A Focus on the College Application Essay

A Focus on the College Application Essay

Recently, we came across an article published this week on Business Insider’s website by Yale graduate Abby Jackson, on the magazine’s education team, that highlights some key points from conversations on Reddit concerning the college application essay. Stacey Brook, founder of the company “College Essay Advisors”, answered some users’ questions about what they should focus on when writing the essay that asks “why” a student wants to attend the college they are writing the personal statement for. This article comes at an appropriate time as Jackson states, “The White House issued a presidential proclamation on Friday deeming November National College Application Month. As students work to finish their applications, many will struggle with how to approach their essay topics.”

One piece of advice of Brook’s that Jackson mentions:

“An effective answer to this question addresses two main areas: pointed interest and good fit. And it all begins with research!”

Brooks goes on to say that when students do their research on the colleges they are applying to that they should find reasons to explain literally why they want to attend. They should identify the kinds of activities and classes peak their interest and even professors they could potentially see themselves working with.

You can read the full set of conversations that Stacey Brook has with students on the Reddit site back starting around October 10th when she answers questions about the “Why Essays”.


Abby Jackson’s article “A college adviser explains the trick to nailing a particularly hard type of admissions essay” can be found on the Business Insider website.

What High School Seniors Should Consider When Applying to Colleges This November

What High School Seniors Should Consider When Applying to Colleges This November

We’re at the beginning of college admissions season for this year’s high-school seniors. One big change this fall is on the financial-aid front: Families can now file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA, as of October 1 — three months earlier than in previous years, and using their most recent tax returns.

~Salingo (writer, professor and visiting scholar)

Jeffrey J. Salingo’s recent article in the Washington Post entitled “As college admissions season begins, important advice for high-school seniors” highlights some major ideas for students to think when applying to college this year. One new feature that is available to families is now applying for the FAFSA student aid in the Fall rather than in the new year. This will help families to determine how much they are willing to budget on college spending for their children. Salingo also gives four advice points for students in 12th grade, especially as will be applying by the November deadlines this month to colleges.

Salingo’s “words of wisdom” include:

  1. Research a variety of schools and include a “safety school” among the choices in order to give students a wide variety of options when going to college.
  2. Include both private and public colleges and universities in students’ college search that suit their lifestyle needs and career interests.
  3. Consider applying to community colleges if students are unsure of what they want to study before going into a four-year university.
  4. Keep all options open in terms of choosing a major to study as many students will change majors even within their first year in.


To read the full article, you can go to this link to the Washington Post.

The Ivy League Agenda – Taking the First Steps to Learning More

The Ivy League Agenda – Taking the First Steps to Learning More

So you want to get into an Ivy League? Find out more about the eight campuses in this article as well as the differences between how many students applied as compared to how many were accepted from this year to last year.  


  All high school students who excel in their academic studies want to eventually attend one of the most prestigious universities someday. They know that the years spent doing hours of homework to keep up with their classes, all of the activities and clubs they were involved in and all of the extra time they put in otherwise will help them not only in figuring out what their strengths lie in but also what kinds of careers they will eventually choose to pursue. To do this, they will need to find the right college campus for them to accomplish their goals, one that is known for its higher pursuit of education and one that will help them to land the jobs they want in their professional lives after college. That is why many students have and will continue to apply to the “best of the best” schools in our country- the so-called “Ivy League” schools.


Yes those monuments to education, that have stood the test of time and have a history of academic success. But where to begin to find out more about them? We know that our students who attend our classes and camps at Areteem Institute want to eventually be seated in one of these fine institutions, but where to start looking? So, in order to make it easier in your research, we compiled all of the websites on one page with some brief facts about each of the campuses, read on to find out more:


Brown UniveristyBrown University: https://www.brown.edu/

-#16 on US News and World Report’s “National University Rankings”
-Location: Providence, Rhode Island
-Tuition for 2014-2015: $47,434



Columbia Univeristy Columbia University: http://www.columbia.edu/index.html

-#4 tied with Stanford University and the University of Chicago on US News and World Report’s “National University Rankings”
-Location: New York, New York
-Tuition for 2014-2015: $51,008



Cornell UniversityCornell University: https://www.cornell.edu/

-#15 on US News and World Report’s “National University Rankings”
-Location: Ithaca, New York
-Tuition for 2014-2015: $47,286



Dartmouth University Dartmouth University: http://dartmouth.edu/

-#11 on US News and World Report’s “National University Rankings”
-Location: Hanover, New Hampshire
-Tuition for 2014-2015: $48,108



Harvard Univeristy Harvard University: http://www.harvard.edu/

-#2 on US News and World Report’s “National University Rankings”
-Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
-Tuition for 2014-2015: $43,998



University of PennsylvaniaUniversity of Pennsylvania: http://www.upenn.edu/
-#8 on US News and World Report’s “National University Rankings”
-Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
-Tuition for 2014-2015: $47,668



Princeton UniversityPrinceton University: http://www.princeton.edu/main/

-#1 on US News and World Report’s “National University Rankings”
-Location: Princeton, New Jersey
-Tuition for 2014-2015: $41,820



Yale UniversityYale University: http://www.yale.edu/

-#3 on US News and World Report’s “National University Rankings”
-Location: New Haven, Connecticut
-Tuition for 2014-2015: $45,800



 Now let’s look at some statistics!


Comparing the class of 2018 and class of 2019 stats for admitted freshman from last fall 2014 and this fall 2015 respectively, there is a slight decrease in admitted students overall although each of the Ivy Leagues differ in this regard. To clarify, here is a run-down of the students who applied and were then admitted under early action or early decision applications from this year and last year. Keep in mind that the class of 2019 stats are still being calculated as not all of the Ivy Leagues have published this information yet.


Ivy League Schools Students Applied To More This Year than Last Year: Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn,
Ivy League Schools Students Applied To Less This Year than Last Year: Brown, Yale, Princeton


Ivy League Schools Students Were Admitted To More This Year than Last Year: Brown, Dartmouth, Penn, Princeton, Yale
Ivy League Schools Students Were Admitted To Less This Year than Last Year: Columbia, Cornell, Harvard


As these are the schools that are students strive to be accepted at, we feel here at Areteem Institute that it is important to provide as many resources as possible to our parents and to those who are interested in challenging their students more in academics. Thanks for reading and be sure to check out our main website at www.areteem.org to learn how we can help you to excel through our courses and summer camp programs this year held on the campuses of UCLA, Boston College and the University of Chicago!


Sources Cited:




Another website to look and an inspiring story of one student’s success rate:



It's really not that difficult

It’s really not that difficult


Congratulations on getting in to college. Now, how do you pay for it? Well there are a lot of ways to pay for college: you can write a check, get grandma and grandpa to write a check, maybe you got a scholarship, or maybe you need financial aid. Well however you pay for it there are five letters you need to know…FAFSA.

The FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is free and quick, and it gives you access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college or career school. In addition, many states and colleges use your FAFSA data to determine your eligibility for state and school aid, and some private financial aid providers may use your FAFSA information to determine whether you qualify for their aid.

Filling out the FAFSA® can be a straightforward and easy process. Here are some helpful tips to make it even easier.

Teacher with student






Online you will find it at www.fafsa.gov then click on the “Start A New FAFSA” button on the home page and off you go.







You’ll need a Federal Student Aid PIN, a personal identification number that allows you to sign your FAFSA electronically.

Click here to get your pin.







The FAFSA asks for information about you, lot of it. Some of the information is easy (your name, date of birth, address, etc.). Some you will have to gather, especially financial information. Some of the documents you will need are:

  • Social Security Number
  • Parents’ Social Security Numbers
  • Driver’s license number (if you have one)
  • Alien Registration number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
  • Federal tax information for you and for your parents:
    • IRS 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ
    • Foreign tax return and/or
    • Tax return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federal States of Micronesia, or PalauLISTING COLLEGES For purposes of federal student aid, it does not matter in what order you list the schools. However, to be considered for state aid, several states require you to list a state school first. Therefore, if you plan to list a state school in your state of residence as one of the schools in this section, list it first. You can list up to 10 schools on the online FAFSA. Be sure to sign with your Federal Student Aid PIN so your FAFSA will be processed as quickly as possible.

If you haven’t filed your taxes yet, you will use the same documents to estimate your income. You will have to modify your FAFSA after you file.

Close-up of young woman with pen and tablet computer, thinking and problem solving, studio shot







You must list at least ONE college to receive your information. The schools you list will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of aid you may receive.

For purposes of federal student aid, it does not matter in what order you list the schools. However, to be considered for state aid, several states require you to list a state school first. Therefore, if you plan to list a state school in your state of residence as one of the schools in this section, list it first. You can list up to 10 schools on the online FAFSA.

Portrait of smiling young woman standing in laboratory




Be sure to sign with your Federal Student Aid PIN so your FAFSA will be processed as quickly as possible.






The FAFSA is FREE, so if a website asks you to pay to fill it out, you’re not dealing with the official FAFSA site. Remember, the FAFSA comes from the government, so it’s on a .gov site: www.fafsa.gov.

College graduates cheering in caps and gowns






Relax. The FAFSA is simpler to fill out than the application that got you in to college.





Advice from the Whisperer- Writing the Personal Statement for College- Your Passions and Experiences


Hello again, lets continue with those college applications shall we!

To confirm all that I have been talking about,  we will be hosting a College Fair and Open House Webinar on Tuesday October 14th from 5-6pm PST/8-9pm EST hosted by yours truly! You can read more about it on our website here and sign up for free here!

Last time we were talking about how to write an outstanding personal statement for your college applications. We decided to break it down into three steps, the first being asking one of your teachers to help you edit the paper. So now we shall move on with the next one.

Topic 2 Highlighting Experiences to Show How Unique You Are

When looking on college admissions websites, you will find included under the personal statement section the prompts and other information that will tell you what colleges want you to write about. Mainly they ask you to write two essays with a certain word limit for each. The two prompts that colleges will most likely ask you to write about are:

1. Describe one of your passions or an experience dear to you.

2. Talk about something you have not addressed in the application, such as a challenge in your life that you know you have overcome.

You will notice that universities want to hear about you and the effort you put into analyzing why these experiences have helped you grow as an individual. These prompts are essentially the area in which you can shine in your college application as you get to talk about your favorite person in the whole wide world…YOURSELF!… Well, at least you should consider yourself to be your own favorite person, not to sound too egotistic!

Here you can write about anything in under one page. Yes it’s quite short but in the end college admissions representatives want to see that you can at least think about your own life and how you have changed. You can include anything from a favorite hobby, sport or activity you have or are still involved in. College representatives will take note of this section to see how well you can express your thoughts in print as you re-examine some aspect of your life that is important to you.

Hobbies Dance

For my essay I wrote about my love for dancing. No, it did not in any way remotely relate to Biological Sciences at the time (before I switched majors and graduated with my BA in Comparative Literature!) but Yes it’s one of my hobbies and I can write a ton about it as its one of my passions! I wrote about how I enjoyed dancing from the time I was little when I took ballet, tap and jazz lessons to improve my balance and coordination to when I danced all four years in my high school’s dance program. If it’s something you truly love, admissions staff will see that. Just think that this essay could in fact be the deciding factor for an admissions officer to select you over someone else. And don’t we all want that lovely envelope telling us we have been accepted at the college we wanted to get into? Everyone wins.

Hobbies Volunteer

Some of the best ideas to draw from are your home life as well as the ways in which you have reached out to other people in your community such as volunteer work (so yes all of those hours spent cleaning up at the beach, going to convalescent homes and helping students choose books at your local library were not all in vain!). In fact they made you a better person because you helped others. College Admissions want the kind of people that will turn into the leaders of tomorrow who are more caring, sympathetic and conscientious of the world around them.

To find out more information, look on your college admissions website as they provide much needed guidance in how to write your personal statement.

Stay tuned for the conclusion of writing an A for Awesome Personal Statement, don’t miss out!

Advice from the Whisperer- Writing the Personal Statement for College- Asking for Help

physics competition

In a blog ago I introduced the issue of writing the college application essay. Now lets look at each tip one by one…

Topic 1 – Asking a Teacher to Edit Your Paper

As times have changed from the paper-writing days of our parents when they went off to college, we also need to seek help from our high school teachers who are more “in the know” about college applications. Today’s educators have to keep up-to-date as they are the ones responsible for providing us with the education we need in order to obtain higher goals in life, such as going to college and eventually working a full-time job or career. So take some time aside and scout out one of your favorite teachers, who you know will give you good feedback, in helping you to write and edit your personal statement for college.

Yes we are all busy and have a life outside of high school but most teachers that you know well will be more than happy to help. They too had to do the same thing and its better to have a couple of people look at your paper than just one.

essay competition

The obvious teacher choice would be your English or History teachers as they know what to look for when writing an analytical paper. That does not mean you cannot ask your Science or Math teacher as well, just as long as it’s a teacher you have (or had if its been a couple of years) good rapport with. I chose my English honors teacher from my freshman year not only because he helped me to write well but because we had a good relationship with each other that I kept up throughout all of the four years of high school. Not sounding parental (the Whisperer can tend to do that at times!) but it is nice to kept up contact with teachers who you liked and who enjoyed your company when you were in their class. You only have them for such a short time in high school and who knows, they might be the ones that you can go to for a good recommendation letter as well as helping you to look over your paper.

Before approaching a teacher you need to go online first and look up information about the personal statement for the university you applying to. There will be a section that describes the personal statement with given topics and prompts to write about on the university websites. Try to address these topics by writing some notes about what experience or subject you think will relate to the prompt. After you have compiled your notes, seek out the teacher who you have in mind to help you. They may turn you down at first because they might have other students they are also helping to look over their essays (depends on how popular the teacher is!). But most of the time your first choice will be delighted you asked them for help. Your teacher will give you guidelines to make sure you are sticking to the prompt and the rest will write itself.

It will take some time for both you and your teacher to begin the editing process and that is where patience and managing your time comes in handy. You will have to visit your teacher during their break periods, your lunch time or even before or after school. Its a lot of extra time but it will be worth it in the end. Beyond your regular daily homework you will have to work on your college essay and keep up correspondence with the teacher who is helping you. You should set deadlines for each other to complete the paper but give some leeway as things do come up and you need to prepare for anything.

Once you and your teacher have completed the final drafts of your essay (or two depending on the prompts), leave them alone. You have been working on them for quite some time, potentially between two to four weeks, and your mind needs a break. Give it a few days and then come back to reading the paper again and bringing it in to your teacher for last minute grammatical corrections and clarity.

prestigious school

Then after the ordeal is over do not forget to thank your teacher for their help! A hand-written note, email or even a batch of cookies and chocolate is an added bonus that anyone wouldn’t pass up! And let them know if you got into the college of your choice as they played a part in your success! :)

Next time, we will look at Topic 2: Experiences to Write About in the College Paper…

Come check out our onsite and online English Writing and AP English courses on our website  as they will provide a wealth of knowledge to help you write better! You can also contact our office in Irvine, CA for more details as well at: info@areteem.org.

Also to help you further help in improving your academic writing skills, check out the “Teens Writing for Teens” blog for some different options as well as many others.