Ivy Scholars Ebook: The Complete Guide to College Applications

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What You'll Learn in This Ebook

Welcome to our first ebook! We’ve collected all of our advice on college applications into a single handy guide, which takes you through the process from start to finish, and covers all the finicky steps in between.

We’ve written a lot of advice, exercises, and guides for our students to help guide them through the college admissions process. This Complete Guide collects these, and orders them in the same way we order our curriculum, with instructions to lead you through it just as our students do.

Of course, a written guide isn’t the same as personal guidance through the admissions process, but we have included all the same advice and exercises. Now, we’ll go through what exactly the guide covers, and how you can use it to aid your own college applications. Of course, if you ever want to hear how our coaching can give you a more personalized plan for college applications, you can schedule a free consultation with us. We’re always happy to hear from you

College Applications: What You Need to Know

Our ebook contains five main sections. Each section deals with a different phase of the college application process, and parallels the phases we guide our students through in our college application curriculum. Here’s how it works:

Phase 1: Where to apply to college

In this phase we go through how to build a successful college list, and how you can research colleges to find which ones are the best fit for you. This may be a fast or slow process; some students know exactly where they want to go to college, while others need more time to explore the possibilities. Your list will vary based on your goals; do not expect to have the same college list as your friends. You are different people, with unique wants and needs from your universities. 

The second part of this phase covers application portals: the Common App, Apply Texas, the UC Application, and some information on independent portals. We advise our students to fill these out early in the process, so they don’t have to rush at the 11th hour to make sure their applications are complete.

Phase 2: The Details of an Application

Continuing the trend from phase 1, phase 2 deals with the more “minor” details of an application. While these are incredibly important pieces, students often let them fall by the wayside in favor of essays and the stress they bring. Thus, we introduce them early to make sure everything’s squared away before the essay writing begins. 

First, we cover letters of recommendation, and how to ensure you get a good one. Your teachers know your talents better than anyone, but you have to give them a proper chance to discuss them. This includes how to reach out, how to write a brag sheet, and advice on which teachers to ask for a letter.

Next, we cover the activities section. This is often the first thing admissions officers read when reviewing an application, so it’s important to put your best foot forward. We detail what to write about, and how each different application portal wants you to write about your activities. 

Finally, we cover the additional information section, and whether you need to include one. This section often trips students up, as they worry about leaving something blank on an application. In the guide, we discuss when you should include additional details, and when they are unnecessary.

Phase 3: How to Write a Personal Statement

The personal statement is daunting for many students, and is the single aspect of applications we spend the longest time on when mentoring our students. This essay goes out to every school you apply to, and is generally the single longest piece of writing you’ll create when applying to colleges. 

We begin with some exercises to help you brainstorm what to write about. Picking a topic is a challenge for many, but structured brainstorming helps bring new and interesting ideas to the fore. Once you’ve brainstormed an idea, we have you read and analyze an essay from a past Ivy Scholars student. By understanding what they did well, you can improve your own writing in turn.

Finally, we begin the writing and editing process. This will take time! Often, we’ll go through five or even ten drafts of an essay with a student before reaching the essay’s final form. Don’t get discouraged if the process takes a while; Rome wasn’t built in a day, and great essays aren’t written in one sitting.

Phase 4: The Supplemental Essays

After you finish with your personal statement, or more often simultaneously with editing it, it’s time to begin writing the supplemental essays. These are the essays schools ask for independently of each other, and can add up to twenty more essays for you to write, depending on the scale of your college list, and how enthusiastic the schools you’re applying to are. 

Fortunately, we have a system called “cross application,” which allows our students to write far fewer essays overall. Many colleges ask the same or deeply similar questions for their supplemental essays, so with a careful approach, you are able to write a single essay and then edit it slightly to apply to multiple schools. We include both a description of the various kinds of essays and how to write them well, and a form to help you organize your own cross-applications.

Phase 5: Submitting, and What Comes Next

This phase covers details that occur outside, around, or after the college application process. First, there’s college interviews. Most schools do not require interviews, and some colleges don’t even offer them. That said, interviews can be both helpful and stressful for students, so we’ve included a guide on how to prepare for your college interview, to ensure you make a great impression. 

Next, we cover financial aid. How to pay for college is a concern for many students, especially because the financial aid applications are not always self explanatory. We explain how to apply for both government and college aid, and what forms you need to fill out for each. We also touch briefly on where to find reputable third-party scholarships, and how to apply for them.

Finally, we discuss how to go about succeeding once you get to college. We can’t give you advice for every conceivable circumstance, but we include important advice we learned from our own time spent in college, and what we’d wished we’d known before we started. College is a grand adventure, but like all adventures, parts of it are quite challenging. We hope that by fore-arming you with information, you will be well prepared for each and every challenge you face.

Ebook FAQ

Our blog contains articles which cover much of the same information as is in this guide, as well as information on more niche subjects. Our college guides give you information about specific colleges, and include guides to writing the supplemental essays for each.

Our guides go more in depth on niche topics, covering the nuances of college applications for student athletes, business students, international students, artists, and more.

We cover this in our Candidacy Building service (ebook to come), but we have a number of blog articles on the subject as well. We especially recommend checking out our articles on extracurriculars, leadership, intellectual vitality, and summer programs

While it may be too early for you to begin actually applying for college, it’s not too early for you to start thinking about it.

No, unfortunately. College admissions is incredibly competitive, and there is no way to be certain of the results. There are thousands of bright and talented students competing for a limited number of spots at top schools. This inevitably makes the process competitive, with acceptance rates dropping year after year. 

While our process will not guarantee you a spot at your dream school, we will improve your chances of getting in somewhere great. Not every student we help gets into their dream school (though many do), but they all end up attending college at a school which offers them great opportunities.

The SAT and ACT are integral to college applications (though test optional policies have shifted that somewhat). For advice on getting ready, check out our articles on studying for the tests, and on dealing with test anxiety. If you want additional help, check out our test-prep mentoring, or sign up for one of our test prep bootcamps.

You can schedule a free consultation to learn more about how we can help you, or check out our Candidacy Building or College Applications Coaching pages for more info. 

You should also check out our pro bono program, which exists to help talented students get the support and resources they deserve, even when they might otherwise be unable to afford them.

Not yet – but keep your eyes peeled!

Wendy Y.
Below is my son's review. He was accepted to his dream Ivy League school!

From an admitted student's perspective, I am incredibly grateful to have met Sasha - he has been instrumental in helping me achieve my educational dreams (Ivy League), all while being an absolute joy (he's a walking encyclopedia, only funnier!) to work with.

Many people are dissuaded from seeking a college counselor because they think they can get into their desired college(s) either way. Honestly, going that route is a bit short-sighted and can jeopardize your odds of acceptances after years of hard work. The sad truth is, the American education system (even if you attend a fancy private school and ESPECIALLY if you go to a public school) doesn't really tell students how to write a compelling and authentic application. Going into the admissions process alone, without speaking with an advisor, is like going to court without a lawyer - you put yourself at a significant disadvantage because you don't have all the facts in front of you, or the help you need to negotiate the system.

That said, you need a good lawyer just like you need a good college counselor. And that's where Sasha distinguishes himself from the crowd of people claiming they'll get you into Harvard. I came to Sasha worried about and frankly dumbfounded by the college admissions process. I was unsure what to write about and how to go about drafting the essay that perfectly captured my passion, interests, and self. And I was highly skeptical that anyone could really help me. But, damn, did Sasha prove me wrong. From the beginning, Sasha amazed me with his understanding of the process, and ability to lend clarity and direction to me when I desperate needed it. After interviewing me about my background, experiences, activities, outlook, and vision, he helped me see qualities about myself I had not previously considered 'unique' or 'stand-out.' This process of understanding myself was so incredibly important in laying the groundwork for the essays I eventually wrote, and I'm certain I would've drafted boring, inauthentic essays without it.

Looking back, Sasha's talent is that he can see where your strengths lie, even when you don't see them. The truth is, although we don't always realize it, everyone has a unique story to tell. Sasha helped me see mine, and with his big-picture insight I was able to write the application that truly encapsulated my life and vision. He inspired me to dig deeper and write better, challenging me to revise and revise until my essays were the most passionate and authentic work I had ever written. As clichéd as that sounds, that's really what universities are looking for. In retrospect, it makes sense - in the real world passionate (not simply intelligent) individuals are the ones who make a difference in the world, and those are the individuals colleges would like to have associated with their brand.

In the end, I was accepted to the college of my dreams, a feat I could not have achieved without the direction Sasha lent to me. Essays (and the personal narrative you develop through your application) matter so much, and can literally make or break your application. I have seen so many of my 'qualified' friends receive rejections because they wrote contrived essays that didn't truly represent who they were; conversely, I have also seen so many friends with shorter resumes accepted because they were able to articulate their story in a genuinely passionate and authentic way - I fall into the latter category.

As a former admissions officer at Johns Hopkins, Sasha knows what types of essays jibe well with universities, an invaluable asset to have in the admissions process. He is responsive, flexible, creative, positive, and witty. For anyone who is serious about going into the college admissions process informed and prepared, I highly recommend Sasha.
Arda E.
I used Ivy Scholars to mainly help me with college applications. Within weeks of using this service, Sasha was able to simplify the already complex process. When it came to writing the Common App essay, Sasha didn’t just help with grammar and syntax, he brought my essays to life. Sasha also worked tirelessly to help solidify my extracurricular activities, including research and internship opportunities. Without his help, I would have never had an impressive resume.

Sasha is not only an extremely knowledgeable tutor, but also a genuine brother figure. His guidance, throughout my last two years of high school, was everything I needed to get me an acceptance letter from my dream schools (UC Berkeley, Tufts, Emory).

When it came to testing, Ivy Scholars worked like a charm. Sasha offered a very comprehensive plan when it came to completely acing my standardized tests. Without his test taking strategies I would have never gotten straight 5s on my AP tests and a 35 on the ACT.

Working with Sasha, I didn’t just become a good student, I became a genuine scholar.
Samson S.
We worked with Ivy Scholars during my son's senior year. I was concerned that we may be too late to take advantage of college advising but the Ivy Scholars team quickly and confidently directed us through the steps to ensure no deadlines were missed. Sasha's knowledge about schools, what they looked for in candidates, and how to maneuver the application process was invaluable. Mateo and Ryan worked with my son to help him create an essay that would get noticed and I am so appreciative he had their guidance.

Prior to securing Ivy Scholars, we tried using a less-expensive online service which was a terrible experience. As a parent, Ivy Scholars brought peace of mind to an area that was frankly overwhelming. This service was invaluable in the knowledge that we gained throughout the process. He has also met with my freshman daughter to provide guidance for her high school courses, career paths, extracurricular activities, and more.

Prior to signing with Ivy Scholars, I tried a less expensive online service and was very disappointed.

As a result of our work with Ivy Scholars, I am pleased to say that my son will be attending Stern Business School at New York University this fall! I highly recommend Ivy Scholars. Highly recommend!