September 19 - 23, 2011

This week


Writing effective admissions essays

You may be avoiding starting your college applications or research assignments because you don't like writing. However, because effective writing will play a significant role in the admissions process, it is important that you tackle the task head on. Allow yourself plenty of time. Remember, writing out your thoughts can help you develop them. Writing isn’t just a matter of neatly expressing ideas you’ve already had. You’re also likely to think of things in new ways during the writing process.

An important thing to remember is that your college admissions essay will only be one part of your full application — there are many other factors that admissions officers will consider to determine whether you will be successful at their school. Your essay will complement the other components of your application.
One of the purposes of the essay is for the college to learn more about you as a person through the way you express yourself in writing. For that reason, a personal story about your own experiences might be a good way to frame or support your main point. Another reason that schools request essays is that they help admissions officers to evaluate your organizational and critical thinking skills. For that reason, you should make sure your ideas follow logically.

Most applications that request an essay offer you at least two options for topics you may write about. Choose the topic that you have more interest in, and try to prepare an essay that shows your uniqueness and individualism. Although it is important to show your knowledge, try to write in a way that is clear, focused, and in your own voice. If you include too many “SAT words,” complex sentences, and abstract language, you may actually hurt your chances.

Many college admissions officers find that the essay gives them a chance to see the "student behind the application," particularly if the school does not require an admissions interview. Concentrate on showing the reader "the real you," and your essay might generate enough interest for selection, or at least further consideration.

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Stay on track

Checklist for this week

For freshmen
  • Concentrate on doing well on your schoolwork.
  • Participate in class discussions.
  • Seek a tutor if you need help.
  • Seek out clubs, organizations, and projects of interest.
  • Read regularly.
For sophomores
  • Take the PSAT; check with your counselor for details.
  • Take the PLAN, a practice test for the ACT.
  • Do all your homework.
  • Seek out clubs, organizations, and projects of interest.
  • Use your time constructively.
For juniors
  • Take the PSAT; check with your counselor for details.
  • Keep a list of after school and work activities; record your time involved.
  • Attend any sessions held by colleges that visit your school.
  • Find out about and attend college nights and fairs; ask your counselor for information.
  • If you are considering the military, visit with recruiters when they come to your campus.
  • Keep your grades up!
For seniors
  • Register for and take the SAT and ACT.
  • Find out about holidays this semester and plan to visit colleges during those days.
  • Keep working on college and scholarship applications.
  • Find out about and attend "preview days" at your local colleges.
For parents
  • If your student is taking college entrance exams, help with registration payments.
  • Attend college nights and fairs with your student.
  • Review progress reports and report cards; if you haven't seen anything, ask!
  • Talk to your student about managing time; adjust social schedules if necessary.
  • If you have a senior, call your school counselor and ask about the FAFSA and for more information about obtaining financial aid.
  • Keep track of your yearly tax information; it will be needed for the FAFSA.
  • Sort through and organize college materials arriving through the mail.

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Take notice

Important dates

Test Name Scheduled
Test Date
SAT and Subject Tests
Oct 1, 2011
Sept 9, 2011
Sept 21, 2011
Oct 22, 2011
Sept 16, 2011
Sept 30, 2011
SAT and Subject Tests
Nov 5, 2011
Oct 7, 2011
Oct 21, 2011

AIE's College Admissions Testing Schedule

To get more information on the SAT or SAT Subject Tests, access useful tools, or register, visit the College Board's website( or call (866) 756-7346.

To get more information on the ACT, access useful tools, or register, visit the ACT website( or call (319) 337-1270.

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Stay on track
Weekly checklist