Tips for Answering Common Application Essay Prompts (

If you are beginning your senior year of high school, this is the prime time to write your Common Application essay. The sooner you get started, the better. If possible, use the summer to focus your efforts on writing your essay. There are over 500 Common Application members in 47 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Qatar, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. All these institutions have a common commitment to a holistic approach to the admissions process. This commitment means they look at more than just your test scores and GPA. They also give significant weight to your essay responses.

Read the rest of Marie Todd’s article for tips for writing Common App essays

Community Activities Make a College Application Stand Out (College Basics)

Community involvement is not just for adults. For those who are applying to selective colleges, community involvement can make a difference between acceptance and rejection. Of course, what a student does in the classroom and in school is important, but colleges are looking to build community, too, and admission committees want to know its future students will be part of their community effort. Also, select colleges are looking for students who will graduate as well-rounded citizens and community contributors; it’s a feather in their caps and, quite frankly, means a good possibility of successful alumni making monetary donations to their alma maters!

If you want to demonstrate that you are better than average on your application to a top college, part of distinguishing yourself should include community accomplishments. Below are some suggestions for you to think about that you have done or should do during your four years at your high school to help you create an impressive college application.

Read the rest of the article for more on community service and your college applications

29 College Majors You Didn’t Know Existed (Her Campus)

College is a big deal and because of that it can be really stressful. One of the most stressful parts of the college experience is determining an appropriate major for study.

If you’re anything like me, you have obsessed for months over which major you should choose. You’ve called friends, you’ve surfed the internet, you’ve lived in the library for a few months doing research, and even when you’ve decided on something, the odds are, you will probably have second thoughts about your course of study at some point.

I remember reading at least five different books before I came to my final decision over which avenue to take. Some of the majors I found, however, seemed a bit odd!

Read Emina Dedic’s article for 29 great majors you may not know exist!

5 college finance problems your parents didn’t have (USA Today)

If you’re in the throes of college research and decision-making, it’s likely that how to pay for college is a huge consideration. And because things have changed so much economically over the last 25 years, some say that today’s young adults, those classified as Millennials, have a lot more to think about than their Generation X parents did.

“College costs a lot more today than when the parents of current students went to college,” says Mark Kantrowitz, senior VP and publisher of “Back then, it was possible to work one’s way through college. Fewer students borrowed to pay for school, and average debt among those who borrowed was much lower. Today’s students are growing more sensitive to the debt burden,” he says.

According to the Pew Research Report, “Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next,” a majority of the Millennials surveyed agree with Kantrowitz, saying it’s harder for young adults today to attain the basic financial goals that their parents achieved when they were the same age. Eighty-two percent said finding a job is harder for young adults today, and at least 7 in 10 said it’s harder now to pay for college. The real question is whether or not this is really true: Do today’s college students have more education financing problems than their parents?

Read Dawn Papandrea’s article for an infographic breakdown of how college financing has changed over the eyars

5 Things to Consider When Weighing Admission Offers (IvyWise)

Most admission decisions are in for the Class of 2019, and now that the anxiety of waiting to hear back from admissions offices has passed, it may set into motion a new phase of stress and uncertainty: deciding where to enroll.

At this time, many students are weighing multiple offers of admission from great schools. If you created a balanced college list, the hope is that you have offers from a few great-fit colleges, any of which you’d be happy to attend. For many, that can be the biggest challenge – deciding which of these awesome schools is “the one.”

There are many factors to consider when deciding where to apply to college, and many of those elements should be revisited when deciding where to enroll. It’s also important to realize that student and family priorities may have changed in the months leading up to admission decisions, so a school that was once a top choice could easily end up at the bottom of a student’s list after decisions come in.

When evaluating multiple offers of admission, here are five things that students and their families should consider before making a decision about where to enroll for the fall.

Read the rest of the article for important questions to ask when making your final college choice.

5 Things NOT To Say To Your Teen About College Decisions (Huffington Post)

It used to be that all college admission notifications were delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. You didn’t even need to open the letter to know what was inside: If it was a thick package, you had gotten in and the envelope contained a zillion forms to fill out. And if you didn’t make the cut, the letter that came was a small envelope sending regrets and wishing you well elsewhere.

Nothing is quite that simple anymore, is it? Many colleges today notify applicants by email. A few still support the post office for old times’ sake. And some require that you log onto their site and check your application status at a precise date and time. Just in case the whole application process hasn’t been sufficiently stressful, imagine tens of thousands of student applicants hovering over their computers for the moment admission notices are posted.

Read Ann Brenoff’s article for things not to say to your teens about their college decisions.

How to Decipher Those Confusing College Financial Aid Letters (Main St)

The average cost of attending a public university is about $28,000, and the average cost of a private university is $55,000. Consequently, every dollar squeezed out of financial aid, especially via scholarships, grants or loans, could be vital.

That’s why it’s good to be able to decipher college financial aid letters to maximize their value.

According to American Student Assistance, a nonprofit group that helps college students and their families gain financial help for school, there are four key tasks when getting an award letter:

  • Know how much financial assistance you will need.
  • Know how to read an award letter.
  • Know the difference between the types of aid listed.
  • Know the difference between “free” aid (such as grants and scholarships) and what students have to pay back (i.e., student loans).

Here’s some advice on getting the most value from a college aid offer:

Not every “estimate” is accurate. Look closely at what the letter actually says about “total aid” — there’s more to that number than you think. “I have two kids in college now, and one more to go next fall, and a fourth in two years, so I am becoming a pro at the deciphering of college aid letters,” says Jill Novak, a director of client transitioning at Human Investing, a Lake Oswego, Ore., financial services firm. “I’ve found the part of the aid letters that can be misleading or confusing as a parent [is the] total amount estimated of the cost for the year. Some of this is an estimate and not the actual cost, as the school is estimating books, housing and expenses.”

Read Brian O’Connell’s article for more information on how to interpret your financial aid awards