Your College Application is Like a Potato (Weird but True)

Your college application is like a potato. 

I know this is weird, but just go with me on this one.

About five years ago, a reddit user made the audacious claim that potatoes are, objectively, the best food... sending the internet into a tailspin. The user made some great points: potatoes are easily grown, affordable, and provide great nutritional value. 

 But most importantly, potatoes can be prepared in SO many ways. Like way more ways than most foods.

And this is why your college application is a potato. Let me explain:

1. There are INFINITELY many ways to cook a potato, and there are INFINITELY many ways to prepare your college application.

Potatoes can be made into delicious hashbrowns, chips, french fries, gnocchi, tater tots, baked potatoes... the list goes on and on 

And the way a potato is prepared tells you a lot about the preparer, the chef. It shows you what they like and what they're good at, how creative they are, what their...

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4 College Application Myths that Set You Up to Fail

Every college admissions season I see students get frustrated, overwhelmed, and confused by all the college apps advice out there. It feels like well-meaning teachers, counselors, parents, and college prep companies seem to just parrot the same few pieces of college apps advice: be well-rounded, show you're a hard worker, be the most qualified candidate in order to stand out. 

Here's my problem with all of this. Most of these strategies are outdated, and they set you up to fail with impossible standards. And the main reason these tips don't work? They force you to be someone other than yourself. And we don't do that around here.

Even my favorite piece of standard college application advice, "just be yourself!" comes with the slight undertone that being yourself might not be good enough. 

So much of academics is rooted in perfectionism. Getting the right answer, working as hard as possible, being good at everything.... it's all about proving that you're...

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Dos and Don'ts of SAT Prep, From a Student Who Scored a 1560

With standardized testing season in full swing, I’m sure you’re being bombarded with testing advice. I remember feeling pulled in a million directions by conflicting advice while preparing for my first SAT. From family to older friends to online sources, it seemed like there were too many ways to approach this test. Even more confusing was choosing the right one. 

Now a sophomore at Northwestern, I think I’ve ironed out what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t. Funnily enough, some of the popular test taking strategies worked horrendously for me; tips from online don’t necessarily translate to the perfect test-taking strategy. If you’re having trouble deciding what works best, here are some of my test-taking recommendations. 

DON’T: Do every single practice problem available to you. 

DO: Target your practice to areas of improvement. 

While it’s true that practice makes perfect, not all practice is created...

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Alumni Interview Season is Here!

It’s that time of the year again. As alumni interview requests hit students’ mailboxes, it can seem like the onset of a second wave of college applications-induced stress. For those not familiar with the concept of alumni interviews, certain colleges offer interviews with alumni in applicants’ hometowns. An additional factor considered in your admission, alumni interviews give students the opportunity to go above and beyond their application, giving schools a better idea of who applicants are. Typically available from October through March, Alumni interviews are not only useful for admissions officers, but also for students. In an interview, students can ask plenty of questions about the college, providing valuable insight that can’t be found online.

Stressed about any upcoming alumni interviews? Don’t be. When I applied to colleges a few years ago, I accepted every alumni interview I was offered. At first, they were stressful. After all, they are a...

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10 Things College Admissions Officers Look For

As students prepare to send in their college applications for early admission deadlines, many can't help but wonder... did I do enough? Before you press the submit button, review this list of key factors to make sure your application stands out to admissions officers.

Challenging Coursework

As a student, your goal is not only to achieve the best grades you can, but also enroll in the most academically challenging courses you can. Most colleges will place greater weight on challenging courses, such as Honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes, or courses inside an International Baccalaureate (IB) Program. You do not need to enroll in every advanced class offered to you, however, the selections you make for your most challenging coursework should reflect your interests. For example, if you are interested in Medicine, it would be more impactful to seek out AP Biology instead of AP Literature and Composition.

General Increasing Trend (Grades)

Obviously, grades are an...

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The Insider's Guide to Direct Admit Medical Programs

At seventeen years old, I received my first medical school acceptance. 

I grew up with an inkling that I wanted to be a doctor. As I navigated my science courses, laboratory work, and extracurricular experiences in the medical field, this inkling grew to a conviction, and I decided to apply to medical school during my senior year of high school through direct admit medical programs. Now a student in Northwestern University’s Honors Program in Medical Education (HPME), I know that applying to direct admit medical programs was the best choice for me. 

For highly motivated students committed to a career in medicine, direct admit medical programs are a great option. With over fifty colleges offering such programs, hundreds of high school seniors each year choose to forgo a traditional pre-medical experience for a combined BS/MD program, granting them a conditional seat at a medical school. Though all programs follow the general idea of early admission to medical school,...

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How to Know When to Apply Early Decision

college admissions Sep 20, 2021

It’s that time of year where students begin to consider the age-old question: is it worth it to apply early decision? When deciding whether or not to apply early decision, students must consider a variety of different factors, making the decision a little more complicated than simply ED-ing your top choice school. Between financial implications, application cycles for other schools, and the legally binding nature of Early Decision, a lot of thought goes into the decision to apply early decision. 


What is Early Decision? 

A type of application plan intended for students with a clear and definite front-runner, early decision allows students to apply early to only one college. The catch? Admission to the school is legally binding, with limited exceptions for financial reasons or other extenuating circumstances. Early decision applicants apply to their first-choice school, typically a private college, in early November and receive an admissions decision in...

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Asking of a Letter of Recommendation: A Guide

college admissions Sep 07, 2021

Many students believe that they have little control over their letters of recommendation. After all, most students can’t even view letters of recommendation before submitting; someone else speaks for you, and you don’t even know what they say. 

Contrary to popular belief, there are actually several ways to optimize your letters of recommendation to ensure that they reflect everything that you want to show off about yourself. 


Timing is Everything

Although most students don’t begin writing their applications until senior year, asking for letters of recommendation this late often puts you behind the eight ball. Many teachers at my school, especially those that teach upper level classes, stopped accepting letter of recommendation requests in early September. For your sake, as well as your writers’, start thinking about letter of recommendation requests at the end of your junior year, or at the start of your senior summer. Asking well in advance...

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How to Brainstorm Your College Essay Topic

With application deadlines fast approaching, one thing weighs heavy on students’ minds: writing the perfect essay. Having written my college application essays just over two years ago, I’m no stranger to this feeling. The pressure of turning abstract thoughts into perfectly articulated sentences feels intimidating, impossible, and everything in between. Are you feeling this pressure? 


Breaking the brainstorming barrier

Before you sit down to put words onto paper, it’s important to take some time to reflect. Your application essays give you space to communicate directly with your admissions officer. Essentially, you’re putting yourself on paper. Given all of the nuances and complexities that make you unique, how can you fit yourself into 650 words? The key is identifying what’s most important. Ask yourself: 


  • What are you most passionate about? This doesn’t necessarily have to be your intended major or academic...
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50 Extracurricular Examples for the Common Application Activities Section

college admissions Sep 01, 2021

Most students don’t recognize the power of the activities section on their college application. This is such an underutilized space that can make all the difference in your application!

Something I hear from students all the time is that they aren’t sure what to include in their activities section, or what “counts” for an extracurricular.


Let’s get specific! An extracurricular activity can be any of the following:

  • Athletics, either school or club teams (ex: varsity soccer)
  • School-based activities (ex: Spanish club)
  • Community-based (ex: Volunteer work)
  • Any personal hobby, interest, or pursuit (ex: photography, fishing)
  • Employment, formal or informal experience (ex: ice cream shop, babysitting, dog walking)
  • Family-related (ex: caretaking of relatives, charity events)
  • Online-based (ex: taking classes online, etsy shop, personal website)
  • Anything that’s meaningful to you and a consistent way you spend your time (ex: creating art)


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