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Early Medical School Acceptance Program at University of Alabama Birmingham

College Admissions Partners - Tue, 11/25/2014 - 10:00

I was notified this morning that one of the students in the Early Medical School Acceptance Program(EMSAP) at the University of Alabama Birmingham has been chosen as a Rhodes Scholar for 2015. This is of course great news for the young man given this award but it also illustrates a point I have often made.

You do not need to go to one of a handful of colleges to be successful. Students interested in medical school in general, and BS/MD programs in particular, have a wide range of options. Many colleges provide wonderful opportunities even if the college may not be highly ranked by a group like US News.

How many Rhodes Scholars did HPME have this year? None. Don’t get me wrong. I like Northwestern and HPME and have had many students attend. But it is not the only great option available to students interested in BS/MD programs.

Most students admitted to EMSAP pay little or no tuition because of merit awards that they receive. And, unlike many other BS/MD programs,  students can apply to other medical schools without losing their guaranteed seat at the UAB medical school.

Is EMSAP a good option for everyone? No. But no BS/MD program is a good option for everyone. This is why I encourage students to do some homework before deciding where they wish to apply. And forget the rankings because they might cause you to miss some great options for you.

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Early Medical School Acceptance Program at University of Alabama Birmingham

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Patient Care Experience-What Is It?

College Admissions Partners - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 10:00

One of the things I always tell students that are interested in BS/MD programs is that they need significant patient care experience. But, what exactly is patient care experience?

Patient care experience is simply any type of volunteering where you have contact with people that have some type of health issue.  Most students think this means volunteering in a hospital and in fact hospitals are great places to get this type of volunteer experience. However, not all volunteering in a hospital provides a patient care experience.

I often talk to students that are volunteering at the hospital gift shop or behind the information desk directing people where to go. While all volunteering is good, this type of volunteering does not involve patient contact.

Patient care experience in the hospital might mean working on a patient floor answering lights to help patients with basic needs. It also might be working in an emergency room getting supplies for the doctors and nurses and helping them help the patients.

But patient care experience isn’t limited to a hospital setting. Many of my students never work in a hospital but get significant patient care experience volunteering in a nursing home. While the residents of a nursing home aren’t called patients, helping them is in fact patient care experience. This type of patient care experience is often much easier to get than hospital volunteering and you have more options of what to do with the residents. You can talk with them, feed them or read to them as a few examples.

I have also had students volunteer at such varied locations as centers for autistic children and physical therapy  facilities.

What is important here is the contact with the person that is in a facility because of health care needs.

Next time I will talk about that term “significant” and what it means when I say a student needs significant patient care experience.

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Patient Care Experience-What Is It?

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The College Rep Said They Don’t Have a BS/MD Program. What’s up?

College Admissions Partners - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 10:00

One of my juniors recently called me after visiting with a college rep at a local college fair. The student had asked about the BS/MD program that the college had and was told that they didn’t in fact have a BS/MD program. Since the student had gotten the information about the program from my book they were understandably confused.

So what was up?

The college does in fact have a BS/MD program but there are numerous issues that can come up particularly when talking with a new admissions officer. Some believe that a BS/MD program has to be accelerated and their program isn’t so it can’t be a BS/MD program.

Some people believe that they don’t have a BS/MD program because it is called something else.

Some people believe that a BS/MD program has medical school guaranteed regardless of what you do during college and their program isn’t guaranteed and therefore isn’t a BS/MD program.

BS/MD programs at most colleges are handled primarily by a specific person in the admissions office since they can confirm that all of the admissions requirements for the program are met. It is not unusual that a newer admissions officer will not have complete information about the BS/MD program at their school.

It is possible that a college has stopped a BS/MD program since the last edition of the book but that is unlikely. If you have questions on whether a college has a BS/MD program, give me a call.

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The College Rep Said They Don’t Have a BS/MD Program. What’s up?

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Who Should See Your College Essays?

College Admissions Partners - Thu, 11/13/2014 - 10:00

There is an old saying that too many cooks spoil the broth. While this is true in many aspects of life, it is also very true when it comes to the college admissions essay.

I have had several instances each year where a student shows one or more of their essays to a guidance counselor, teacher, parent, friend, mentor etc. And almost always that person has some great suggestions on how to improve the essay. If the student would just write about this, or use this language or use this example the essay would be much better.

Almost always, the result is a mess and a much poorer essay than the student started with.

I understand that all of these people are trying to help. But college essays are not like most other essays. Yes, grammar and spelling are important. But what the student writes about, or how they structure the essay, may be very different for a college essay. Most people don’t have a clue about what colleges are looking for in these essays.

So who should see your college essays? It depends on your particular circumstance. If you are working with an independent college counselor, I would suggest not showing the essay to anyone but the counselor.  You are paying them for their expertise so don’t undermine their recommendations by having others look at the essay.

If you don’t have a college counselor, then your best bet is a two pronged approach. First, get a good book on writing the college essay. One I often suggest is “On Writing the College Application Essay” by Harry Bauld. This is not a new book but has some of the best advice I have seen for writing these essays.  This is not a book of so called winning essays. That type of book might be alright but you need to understand what colleges are looking for before you actually look at actual essays.  Second, once you have written the essay, have your English teacher look at the essay for grammar issues.

I am sure that your parents will also want to see the essay and once it is written it is fine to show them the essay. If they don’t like the essay because you haven’t written about a serious topic or explained your research experience, just hand them Harry’s book to read.

 

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Who Should See Your College Essays?

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Free Book on FAFSA

College Admissions Partners - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 10:00

Edvisors has announced that the digital version of their 250-page book, Filing the FAFSA, The Edvisors Guide to Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is now available for free download. No personal information is required to obtain the free downloadable versions of the Filing the FAFSA book.

For any student that may need financial aid, the FAFSA is required and this book can be very helpful in completing the FAFSA.

 

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Free Book on FAFSA

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Can You Get Into a BS/MD Program with a “C”?

College Admissions Partners - Thu, 11/06/2014 - 10:00

I am contacted by a number of very smart students that at some point in their high school career, usually freshman year, received a C grade. And the question is, does one single grade of C eliminate a student from consideration for a BS/MD program?

Usually, the answer is yes.

The problem of course is that you are competing with so many other talented students that have never had a C. Why should a BS/MD program take a risk on you?

But this also raises one of the issues fundamental to college counseling. There are almost no absolutes. If you have an extraordinary background in volunteering or research, might a BS/MD program overlook that C in freshman history? Maybe.

The key here is that the other part of your background goes beyond what the college typically sees. Are you an Intel Finalist? That will catch their attention. Raised tens of thousands of dollars for health organizations? They may take a second look at you.

At the same time you have to be realistic. The vast majority of students with a C on their transcript are not going to be competitive for a BS/MD program.

Have a question on whether you will be a competitive candidate? Give me a call and we can chat.

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Can You Get Into a BS/MD Program with a “C”?

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Why You Don’t Want an AA Degree

College Admissions Partners - Tue, 11/04/2014 - 10:00

Many students believe that the way to a BS/MD program is to take as many college level courses as they can before they finish high school. If you have exhausted all of the classes in a subject that your high school offers, then taking a college class is a great idea.

But, I work with many students who were successful getting admitted into BS/MD programs, including programs like HPME and PLME, that have never had a college level course.  So don’t think you must take a college level class to be competitive for a BS/MD program.

Taking too many college classes can actually hurt your chances of admission to a BS/MD program.  The problem occurs when students decide that they want to earn an associates of arts (AA) degree in college. This may sound like something that would impress an admissions officer but in fact, it will disqualify you from a BS/MD program.

BS/MD programs are designed for current high school seniors. Even if you are a senior, if you have earned a degree in college, typically an AA, then you will not be considered by most BS/MD programs.  The reason is that most colleges will treat an applicant with an AA degree as a transfer student not as a high school student.

If you want to take college level classes as a supplement to classes at your high school, fine. But don’t fall into the trap of going too far and getting an AA degree.

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Why You Don’t Want an AA Degree

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Is that BS/MD Program a Guaranteed Program?

College Admissions Partners - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 10:00

There is a lot of confusion with BS/MD programs and the word “guaranteed”. I have had several administrators of BS/MD programs tell me that their program is not guaranteed.  So, what does it mean when I say that a program has a guaranteed acceptance into medical school?

It means that under normal circumstances, once you are accepted into a BS/MD program, you have a seat waiting for you at the college and the associated medical school. Where the confusion often sets in is that some people assume that if the seat is guaranteed, then no matter what you do after acceptance you will have the seat at the medical school.

However, in the world of college admissions, almost nothing is unconditionally guaranteed. At most BS/MD programs you need to maintain a minimum GPA to advance to the medical school. A 3.5 is the most common required GPA. Most programs also require the student to participate in volunteer activities while in college. Virtually all require that the student does not have any serious criminal violations.

In other words, the seat at the medical school is guaranteed as long as you get reasonable grades and don’t do something stupid.

So the seat is guaranteed for the majority of students who apply and get in.

Some programs require that a minimum MCAT score be met and this is more of a restriction on the guarantee than the other requirements. If you are concerned about having as much of a guarantee as possible, you may want to consider those BS/MD programs that do not require the MCAT.

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Do You Need to Apply to a Safety College?

College Admissions Partners - Thu, 10/09/2014 - 10:00

I just read an article on another site that argued that it is easier now to get into a selective college than it was 30 years ago. The argument is that some selective colleges have added seats in the last 30 years and some colleges that didn’t use to be selective now are so those seats are also available.

An interesting argument but what concerned me about the article was the statement that students no longer had to worry about reach, match and safety colleges. Just apply to enough schools, the article suggested, and you are bound to get into at least one.

I have seen this argument made many times by students. And sometimes, it works. But more often, the result is a student that come April of senior year, has been rejected by every selective college they applied to and has no college options whatsoever.

Here’s the deal. Just because you apply to 20 colleges that all have a 5% acceptance rate doesn’t mean that you will get into at least one of those colleges.  You must, and I can not stress this enough, must have at least two colleges on your list at which  you are very confident that you will get accepted.

If you get accepted into a selective college and choose not to go to the less selective college, that is your choice. But you only get to have a choice if you have at least two colleges where you are sure you will be admitted. Otherwise, your choice might be the local community college.

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When to Submit Different Parts of the College Application?

College Admissions Partners - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 10:00

This time of year I get many questions about when the different parts of the application need to be submitted. For instance, what happens if a recommendation letter gets sent before the application?  As it happens, the answer is very simple.

It does not matter one bit the order in which colleges get different parts of your application. Once they get something that relates to you, whether an application, transcript, letter of recommendation, whatever, they will start a file for you. Every time they get something that relates to you they will put it into this file. Once they have all of the information needed, the file is marked as complete and it can be evaluated for admission.

Is there a “best” order to have things submitted? Nope. Doesn’t matter.

There are plenty of things to worry about in the application process, but the order of submission is not one of them.

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When to Submit Different Parts of the College Application?

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What College Should You Apply to Early Decision?

College Admissions Partners - Thu, 10/02/2014 - 10:00

I sometimes have students ask this time of year which college they should apply to early decision. And the answer is simple.

None.

Don’t get me wrong. Early decision can be a great choice for some students. If you have found a college that you really love, and you have done your homework looking at many different colleges, and money is not an issue, early decision may be right for you.

But if you are asking the question of where you should apply early decision, it is obvious that you don’t have a first choice college. You don’t have one that you really love over all others.

Early decision is not something to do because everyone else is doing it. Most students screw up the college admissions process when they go through it so don’t rely on what everyone else is doing. Early decision is binding which means that if you get in, that is where you are going, even if you find out later that it isn’t a great school for you.

Early decision is also not a great option if money is an issue or if you want to compare financial aid packages. It is true that there are some highly selective colleges that provide financial aid to students without regard to when they apply. If the college meets 100% of need you may be alright applying early decision. However, unless you know which schools provide 100% of need to all students, regardless of when you apply, you shouldn’t risk applying early decision if money is a major factor.

Early decision is a serious commitment and this commitment should not be entered into lightly without a great deal of thought after doing a great deal of investigation into the colleges you have an interest in.

 

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What College Should You Apply to Early Decision?

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I Have One Opening for a BS/MD Senior Applicant

College Admissions Partners - Tue, 09/30/2014 - 16:32

In the past 3 months I have had a number of seniors call wanting to work with me on BS/MD admissions. Unfortunately, I have been completely booked with current seniors.

Until today.

I just had a student drop out and I have one opening for a senior. The opening is for help with all aspects of the BS/MD and college admissions process including help identifying the best BS/MD programs for a student, the best colleges for pre-med prep, help with the applications including essays and help with interview prep.

I do not help with just one part of the process because I have found that the students that do the best are those that work with me on all aspects of the admissions process.

Since some deadlines are only a month away, the student that signs up for this program should plan on working hard to get everything done.

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I Have One Opening for a BS/MD Senior Applicant

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What Does a Good Resume Look Like?

College Admissions Partners - Tue, 09/30/2014 - 10:00

For those of you who have been regular readers of the blog, this may seem like a strange post. Colleges don’t typically want to see a resume and I discourage them in most instances. But…

Once in a while a college asks for a resume. So, for those instances, what should you put on a resume?

First, does the college requesting the resume give you any guidance? Some colleges will say that they want to see GPA and test scores on resumes while others don’t want this information because they can get it from the application.

Second, do you know why the college is asking for this information?  Some colleges have very basic applications that don’t include any activities but if you are applying to a special program at that college, they may want a resume to give them more information. Some BS/MD programs don’t have the best communication between the college and the medical school and the medical school will ask for a resume to make sure they have all of the relevant information.

Having answered these two questions, you should be in a better position to figure out what to put on a resume.  Generally you will want a header that provides your name and contact information. Be specific here particularly if you have a more common name. You would surprised at how often colleges get applications from multiple people with the same name.

The rest of the format of the resume should be as simple as possible. For each activity put information similar to that which is requested on the common application list of activities. The name of the activity, the years you have participated, the number of weeks each year you were involved, the number of hours per week and a short description of what you did and any honors or awards.

For the body of the resume, I would avoid putting information about your high school, your GPA or your test scores unless specifically asked for this information. This information will be available for almost all applicants from other sources.

Depending on what the resume is for, you may want to have some basic categories such as extracurricular activities, volunteer activities and health care related activities. If you have held a job, employment would be its own category.

Health care activities could include volunteering at a health care facility, research activities and doctor shadowing opportunities.

General volunteer activities would be any non health care related volunteering you have done. Extracurricular activities are those things you are involved with through school or that don’t fit into one of the other categories.

You do NOT need to list a summary or your objectives. Colleges really do not care about that. This is not a business resume.

Only list those activities that are significant. Student of the month in 10th grade? Not significant. 2 hours volunteering in 9th grade at the food shelf? Not significant. If you have only done an activity in one year, it is probably not significant unless it is something like research or doctor shadowing.

Ideally, if you can keep the resume to one page, that is best. Almost never will any student need more than two pages for this type of resume.

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What Does a Good Resume Look Like?

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Extra Recommendations. Why They Are Often a Problem.

College Admissions Partners - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 10:00

One of the most frequent questions I get this time of year is how many recommendation letters do I need. Students know that they need one or two teacher recommendations and a guidance counselor recommendation for most colleges. But what they are really asking is, how many extra letters of recommendation do I need.

Almost always the answer is none.

Let’s look at this from the college’s viewpoint. Colleges use letters of recommendation as one part of the application where they hope to get to know something about you outside your grades, test scores and list of activities. Who are you as a real person?

While letters of recommendation can be good for telling colleges what you are like as a person, they don’t need to hear from everybody that knows you that you are a good kid and a hard worker.  Most teachers will have spent enough time with you to know what you are like as a student, and to some extent, what you are like as a person.

Getting that information from the teacher is sufficient for most colleges. They don’t need your research mentor or the volunteer coordinator where you volunteer to tell them the same thing. More here is not better.

Moreover, colleges control their own applications and even the common app is controlled by the member colleges. If colleges wanted more recommendation letters do you think there is anything from stopping them from asking?

The revised common app is confusing some students because some colleges say they require 2 recommendations for example but will accept 4. Doesn’t that mean they really want 4? No it does not. What is means is if you truly know of someone that can write a letter of recommendation that will tell the college something about you that they don’t already know from the other recommendation letters, then they will accept, at most, 2 extra.This is actually an attempt by the colleges to limit the number of extra letters of recommendations some students send.

There is a saying in colleges admissions, the thicker the file the thicker the kid. In plain language, most students that feel the need to send in extra letters of recommendation are usually those that don’t have the grades, test scores or  background to be admitted in the first place.

Don’t be that kid. If you truly have someone other than a teacher than can write a letter of recommendation that will help the college know you, then by all means submit that letter. But only do so if they are adding something that the college doesn’t already know.

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Extra Recommendations. Why They Are Often a Problem.

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What is a Good Guidance Counselor Recommendation?

College Admissions Partners - Tue, 09/23/2014 - 10:00

For most students, particularly those in public schools, the guidance counselor recommendation required by most colleges is really not very important. It isn’t that colleges don’t care what you guidance counselor has to say. It’s just that they realize that at most schools, the guidance counselor does not have time to really get to know their students.

But, what if you are at a school where the guidance counselor knows you and what you have done. A good guidance counselor recommendation can give you a bump in the admissions process. And what is a “good” recommendation?

A good recommendation is one that is personal. One that talks about you as a person. One that address any issues you have had with scheduling classes or any blips in your transcript.

The reason that such a recommendation letter helps is that it gives the college a little more insight into who you are as a person. Did you want to double up in science classes but couldn’t because your school doesn’t allow it? The guidance counselor can mention that. Had an AP US History teacher that doesn’t believe in giving A’s and your B+ was the highest grade in the class? That can be mentioned too.

Colleges don’t really expect much from a guidance counselor recommendation so when they get one that clearly knows who you are, it catches their eye and generally will work to your benefit.

So, while you have time, and this is particularly true for students in 9th to 11th grade, get in to your counselor and try to get to know them. It won’t hurt if this doesn’t work but if it does, you may get a small bump in admissions.

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What is a Good Guidance Counselor Recommendation?

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Where Does Your Resume Go on the Common App?

College Admissions Partners - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 10:00

I am often asked where a student’s resume goes on the common app and the answer is simple.

No where.

That’s right, colleges do not want to see a resume in your common application. And no that doesn’t mean that you should send it by mail or email to the colleges.

Think about this like a college. Could they ask you for a resume? Of course, and there are a few colleges that do. But what does that tell you about all of the colleges that don’t ask for a resume?

More and more selective colleges are using the common application because it is an easy way for them to get the information they want in an easy to read format. The common app provides you space for 10 activities. The colleges could ask the common app to increase the number of spaces for activities. After all, the common app is run by the colleges. But colleges are not pushing for more than 10 activities. And the descriptions also have been fairly static for several years. College want to see how well you can describe what you do without being verbose.

As I discussed last time, the reason is obvious. Very few students truly have more than 10 significant activities that need to be brought to the attention of the colleges.

Having a resume is fine in case the college asks for it or to use as a reminder to you of what you have done to make sure you don’t forget something on the common app list of activities.  But don’t worry about submitting it to the colleges because most don’t want to see it.

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How Do You Fit More than 10 Activities On the Common App?

College Admissions Partners - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 10:00

So you have more than 10 activities for the common app and you don’t know where to put everything? Here is some help to address this issue.

First, look at your activities and ask your self, do I really have more than 10 significant activities. Playing JV tennis only in 9th grade. Does that need to be on your resume? No. That 2 hours that you helped at the food shelf sophomore year? Nope.

Colleges are looking for activities that you have been engaged in ideally for multiple years and for significant hours. No, there is no definition of “significant” but I think most of you can figure it out if you are honest with yourself.

Second, can any of your activities go in the academic honors section of the common app? National Honor Society for example is a common activity that can easily go in the honors section.  If you have been significantly involved in NHS during high school you may still want it as an activity but for many students, putting it just in the honors section is sufficient.

Third, is it possible to combine several activities into one heading? For example, if you have had 5 volunteer opportunities but none of them have been long term or for many hours, you many be able to combine them into one activity listing for volunteering.

For most students, these three options will take care of any problem you have fitting the activities into the space provided.

But, every year, I have one or two students that truly have more than 10 significant activities. The solution is to include a mini resume of those extra activities in the additional information section. Only list the extra activities that didn’t fit, not all of your activities.

Activities are important for admissions particularly for selective colleges. But there is a reason that the colleges only have 10 activities on the common app. Quality of activities is always more important than the quantity of activities.

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How Do You Fit More than 10 Activities On the Common App?

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Order of Activities on the Common App

College Admissions Partners - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 10:00

One of the biggest mistakes I see on the common application is the order of activities.  Your activities should be listed in order of importance to you, starting with the most important and moving down to the least important.

There are instructions for this on the side of the activities page but many students seem to be missing that instruction.

That being said, I do sometimes have to suggest that students modify the order of their activities even if they have listed them in their order of importance. You need to keep in mind in ordering the activities what sort of things are important to BS/MD programs.

Yes, you may really enjoy singing, but unless you have won a number of awards for your singing, it probably should not be the first listed activity. On the other hand, several years ago I had a student that was an internationally recognized violinist. In a case like that, putting music first was not a problem.

Just use your best judgement in arranging the activities remembering that volunteering, research and doctor shadowing are some of the important things that BS/MD programs are looking for.

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Order of Activities on the Common App

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Where Does Dr. Shadowing Go on the Common Application?

College Admissions Partners - Tue, 09/09/2014 - 10:00

I am starting to get a number of questions about where to put various items on the common application. So, in the next few weeks, I will address some of these issues.

Several people have asked where to put doctor shadowing on the common app. Almost always, you will want to put it in as one of your 10 activities.  The additional information section is a possibility for overflow activities but for BS/MD programs you don’t want to relegate something as important as doctor shadowing to the additional information section.

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Different Versions of the Common App. When Is This Appropriate?

College Admissions Partners - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 10:00

Did you know that you can have different versions of the common app? Many students are not aware of this. And even if you can have different versions, why would you want to?

The different versions actually occur in two different ways and for different reasons.  The biggest reason most students might want a different version is if they find out that they made a mistake on the common application but have already sent it off to at least one college.

Made a mistake in your phone number? Your school code? Just realized that you were supposed to list your activities in order of importance? All of these items can be easily corrected and once you have done so, the new version will be sent to each college that gets your common app. These type of corrections have no limit to them.

But what if you have an error in your common app personal statement? You can still correct this essay but the number of changes is limited. You can only have 3 versions of the application where the essays are different. Once you have reached the limit of 3 essays, the final essay will be frozen.

The second possible reason for another version of your common app is if you want to personalize it for a specific college. Let me say here that this is neither wise nor advisable. There is absolutely no reason to personalize the common app for different colleges. But every year, I have at least one student ask about doing this.

Typically the college specific version of the common app has a different essay than is being used for the rest of the colleges the student is applying to. Some students believe that it is necessary to use an essay that will highlight some aspect of the student that is only applicable for that one college.

Frankly, I have never seen a situation where this is required. But if you believe that you need to have a different essay for one college, it is possible.

This comes under the category of just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should do it.

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Different Versions of the Common App. When Is This Appropriate?

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