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How to tackle the Bowdoin supplement 
Ok, so we all recognize that the phrase “college is the best four years of your life” sounds absolutely ridiculous… it is. In fact, everyone at Bowdoin laughs at this phrase; however, don’t let this discourage you from using Bowdoin's unique supplement prompt to showcase your thoughtfulness and your ability to reflect, synthesize and EMBRACE the ...
How to answer Columbia's lists
Columbia University is one of the world’s most diverse institutions. Their school-specific application questions help create a class of students with different interests and backgrounds. The Columbia admissions officers want to picture how you will interact with your classmates and contribute to campus life. The questions below will help ...
How to answer Yale's supplemental essays
School-specific supplementary essays provide an opportunity for you to share additional insight about yourself that may not have been captured in the main Common App essay. In this post, I will present approaches to Yale University’s supplementary questions. ​​Ideally, these strategies can be applicable for a range of supplementary questions ...
How to answer the University of Virginia's supplemental essays
School-specific supplements are an opportunity to share an intellectual interest, or an element of your life story, that might be missing from your main Common App essay. In this post, I will describe strategies for answering two supplement questions from the University of Virginia. Although my advice is tailored to these two prompts, my hope is ...
How to write the community service essay
Whether in an interview or an essay, all college applicants should be prepared to talk about the ways they have worked to improve their schools and communities. No college wants to admit a passive recipient of community, they would all much prefer to admit an active and engaged citizen who understands that community requires contribution. Use this ...
The “Why College X” Supplement
Perhaps the most straightforward type of supplement question, many schools simply want to know “Why Us?” The word count for this type of response will vary significantly based on the school – from 50 to 500 words.
How to write an essay about leadership
Leadership essays, or essays where you are asked about your work as a leader in your school or community, are not as common as you might imagine. Given all of the emphasis schools and clubs put on leadership roles and titles, essays asking students to dive deeply into this work are actually pretty rare in college applications. That said, it is ...
JOY! Not just a character in Inside Out, but a supplement essay too!
Increasingly, schools are asking students to reflect on things that bring them joy, satisfaction, or happiness. These can be difficult to write as often the college application process is the opposite of joyful... but these joy essays are here to stay!
Who… are…you? How to write the identity supplement.
In Alice in Wonderland, when the Caterpillar persists in asking “Who… Are…. You?,” Alice stumbles and cannot reply. It’s a good thing that Alice isn’t applying to college, because some form of an essay asking about you (and your identity and/or perspective) is an ever-more-popular supplement question. These are hard! It is important to tackle ...
How to write a college supplement about community
You do not exist in a vacuum and colleges know this! The very common “community essay” is an opportunity for you to tell a story about one community that matters to you and what you have gained from its membership. This is your chance to talk about people you care about (and why!) in a much tighter and more focused way than you can in your Common ...
The combo essay: not a lunch order!
Increasingly, schools are crafting a single supplement question that combines two “tried and true” supplements into one big question. Consider the “combo essay” the way for you to talk about the best aspects of why you want to attend College X combined with the ways you get to talk about your academic interests and passions as specific to that ...
How to answer a challenge question for college supplements
The challenge question is a rare written supplement but is actually a very common interview question. Every college applicant should be prepared to discuss a failure (or something that did not go as they had intended) whether that discussion comes in the application itself or in an interview situation. While, on the surface, challenge questions ...
How to tackle the academic interest supplement
Why are you going to college? Hopefully to learn more about something that inspires you! While you might have many and varied reasons for attending college (someone told you that you had to, you are excited to watch a college basketball game live, you cannot wait to move to a new city), at the root of your college application is the presumption ...
10 steps to completing your college essay before school starts
It’s that time of year:  you’re probably working on your college essay. You might even have a first draft.  Great job!  Take a breather and enjoy some of your favorite summer activities.  When you’re ready to confront your document again, take a look at these revision tips that I’ve put together over years of helping students make their essays ...
Where to begin on the personal essay
You’re nearing the end of eleventh grade, and you’re approaching that daunting but thrilling task that you’ve been imagining for years: you’re applying to college! Even before you make a College Board account or begin narrowing down your college choices, you probably already know about that one super critical piece of the puzzle: the personal ...
Application essays: the power of story
The blank page can be a daunting place for even the most experienced writers, and application essays can be particularly stressful. How do I encapsulate myself in something like six hundred words? What do I need to come across about myself to the reader? And how do I best convey it? It can feel like a tall order, I know. 
How to choose the best college for you
The college admissions process can be really stressful—there are exams to take, essays to write, recommendations to request... our to-do lists seem never-ending. But the vast majority of our concerns with this process circle around the same question: What do I need to do to get into this school? This is, of course, an important question—and there ...
A comprehensive college admissions timeline
This is not your average college admissions timeline. Rather, this is an outline of a thoughtful and purposeful college process, one that begins your freshman year because it's a journey of discovery, reflection, and articulation. Read on to see Cambridge Coaching's suggestions for how to structure your high school career with respect to your ...
What to do for college applications as a rising senior (in August)
After what was hopefully a restful and relaxing summer, you are ready to start school again this month (or next, depending on where you go to school)! You are officially a senior now. Much about your college process will come into clarity in the next few months. All of the work you have already done will be such an advantage to you in the weeks ...
Your college admissions reading list
Love college admissions? Want to learn more? Here are a few places to go:
Breaking down the common app personal statement
The common app personal essay can seem like a daunting task to tackle. Not only that, misconceptions abound about how to write this "all-important" essay and what to put in it. Not to worry - Cambridge Coaching is here to dispel these common misconceptions and give you some tools to start your writing on the right foot!
An international student’s guide to US college applications
International students (who typically require an F-1 visa to study in the United States) account for an increasing percentage of matriculated undergraduate and graduate students each year. I was an international undergraduate student myself, and I remember that the process of applying to colleges in the US seemed so intimidating and overwhelming ...
What to do over the summer as a rising senior in high school
Happy summer, rising seniors! I hope you are taking some time to enjoy yourselves. I'm here to tell you that you do not need to work on your college applications each day to have a successful college process. This is a great time to continue the slow and steady work you have already begun, but it is also important that you find time to rest and ...
What is demonstrated interest? How do I show it? Why should I care?
Colleges increasingly rely on calculations of a student’s “demonstrated interest” (or "DI") to make decisions about admission and offers for various merit scholarships. It is important that students and families have a true understanding of DI to see how it can support an application.
College Alumni Interview do’s (and a few don’ts)
First, the do’s: 1. Be on time and look professional. Log into the Zoom link early and wait. Be sure your “Zoom shirt” is appropriate.
How to get to know a college when COVID means you can’t visit
As COVID was canceling proms and making graduations “drive-through” last spring, it was also causing a major shift in how colleges and admissions offices were introducing themselves to students and families. Students and families began to wonder, “How can I get to know if X College is right for me if I can’t visit and see it for myself?” Just ...
How to choose the right college essay topic
Choosing the right topic for your college application essay can feel daunting. How are you supposed to make yourself stand out from the crowd? What are you supposed to do if you’re just “normal”? How can you say anything meaningful about yourself in only 650 words?
How to fit you into your personal statement
The question “what do you like to do for fun?” has always stressed me out. As someone who preaches work-life balance and champions new experiences, I like to imagine myself as the type of person who would quickly rattle off an impressive and well-rounded list of hobbies and activities. The truth of the matter is that each time I am confronted with ...
Two common grammatical mistakes to avoid in polished writing
There are no hard and fast rules in writing. But even if an experimental poet or an avant-garde novelist has dispensed with capitalization or written an entire novel without the letter E (yes, a novel like this really exists!), this does not mean that you need to follow suit. Your personal statement, for example, is not the place to defy the ...
Authentic and vulnerable reflection in your college personal statement
The personal statement is one of the most important factors in your application. But in the end, it’s your story. Here’s the secret: it doesn’t matter what you write about; what matters is how you write it. If you write astutely and creatively, and if the story is yours, your essay will be unique and unforgettable.
Tackling unfamiliar problems on the SAT math sections
Let's face it: there's no way to control exactly what math questions will pop up on test day. Questions at the beginning of each section tend to be simple and straightforward--you might be asked to isolate a variable, determine the slope between two points, or solve a system of equations--but later questions can often feel like they've come out of ...
Top 5 pitfalls to avoid when writing the supplemental “Why college X?” essay
Many colleges require students to write school-specific supplemental essays. These are usually some variation of what I call the “Why Us?” prompt. For instance, Yale asks, “What is it about Yale that has led you to apply?” and Columbia requires 300 words on, “Please tell us what you value most about Columbia and why.”
4 ways to beat writing anxiety on the personal statement
Writing is a daunting task. To transform your nebulous thoughts into a linear string of words requires a special kind of concentration. And when it comes to writing personal essays, like those required for most undergraduate and graduate applications, you are asked to not only concentrate but also be introspective. It’s no wonder that many of us ...
How to spend the summer before your senior year of high school
If you’re a high-school student at the end of the spring semester, you’ve likely got two things on the brain: passing your finals and summer vacation. Hopefully, in that order. But summer vacation is no longer all fun and games. These days, there’s the expectation to fill June, July, and August with resume-building activities. Family vacations get ...
College interviews: dos, don'ts, and common questions
Remember that the college interview is as much an opportunity for the school to learn about you as if is for you to learn about the school.  There is no right answer during an interview (it should be thought of more as a conversation); though there are some helpful things to remember when you step into your first interview.
Writing a thesis and topic sentences in your personal statement
Every applicant who needs to write a personal statement struggles with structuring their personal statement.  It is hard enough to muster the courage to brainstorm your most salient life experiences on paper; now, the most important part is structuring your personal statement with your thesis and topic sentences.
To write a memorable college essay, tell a story
Essays Without Concrete Information Are Quickly Forgotten As I regularly tell students in my AP English classes, essays full of generalizations aren’t worth the paper they are written on.  An essay that fails to include concrete examples of the concept under discussion is forgotten the moment the reader reaches the end—if, indeed, the reader gets ...
What to talk about in your college admissions alumni interview
In my last post, I laid out four reasons why you should schedule that “optional” alumni interview advertised on universities’ pages for prospective students. In today’s post, I’ll describe how to hold a conversation that is valuable for you, and for your alumni interviewer, as they draft their report for the admissions committee.
Why you should opt-in to the (optional) alumni interview
You’ve labored over the first draft of your personal statement, requested letters of recommendation, and taken the SAT one last time— and, finally, winter break arrives. With it comes ample free time to commit to the “optional” elements of the college admissions process, such as college visits and what I’ll discuss today: the voluntary “alumni ...
How to draft a college personal statement in 4 easy steps
There is no use beating around the bush: drafting your personal statement is one of the most challenging components of the college application.  Even the most confident writers struggle to distill their identity within the bounds of a word count. The personal statement requires serious introspection about your life and long-term goals, and thus ...
6 ways to manage your time during your senior year
Applying to college in the fall of your senior year of high school is like adding on an extra class: between the Common App, secondary applications, and any remaining test prep, your college application doesn’t just reflect your academic abilities—it requires you to really show them off. However, along with demonstrating your writing and ...
The key to selecting the right answer on the SAT & ACT: part 2
Welcome to part 2 of my post on English strategies for the SAT and ACT! If you didn’t read part 1, you can check it out here. Picture it now: you’re breezing through the ACT English Language Arts or SAT Writing and Language section. Every question come easily to you, as you follow what your ear tells you is right. You didn’t need to learn grammar ...
How to address weak areas of your college application
  Although it may feel like you have to have the perfect application to get into college, with acceptance rates at some top-tier schools dropping below five percent, there is no perfect formula for being accepted to college. Your goal instead should be to present any “problem areas”—a dip in your GPA, lower test scores than you wanted, or other ...
Do colleges consider campus visits in their admissions decision?
In this blog post, we ask four of our New York and Cambridge college admissions coaches a simple question:
The SAT essay dissected: a step-by step guide
For many students, the SAT essay is one of the most challenging parts of the exam. The short length of time means that you don't have the ability to develop a strong, well thought-out, complex essay. Fortunately, similar to other sections on the SAT, you can succeed by taking a methodical approach, and after some practice, this will come naturally.
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