There are some questions that almost every kid has when going into college. There are some questions that many people are wondering about college. Here are some of the answers:

Where do I go to apply for a college?

All colleges now have online applications. Most private schools use The Common Application (the Common App). Most public schools have their own applications, which can be found by literally googling the college with the word “application,” ex: “uc application.”

Does it cost money to apply for college?

Yes, most college applications will require you to pay a fee. However, if your family can’t afford to pay for application fees, there are ways to get waivers. The SAT, as of this year, now offers 4 college application fee waivers if you used an SAT fee waiver to waive the fee of the test. If this program is not available to you, you can also request a fee waiver directly from the school.

How many colleges should I apply to?

It is a good idea to opt for applying to a wide range of colleges. Most students apply to a few each of “safety,” “probable,” and “reach” schools.

“Safety” schools are where the odds of you getting into the school are extremely likely based on their admissions rate and the average GPA/scores/other stats of students that go there. “Probable” schools are where you can probably get in, and the school would be a comfortable fit for your ability. “Reach” schools are schools where very few students are accepted, or your abilities and scores are just outside of the school’s average.

By applying to a mix of colleges, you allow yourself a back-up plan in case you aren’t accepted into your #1 choice (by the way, very few students actually get accepted into their #1 school). Even if you think you’re a shoe-in for Stanford, it’s important that you allow yourself another option when you’re part of the 94% of applicants that are rejected each year!

Don’t, however, apply to too many schools. Remember that:

  • Many schools will require you to write additional essays for their application, which means additional work and additional time to devote to each one
  • It costs around $50 just to apply to every school. So, if you apply to 20 schools, $50 x 20 = $1000 (way too much!)

How do I add my recommenders on Common App?

I know, you may be afraid to ask this question because it seems obvious, but it really isn’t that obvious on the Common App. This video can help you if you are stuck: Adding Colleges and Recommenders

Once you have added a recommender to one school, they should pop up on the list when you try to add recommenders for other schools. You do not need to resend the invitation to recommend for each school.

How do I get into Stanford/Princeton/Yale/(insert other top school)?

You would not believe how many of my friends ask me this question, and you would not believe how many of my friends think they know the answer to this question.

The real answer is that there is no magic formula for being accepted into the country’s most prestigious schools. However, after researching a lot about students that get into these schools, I can provide you with a few simple Do’s and Don’t’s:


  • Get extremely good grades all throughout high school. Most students that are accepted into these colleges are crazy high-achievers with nearly straight-A’s and several AP/IB classes. Easier said than done, right? Maybe it’s too late to fix your lousy freshman year grades. If that’s the case, then make sure to keep an upward trend on your achievement. Show that you are willing to put in the commitment in the years where it counts the most.
  • Get high test scores. Very few students at these colleges achieved lower than an 1800 composite on all 3 parts of the SAT. Most have over a score of 2100.  Although most of the knowledge used on these tests is acquired throughout your years of schooling, it does not hurt to take an SAT/ACT prep course or self-study for the test.
  • Follow your passion in high school. And, by “follow your passion,” I mean do what you really love to do. Don’t join the robotics team at your school just because you think it will look good on your resume. Join the robotics team because you are honestly passionate about robotics! Joining clubs you aren’t interested in will leave you bored, unhappy, and miserable. Students that are accepted into top schools are students who put hundreds of hours into an activity that they really enjoyed doing.
  • Write amazing essays. Essays are not only the place where colleges see how well you can express ideas; essays can fill in the gaps of your application. If you had a major hardship in your life that prevented you from getting good grades in high school, write about it! These schools aren’t just looking for “geniuses,” they’re now, more than ever, looking for real people who know how to fight for their goals and achieve in the face of adversity.


  • Have your parents do everything for you. These schools are looking for self-motivated students that will do well when on their own in college.
  • Join 200 clubs and organizations trying to “improve your resume.” Honestly, when these colleges see that you are in so many clubs, they don’t see anything that you have done, only that you have spread yourself too thin. If you think about it, if you dedicate yourself to dozens of clubs, how are you going to have time to make a serious impact with any of them? A much better route, not only for your college resume, but for your happiness in high school is to find your 1 or 2 things you are extremely passionate about, and do those to the fullest.
  • Think that you have no shot. As stated before, colleges are looking for a diverse population of students, which means kids that come from every walk of life. Even if you think your grades aren’t up to par, the other areas of your life can help make up for the missing pieces. There is also no harm in applying to a school and seeing what happens. You may just be pleasantly surprised.
  • Think that you are a shoe-in. No person is a shoe-in for the most prestigious schools. It’s important to understand that tens of thousands of high-achieving students apply to these schools and that your chances of getting in, regardless of who you are, are slim. I read a story of one girl who applied to only Ivy League colleges and was so scared when she was rejected by all except one. Luckily, she was accepted by one, but imagine if she hadn’t been? Don’t put yourself in that situation. Plan for anything to happen.