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Learning from Experience: Leveraging Current College Students

How to use LinkedIn, Instagram, alumni, and current students to answer your questions about college.

October 12, 2021 by Veritas Essays Team | Colleges, Student Life, Advice, LinkedIn, Alumni


One of the best ways to learn more about colleges you’re interested in applying to is by talking with current students and learning from their experiences.

However, it can be difficult to find current students to talk to and get honest accounts of what life looks like on campus.

This article will go over how high school students who are planning on applying to college can reach out to current college students and hear about their experiences.

Harvard Yard A typical day lounging in Harvard Yard in the fall

Before we go over the strategies to find high school students to learn from, consider doing some reflecting about what you want to get out of the experience of reaching out to current college students.

Questions to Ask Current College Students

Some questions to consider asking include:

  1. What factors are most important to you when you look for a university?

For example, how important is it to you to be near a city? Do you want to go to school where everyone lives on campus or is that not as important to you?

  1. What are some questions you want to ask current students?

It’s oftentimes helpful to enter conversations with a set list of questions to get the conversation flowing!

  1. What do you plan to get involved in on campus?

The activities you get involved in on campus will likely influence who you spend your time with. Consider what clubs you might want to get involved in on campus and try to connect with students involved in similar activities.

Method #1: LinkedIn

Reach out to current students on LinkedIn by first searching the name of the club you might be interested in joining on campus.

Next, scroll through the LinkedIn members who are part of the club.

To reach out to students and have a brief conversation, consider thinking through a few factors first to optimize the likelihood that someone will get back to you.

First, try to find students who are from your hometown or close to where you grew up. A college student might be more likely to share their experience on campus if you have something in common, and hometown is an easy similarity.

Second, look for students who are studying a discipline you are also in. If you end up connecting and having a conversation, it might be easier to have a conversation about shared interests.

This relates back to my earlier point about reflecting on what you want out of the experience. If you’ve spent the time reflecting on the question you want to ask and what you want to get out of the experience, it’ll be easier to have a more genuine and honest conversation.

Method #2: Instagram

Another option to connect with current students is through Instagram. There are a few different ways to find and reach out to people on Instagram: extracurricular Instagram profiles, conference locations, and geotags.

First, many extracurriculars have their own Instagram profiles where they post updates about their membership events and pictures.

Usually clubs have social media managers who regulate the account and would likely help connect you to students in the club.

Second, if you’re interested in an extracurricular on a campus that holds conferences or events, try to find a hashtag for the event and reach out to the organization’s Instagram or people who were at the event.

For example, the Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business (HUWIB) organization holds the annual Intercollegiate Business Convention (IBC). If you were interested in joining HUWIB, you could go to the location of the convention and reach out to people who attended the event.

Finally, you can also go to the college geotag location on Instagram and reach out to people who are students.

It’s best to keep outreach messages short, clear, and upbeat to increase the chance that the student will get back to you.

Method #3: Campus Visit + Meet Real Students

The third method of reaching out to college students is contingent on if you can visit the college in-person.

Harvard Yard

Sunset from Harvard Yard

If you can’t visit the college in-person, there are lots of great resources that you still have access to.

Many colleges have virtual campus tours and information sessions with current students. Many current students also make YouTube videos talking about their experience at different colleges.

Some great college YouTubers to check out:

  1. The Kath Path from Stanford
  2. Paris Boswell from the University of Wisconsin Madison
  3. Katherout from USC
  4. LifeWithLaur from Dartmouth
  5. Nicolas Chae from Princeton
  6. Elliot Choy from Vanderbilt

If you are able to visit the college in person, it can be helpful to sit on a bench in the center of campus and observe the students walking around. It can be helpful to respectfully approach students and ask them about their experience, but be sure to keep in mind that college students are often extremely busy and might not have a lot of time to answer your questions.

A few locations that are good options for places to sit and observe current students include:

  1. The student center
  2. A few of the dorms
  3. Classroom buildings
  4. The library
  5. The dining hall

It can be helpful to have a few questions in mind if you decide to approach students so as to avoid wasting time. Remember to respect student’s times and take rejections graciously.

Method #4: Reach out to Admissions Officers

Another option is to reach out to the admissions office directly. There are a few benefits and a few drawbacks to this approach.

Benefits of reaching out to the admissions office

  • Admissions officers will be able to share a wide range of resources, from presentations to flyers and student testimonials
  • Since admissions officers connect with students every day, they will likely respond to your inquiries quickly and share high-quality information
  • It might take longer for students to get back to you because they have a lot going on with extracurriculars and classes
  • Speaking with admissions officers might count as demonstrated interest for some schools who look at student interest as part of the admissions process

Drawbacks of reaching out to the admissions office

  • The admissions office will connect you with the students that they want you to talk to
  • The students who choose to work with the admissions office likely have a high opinion of the school
  • In this way, it might be challenging to get a fully accurate picture of the student experience
  • Most of what students share and what admissions officers talk about is likely the positive elements of the college experience and it might be harder to get an accurate picture of some of the less-rosy elements of going to a certain school

Method #5: Hometown Resources

One final option for reaching out to current students is to connect with alumni organizations in your hometown.

This is probably easiest for state schools where many alumni likely live nearby after graduation and schools that have clubs in large cities.

In terms of state schools, ask your friends and family if they know anyone who went to a certain school and ask about their experience.

Remember that colleges can change over time, and an experience twenty years ago will not necessarily be consistent with an experience today.

Many Ivy League colleges have clubs in large cities and states. If you’re interested in applying to Ivy League colleges, you can find contact information for each club on their websites.

And if you can't find anyone, we have plenty of Ivy League students on our team who'd be happy to chat. Feel free to grab a free consultation slot here to learn how we can help you on your application journey!


These five methods of reaching out to current students are by no means mutually exclusive.

Consider combining two or more of these approaches to reach out to current students and learn from their experiences.

And keep in mind that one student’s experience will not necessarily be your experience!

Take everything you hear with an open mind and be sure to ask multiple people similar questions to get different points of view!

When I was applying to college, I found visiting campus in-person and reaching out to alumni in my hometown to be the two easiest methods since I live near Boston, which is where Harvard is located.

I suggest figuring out which methods feel most natural and comfortable to you and starting there. Depending on what works and who gets back to you, you can always adjust your approach accordingly.

Remember to stay persistent, but respectful, and get the questions you have about the college experience answered! Best of luck!

Learning from Experience: Leveraging Current College Students

How to use LinkedIn, Instagram, alumni, and current students to answer your questions about college.

October 12, 2021 by Veritas Essays Team | Colleges, Student Life, Advice, LinkedIn, Alumni


One of the best ways to learn more about colleges you’re interested in applying to is by talking with current students and learning from their experiences.

However, it can be difficult to find current students to talk to and get honest accounts of what life looks like on campus.

This article will go over how high school students who are planning on applying to college can reach out to current college students and hear about their experiences.

Harvard Yard A typical day lounging in Harvard Yard in the fall

Before we go over the strategies to find high school students to learn from, consider doing some reflecting about what you want to get out of the experience of reaching out to current college students.

Questions to Ask Current College Students

Some questions to consider asking include:

  1. What factors are most important to you when you look for a university?

For example, how important is it to you to be near a city? Do you want to go to school where everyone lives on campus or is that not as important to you?

  1. What are some questions you want to ask current students?

It’s oftentimes helpful to enter conversations with a set list of questions to get the conversation flowing!

  1. What do you plan to get involved in on campus?

The activities you get involved in on campus will likely influence who you spend your time with. Consider what clubs you might want to get involved in on campus and try to connect with students involved in similar activities.

Method #1: LinkedIn

Reach out to current students on LinkedIn by first searching the name of the club you might be interested in joining on campus.

Next, scroll through the LinkedIn members who are part of the club.

To reach out to students and have a brief conversation, consider thinking through a few factors first to optimize the likelihood that someone will get back to you.

First, try to find students who are from your hometown or close to where you grew up. A college student might be more likely to share their experience on campus if you have something in common, and hometown is an easy similarity.

Second, look for students who are studying a discipline you are also in. If you end up connecting and having a conversation, it might be easier to have a conversation about shared interests.

This relates back to my earlier point about reflecting on what you want out of the experience. If you’ve spent the time reflecting on the question you want to ask and what you want to get out of the experience, it’ll be easier to have a more genuine and honest conversation.

Method #2: Instagram

Another option to connect with current students is through Instagram. There are a few different ways to find and reach out to people on Instagram: extracurricular Instagram profiles, conference locations, and geotags.

First, many extracurriculars have their own Instagram profiles where they post updates about their membership events and pictures.

Usually clubs have social media managers who regulate the account and would likely help connect you to students in the club.

Second, if you’re interested in an extracurricular on a campus that holds conferences or events, try to find a hashtag for the event and reach out to the organization’s Instagram or people who were at the event.

For example, the Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business (HUWIB) organization holds the annual Intercollegiate Business Convention (IBC). If you were interested in joining HUWIB, you could go to the location of the convention and reach out to people who attended the event.

Finally, you can also go to the college geotag location on Instagram and reach out to people who are students.

It’s best to keep outreach messages short, clear, and upbeat to increase the chance that the student will get back to you.

Method #3: Campus Visit + Meet Real Students

The third method of reaching out to college students is contingent on if you can visit the college in-person.

Harvard Yard

Sunset from Harvard Yard

If you can’t visit the college in-person, there are lots of great resources that you still have access to.

Many colleges have virtual campus tours and information sessions with current students. Many current students also make YouTube videos talking about their experience at different colleges.

Some great college YouTubers to check out:

  1. The Kath Path from Stanford
  2. Paris Boswell from the University of Wisconsin Madison
  3. Katherout from USC
  4. LifeWithLaur from Dartmouth
  5. Nicolas Chae from Princeton
  6. Elliot Choy from Vanderbilt

If you are able to visit the college in person, it can be helpful to sit on a bench in the center of campus and observe the students walking around. It can be helpful to respectfully approach students and ask them about their experience, but be sure to keep in mind that college students are often extremely busy and might not have a lot of time to answer your questions.

A few locations that are good options for places to sit and observe current students include:

  1. The student center
  2. A few of the dorms
  3. Classroom buildings
  4. The library
  5. The dining hall

It can be helpful to have a few questions in mind if you decide to approach students so as to avoid wasting time. Remember to respect student’s times and take rejections graciously.

Method #4: Reach out to Admissions Officers

Another option is to reach out to the admissions office directly. There are a few benefits and a few drawbacks to this approach.

Benefits of reaching out to the admissions office

  • Admissions officers will be able to share a wide range of resources, from presentations to flyers and student testimonials
  • Since admissions officers connect with students every day, they will likely respond to your inquiries quickly and share high-quality information
  • It might take longer for students to get back to you because they have a lot going on with extracurriculars and classes
  • Speaking with admissions officers might count as demonstrated interest for some schools who look at student interest as part of the admissions process

Drawbacks of reaching out to the admissions office

  • The admissions office will connect you with the students that they want you to talk to
  • The students who choose to work with the admissions office likely have a high opinion of the school
  • In this way, it might be challenging to get a fully accurate picture of the student experience
  • Most of what students share and what admissions officers talk about is likely the positive elements of the college experience and it might be harder to get an accurate picture of some of the less-rosy elements of going to a certain school

Method #5: Hometown Resources

One final option for reaching out to current students is to connect with alumni organizations in your hometown.

This is probably easiest for state schools where many alumni likely live nearby after graduation and schools that have clubs in large cities.

In terms of state schools, ask your friends and family if they know anyone who went to a certain school and ask about their experience.

Remember that colleges can change over time, and an experience twenty years ago will not necessarily be consistent with an experience today.

Many Ivy League colleges have clubs in large cities and states. If you’re interested in applying to Ivy League colleges, you can find contact information for each club on their websites.

And if you can't find anyone, we have plenty of Ivy League students on our team who'd be happy to chat. Feel free to grab a free consultation slot here to learn how we can help you on your application journey!


These five methods of reaching out to current students are by no means mutually exclusive.

Consider combining two or more of these approaches to reach out to current students and learn from their experiences.

And keep in mind that one student’s experience will not necessarily be your experience!

Take everything you hear with an open mind and be sure to ask multiple people similar questions to get different points of view!

When I was applying to college, I found visiting campus in-person and reaching out to alumni in my hometown to be the two easiest methods since I live near Boston, which is where Harvard is located.

I suggest figuring out which methods feel most natural and comfortable to you and starting there. Depending on what works and who gets back to you, you can always adjust your approach accordingly.

Remember to stay persistent, but respectful, and get the questions you have about the college experience answered! Best of luck!

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?

Does Your Choice of Major Impact Your College Admissions Chances?

Be careful when "declaring" that you're an undecided or undeclared major

July 04, 2020 by Veritas Essays Team | Declaring, Majors, Advice, Admissions, Application, Mistakes, Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Harvard, UCs


Should I declare an intended major on my college application?

If not, does being undeclared or undecided hurt my admissions chances?

The short answer to both questions is YES, your declared major or the specific program to which you are applying can have a significant impact on your acceptance chances.

Even if schools pretend otherwise, the statistics bear this out (as shown later in this article).

Students who demonstrate interest in different majors/programs have widely different acceptance rates at certain colleges.

I've listed 5 case studies of different schools below to illustrate how the way in which you choose a major for your college application can improve or decrease your admissions chances.

UCLA

At UCLA , different programs have vastly different admissions rates (shown below).

UCLA

Additionally, even within the pool of students interested solely in engineering, the School of Engineering explicitly evaluates students by the specific engineering major that they intend to pursue.

Harvard

At Harvard , students interested in “humanities” are admitted at almost double the rate as students interested in “engineering”:

Harvard

Carnegie Mellon (CMU)

At Carnegie Mellon (shown below), the acceptance rate of different programs ranges from 7% to 26%!

CMU

UC Berkeley

At UC Berkeley , applicants intending on studying “computer science” have an 8.5% acceptance rate, compared to 17% overall.

Cornell

At Cornell , each application is individually considered by the specific college that a student applies to.

As Cornell Vice Provost of Enrollment Jason Locke stated in The Cornell Sun,

"Unlike many other colleges, which review all applications from a central undergraduate admissions office, Cornell has a 'somewhat unique system,' according to Locke.

Once an application is submitted, it will be given to the one — and only — college or school that the student is applying to, where his or her material will undergo what Locke called a 'first review.'"

This leads to wildly different outcomes for students who apply to different schools. For example, the undergraduate acceptance rate for Cornell's School of Industrial & Labor Relations was triple the rate of applicants to the College of Arts and Sciences.


What causes this statistical difference?

There are two main factors which make your choice of intended field of study important on your college application.

  1. Colleges have different strengths. Johns Hopkins’ world-renowned Biomedical Engineering (BME) program is much stronger than its English department. MIT’s Computer Science (CS) department is much stronger than its History department. Thus, more students interested in BME will apply to Johns Hopkins, and it will be harder to distinguish yourself as an applicant interested in BME. Same goes for applying to MIT as a CS major.

  2. Colleges have different weaknesses . Every program or school that a college offers represents a significant investment of time, money, and resources. Applicants that have the potential to dramatically improve relatively weaker programs (e.g. English at Johns Hopkins, or History at MIT) offer a larger marginal return on being admitted than students who would have to be literally world-class (e.g. win a Nobel Prize) to make a noticeably lasting impact on their stronger departments.

Use this knowledge to your benefit!

Most colleges will allow you to switch majors after enrolling.

If you can frame your application to provide an unmet need or fill spots in an under-enrolled program, you can greatly increase your admissions chances .

To learn more about college admissions from Ivy League students who’ve successfully gone through the process themselves, check out the services we offer here