Category: Ivy League

Summer School? But its not even Spring!!

While winter is barely over, and Grade 12 students are in the midst of exams and preparation, it’s time to think of Summer Schools for students in Grade 9, 10 and 11!

You may think college applications are long off but unfortunately, time goes by faster than you think. Every year we get lots of people reaching out to discuss summer schools in May, but the time to apply is NOW. January and February are the best times to start planning for summer schools abroad.

But wait, even though, the trend of attending a summer program by high school students is really catching on in India and the BIG question is that is it really worth all the effort, time and money spent?

Is it becoming just about keeping up with that one kid in your class or is there a link between that an admissions? There is a lot to unpack in this article.

Well first thing to know is…

Q. What is a Summer School or a Summer Program?

A. Summer school is known to be a great way for students to pursue new interests, enhance existing talents, and build new contacts.

Q. Do they ACTUALLY act as a catalyst in gaining admission to a college of your choice?

A. In a simple way, we have parents each year asking, “If my child goes to Harvard Summer School, does that mean he will get into Harvard?” Here is the truth.

Attending a summer program no doubt indicates to colleges that you’re dedicated to studying and gaining knowledge. However, when you talk to admission officers they are of the opinion that these summer programs rarely give student that much of advantage when the time comes for them to apply to college. Yes, they do add great value to your resume/CV but understand that this is not your ticket to your desired college.

WAIT! Before you stop reading though… 

Q. Why should you consider pursuing a summer school/program?

– Summer program is the best way for students to fulfill their aspiration for global exploration and at the same time be committed to making the most of campus life. It’s a chance to figure out if they are ready.

– Explore new areas of interest, strengthen interest in a particular major and illustrate their readiness for the education system to admissions officers.

– Chance to experience what classes will be like and the level of work you will need to put in to succeed.

– Get hands on experience with international companies in form of internships which is inbuilt in some programs

– Possibility of incorporating your summer school experience in your essays

Q. What should I look for in a program?

– Is it the right time to dedicate to a summer program? AP exams are in the summer and sometimes Summer School overlaps with regular term for students. In some schools that means missing class and even exams.

– Is the school/program selective or does it take anyone who applies? If a selective program like Yale (YYGS), Boston Univ (PROMYS), Stanford (SuMAC), Princeton Journalism or UPenn LBW accepts you it is an indicator that 1) You are stronger than some of your peers 2) You are ready for a rigorous college curriculum

However, other programs that you can pay for and get in are less valuable in terms of being “an indicator” because even the admissions officers know they are not selective

Q. Do I have to go abroad?

A. No! Going to summer school abroad can cost as much as $10,000 for two weeks. Don’t waste your money on a non-selective program that won’t add too much value. Colleges are coming to us! Whether it’sAshoka’s High School Program, UChicago Summer School, Columbia University programs or MIT, the schools are coming to us and you should make the most of these opportunities.

Q. Should I go this year or next year?

A. Well, this is rather subjective and really depends from student to student. As per our experience we believe that you should join a summer program in the summer of your grade 10 and/or grade 11. The reason being that this time you are relatively free and have more time in hand as compared to when you are in grade 12 trying hard to balance your school life and college application work.

So going back to the big question, should I apply?

A. YES! Summer School is worth it if

– Your timing is right

– You can afford it

– If the program adds value to your application process either as a selective program that is an indicator or an exploratory program that allows you to show interest in a major


Timing is Everything: Figuring out the difference between EA, ED and RD

When to Press Send

When do you hit that Submit Button?

To add to your world of acronyms (SAT, ACT, PSAT…) we bring a few more! EA, ED, RD!

It’s October, which means you should have decided what colleges you want to apply to or at least brought it down to a shorter list. However, now, it’s all about timing.

While the terms EA, ED and RD apply mostly to the US colleges, it’s important to remember that even for the UK which has two deadlines (Oct 15 and Jan 15) and colleges in Canada and Singapore which have later deadlines, sometimes, applying early can make a major difference in the outcomes because the Admissions Officers have a lot more time to review the applications and thus, can get back to you sooner.

Now, let’s dive into what timing means for the US Admissions. EA and ED refer to Early Action and Early Decision. What does that mean?

Deadlines & Decisions

Early Action and Early Decision deadlines are, well earlier (around the 1st of November) and the decisions also come out earlier (around Mid-December). There is also something called ED II and of course RD or Regular Decision and their deadlines are usually at the end of the year.

EA vs. ED

EA (Early Action) applications are non-binding that means an applicant is not required to commit to the college, if accepted. You can still keep your options open till May 1. You can put in multiple EA applications and can also simultaneously apply ED to your Dream School. Basically you can have your cake and eat it too!

REA/SCEA (Restricted Early Action / Single-Choice Early Action)

Some schools like Yale, Stanford, Princeton and few others offer single-choice early action, i.e. you can’t apply early action or early decision to any other school. So you’d better choose wisely.

ED (Early Decision) applications are binding. This better be the school you are in love with and will be happy to give up on all others if you are accepted. Needless, to add you can apply ED to only one school. If accepted you HAVE to withdraw your application from all other schools unless the financial aid package offered does not meet the need specified by your family while applying. Do not even think of accepting an admission offer from a school other than your ED school. Remember you signed a contract and so did your parents and your high school!

ED II (Early Decision II) like ED is also binding however, unlike ED is a later deadline. Colleges like NYU and the Claremont Colleges offer the option to apply ED II thus showing your interest in the college but, because their deadlines are usually the same time as RD deadlines, you get more time to work on your application. Results come out Mid-Feb.

RD (Regular Decision) deadlines fall between November end and early January, well a majority of them do. A few RD deadlines spill into February/March and decisions start getting released by Mid-March. Competition gets tougher with everyone fighting for the spots left by the pro-active early applicants. It’s a good option if you are unable to decide on the one school that is the love of your life or are not ready in time for the early applications.

An early bird catches the worm, or does it?


Yes, your application will be reviewed much before the RD applications but does that give you a clear edge? Not necessarily!

The ED applicant pool is usually the strongest. The applicants whose school grades are pretty much where they would like them to be by October, SAT Scores are in hand by early November and the essays have been written and re-written several times! You will be pitted against the strongest but will have an edge because you are committing early and not fishing for other worms.

You could treat EA applications as your Safety Net. It never hurts to have a couple of admission offers by mid-December to ease of some of the admissions pressure! If the offer is from a Dream School like UChicago or UMichigan, you’re home free!

When you finalize your University List, it is important to have a strategy of applying EA/ED/RD to the schools on your list. Take well informed decisions and consult an expert, as there is no going back on your decisions!

5 Takeaways: Simplifying the Application Process Workshop


Earlier this week, as it is tradition, we had panelists from our soon to be College Freshmen class give their words of wisdom to the class of students applying this year and starting college Fall of 2017.

And so, a HUGE Thank you to the Class of 2020 Panelists who came to give their Words of Wisdom to the Class of 2021 in our “Simplifying the Application Process” Workshop at the CollegeCore Office!

Our Panelists were:

– Aditri Bhagirath – Carnegie Mellon University

– Anahita Sehgal – UCLA

– Ananya Mittal – Princeton University

– Aryaman Sethi – University of Chicago

– Rishab Srivastava – UC Berkeley

– Shankar Salwan – Northwestern University

– Shivam Bajaj – University of Southern California

– Simran Arora – Brown University

ICYMI: We had pages and pages of notes but since we can’t share them all, so see below for 5 Key Takeaways from our students.

1) Make a Balanced University List:


Enthusiastic parents and ambitious students may say “Ivy League or nothing else” but be realistic about it.

Dreams are dreams for a reason. You may feel right now that you want to apply to all the Ivies even if you have no chance of getting in, but each rejection hurts a lot. You need targets and safeties to balance that.

And we mean targets too. Applying to 8 Ivies and 1 safety like Drexel isn’t good either. What if you only got into Drexel? Would you go there?

Plan out Early Action and Early Decision as well but understand where it gives you an edge versus where it may be better to apply Regular Decision.

2) SAT / ACT Tips


The sooner you finish your SAT / ACT testing the better. Plus a reminder to Self-Study. No one can teach you to take the SAT, you have to put in the effort. The tutors have tips and tricks and ensure practice. Remember you are taking the test and not your tutor so the effort has to come from you in the test and before the test.

But don’t put too much pressure, the SAT / ACT isn’t the be all and end all. An excellent SAT score won’t save you if your school grades aren’t there. Remember, the SAT is a reflection of one day of exams and not of four years of prep like your grades. So balance your efforts.

3) Get cracking on your Essays

Start soon. You may write one CommonApp essay or you may write three. The most difficult part is starting. Remember you’re trying to stand out, so don’t make it generic, it needs to be about something important in your life. Don’t harp about your achievements, the rest of the CommonApp will cover that. Instead talk about challenges and motivations. Don’t be clichéd. If you are talking about a somewhat generic topic (like sports or community service), bring a new perspective like talking about your motivations why rather than narrating what happened. Don’t get too much feedback. Each perspective will confuse you and will be distracting. Do keep your focus narrow. This is a “Slice of Life” essay and a small experience and not story of your entire life. Follow us on Facebook because keep posting the latest essays available.

4) Take Charge of your Interviews

Unlike job interviews, these interviews are informal. They aren’t subject specific and can feel random at times. Prepare the questions but don’t rehearse them otherwise you will sound stiff. Balance. Guide your interviewer: You can guide the interview to discuss things you want to talk about. Suppose you want to discuss your dance and your interviewer chats about Bollywood. This is what you can do.

  • I’m a huge Bollywood dance fan!
  • But my favorite is Jazz which I’ve been learning for the last three years (showing your accomplishment)
  • In fact, I was really interested in the Jazz dance troupe at XYZ college (connecting to the college)

But don’t talk the entire time, let your interviewer talk to and let it evolve into a conversation. Remember to be prepared with questions at the end.

5) Don’t Overdo the Recommendations

There are school recommendation and external recommendations. Each University allows a different number of external though they all want 1 Counsellor recommendation and 2 Academic Teacher recommendations. But just because the college allows more, doesn’t mean you should send more. College Admissions says heavier the file, the faster it sinks. Only send them if they add value and aren’t repeating the same thing over and over.

Mantra of the Day: BALANCE


Don’t spend all the time on school, or all the time on applications

Don’t overdo or underdo extracurriculars

Don’t make crazy unrealistic University lists


Reading College Rankings


The U.S. News Rankings came out early last week. In case you missed them, check them out here.

But this post is not to examine the various ranks and what that reflects about the school. This post is to understanding the ranking process, both what we learn from it and why they can sometimes be misleading and disheartening.

First though, there is a clarification needed. While most people know that all Ivy League schools are good, the word Ivy League is sometimes used to name the top 10 colleges on the list. However, that is incorrect.

What is the Ivy League?

The Ivy League is the term used to refer to the eight schools that make up the Ivy League athletic conference. Below is the Ivy League schools list and their U.S. News Rankings for 2016:
• Princeton University – #1
• Harvard University – #2
• Yale University – #3
• Columbia University – #4
• University of Pennsylvania – #9
• Dartmouth College – #12
• Brown University – #14
• Cornell University – #15

The term Ivy League has become synonymous with prestige, selectiveness, and high rankings and for this reason, so many people use this label incorrectly. However, it is important to note that this list does not include other private universities like Stanford, UChicago, Duke and MIT to name a few.

But Ivy League is NOT EQUAL to Top 10 Colleges

Having clarified that, let’s dive into a couple of things

1) What Goes Into Rankings?

2) How do you Use these Rankings?

3) Why do People Like Rankings?

4) What Do I Do Instead?

First, What Goes Into Rankings?

That depends on who is ranking them. What do we mean by that? Different rankings use different criteria to measure effectiveness.

US News’ list most strongly emphasizes the academic reputations of the colleges. They take into account opinions of peers (e.g. Harvard’s opinion on Stanford), evaluate research and professors.

The Forbes list most heavily emphasizes student outcomesAmongst various factors, it evaluates student salaries after graduation.

Similarly, the Bloomberg list is incredibly valuable when looking at Undergraduate Business Schools. This is because the list takes into account employer feedback on these schools which is an important opinion for graduates from these colleges. The Niche looks at the quality of life and Princeton Review uses a variety of criteria and has rankings like “Best Campuses.”

TLDR: Each ranking is unique in what it chooses to focus on and so, use a variety of rankings to form opinions instead of putting on blinders.

Second, How do you Use these Rankings?

Well, rankings shouldn’t be the reason to apply to a college. More specifically you should never say, in your essays that rankings are the reason to apply. Saying “Dear Princeton, I’m applying because you’re #1” is like saying “Dear Girl / Guy, I’m dating you because you’re rich.” It’s crass, don’t do it.

However, use rankings to understand where a college stands. In Delhi University, when you consider a list of just about 20 colleges, a top 10 list helps you compartmentalize the list. But the U.S. has 300 good colleges and so the difference between #1 and #5 is drastic in DU but not in the U.S.

Why do People Like Rankings?

Because they are quick. If you’re new to the process of admissions, the information can see overwhelming. Rankings are a quick and easy way of simplifying the data.

What Do I Do Instead?

Figure out what you want from college. Do you like big cities or want a campus that has open fields? Do you like large class sizes or small ones? That will help you figure out which college you are best fit for. These differences are massive. Even if you look at the Ivy League colleges, in fact, Columbia is a city campus and quite a bit smaller than say Princeton which is a suburban campus. Read up more here.

And we aren’t saying don’t use rankings at all. Just don’t use one ranking. Even with US News, they divide Liberal Arts colleges and National Universities. So, you can’t compare Williams (#1 Liberal Arts College 2016) to Princeton (#1 National University 2016). Using a mix of rankings allows you to figure out if a school is in a top-tier band or a second-tier band.

A quick note: While we focus on the U.S. here, these notes apply to the Guardian Rankings for the U.K. or the Q.S. World News Rankings. Even the India Today rankings!