IvyWise Students Share Their Top College Prep Tips
For current high school seniors, the college application season is in full swing. We caught up with our Class of 2023 IvyWise Scholars to learn more about their college admissions journeys, what it’s like to work with IvyWise during this process, and get some of their college prep tips for other college-bound students.
Tell us about your background and interests.
Alyssa: Hi! I’m Alyssa, and I am a senior in the IB Diploma Program at DC International School in Washington, DC. I have always been a person of many interests; this intellectual curiosity extends to my college and career goals as they have always been ever-evolving as I learn more and discover new interests. I am especially interested in the fields of sustainability, chemistry, and performing arts.
Basak: Hello! My name is Basak, and I am from Turkey. In college, I want to major in biology: I love how biology is forever evolving and there is always so much to discover. Having a STEM-focused degree will assist me in embracing the altruistic side of the digital world to create, support, and execute projects that can change lives. From my exposure to neuroscience and biotechnology at some of the world’s top institutions such as UPenn and Stanford, I have developed a goal to found a company that will create medical innovations that are accessible to populations regardless of economic status.
Christian: Hi! I’m Christian, and I am from Venezuela, but am currently living in Denver, Colorado. As I look to the future, I imagine myself studying finance and computer science – and really enjoying the fun college experience.
Denny: Hello, I’m Denny! I’ve always wanted to do something in the field of robotics. I joined my school’s robotics team in 9th grade, and made many friends through this extracurricular group. This year, I gained a leadership position, and I aim to further foster the competitive, yet collaborative environment of this team. This past summer, I was able to intern at a university near me in robotics research and I learned so much! Other than STEM, a few of my hobbies include photography and running. I am a photographer for my school newspaper and robotics team, and have been running track since junior year.
What are some of the challenges and triumphs you’ve experienced during your college admissions journey so far?
Alyssa: Developing my resume and discovering new interests every year has been one of my favorite parts of high school, but it also made it more difficult for me to decide on a career to aspire towards. The most challenging part of the college prep process for me so far has been finding a sensible balance between my two biggest passions: chemistry and performing arts.
The best solution I found as a student with multiple interests and possible majors is developing criteria for potential schools and, every few months, going through the list and justifying aloud why that school is on my list. This list of non-negotiables has helped me to better understand what I want for my college experience and research universities more efficiently. My college spreadsheet has helped not just me but many of my peers who use it as a template to begin their own research, too!
Basak: The most difficult aspect of the college admissions process for me has been writing college application essays that express my opinions effectively, but my IvyWise counselor has helped me tremendously to write compelling essays.
The most enjoyable aspect of this process so far has been completing a long application that seemed intimidating at first.
Christian: The college admissions process is long and demanding, but also very rewarding as you see the product of all your hard work unfolding. I was struggling with finding time to work on supplemental essays because my schedule is very crowded between school, homework, extracurriculars, and sports. Since I started working with IvyWise, I have grown significantly. Whether it is learning about how to better structure my days to be more productive, developing my writing skills, or learning new things about myself, I continue to grow as a person and a scholar.
What are your top college prep tips for other students?
Alyssa: Develop a list of factors that your ideal school would have. Then, as you start building a list of colleges of interest, periodically go through the list of non-negotiables alongside your potential college list and justify aloud why a particular school remains on your list. Also, make a spreadsheet of your colleges of interest and the information about them that keeps them on your list!
Basak: I would strongly advise college-bound students to stay optimistic and to seek out those who can help them in areas where they require assistance.
Christian: Start the process early! It is never too early to start thinking about your future plans and what you want to pursue. And it is never too early to start writing traits about yourself that will set you up for the start of your college application process.
Denny: Tip #1: Open up. Since I’ve started planning for college, I’ve realized the importance of asking for help. Internalizing all the stress to keep your pride is ineffective. I’ve learned to open up and talk to my family, friends, and teachers. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness – rather, it’s a sign of strength!
Tip #2: Start early! I am a habitual procrastinator, so over the past year, I’ve been working to break that habit by breaking up large tasks into smaller pieces to tackle every day. I’ve learned just how important it is to get started early with the huge task that is submitting college applications! There are so many essays, and having to balance them with school work can be extremely challenging.
Tip #3: Keep a list of story ideas; whenever you remember something about yourself or experience something new, make sure to make a note of it. Trying to remember it later down the road can be difficult.
Tell us about what your IvyWise journey has been like so far.
Alyssa: In the summer after my junior year I got the opportunity to spend three weeks at Brown University through a scholarship provided by the Office of the Superintendent of Education. My amazing supervisor was the first to bring IvyWise and the IvyWise Scholars program to my attention. After reading the counselor bios and knowing the value of the expertise IvyWise had to offer, I wasted no time in applying and, thankfully, was accepted.
No matter how familiar I may have been with the college process, the wealth of knowledge that my IvyWise counselor has from her experience as a college student, admissions officer, and college counselor is not something I could have entered into a search bar.
My time as an IvyWise Scholar has pushed me to reflect deeper than I have in many years and to think critically about these reflections and make connections between my past and my present; this has become a distinguishing factor of my Common App and supplemental essays. It has allowed me to be able to produce better-quality work and has been the most valuable skill I have learned in my short time as a member of the IvyWise community.
Basak: I applied to the IvyWise Scholars program because, based on my research, I felt IvyWise students have great success, and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to obtain IvyWise’s guidance. IvyWise counseling and tutoring certainly assisted me in academically and personally preparing for college. My IvyWise counselor Danielle has been the most important factor in the timely and effective completion of my QuestBridge Match application. Danielle also recommended that I sign up with IvyWise tutor Richard to improve my scores. He taught me several SAT strategies – and his personal life accomplishments also motivated me tremendously.
Christian: I first learned about IvyWise through my mom. She was researching ways to help my sister with her college application process, found out about the IvyWise Scholars program, and encouraged her to apply. She did, and the following year, I did the same. I can safely say it has been the best decision I could have made as I approached this period of my life. Working with my counselor is always a pleasure! She is kind, caring, and professional. She has helped me to set myself up for success over the upcoming months by creating schedules, making to-do lists, helping me with building my college list, assisting with writing essays, providing personal support, and so much more. I look forward to continuing to work with her as I pursue my higher education and college application process. Through IvyWise, I also met my tutor, Richard. He is very compassionate, practical, and efficient – all characteristics that make for an amazing teacher and mentor. During my time with Richard, I have already been able to improve my SAT score by more than 150 points!
Denny: The college application process can be extremely stressful, but my IvyWise counselor has helped to alleviate the stress by keeping me on track. Carolyn has helped me research universities where I would be a good fit, and I now have a balanced college list of reaches, targets, and likelies. Overall, she has been a great help throughout the process!
What is IvyWise Scholars?
As part of our IvyWise Gives Back initiative, IvyWise Scholars is our pro bono college admissions counseling program for high-achieving, low-income students. We have also recently launched our IvyWise Transfer Scholars program for first- and second-year college students who are looking to transfer to different universities.
Want to learn more about what you can be doing now to stay on track with your college prep? Tune in to our Just Admit It! podcast for top college prep tips from our college admissions experts!