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How To Answer the "Why Our School?" Essay

How students should answer the "Why Us?" essay on their college applications.

Ivy League Study Tips, from a Current Harvard Student

Practical advice on how to study like an Ivy League student.

How to Get Into Harvard: Advice from Admitted Students

A successful applicant's advice on what Harvard looks for in applicants.

Essays | Guide | How To | Brainstorming | Personal Statement

How to Overcome Writer's Block and Ace Your College Essays

October 06, 2020

Our Essay Mentor walks you through the steps of drafting an outstanding college application essay.

Topics | Personal Statement | Brainstorming | Red Flags | Common App

Bad Common App Personal Statement Topics

October 06, 2020

Our Mentor analyzes four of the most over-used college application essay topics.

3 Simple College Application Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

October 05, 2020 by Veritas Essays Team | Red Flags, Mistakes, Guide

Your elementary school teacher knew best — Many of the biggest college application red flags occur when students forget the 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic .

1. Reading

Read the instructions and follow them.

Read the prompts. Make sure your essays actually address them.

Know your deadlines, especially for early action/decision applications.

Know where to submit your supplementary materials and when they are due (oftentimes they have a different due date and submission portal than your main application).

Read the advice of others online and incorporate their feedback into your apps.

2. 'Riting

Your writing is a reflection of you.

Don’t make spelling mistakes. Don’t make grammatical mistakes. That’s lazy writing, and lazy writing makes you look like a lazy person.

If you can’t get a teacher or friend to read over your materials, use a service like Grammarly or, at the very least, Microsoft Word’s spell checker.

Here’s a simple editing tip that’s changed my life: After you’re done writing a draft, print out everything you’ve written and make a dot over every word with a pen. This will prevent you from glossing over your words as you edit, and force you to think through every word choice and phrase.

3. 'Rithmetic

Make sure your numbers add up.

Don’t claim to do more than 100 hours of activities per week (you must sleep and go to school).

If you claim to have accomplished something in your application, provide a number to back it up. “Started a non-profit and helped people” carries less weight than “Started a non-profit that served 20,000 meals over the past 3 years.”

Choosing Your College Major Without the Stress

October 04, 2020 by Veritas Essays Team | Major, Minor, Interests, Jobs

As a student at the most competitive college in the world, Harvard , here’s my two cents on the stressful process of choosing a college major:

Take it easy. Don't stress. Chill out.

As a much wiser person once told me: Your major is a toolbox, not a blueprint.

Selecting a major is a significant benchmark in anyone’s college experience. But it is far from the end of the world.

The principal worries around this looming decision seem to fall into one of two general categories:

  1. Your major isn’t your passion
  2. Your major is your professional fate

Let's break these concerns down one at a time.

Worry 1) Your Major Isn't Your Passion

One of the most challenging decisions for a young adult is narrowing down his/her interests.

Frankly, choosing one’s single most, or even a short-list of several, greatest academic interests is a Herculean task for all but a lucky handful. So be patient with yourself - that feeling of uncertainty is normal.

As MacArthur Genius grant winner and Professor of Psychology Angela Duckworth writes in Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance:

“The process of interest discovery can be messy, serendipitous, and inefficient…Without experimenting, you can’t figure out which interests will stick, and which won’t.”

We often wait for some catalytic moment which presents us our passions on a silver platter. But this will rarely be the case.

Don't be afraid to experiment!

Throw yourself into new environments and new circles.

From this mosaic of experience and curiosity, you’ll begin to recognize the subjects and topics which resonate with you the most.

Worry 2) Your Major Decides Your Professional Fate

Nowadays, most colleges offer some form of a liberal arts education.

The beauty of this form of academic experience is that you leave your institution with a toolbox, not a blueprint.

A psychology major can apply her understanding of human tendencies to Wall Street, a political science major can contribute his grasp on international bureaucracy towards a career in journalism, a computer science major can employ her knowledge of rational problem-solving in the offices of a consulting firm.

Companies don’t hire majors .

Instead, they hire critical thinkers, effective communicators, team players, leaders, etc.

Think of your major not as an existential contract, but as an acknowledgement of “this is what I love to do right now and my best estimate of I want to do later.”*

Special emphasis on best estimate .

Now let’s be realistic. Your major does lead you down a path of specialization - to a certain extent .

Enjoy this journey for what it is, but know that it’s a far cry from a contractual obligation.

No, your major is not the end of the world. Rather, it's the beginning of a new and exciting one.

How to Write the "Tell Me About Yourself" Essay

October 03, 2020 by Veritas Essays Team | Essays, Advice, Personal Statement

You've probably seen some form of this prompt a million times:

"Tell us about yourself. What makes you you?

Be careful — this prompt is a trap!

You should very rarely be telling a college how great you are. Instead, do what’s worked for countless successful applicants and show them!

By the time an admissions reader has reached your personal essay, they’ve read about all of your activities and accolades, skills and strengths.

The “tell me about yourself” essay is the opportunity to put the resume away and begin revealing more personally insightful information.

Many applicants can fill-in correct bubbles on a Scantron sheet just like you, many applicants can sit down at a piano and play Debussy’s Clair de Lune just like you, and many applicants can recount their high school service projects just like you.

But these other applicants don’t handle adversity just like you.

They don’t have a special relationship to their father just like you.

They don’t interpret moments of formative introspection and personal development just like you...

These types of experiences and, especially, relationships, are fantastic insights into your character, your identity, and the exact sort of personality-sculpting topics which university admissions officers are dying to know about.

Here’s a personal example of my own successful application to Harvard: I have a tremendously special relationship with my brother.

Although we grew up sleeping just three feet away every night, eating breakfast at the same kitchen counter, the unpredictable and often regrettable events of life have granted each of us vastly different arrays of opportunities, capacities, and limitations.

My closeness with him has guided me to reshape how I define and am aware of my privilege, and he inspires me to approach every day with an enhanced sense of gratitude and a desire to become a champion for the improvement and support of special education programs.

The key in an essay such as this one was to show rather than tell about this relationship through anecdotes and concrete instances that shaped how I view the world.

In my essay, I focused on demonstrating a capacity for introspection, gratitude, empathy, and selflessness, and the vehicle by which I did that was through this personal subject and the lens of my brother and my relationship.

I emphasized how I was striving towards a better version of myself rather than arrogantly stating that I was always that better self.

I demonstrated vulnerability that neared on self-deprecation in revealing the often difficult realization that I benefited from a host of great privileges that I have not outright earned but rather have been arbitrarily granted.

These themes of humility, gratitude, vulnerability, personal progress are essential for a strong personal essay.

These ideals are often best achieved, almost counterintuitively, by writing about someone else.

The personal essay should transcend arrogance without arriving at self-pity, and writing about a significant relationship allows you to walk that line tactfully.

Here’s a condensed but generally effective set of guiding questions:

  1. What is an experience or relationship that significantly changed the course of your personal development?

  2. What path were you on before?

  3. What path have you made efforts to follow now?