Tag: Admissions

Undergrad College Interviews: How to Prepare and Are they Worth it?

If you’ve been following the conversations on any admission forum, you may have seen a version of the question “Has anyone got an interview invite from X?” with about a dozen question marks after it. Honestly, if we were to go by the urgency in online tone it would seem like the college interview can make or break one’s case for admission to highly selective colleges! In fact, if you read a bunch of articles online about the importance of the college interview, you might very well come away thinking that the interview is paramount to a student’s success in the admissions process. Well not exactly.

While grad school interviews are a whole other ball game (more graduate schools have required interviews), undergrad interviews are not. Sure, if a student demonstrates that he or she has done the equivalent of zero research on the college in question, that can absolutely end their chances of admissions but to suggest that the college interview is make it or break it is wrong. Those admissions essays, grades, test scores, activities — now those are make it or break it.

So, do interviews really help?

The importance of interviews in the admission process varies from school to school. For few schools these interviews are of considerable importance, for some of moderate importance but for most they are of limited or no importance.

In general, interviews with admissions staff are more important than the interviews with alumni, which tend to be more informative in nature rather than evaluative. Think of it as reading a second-hand review or report (from alumni) or adding value from first-person experience (admissions staff).

Interviews are very helpful for someone who is on the bubble, where the decision could go either way. A fantastic interview with an alumnus could make a significant difference. Interviewing is a great way to show demonstrated interest, which some colleges track as a factor which impacts their yield.

So here are two reasons to do a university interview:

1. To demonstrate interest in the school. Some schools track how much active interest you’ve shown: Did you apply early? Did you visit? Did you interview? Did you open our emails and click on something? Together, these factors can have some sway over the admissions decision, although how much varies from school to school. So just doing the interview—regardless of how you think it went—counts for something.

2. To provide additional information. Maybe you didn’t do complete justice to representing your applicant profile in your essays. Perhaps you’re very impressive in person as compared to on paper. Or maybe you’ve done some awesome things since applying that weren’t in your original application. You can share these things in your interview.

How can you set up an interview?

For some colleges this process gets triggered off automatically. Georgetown sends out an interview scheduling mail as soon as a student submits Part 1 of their application, others like Yale wait for the complete application to be submitted before initiating the process. For some others like UChicago a student needs to request for an interview through their application portal.

Prepping for an interview:

Questions will fall in three buckets:

1. Why this major e.g. Why Mathematics?

Being a logical thinker, I’m intrigued by Math because of its application to almost all areas whether it is finance or operations research or data science or economics and can be applied to most real life scenarios.

Being an avid Basketball player I find myself using math to improve my game. The path the basketball takes once it’s shot comes down to the angle at which it is shot, the force applied and the height of the player’s arms. When shooting from behind the free throw line, a smaller angle is necessary to get the ball through the hoop. However, when making a field throw, a larger angle is called for. When a defender is trying to block the shot, a higher shot is necessary.

(Answer + Evidence)

2. Why Us?

Remember that this is not about why the school is awesome. The school knows it’s awesome. Don’t talk about weather, location and other such inane things instead research specifics.

– It’s not about ‘Why UMichigan?” but it’s all about ‘Why YOU at UMichigan?’ Talk about why you are perfect for each other. Talk of specifics – academic courses, clubs & organizations, special offerings particular to that university.

– Remember this is another chance to show a few more of your skills / talents / interests / passions WITHOUT being braggy

3. What are your extracurricular Interests?

It’s good to talk about your interests, showing a passion and also bringing in the values learnt through them.

Maybe there are some activities you have not mentioned in your application. You might be trying to break your school record on solving the Rubik’s Cube with one hand. Do talk about this.

Questions to ask an interviewer

Don’t ask for information that is already on the website.

Meaningful, well-thought-out questions will help you learn more about the schools at the top of your list, while demonstrating that you’re a serious student who is inquisitive and committed to excelling in the future.

– Can you tell me about the ABC and XYZ programs? I’m torn between which program of study I’d like to pursue.

– What are some exciting internships that students have had here in the past year? How have those internships have helped students academically or on their career paths? (Shows you are mature and career-focused)

– What is a typical weekend or weeknight like on campus? Are there campus-sponsored events, or do most students find fun elsewhere?

– I read about (insert popular on-campus event or tradition). Have you participated? What’s it like?

If you can ask a question based on something the interviewer has told you during the interview, it shows you have been listening. For example, if the interviewer discusses a tutoring program, you can ask the interviewer if he was involved in it, or you can ask for more details about how the program works.


Whether it’s writing out the answers or points, writing can only get you so far. Prepare for an interview by practicing for it. Say your answers out loud to a mirror or video yourself and see what you sound like. Practice with a counselor, an alum, a friend, a parent. Practice so that you are at ease.

And remember, while these tips may be for college interviews, they apply to every interview henceforth. While it seems a while away, you will soon interview for internships and jobs and even on campus, you may interview for selective student groups – its always good to learn to present yourself thoughtfully to show them the best of who you are.

Urvashi Malik and the CollegeCore team takes pride in helping students through the nose to toes of the admissions process, including the interview process.

Dealing with Deferrals: A Different kind of Love Letter

It’s February! With Valentine’s Day around the corner, love is in the air and students are studying for exams. With Valentine’s Day come love letters (or love emails), but for our applicants applying to colleges abroad, we want to cover a different kind of letter, the Deferral Update Letter.

For Early applicants (Early Action or Early Decision) the deferral can fell heartbreaking. For a lot of high-performing applicants it’s the first time they’ve felt a form of rejection and the instinct is to react, as “whyyyyyy” rather like the love-struck, heartbroken lead of a romantic comedy but, resist the urge.

First of all, a Deferral is NOT a Rejection. There are steps you can take to make your profile stronger and convert the deferral into an acceptance. We will continue with the Love Letter analogy we started with as we examine what to do, and what not to do. And so, treat the letter like a Love Letter, written carefully, with passion, showing your best self to win over the college.

Do Be Yourself: You don’t want the college to fall in love with some phantom version of you. Be the excited, incredible person who applied during the early round. Thank them for the opportunity to still be evaluated. Tell them that you’re excited about the college and if possible, tell them why – “My conversation with Maya, Class of 2021, over the holidays gave me the same sense of excitement about University College as the school website. She showed me pictures of the quad covered in twinkling lights and I could imagine myself there, walking back from Art History class or to the Model UN meeting. Living up to the motto of Veritas by looking for my own truths that motivate me.” That is what moves the admissions team to accept you.

Give Them NEW Reasons to Love You: Early deadline is a ways away and in those few months since they received your application you may have more news for them. There may be a new achievement or recognition – the book you were working on getting published made it to print, you won the championship game and won the MVP award, you have better grades to show them – tell them about it. Remember though, we specified NEW. Don’t repeat what you already told them. They read that already and it wasn’t enough at this stage.

Write a Letter, not a Novel: We said this when it came to the application, the admissions committee has a motto “the thicker the file, the quicker it sinks.” Don’t overdo the letter by sending too many things. Don’t send them a new essay unless they ask you. Don’t attach a massive project, they won’t read it. Honestly, put yourself in their shoes. Would you rather read a short, 1-2 page document or a novel once you’ve spend all day working? Likely the concise document!

Don’t Be a Stalker: Don’t send multiple letters, or god help you, a letter every week. In real life, stalker-ish behavior like sending unwanted letters, calling all the time, showing up when they told you not to, would get you a restraining order. Same rule applies here. Moreover, don’t beg in your letter. You don’t love someone who begs. You may pity them. But colleges don’t give out pity acceptances.

Do Remember There Are other Fish in the Sea: College may not seem like a fish, but the analogy applies. There is more to life than just one college. You (hopefully) sent in more than just a single application. Remember to evaluate all the colleges fairly and don’t just get hung up on one college. It may not seem like it now, but people attend other colleges, sometimes those colleges weren’t their first choice, yet they all graduate as successful people who have let go and moved on.

Deferrals and waitlists are difficult and we all know that. Reach out to us at CollegeCore if you have questions on how to convert the College or University’s maybe into a yes. www.collegecore.com

New Year Resolutions: Admissions Edition

Happy New Year! Its January 2018 already and wow time flies. As an Admissions Counselor I’ve been working with students for nearly 18 years now (that’s right, my admissions career is old enough to go to college!) and each January the whole CollegeCore team takes a giant sigh of relief, prays for successful results, and then, prepares themselves to do it all over again. But we also take this time to make our New Year’s Resolutions!

So we wanted to use our experience to lay out some Admissions Resolutions to go along with your goals of going to the gym twice a week or reading the newspaper every day.

Seniors / 12th Graders: I promise not to let senioritis set in!

Whether you were already accepted or if you were deferred from early applications, whether you are all in for college abroad or still in two minds about going abroad versus staying in India, don’t let Senioritis* ruin your efforts at this stage.

It’s difficult I know, you spent months on SAT / ACT prep, churned out essays and you just want a break already! Take a break. For a week. And then get back on the study horse.

For those who’ve been deferred or waitlisted, that strong academic performance is crucial to help you move your application into the accepted pile. And grades are important for those who’ve been accepted to college too! Colleges will see your final transcript, and they reserve the right to rescind an offer of admission or financial aid if they see a decline in a student’s grades. Each year we have to deal with frantic students who didn’t study and were in danger of getting their applications rescinding because of less than acceptable grades. They end up spending the weeks of summer, when they should be having fun, dealing with a lot of stress and sleepless nights, not knowing if they were going to college after all that work.

Work hard on your grades by making realistic and specific goals. Maybe you want a minimum of 38 on your IB exams or 92% in your CBSE Board exams. Be specific, make them attainable and put in the effort needed. When it’s time to hit the books, it is important to turn off the TV, sign out of Facebook, put your phone on silent, and really focus on work. Don’t get swept away by all the chatter from friends and strangers. Remember that someone else’s admissions decision is not a reflection on you. You need to put your head down and work.

*a phenomenon afflicting students in their final year of school or college, characterized by a decline in motivation or performance

Juniors / 11th Graders: I will realize that I need to start two months before I think I need to!

It’s here. IIt’stime. You will be sending applications this year and while 12 months feels like a long time, it isn’t!

Let’s take a quick look at what is coming down the pipeline. You need to take the SAT / ACT more than once, plus the Subject Tests. So make your schedule of when to take the tests, set score targets and get studying. Remember to have a backup plan and don’t leave testing for later because knowing your test scores is essential to creating your list of colleges and that is essential for the next steps like writing essays. As scores evolve, so do lists.

Great college applications take time. Each college will have 1-5 essays to write, plus you’ll find yourself iterating on your CommonApp essay or personal statement again and again. You may need the time to think, reflect, revise, and maybe even come back to it and edit again. All of which takes time.

Moreover, you need to give your recommenders time to work on the letters because all the teachers will be inundated at the same time. AND you need to complete applications themselves. You may also want to beef up your extracurriculars but that needs time too so that it doesn’t look superficial and clearly only for the applications. All this while going to school because remember, grades are vital!

Overwhelmed? Well not if you use ALL 12 months well. So start early. Maintain a calendar and a To Do list. Stay organized to stay sane and give your best.

Sophomores / 10th Graders: I will not wait to start my college journey next year 

Because a year from now, you will wish you would have started today. We have a two part resolution for you – Explore and Act.

Start exploring colleges. You may have heard of a few of them – UCLA, Harvard, Stanford – but there are thousands of colleges in the world. Start thinking and exploring. Put social media to good use by following the colleges on Facebook or Instagram. But also visit information sessions in the city, spend time on blogs and websites to start explore the range of countries and the different education systems out there. Going on a family vacation abroad, go visit a college! At the same time, keep track, in writing, of what you like or don’t like. This will be valuable as you make your college lists but also as you write your essays.

And then act by planning out your standardized testing. You’ve heard about the ACT and SAT. In fact I hope you’ve taken the PSAT already. But many students wait and wait to dive into test prep not realizing that sometimes you need to take a test more than once and you need time to prepare for each exam so you’re successful at them. Make a plan for it and don’t stress unduly over the result of that practice test you took – you still have more time, because you took charge early and gave yourself time.

Freshmen / 9th Graders: I will think about college and plan my time out now rather than waiting till I’m older

College feels impossibly far away. I mean you just got out of middle school! But in all honesty, College is a complicated admissions process. You need to figure out what you’re passionate about in the classroom and outside of it.

We also know that starting now doesn’t mean your 10-year plan is set in stone – over the next few years you will grow and evolve – but getting started early can mean you have plenty of runway to reach your goals.

This is the stage to lay a foundation of strong habits that will carry you through successfully.

– Get Involved: Extracurriculars are a big part of not just your application but also play a large role in figuring out what you are passionate about. Start exploring your passions, step out of your comfort zone, volunteer with the less fortunate or gain leadership in something you’ve been involved in for a while. Strengthen both your application and your personality.

– Start Reading: And not just on your phone. Pick up a book, actually pick up one new one every month and start to build a habit of reading. It will help you become a more expressive person, a stronger communicator and a better writer.

– Study Hard: Grades matter now. Colleges abroad need your grades across all 4 years of high school so put in the effort and study hard.

Parents: I will remember that my child’s college experience begins with this process, and will be supportive but will also let them take charge.

You thought we would only have 4 resolutions for students? No, this is also a stressful time for parents which is why we have a resolution for you too. Recognize that this process is difficult but is also a learning experience for your child. They learn to plan, to make mistakes and to grow from them, all skills that are essential to their success in college.

So, set up a time to chat about college but don’t plague them about it every day. Don’t take over the process for them because you feel they are overwhelmed because you end up sabotaging them in the process. You can help. In fact, you SHOULD help, you know your child best. You can get excited for them but when you drop them off at the college or at the airport, they will be the one making friends, taking classes, and growing up. Help them find the place where they can make the most of their opportunities.

Don’t compare your child to Mrs. Sharma’s son Rahul who went to Harvard and get caught up in an arm’s race. Each college is unique and just because you haven’t heard of it, doesn’t mean it isn’t good for your child. You brought up your children with different values than Mrs. Sharma, each decision you made is slightly different, so why not let the college also be different instead of copying someone else? Let your kid, be a kid while they are going through this difficult time. Help them relax so that they can focus when they need to. But more than anything, remember, it’s their college decision. Be your supportive self, but let them take charge.

So happy New Year to all our readers out there. And remember, if there are ever admissions-related questions, CollegeCore Education is here to help.

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


What should you do when deferred?


When applying to colleges in the early round – Early Decision or Early Action, there are three possible outcomes:

– Accepted – Yay!

– Rejected – 🙁

– Deferred – ?

I think a deferral notification can feel mildly traumatic – “This must mean I won’t get accepted anywhere!” 


So lets explain what is going on.

Deferral means that you are neither in nor out, but the university will review your application along with the pool of regular applicants. So don’t lose hope just as yet, this is not a rejection! However, it is important to take some constructive action to tilt the balance in your favor the next time around your application file is reviewed.

Even though the university does not consider you their top choice they are reasonably impressed with your applicant credentials to review your application with the larger pool of applicants in the regular round. If they were certain of not admitting you, they would have denied you outright!

What are my chances in Regular Decision? 

Deferred 5

Once you are deferred you are automatically reconsidered in the next round. There is NO ADVANTAGE or DISADVANTAGE for being deferred. And so, believe it when I say that a deferral isn’t just a “polite rejection.” Being deferred means you’re going to get another fair shot. It’s not a denial. I promise.

Should I ask them what went wrong?

No. Decisions are made as a collective process in a group where students are compared to each other and discussed by a number of people. No one person can give you an answer, in fact, legally, they probably can’t.

What should I do?

– Read the deferral letter carefully, please send any additional material requested like the Mid-Year Grades, additional standardized test scores, anything else.

– Please ensure your Mid-Year grades show an upward trend over the last scores reported on your High School Transcript. Colleges do value better academic grades the most!

Deferred 4

– Send an update to the university of any achievements, academic or extra-curricular since the submission of your early application. E.g. an Excellence Award received on Founder’s Day, House Colors, a research paper published etc. This information can be sent in one well drafter letter rather than as weekly updates!

– Reach out to your interviewer to inform them of your deferral and seek their advice.

– Perhaps, an additional recommendation from someone like your Debate Coach, your Tutor in school, a research mentor can be sent only if the college is receptive of receiving additional material. You should check with the college before sending additional recommendations.

 What should I NOT do?

Deferred 2  …cry hysterically. The world has not come to an end.

…pester your parents to plan a visit to the college to show your interest.

…inundate the admissions office with multiple emails just to show you are interested. It is good to establish contact with your admissions officer but not at the cost of being labeled a stalker!Stalker

…lose hope. But do re-look at your university list. Ensure you have some Safeties on your list, otherwise add some NOW!!