How were your first few weeks of school? !   I look forward to hearing about your initial impressions about the classes & teachers having inspired you so far.  As I wrote last week, students should aim to extend summer program energy into the fall semester and set plans for off-campus extracurricular activities that continue to ignite their intellectual passion.
In case you missed my back-to-school message last weekend, please find a link.
Each new academic year is an opportunity for transformative experiences both within and outside the classroom.   Some of you will be motivated by learning taking place in one or more of your classes.  It is my hope that all students find enriching and joyful extracurricular experiences both formal and informal to continue connecting strengths and passions.  As you think about the goals you’ve set for your academic year, I encourage you to further deepen your connections within existing interests and to also become comfortable exploring new areas to push yourself beyond your comfort zone.
We measure each student’s educational and college admissions success by learning/motivation, personal character and the impactful connections students make within “communities”.  Every student should begin each new year adjusting their Strategic Educational and College Admissions Plan – setting goals and creating action plans.
With the college admissions process on senior’s minds – including finalizing college short lists and working on core and college specific essays, this week I’d like to spend some time on the topic of college applications.

Tips for Success: Getting Started on Your Common Application and College Admissions Essay

If you’re late getting started with college admissions planning, don’t worry because whether you’re just starting to get organized or you’ve been working with a college admissions consultant throughout high school, either way you will be evaluating your college admissions offers in just a few months.  It may both a surprise and comfort you to know that this time next summer, you’ll be packing as you get ready to head off to join the class of 2022!
Let’s get you up-to-speed on some important steps in the college admissions and common application process.

How do I begin the college application process?

You are indeed one step ahead having already recognized this is indeed a “process” centering on the submission of your application thru one of three portals: Common Application, Coalition Application or College Specific Online Portal!

Do all colleges use the Common Application?

A very large percentage of undergraduate institutions will require you to submit your application thru the common application portal.  This actually saves you a substantial amount of time.
The University of Florida and Florida State University use the Coalition Application

What are the steps to submitting my Common Application?

If you haven’t yet finalized your list of match, safety and reach schools, consider scheduling a thorough educational analysis in which together we will identify your strengths and interests to customize the list of undergraduate degree programs where you’ll thrive both academically and socially.

Family finances are an important driver of these choices.  The chances of merit scholarships are connected to your choice of colleges.

Please find a link to my newsletter on Financial Aid:
It’s truly important to focus first on discovering the best fit for your intended major area of study rather than selecting institutions simply based on name recognition.
As a former university professor, I have extensive knowledge of university curricula and can discuss some interesting and unusual majors you probably never even considered as well as exploring traditional degree programs.
Familiarize yourself with the distinct application requirements for each college on your list: Many schools (most certainly more competitive colleges) will require unique supplemental materials. At the college’s actual website you’ll find an applications checklist.
Read the application checklist and pay careful attention to deadlines for receipt of all admissions materials.  If you’re a “Creative” (Art, Music, Drama), portfolios are often required and due dates are significantly earlier than those of other majors.


Two of the most important ways in which you’ll distinguish yourself on your college application from your equally qualified peers are your extracurricular activities (including honors and awards earned) and the content of your essay(s).

Extracurricular Activities  

Core and Supplemental Essays  

Recognize that for each college there are more students than there are available spaces in the freshman class.  A very large percentage of students have equivalent academic credentials including the appropriate/recommended high school G.P.A., completion of challenging and relevant honors, AP, IB and/or AICE classes, strong teacher recommendations and solid test scores.
With acceptance rates in the single digits in the most competitive undergraduate degree programs and your chances of acceptance at state flagship schools hovering at less than 50%, how do you make a difference and receive an acceptance letter?!    As a University Professor and former admissions committee member I have thirty years of experience reviewing undergraduate and graduate admissions applications.  I know what it takes to get noticed!   Your essay and activities resume are your opportunity to provide admissions with the most clear and effective presentation of your strengths and unique accomplishments and to stand out!

Prepare an Activities Resume!!

It’s extremely important to make the strongest and most clear presentation of your strengths and unique experiences.   To prepare for submitting the portion of the common application that details your extracurricular activities (leadership roles, honors and award earned), craft your “activities resume” also known as your “brag sheet”.   Not only will this document help you organize your materials for a unique and eye-catching presentation on your common application, but an activities resume is a valuable hot sheet to guide your teachers who will be writing your recommendations.  You will also provide your activities resume to the admissions or scholarship representatives if you schedule an interview.
Using your activities resume as a baseline, together we will brainstorm and discuss your experiences both within and outside the classroom to organize your responses for both the common application core essay and any college specific supplemental essays or short answers.
What do I write about in my college admission essay?

  Please contact me for a comprehensive list of prompts at over 100 colleges requiring supplemental essays.


Before you begin crafting your common application core essay, you’ll want to identify and organize your responses across the common application core essay and any college specific supplemental essay(s).   Organize all required supplemental essays looking for similar questions and those that are unique.  You’ll very likely be writing 1-3 unique essays above and beyond the common application core essay.   STRATEGIZE!!
The admissions essay is a very critical component of your application as it allows you to distinguish yourself from your competitors and to introduce yourself to the admissions committee.  It is how to share and highlight your unique strengths and experiences in a way that your transcript and test scores cannot fully illuminate.
Your goal is to provide a narrative that allows the reader to draw inferences about your character and your passion in a way that leaves the reader seeing you as someone that will add value to the class of 2022!
I tell my clients to begin by thinking of experiences that may have brought humor, happiness or even sadness into their lives.  The things you remember most are those that shape you – they make you laugh, cry, they are worth sharing because they tell a story that defines you and provides insights about where you want to go with an emphasis on what you hope to achieve during your collegiate experience.
While you will want to demonstrate “informed interest, you will want to aim to “recycle” your responses wherever possible.  For example, writing a college specific supplemental essay focused on discussing what motivated you to pursue engineering or business you’ll likely discuss your inspirational experience at FIRST Robotics or DECA.  Equally important, you’ll want to include college specific information that elaborates and demonstrates your informed interest in attending a specific institution by referring to genuine thoughts about the undergraduate research opportunities, a specific research institute or some unique aspect of the undergraduate curriculum that inspires you.
Colleges are unique and it’s up to you to have a very solid reason for why you want to attend a specific institution.  Do you research as this will increase the likelihood of admissions success and also finding a college that is your best personalized “fit” both academically and on a personal basis.  This information needs to be included in your essay and woven into your discussion of the shared experiences noted on the activities portion of your common application.
I look forward to guiding you to organizing your extracurricular activities and together we can confirm your list of colleges and brainstorm topics for your core and supplemental essays.
Whether you’re ready to finish your essays and application before Labor Day or just beginning to research colleges and majors, or perhaps you want to create a customized learning plan to address study habits and time management, I invite you to  CONTACT ME to schedule your Educational & College Admissions Assessment   available for seniors and all high school students.
It’s not too early (Freshman) or too late (Seniors) to set goals, build solid time management and learning strategies and discover a hidden academic strength. I invite you to learn more about my role in helping to build your student’s plan!

What are your student’s academic and social goals this year?  

What motivates your student? Successful students are intrinsically motivated!

Success begins with a student-led Strategic Educational  & College Admissions Plan with actionable items!

A Strategic Educational Plan Includes:

  • A Challenging “synergistic” high school curriculum (AP, IB, AICE, Dual-Enrolled??)
  • Sustained, directed and meaningful extracurricular activities 
    both within and outside of school (Involvement driven by genuine interest)
  • Student directed research to explore a variety of emerging academic and career interests  
    (Customized academic/career discovery exercises focused on your strengths!)
  • Time management solutions
    (Parents- you’re too busy to argue with your emerging adult about homework!)
  • Setting goals for target colleges, majors and scholarships  (Overlapping interests?)
  • Affordable college choices – FAFSA, CSS Profile, Merit-based aid??! (Yes, you can afford college!)


Motivated, Self-Directed & Confident Young Adults Ready to Succeed!

Warm Regards,
Bonnie R. Rabin, PhD
Educational & College Admissions Consultant