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Three Tips for Improving Your College App

September 09, 2020 by Veritas Essays Team | Applications, Essays, Early Action, Early Decision, ECs


Here are three simple strategies to make your college application stronger, more unique, and stand out from the rest of the pile.

1. Invest the Time to Write Essays that Stand Out

Your college essays offer the highest impact for the least amount of time.

Unlike your GPA and extracurriculars, you won’t need to spend 4 years carefully developing this aspect of your application.

With the right preparation and mindset, you can craft an exceptional suite of essays within a month of starting.

And it doesn’t need to be Nobel Prize-winning literature. Check out one of our Quora answers here to read about how a friend got into UChicago by writing about the magazines you always see on planes. In the hands of a skilled writer, any topic can stand out.

The core purpose of the essays is to inspire your admissions reader to advocate strongly for you during admissions committee discussions.

It’s as simple as that.

Standing out has less to do with being overly exceptional and more to do with being exceptionally thoughtful.

You need to be memorable, and for the right reasons.

Admissions officers agree

2. Apply Early.

OK, I may have lied earlier about the highest impact decision for the least amount of time.

Not counting the time needed to get your materials ready sooner, the real winner is deciding to submit your application early.

Ivy League colleges and other top universities have an almost 2–3x higher early acceptance rate than regular acceptance rate, a gap that continues to widen every year.

Overall , the early decision acceptance rate of all US colleges is 12% higher than their regular admit rates, according to a survey of US colleges by the National Associate for College Admissions Counseling .

3. Craft Your Narrative

A “well-rounded” applicant dabbling in several unconnected things is not nearly as compelling as someone driven by one central passion. Your past activities and future aspirations need to be tied together in a single, unified narrative.

Otherwise, it looks like you were just doing stuff for the sake of getting into college , which can sink your application.

  • Do you compete in debate and also program websites in your spare time? Then combine these passions and say that you have an interest for studying policy at the intersection of technology and law in college.

  • Do you compete in linguistics competitions and also lead your school’s Science Olympiad team? Then share how these two activities demonstrate your deep (and unique!) interest in pursuing ethnolinguistics or human evolutionary biology from the lens of language and migration.

How to Pick Which Colleges to Apply To

August 22, 2020 by Veritas Essays Team | Choosing a College,


Picking the right school is like picking the best dance move – you better feel comfortable with what you choose.

Otherwise, it may be uncomfortable for you and everyone else in the room.

When deciding what school might be the place for you, ask yourself the following questions:

Wait, do I even like this city?

This shouldn’t be the only factor. But if you hate the feeling of living in a bustling metropolis like New York City, it’s probably going to make your time at Columbia or NYU a lot more difficult.

You can learn to love a city (I learned to love Boston) – but it should cross your mind that you’re signing on for a 4-year deal (usually), and that comes with the city.

Who the heck even are these people?

Check out the college kids, of course! See if they’re nice, see if they’re friendly, see if they are welcoming to the new class or resentful that you are taking over.

One of the reasons I didn’t choose Duke is that I noticed a lot of people walking around with headphones compared to other places I visited.

Maybe it was just me, on that day. Maybe that’s just normal campus culture. I’m not saying Duke is bad, I just didn’t think I’d want to be part of that crowd.

Decide if you like the vibe those colleges kids are giving off, because you’re likely to act just like them.

Does the library feel like a place you could study for 4 hours a day?

Comfortable libraries are always a plus, since you'll spend way more hours studying there than you expect (or hope).

Is the food good?

Good food is always a plus.

Does it pass the classroom test?

This is the question I asked myself a lot. It’s sort of, like, my “academic” check.

Basically, I found an empty classroom and imagined it to be filled with students on a busy day. Then I examined how I felt – if I was excited to be hearing from some professor at the campus or pulling out my laptop in that space.

It’s not a hard rule, but it can be a really solid gut check.

Going to a live class is a good idea too.

Those are just a couple of questions I would ask myself when deciding what to get out of a college campus.

Hopefully you bring your best dance moves along too.

How to Answer "Gotcha" Questions in Your Interview

August 22, 2020 by Veritas Essays Team | Interview, Admissions


How do I answer "gotcha" questions during a college alumni interview?

The typical answer is that most interviewers won't try to give you "gotcha" questions. Their primary job is to get to know you better, and to add color to your admissions file, not to make you look foolish.

The real answer? If you don't adequately prepare for your interviews, then every question will feel like a "gotcha" question no matter how simple they seem.

So how do you avoid that?

In this article, I'll first explain how to properly handle 3 simple questions that often become "gotchas" for unprepared high school interviewees.

Second, I'll show you how to handle "gotcha" questions in general, and explain the simple process for turning difficult, tricky questions into softballs you can knock out of the park.

The 3 Most Common "Gotcha" Questions

1. “Tell me about yourself”

Because this question is so simple and obvious, the expectations for your answer are sky high.

If you can’t deliver a coherent, 2-minute story about yourself, your motivations, and how you intend to use the next four years of college to explore those interests, then you haven’t prepared enough.

The trick?

Look at (or create) a resume of your most notable achievements/experiences in high school. Once you get that on paper, go through the list and practice telling one coherent, unified story of your experiences.

Time yourself. Practice reciting your story out loud with a friend or parent.

By the time of your interview, you should basically have this story memorized.

That's how you'll know if you've prepared adequately enough.

2. “Do you have any questions for me?

Trick question.

There is only one answer, and it’s always Yes.

You should prepare some specific questions about the college in advance.

If you run out of specific questions, fill in the blanks below by mix-and-matching words from Group A and B:

What was your A B ?

  • A: Favorite, least favorite, most memorable, most unexpected, most surprising, most popular, least popular, most enjoyable, least enjoyable, most unusual, most common, least common
  • B: Class, extracurricular, club, volunteer activity, academic experience

3. What would you change about your high school/extracurricular/class you’ve taken?

Don’t fall for the negativity trap.

The trick here is to stay positive .

There are 2 parts to this question:

  1. Identify a problem you’ve encountered

  2. Say how you would solve it

It’s all too easy for your answer to Part #1 to be overly negative and critical of the status quo.

Don’t use this question to bash your teachers or fellow students. That reflects poorly on you.

It takes practice to toe the right line, but the key theme that should come across in your answer is your positivity (even when faced with a negative situation), problem-solving skills, and initiative.

The General Strategy for Tricky Interview Questions

What if you get a truly "gotcha" question that you couldn't have possibly prepared for?

One wrong answer can ruin an interviewer’s impression of you.

The trick to answering tricky questions is to go with the flow. Easier said than done, yes, but a skill that can be learned.

Out-of-the-box questions require out-of-the-box responses . If you take yourself too seriously, you won’t be able to give a good answer to these sorts of questions.

Let’s take the above scene from Will Smith’s The Pursuit of Happiness as an example.

Will Smith’s character is interviewing for a job at a white collar finance firm.

He’s severely under-dressed.

The interviewer pointedly asks him:

“What would you say if a guy walked in for an interview without a shirt on, and I hired him?”

Why is this question a “gotcha”?

It’s posed fairly rhetorically — the premise is that hiring someone dressed like Will Smith would not be smart , and thus he should not be hired. The question is delivered to make it seem like the answer is obviously “no.”

Any answer that takes this question at face value would implicitly be acknowledging and accepting this, damaging Will Smith’s chances of landing the job.

The best way to defuse a “gotcha” question is to identify the premise that makes it a “gotcha,” and then deflect from that premise.

So, instead, Will Smith flips the question on its head.

What if the premise were false? What if hiring someone without a shirt was actually the smart move?

And that’s why the answer:

“He must’ve had on some really nice pants.”

Comes off so well.

Use this strategy in your college interview if asked a “gotcha” question.

For example, in the question:

“What did you dislike most about your school?”

The underlying assumption is that there is something wrong with your school. Maybe a teacher you hated, or a class you thought was terrible.

That’s a fairly negative premise, and one that will reflect poorly on you if you use this opportunity to bash your teachers or fellow students.

Flip the premise on its head.

Don’t list things that are wrong about your school.

Instead, list ways that you’ve improved your school.

Or, list things at College X that you are excited about since your school did them differently.

The content of your answer will be similar, but by re-framing your answer in a more positive light, you can avoid the trickier nature of these critically-oriented questions.