Written by Lily McIntyre
Hi everyone! I hope you've all been enjoying your summer (keeping COVID-19 restrictions in mind, of course!). Unfortunately, this is the last college essay-writing tip in this series, but it's definitely an important one to remember. As always, feel free to scroll down to find previous tips that may be helpful to you during this process!
Make it personal: There is so much going on in the world, especially right now. You really don't need to write about how the world is; anyone can do that. But nobody except for you can tell a story from solely your perspective. What do your observations and thoughts offer that the media might not? How is your perspective unique, and how can it benefit the world? You might be worrying of seeming too ordinary, but that's okay! In fact, a bonus tip on writing your essay is to think of seemingly unordinary things (a famous essay which helped someone gain admission to five Ivy Leagues and Stanford was all about Costco...find it here). The key part of all of this is to perhaps make the unordinary seem extraordinary by talking about how it might relate to you and how you see the world. Only you have the power to do that. Remember that cheesy quote, "Be yourself because everyone else is taken"? It's more significant than you might think.
Thank you for reading, and I wish everyone applying to college this year and the years to come luck in this process! You'll be on the other side of it before you know it.
Written by Lily McIntyre
Hi everyone! I hope you've all been holding up okay and have been taking care of yourselves. Keep reading for the second edition of our Summer Series on college essay writing, and feel free to browse through previous blog posts for more tips when it comes to perfecting your essay!
Show, don’t tell: I touched on this during last week's post using examples from my own college essay, but I really want to highlight the importance of showing, not telling in your story. The admissions officers should never explicitly read the words “driven”, “passionate”, and “enthusiastic” in reference to yourself and your abilities, but they should be able to read between the lines of your essay to decode that you’re driven, passionate, and enthusiastic. By providing examples in which you showcase these qualities instead of listing qualities, they can gain a greater understanding of how you’ll positively contribute to their school.
Thank you for reading, and stay tuned for the next tip!
Written by Lily McIntyre
Hey everyone! I hope you’ve all been staying well and are taking good care of yourselves. For the next couple of weeks, I’ll be starting a series of essay-writing tips that may help you as you navigate the college essay/application process. Keep reading for the first tip, and don’t forget to keep an eye out for the next edition of this series!
Your story should help, not hurt you: If you’re to get anything out of this post, I hope it’s this: Don’t let your story hold you back in your essay. You might have a really interesting story, but it might be too specific and limit you from talking about everything you want to in a coherent way. If this applies to you, maybe think of a general metaphor that you can weave mini-stories into instead. For my own college essay, I talked about my favorite word game, Bananagrams. I exhibited my personal growth by starting off with a scene from when I was a kid playing Bananagrams in which I traded in my hard letters like Q and X in for easier ones to make words with. I related this story to parts of my life in which I took the easy way out and shied away from challenges. Later in the essay, I gave examples from when I grew older that showed my rising up to challenges and facing my fears. Finally, I tied it all together by discussing a game of Bananagrams in the present day where I didn’t trade in my letters and made creative words with the more difficult letters I already had.
As someone who was going through this process a couple of years ago, I understand how difficult writing your essay can be. Remember to take care of yourselves and prioritize you throughout this process!
Written by Lily McIntyre
Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all been taking good care of yourselves amidst the great change and upheaval going on in our country right now. I've been worrying about the world a lot lately, but my mom always tells me to focus on the stuff I can control instead of worrying about things I can’t. If you’re in high school and planning on taking the SAT or ACT sometime soon, something you can control is getting ahead on standardized test prep (...as terrible as that sounds). If you don’t have any idea where to start or are looking for resources, we’re here to help. Today’s blog post features an interview with Ben C., a top ACT and SAT tutor for a boutique tutoring company called MyGuru. Ben and I talked about study mistakes, tips, test prep resources, and information on standardized tests that might help give you all a leg up in this process!
I started off by asking Ben what kind of student would be a better fit for the ACT versus the SAT; I was confused myself when I was going through this process just a couple of years ago! According to Ben, “The ACT tends to be well suited for students who make a lot of distinctions between things they know, i.e. analytically minded students, where the SAT tends to be suited for students who reason well, or synthesize different kinds of information.” The tests themselves have gotten more similar over the years, so it’s not the end of the world if you’re not sure which test best suits you! Ben also notes that colleges don’t prefer one test over the other, so your decision can be completely based on which test you feel more comfortable taking.
Then, we discussed the prep period before taking the test. Personally, I started prepping for the ACT 6 months before I took it because I was freaked out about it. Ben says that if you’re comfortable with tests, you can start prepping 6-8 weeks before you take it. But for people who get nervous with tests (like myself), Ben agrees with beginning test prep around 6 months in advance. When you’ve started studying and are looking for online resources, Ben recommends test-specific materials. Specifically, “...most tests have numerous official copies that have been uploaded by HS programs and others who gain access to official ACT/SAT tests. It is always a better idea to practice with official materials than a secondary company if possible.” In the weeks leading up to the test, Ben recommends studying 2 hours a week with a tutor, spending 2 hours doing practice questions, plus 4 hours scattered throughout the week doing study work like flash cards, reading, etc.. However, you might have a different time frame and schedule that works for you! Studying for standardized tests is an individualized process; different methods work for different people.
When you’re studying, though, Ben warns against studying “too hard” in order to relieve test anxiety. It is just as important to rest while studying as well! In the weeks leading up to the test, Ben notes that there are certain types of problems that consistently appear on each test, and that there is usually a conventional “right way” to solve it. If grasping that one process is challenging for you, get creative! In Ben’s words, “The ‘wrong way’ can be easier [and] faster, and the test isn’t checking your work. See if you can make up a way to solve the problem that works for you.”
Ben and I also discussed the actual test-taking process. When asked about the biggest test-taking mistakes they see students make, Ben says, “Something I always preach is that we should always choose our own way through the test. Following the sequence of questions as offered… leads to a tendency to get stuck on questions or easily tripped up.” I agreed and reflected on my own experience of being stuck on some math questions while taking the ACT and inevitably wasting more time on those few problems rather than tackling the questions I immediately knew first. In our interview, I also asked Ben about how many times students should take the ACT or SAT. I remember talking to some of my high school peers who took the SAT seven times. Is this actually your best bet? According to Ben, “Taking the test is never fun, so the true ideal is 1 time, so prepare well and hit that mark on the first go. In my experience, though, the experience of taking the test is an essential teacher, and so usually the second or third time will be substantially higher. After the 4th it’s less and less likely, so you definitely don’t want to overdo it.” Similarly, I was satisfied with my score after my third time taking the ACT.
Finally, I really wanted to get a tutor’s insight on the new test-optional policy many universities have been adopting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Ben’s eyes, “The college application is a process that incorporates an array of information in the service of determining whether a student would be a good fit for a given school… It does make sense and feels fair to make the test optional in so many places this year, given that many students are not able to go to great lengths to take it under the pandemic - requiring it would unfairly benefit students with access to more resources.” Given this, Ben still believes that taking the test and getting a high score can positively affect your application. Looking to the future, Ben is excited to see how standardized tests will transform, whether there will be new kinds of tests or new ways to do testing at home, or something we can’t imagine right now. We hope that Ben’s insight has given you some guidance, and hopefully some relief, on the big, bad standardized test process! Find out more about Ben and MyGuru’s services below:
Ben C. is a top ACT and SAT tutor for a boutique tutoring company called MyGuru. They specialize in connecting students with experienced (at least 3 years) and impressive (at least 95th percentile test scores and bachelor's degrees) backgrounds at an affordable cost. They also stress the importance of mindset, strategy, confidence, effective study habits, and time management and organization skills in achieving superior performance in school and on standardized tests. Visit them there for more information on their ACT and SAT tutoring approach.
by Lily McIntyre
We hope that everyone is staying healthy and safe during these troubling times. If you haven’t read our last blog post, I posted about some mental health resources and self-care tips that might be helpful given our current situation. Please check them out if you haven’t yet; you can find the post here.
But this week, I wanted to share some thoughts on the situation as well as things that I’ve been learning throughout the past week or so. We at Lucent believe that the killings and abuse by the police, as well as the systemic racism that disproportionately impacts Black people, are unjust and need to end. We hope that people are educating themselves so that Black people may be treated as equals, with the respect and dignity that so many already have the privilege of having. Black Lives Matter, but “matter” is the minimum. Black lives are worthy and needed. Of course, I am unbelievably angry that this keeps happening, and that it ever happened in the first place. I’m even angrier that some people are morphing a human rights crisis into a political issue.
I actually saw an analogy on TikTok recently that I think explains the situation clearly to those who might be having trouble understanding. Here’s the link: https://vm.tiktok.com/EsmYX6/. The woman in the video is talking about a conversation she had in which one of her friends said, “I just can’t support this because all lives matter.” The woman in the video then explains a hypothetical situation in which people are sitting down to eat and everyone gets a plate of food except for Bob. Bob is hungry and wants a plate of food, but Karen, with a full plate, says, “We’re all hungry, Bob.” Bob doesn’t have any food, though. “I deserve food!” Bob says. Everyone else keeps eating. Do we all deserve food? Yes! But saying that doesn’t change the fact that Bob still doesn’t have any. This next part really stuck with me and I hope it will stick with you too. The woman says, “Do all lives matter? Yes! But saying it doesn’t change the fact that Black lives haven’t mattered for years. Don’t be mad because you don’t have a movement. Be happy you don’t need one.” The time for us to step up has been long, long overdue.
As a white woman, I am aware of my privilege and have been viewing each day as an opportunity to educate myself and confront the systemic racism that has burdened our country for over 400 years. Privilege is educating yourself about racism instead of experiencing it (@sirjohn on Instagram). Privilege is being encouraged to vote instead of being turned away from the polls. Privilege is feeling sympathetic for the people directly affected by this situation instead of truly empathetic, because as much as I educate myself, as often as I sign petitions and donate, I will never really know the pain and suffering the Black community is feeling right now and has felt for centuries.
Maybe you’re wondering how you can step up. Maybe you’ve seen posts online about protests, step-by-step guides on how to be actively anti-racist, or books and movies that bring awareness to the reality of being a Black person in America. Maybe you’ve seen bail funds to donate to or petitions to sign. We have our work cut out for us. Maybe you’re feeling pressured to do everything, which simply isn’t possible for one person! If I’m being honest, the sheer influx of information I have been seeing, while incredibly helpful, can get overwhelming after a while. But as long as we collectively keep our foot on the gas and make a habit of doing something meaningful that benefits this movement every day, that moves us in the right direction. Do whatever you can to make a tangible difference. Here is a compilation of resources for accountability and action for Black lives:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Xa9Av-NfuFsWBHlsMvPiqJHdNedZgnCRW56qAS-7PGQ/mobilebasic. Also, you can still donate without actually spending mone (check this out for more information: https://www.instagram.com/p/CA7xa-gJ6To/?igshid=1q83y0muclfsg ) . But please keep in mind as more time goes by that this movement is not a trend. We have created great momentum and have to keep it going!
Check-in on your Black friends (here’s a guide if you don’t know what to say: https://www.instagram.com/p/CA-hlZwlz9s/?igshid=h05fdz84gm2). They are carrying an enormous weight on their shoulders. And to the Black community: We see you, we hear you, and we are here for you.
We also wanted to note that this has been a time of high emotion, which can be very overwhelming. There has been a lot of intense content on social media during the past couple days, so we want to remind everyone of a few tips if the media/situation at large has you feeling overwhelmed:
1. Write down your thoughts (@justgirlproject on IG). Doing this without judgement is very important. Feel whatever it is you feel.
2. Have productive conversations and express your feelings to friends and family (@justgirlproject on IG).
3. Read (especially before bed)! (@justgirlproject on IG)
4. Color, paint, or do paint by numbers.
5. Focus on what you can control (_@hi_anxiety_ on IG)
6. Continue to educate yourself and continually check in with yourself to be aware if you need a break.
We hope that you are all looking out for others and also yourself. We hope that you continue to stay healthy and safe. We are here to support you in any way we can.
written by Lily McIntyre
With most (virtual) graduations in full swing, we start to look forward to the rising seniors who will be in a cap and gown a year from now, all of their hard work towards school and college/job applications having finally paid off. However, all graduates will tell you that it can be a long road to get to that point. The college application process can seem to be a daunting one, especially when coming up with your personal statement. Based on my own experience and my friends’ experiences, I can tell you firsthand that it takes a weight off of your shoulders if you write a rough draft of your college essay sooner rather than later. Even if you re-read your essay later and cringe, or decide to make lots of revisions, and it doesn’t matter. You’ll already be done with the hardest part: starting. Social distancing may be a pain in many ways, but you can actually use it to your advantage this time. It’s not very often that you’re left with little to do but think! Use this time as an opportunity to reflect on your past experiences and what you’ve learned from them.
Want some tips for your essay? Here are 3 ideas that might be useful for brainstorming:
Looking for a fresh set of eyes to look over your essay or someone to brainstorm with? Lucent Education offers essay revision services that tailor to each student’s individual needs. Whether you’re applying to an undergraduate, graduate, or MBA program, Lucent is committed to helping you showcase the best, most genuine you. For more details on our services, click this link: https://www.lucenteducation.com/store/c5/college-gradschool-services.
written by Lily McIntyre
Staying mindful and present amidst the uncertainty relating to the pandemic’s impact on career and education-related opportunities is more important than ever. Mindfulness, otherwise known as focusing on the present moment, is “not the answer to all of life's problems. Rather, it is that all life's problems can be seen more clearly through the lens of a clear mind” (Kabat-Zinn, 1990). If school, career, or any life-related stress is taking a toll on you, here are three easy tips that can boost your mindfulness experience:
MyLife Meditation app: If you’re new to meditation, check out this free app for quick and effective guided exercises to tap into your feelings in a healthy way.
Four Square Breathing: If you’re feeling especially anxious, “Four Square Breathing” is a great grounding tool that lowers both psychological and physiological stress.
Exercise: Yes, the idea of exercise might seem annoying! But if you’re able to, even taking a walk or run outside for a half an hour a day is a great tool to clear your head and focus on the present moment.
We at Lucent Education hope that these tools make this uncertain time a little bit easier to navigate. We are committed to supporting our clients in any way we can, and hope that everyone is staying safe, healthy, and present during these times.
High School from in-person to remote & mental health:
For current high school seniors:
Info on how COVID-19 might affect your high school experience as it relates to college applications:
For seniors receiving decisions letters back from colleges:
AP and SAT/ACT Exams:
We're teaming up with Learning Center again to hold FREE college admissions prep workshops. These are great for parents of middle and high schoolers (and teens are welcome to join).
Presented by: Agnes Chan, Lucent Education
Date: Saturday, April 4, 2-4pm
Location: Learning Center, 333 W Maude Ave #110, Sunnyvale, CA 94085
Who: Great for parents of middle schoolers/high schoolers; teens are welcomed to join
We’ll navigate through the high school timelines for each of the main components of a high school portfolio that are considered during the admissions process.
More info about the Learning Center
Tutoring: Learning Center offers individualized tutoring in Math and English for kids and adults in a small group setting.
STEM Coding: Learning Center offers technology-focused camps and classes for students in Scratch, Python, 3-D printing, Java, and Robotics. Our offerings include coding classes and camps throughout the year including Saturdays. Students code computer games/projects, and construct engineering models. They build and program robots. Our program features use of computer technology under the supervision of qualified and experienced teachers. We provide all the technology and tools necessary to enhance students coding learning.
Founder/Instructor: Sanjay Agarwal brings in more than 25 years of experience as a Hardware and Software Engineer and has worked with many technology companies. He holds a Masters in Electrical Engineering and an MBA. He has a passion for teaching science and technology to school children in fun filled learning environment. Sanjay believes our children should learn how to program, because it helps the way they see and think. He caters to the passion, creativity, and curiosity of the child using projects and games that are both educational and fun.
Blaine at Financial Aid Coach gets tons of questions about college loans this time of year. Here are his thoughts and expertise laid out as a primer.
This time of year, once families have decided where their high school seniors will attend college for the upcoming fall, a new set of questions come into play. Admissions applications and financial aid forms have been completed, but parents are often left with wondering how they will cover the balance remaining. Let’s take a look at something that’s commonly used to help bridge the gap of remaining cost; college loans.
Considering the rising cost of college, loans come into play more and more. These are made available through the Federal Government, private banks and credit unions and sometimes even schools themselves. It’s common for families to need to utilize college loans. Students are graduating from college with over $20,000 in loan debt, on average. That’s not accounting for loans that are in their parent’s name.
Here are some of the more common loans that are made available to families:
FEDERAL DIRECT LOANS
These loans, formerly referred to as the Stafford Loans, are loans in the student’s name provided through the Federal Government. There’s no application process. Students become eligible for this loan by filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
These loans are provided in specified amounts to college students. They come in subsidized (government pays the interest) and unsubsidized (families are responsible for the interest) forms based on need as determined by the FAFSA and other financial aid forms. While a family may not qualify for subsidized Federal Direct Loans, you can’t be turned away from the unsubsidized Federal Direct Loan because you make too much money or have too much in assets. This is a common misconception.
Here’s a bit more info on Federal Direct Loans. The interest rates for the 2016-17 Federal Direct Loans will be announced later in the summer.
PARENT PLUS LOANSBecause the Federal Direct Loans have a maximum amount that can be borrowed, which is commonly not enough to cover the full remaining balance, parents are left to look into other options. One of the more common loan options is the Parent PLUS Loan.
This is another loan through the Federal Government. The difference between this loan and the Federal Direct Loan is that the Parent PLUS Loan is a loan in the parent’s name, as the name of the loan would indicate. This loan is applied for on a pass/fail basis at a fixed interest rate provided by the government each new school year. Parents can apply for the maximum needed to cover any remaining balance.
Check out a previous article on common loan myths to avoid confusion when it comes to repayment of the Parent PLUS Loan.
To read the rest of the article: http://financialaidcoach.com/introduction-to-college-loans-2016/
Please double check with schools as decisions notifications can change!
There's not much of a difference between Early Decision 1 and Early Decision 2 - except for the timing. Students that know that they have a first choice school, and will go regardless of being accepted elsewhere, have the opportunity to apply a bit earlier. The timing for these 2 rounds are different with Early Decision 2 deadlines closer to the deadlines of Regular Decisions, but that the notification of Early Decision candidates is typically in February instead of late March/April.
Here's a list of schools with the option to submit and Early Decision 2 (ED2) application:
Here's a list - Stanford (our alma mater) comes out today!
Barnard College: Mid-December
Boston College: December 5th, 5:30pm EST (Early Decision I)
Boston University: December 15
Brandeis University: December 15
Brown University: Mid-December
Cal Tech: Mid-December
Carnegie Mellon University: December 15
Columbia University: December 12th, 7pm ET
Cornell University: December 12th, 7pm ET
Dartmouth College: Mid-December
Duke University: December 15th
Emory University: By December 15
Georgetown University: December 15th
Harvard University: Mid-December
Harvey Mudd: December 15th (decisions mailed)
Johns Hopkins University: December 13th
Middlebury College: Mid-December
MIT: December 14th, 12:14pm ET
New York University: December 15th (Early Decision I), February 15th (Early Decision II)
Northwestern University: Mid-December
Notre Dame University: Mid-December
Pomona College: By December 15
Princeton University: December 12th
Stanford University: December 6th, 4pm PST
Swarthmore College: By December 15
Tufts University: Mid-December
Tulane University: November 20th, 4pm CST (Early Decision), December 19th, 3:30pm CST (Early Action)
University of Chicago: Mid-December (Early Action and Early Decision)
University of Michigan, By December 24
University of Pennsylvania, December 16th, 7pm
University of Virginia, December 6th, evening (Early Decision), January 31st (Early Action)
Vanderbilt University: Mid-December (Early Decision I), Mid-February (Early Decision II)
Washington University in St. Louis: Mid-December
Wellesley College: Mid-December, ED Round I
William & Mary: December 6th, evening (Early Decision I)
Williams College: By December 15
Yale University: December 16th
College, Graduate School, and Career Coaching.