whittling down the amount of work you actually have to do can be a pretty easy job.

First, do yourself (and your parents) a favor and make a list of the schools you’re most interested in applying to, and try to identify your top choice. If you can’t pick a number one school just yet, that’s fine, you can worry about that later.

Then, once you’ve identified the schools you’re interested in, see how many of your essays ask similar questions. With a little organization, you can actually minimize the amount of work you have to do: think three essays instead of seven, five essays instead of twelve, that sort of thing.

College Essay OrganizerWe developed College Essay Organizer to help you see all your essay requirements in one place and show you how you can write as few essays as possible to answer all your required questions.

Doing this kind of work takes just a few minutes all together, and it helps you get your head off your desk and makes the whole essay process seem a lot more manageable than it used to be. Plus, when your parents come knocking on your door to find out if you’ve done anything with those gosh darned essays you’ll be able to say yes, thank you, please get me a beverage.

College Admissions Guide: 10 Things to do During Your Junior Year

Jess Nepom is one of the expert GMAT prep and SAT prep teachers at Knewton. She loves helping students navigate the college admissions process; this is the first post of a series that will lay out the timeline of that process step by step. Stay tuned!


The college admissions process can be intimidating. For many students (and parents!), the hardest part is keeping track of what they should be doing to get ready and when they should be doing it.

The good news is, there are concrete steps you can take to make sure you’re putting together the best application possible. College apps should be exciting! This college admissions guide will help you break down every part of the process—from junior year to senior year—so you can relax and enjoy the experience.

First step: junior year, when most students take the SAT. Here’s what else you should keep in mind.

10 things to do during your junior year

  1. Make contacts. Get to know your college counselors. You’ll work together a lot in the next year or so. The better they know you, the more useful your  meetings will be.
  2. Get involved. Now’s the time to dive into extracurriculars. By junior year, you should know the one or two that you are most passionate about — focus on those. It’s better to have a leadership role in one activity than to be a member of 12 different clubs and not do anything in any of them.  Start taking on more important responsibilities in whatever you do.
  3. Get good grades. Obviously. All your grades matter, and colleges do look at them. If you were hit or miss in your freshman and sophomore years, now’s the time to buckle down.
  4. Take challenging courses. Even if your grades aren’t all As, taking AP or advanced classes shows admissions committees that you push yourself. If you take a foreign language, work toward the highest level you can. You might be able to test out of language courses in college if you do well.
  5. Read as much as you can, not just for school.
  6. Do your research. What kind of school appeals to you? Big? Small? State? Private? If you live near a college or travel somewhere near one, stop by and take a tour or wander around the campus. If you’re far away from the schools that interest you, check them out via the magic of the Internet.
  7. Plan some visits. If you have an older friend/sibling/relative in college, go visit! See the dorms, ask what students do for fun, and see what they do and don’t like about their school.
  8. Think about what makes you special. Is it a musical instrument? A sport? An academic subject? Your involvement in community service? Focus on the aspects of your life that make you unique so your future application will stand out.
  9. Think about your weaknesses. Assess yourself as a candidate. Any bad grades in the past? Disciplinary problems? No activities? You still have time to make up for past mistakes and plan now to do something about them.
  10. Know your financial situation. Will you need to apply to scholarships? Financial aid? Do you not have to worry about it? Talk to your parents early in the process so you know how much aid (if any) you might need down the line.

That’s your general junior year college admissions guide. Next up we’ll take you through a month-by-month approach to make sure you’re on track as you go!