Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills

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10 Tips for Students to Reduce College Application Stress

10 ways to reduce college application stress

Aarrgh! It’s creeping up on you…you can feel it…it’s reaching out to grab you like a thousand spindly fingers…it’s COLLEGE APPLICATION TIME!

Send that Stress Packing! Here’s how:

1.Get OrganizedStart by:

A. Writing Everything Down

Dates of tests.
Application due dates for each school.
Any other paperwork you’ll need or deadlines you’ll have to meet (financial aid, etc).
Letters of recommendation you’ll need and who you’ll ask.
The number of supplemental essays required by each school and each essay prompt (write down these prompts exactly as they’re given to you). Then:

B. Make a Calendar

Work backwards from each deadline or task and decide when each one needs to be completed.
**IMPORTANT: Give yourself twice the amount of time you think you’ll need. Trust me on this – everything will take longer than you think.

C. Set up a Filing System

You’ll need both a virtual and real filing system for each school (for email and snail mail).
You might also want to try Evernote, which is an easy way to access photos, documents and notes from any computer you’re on (it’s free).

Don’t want your parents bugging you? Take the initiative and stick to your schedule.

2.Pick a Range of Colleges You Like and Will Like You. Be realistic when you’re putting together your college list. It’s great to have one or two reach schools, but make sure to include schools that you like and that are likely to admit you.

3.Look for Schools that are Test Optional. ACT and SAT scores not your thing? Over 850 colleges are test optional. These schools believe that a combination of grades, recommendations and extra-curricular activities will give them a better picture of how you’ll do in college. For a complete list of schools that are test-optional, go to

4.Don’t Wait Until School Starts to Write Your Essays. You’ll have homework, homecoming, applications and activities —  how are you going to have time for all those essays? (No, you can’t write well without sleep.)  Start your college application essays during the summer, when you have time to think and write. This goes double if you’re applying early — you may have several supplemental essays due November 1. Plan ahead and put those deadlines on your calendar!

5.Don’t Talk to Other Students About Your College Applications. This is a MAJOR stressor. Your friends come up to you and want to know what your essay topic is, or where you’re applying, or why you haven’t heard yet since theyve all heard. It’s easy to compare yourself to other students, but DON’T GO THERE. Enjoy the search and be confident that you’re applying to the schools that are right for you. When friends ask if your application’s in or your essays are done just say, “It’s coming along, thanks.” Then change the subject. Eventually they’ll get the idea and stop asking.

6.Get Moving. Ride a bike, go for a run, take the dog for a hike. Spend a few hours not thinking or talking about college. You’ll think better and you’ll feel better, too.

7.It’s YOUR College Tour. Enjoy! You’re on a shopping trip. Keep your eyes off your texts and on the sights. Talk to the tour guide and the students you meet –  ask them what they’re studying and what they love about their school. Then try to imagine yourself as a freshman on campus heading to class, the dorm or to dinner. See if your gut says you want to spend the next four years there.

8.Remember That Your Parents Want the Best for You: Your parents helped get you this far in life and they’re probably going to be a bit protective. It might scare them to think that you’re leaving home or even make them sad. So if they hover over you or ask tour guides embarrassing questions, take a deep breath and remember that they just want what’s best for you.

9. Don’t Narrow Your Options Too Quickly. (The College Helper suggested this tip when they commented on my last post, “7 Tips for Parents to Reduce College Application Stress.”) Some students get focused on attending a particular type of university – a large state school, for example – and never look at private universities or other schools that are outside of what they ‘think’ they want. Take time to explore – you can’t really be certain about what you want until you know what the other types of colleges are all about.

10. If You’re Overwhelmed, Ask for Help. Never be embarrassed to ask for help. Guidance counselors, teachers and private professionals can answer questions, guide you through the application process, provide feedback on your essays, and work with you on achieving your deadlines. Help is out there – you just have to ask for it.

related posts:
7 Tips for Parents to Reduce College Application Stress
Organize Your College Search: Try Evernote

Dealing with the Stress of College Applications
Peterson’s: Reducing Stress About College Admission Requirements
New York Times: The Burden of the College Admissions Process (students write about their college application experiences)

Sharon Epstein, FIrst Impressions College Consulting..Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting
Need help? I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone, and by computer. Visit my website for more info.
Connect with me on Google+, Twitter and Pinterest:

follow Sharon Epstein on Twitterfollow Sharon Epstein on pinterest

Leave a comment — let me know what you think!



Interviews with College Admissions Counselors: Ithaca College

Welcome to an Ongoing Series on College Admissions.

Updated June 21, 2012

If you’re starting the college admissions process you’ve probably discovered that it’s not always easy to find answers to your college admissions questions. That’s why I created a place where you can hear directly from college admission counselors about applying to college, college interviews, college application essay writing, and financial aid.

I developed these questions with help from families who’ve recently been through the college admissions process. Because each school answers the same questions you’ll be able to compare information with other schools.

I hope this will be an excellent resource for anyone looking for college admissions information. Who knows? You might even find yourself considering options you hadn’t thought of before.

With the introduction out of the way, let’s find out about Ithaca College.

Ithaca College, founded in 1892, located in Ithaca, New York, is a private, coeducational college offering undergraduate and graduate programs in business, communications, health sciences and human performance, humanities and sciences, music, and interdisciplinary studies. U.S News and World Report ranks the school #11 of regional universities (north).

As of Fall 2010 Ithaca College had 6,442 undergraduates and 6,949 total students.

Admissions statistics: Class of 2014

Number of applicants (freshmen): 13,191
Number of admitted students (freshmen): 9,096
Number enrolled fall 2010 (first-time, full-time freshmen): 1,617
Average SAT score: 1726
2012 – 2013 Undergraduate Cost of Attendance:  Tuition and Fees $37,000; Room $7,200;  Board $6,200; Optional Health and Accident Insurance $1,110


Ithaca College Director of Admission, Gerard Turbide, answered the following questions for us:


Q: What percentage of applicants does Ithaca College admit?

A: Typically we offer admission to two-thirds of our applicants.

Q: Does applying early decision/action improve a student’s chances for admission?

A: Ithaca College is a selective institution, and as a result, we cannot offer admission to all qualified students.  We also want to admit students who are excited about Ithaca College, will contribute positively to our community, and are willing to make that commitment early.  The accelerated time line allows us to admit all qualified candidates who apply through Early Decision, and our most interested applicants know much earlier.  It’s a win-win.

Starting fall 2012, Ithaca College will offer the option to apply by December 1 under a non-binding Early Action deadline to receive an admissions decision by February 1.

Q:  How important are extracurricular activities in admissions decisions?

A: Students who do well at Ithaca College are usually individuals who want to be actively engaged in their education.  A student’s participation in extracurricular activities is one indication of that quality.  Each year, more than 700 prospective students apply for Ithaca College’s Leadership Scholarship, and each candidate’s activities in their community are carefully considered for this competitive award.

Q: How important is taking advanced, accelerated, or honors courses?

A: In our selection process, we are very focused on the extent to which an applicant has challenged him- or herself academically.  We assess each applicant’s strength of curriculum in light of the offerings available at that high school.

Q: Which teachers should write a college recommendation?

A: Selecting recommenders is a personal decision.  I would encourage students to seek teachers who know them well, and can write in detail about their relative strengths in the classroom.

Q: Do you look for what is not said in a college recommendation?

A: I would not say that we speculate on omissions in letters of recommendation.  I would say that, in cases where there are inconsistencies in a student’s academic record, it is helpful when the guidance counselor addresses that issue.

Q: Is the quality of an applicant’s high school taken into consideration?

A: We take into account the context of the student’s learning environment.

Q: What is the relative importance of grades versus board scores?

A: Our research has shown that grades – specifically, a student’s grade-point average in academic course work – is a much better predictor of success at Ithaca College.

Q: There’s been controversy about using tests like the SAT and ACT in the college admissions process. Where does your school stand?

A: Starting fall 2012 applicants will  have the option of not submitting SAT or ACT scores. 


Q: Does your school offer interviews with college admissions counselors? If not, why?

A: Yes we do. We believe it’s important for any student considering Ithaca College to visit our campus. We offer individual appointments with counselors, small group information sessions, and open house programs in which our campus community happily greets our visitors to provide an inside look at Ithaca College.

Q: Should a student discuss or explain a poor grade or marking period(s)? If so, when?

A: If there is something significant that impacted a student’s academic performance (e.g., illness, injury, family hardships, etc.), the student can share that information within the application.

Essay Writing

Q: What qualities do you look for in a well-written college application essay?

A: We want to hear the student’s voice, and learn something about that student. This is a key opportunity for an applicant to create a distinct impression. Careful attention to grammar, proof reading, and spell checking are all important.

Q: Is there a type of college application essay you would recommend against?

A: I would recommend against statements that would cast doubt on the student’s ability to contribute positively to our campus community.  Of course, each student’s essay should be their own work.

Q: Can a college application essay make or break an admission?

A: In some cases, an essay can make the difference one way or the other.  A sincerely written essay that provides insight into a student’s character can help counterbalance an academic concern, especially when recommendations support that student’s potential to meet challenges head-on.

Q: Where do you stand on the 500 word limit on the Common Application’s personal statement? Can a student go over the Common Application’s 500 word limit?

A: I would advise students to start by writing a first draft without thinking about length.  Choose a topic you care about, and write with your own “voice”.  Once you have your ideas assembled, you can refine and edit.  For each applicant, I’m interested in reading a compelling statement that effectively conveys something about that studentI’ve never counted the words used.

Financial Aid

Q: How has the recession affected the admissions process and the availability of financial aid?

A: Every year, families express increased interest in financial aid, and most must weigh the cost of attendance as part of their decision-making.  Last year Ithaca College made available over $165 million in grants and loans. We view an Ithaca College education as an investment made in partnership with our students and their families.  And we believe that the rewards of that education will be well worth it. (editor’s note: Ithaca College lists tuition, fees, room and board at $45,944. The most recent stats show 1,497 out of 2,027 full-time freshmen were offered aid. The average financial aid package was $29,600.)


Q: What part of the college admissions process is most misunderstood?

A: I think many people believe that standardized tests play a much larger role than they do.  They can be a helpful piece of information, but nothing tells us more than a student’s academic record reflecting their course work.

Q: How can people connect with your school and your students?

A: We have a well-developed presence on the web, including a specific social networking site for applicants.  The best way to connect with Ithaca College, our students, and our faculty, is to visit campus.  We offer several open house programs in the fall, tours and information sessions throughout the summer, and we have an open house for high school juniors on Saturday, April 30th.

Our social networking site for applicants is IC Peers — it’s part of our myIthaca portal. We encourage any student considering Ithaca College to register at There are interesting articles that can help with the college search process, and as you progress with your application to Ithaca College, you can keep track of your status, register for one of our open house programs, and meet other interested students online.

Q: Please add a question specific to your school.
Question:  Is it important to pick a major now?

A: Ithaca College offers over 100 degree programs in the humanities and sciences, business, communications, the health sciences, and music.  Our Exploratory Program is a great option if –like most students — you’re not yet sure what you want to study.  Whatever your plans are for the future, we most likely have the program of study that will prepare you for the challenges ahead.

To Contact Ithaca College:

Office of Admission
953 Danby Road
(607) 274-3124 |  (800) 429-4274

other posts in this series:

Housatonic Community College
Quinnipiac University
Sacred Heart University
University of Bridgeport

University of Connecticut

related links:
Will More Prominent Colleges Abandon the SAT?

Sharon Epstein, FIrst Impressions College Consulting..Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting
Need help? I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone, and by computer. Visit my website for more info.
Connect with Me:

follow Sharon Epstein on Twitterfollow Sharon Epstein on pinterest