[Podcast] All About The Common App

[Podcast] All About The Common App

Have questions about The Common Application (aka The Common App)? Check out my guest episode on The College Checklist podcast, where we cover best practices for filling out The Common App, the required essays, submission deadlines, early decision vs. early action, and pointers on how to best get organized.

Click here to listen to my guest episode about The Common App on The College Checklist podcast.

Read More

The College Admissions Puzzle: How the 8 Main Pieces Fit Together and Affect Which Schools Your Child Gets Into

The College Admissions Puzzle: How the 8 Main Pieces Fit Together and Affect Which Schools Your Child Gets Into

This article is also featured on The Huffington Post.

To help you better understand the college application evaluation process, I have highlighted the 8 primary elements of most college applications, including what they represent to admissions committees, and what they don’t.

Carefully considering what story will be told through the various pieces of your child’s college application will help your family make more informed decisions when it comes to your child’s academics and extracurricular pursuits. Collectively, better decisions will improve your child’s admissions odds at his or her top-choice schools.

Read More

How the Best College Essays Stand Out From the Competition

How the Best College Essays Stand Out From the Competition

Unfortunately, when the stakes are highest, your child is expected to write college essays that make him or her sound brilliant yet humble, accomplished yet grounded.

That’s a tall order, but the good news is that your child doesn’t have to go through the college essay writing process alone. Better yet, I’ve distilled my knowledge from helping hundreds of students write standout college application essays and get into America’s top colleges, and I’m sharing some of my most key insights in this guest post on Higher Scores Test Prep.

Read More

How to Effectively Write About a Disability in a College Essay

How to Effectively Write About a Disability in a College Essay

*Note: This article appears as a guest post on Dollars 4 Tics Scholars

Parents often ask me whether their student’s college admissions chances will be hurt if they discuss a disability in their college essay.

The answer is a resounding “No.” In fact, disclosing a disability in a college essay or elsewhere on a college application can help your student gain admission to their dream school.

So, how can your student produce a standout essay about their disability? Following the dos and don'ts listed in this article will help your student avoid common mistakes and wow admissions committees the nation over.

Read More

How Your Student Can Build Connections at Top Colleges—Even If You Haven’t Donated Millions

How Your Student Can Build Connections at Top Colleges—Even If You Haven’t Donated Millions

You're well aware that “who you know” is very important when applying for jobs.

So, why should college applications be any different? Why shouldn’t students attempt to build authentic connections with faculty (and admissions staff) to apply like an insider rather than “cold apply”?

This is precisely what many students from elite high schools do. And this is precisely what I help my students do to raise their chances of getting into top colleges.

Read More

[Podcast] How to Appeal a College Rejection Letter

[Podcast] How to Appeal a College Rejection Letter

Upset about getting rejected from your dream school?

I've been there. When I applied to colleges in 2004, I was rejected from UCLA, my top-choice school.

However, that rejection didn't stop me from getting in. I wrote a very powerful appeal letter that ultimately got me admitted.

Now, writing a successful appeal letter is no easy feat. In fact, universities report that less than 1% of students are admitted on appeal.

Was it a fluke that I got in? The reason I don't think so is because I've helped several other students get into their dream schools by appealing. I can help you or your child do the same.

So, how do you successfully appeal a college rejection letter? I would encourage you to listen to my interview with Lauren Gaggioli on The College Checklist Podcast to find out.

Read More

Why Applicants Struggle to Sell Themselves (and How to Fix It)

Why Applicants Struggle to Sell Themselves (and How to Fix It)

I want to share some insights about a very common struggle I’ve noticed with the students I advise, specifically with regard to preparing bland or cliché written materials (e.g., CVs, personal statements). 

We've all been guilty of this at one point or another. So, why do we struggle to write about how great we are and how much value we've added in our applications?

Because we don't want to brag or sound "salesy." We want our work to speak for itself. Moreover, selling doesn’t come naturally to most of us.

The good news: You CAN sell yourself effectively AND authentically.

Read More

Academic Success Story: Yalda Uhls, M.B.A., Ph.D.

Academic Success Story: Yalda Uhls, M.B.A., Ph.D.

I sometimes wonder whether Dr. Yalda Uhls is a descendant of King Midas, since everything she touches turns into (figurative) gold.

Dr. Uhls was a movie executive at MGM and Sony before we met during our first year of graduate school at UCLA in 2009. She has since published award-winning child psychology research and, most recently, a book titled, Media Moms & Digital Dads: A Fact-Not-Fear Approach to Parenting in the Digital Age, which was the #1 New Release in Popular Child Psychology on Amazon. Her book breaks down research on the complex issues surrounding the impact of technology on children in a friendly, accessible fashion.

Don’t take my word for Dr. Uhls’ expertise on how media affects children. Instead, check out her research featured on The New York Times and NPR.

Read More

How I Graduated from an Ivy League School and Received My Ph.D.—Debt-Free

How I Graduated from an Ivy League School and Received My Ph.D.—Debt-Free

*Note: This article appears on Impress the Ivies.

It may be hard to believe that a kid like me who grew up in a middle class family in LA graduated from an elite private university and the top graduate program in his field with $0 debt.

You read that correctly: $0 debt.

No, I did not have wealthy parents, go to a fancy high school, nor did I go to college on a full ride.

So, how did I do it?

I share my story on exactly how I pulled it off on a guest post on my colleague, Jessica Yeager's site, Impress the Ivies.

Check out how I graduated from Cornell and received my Ph.D.-debt-free.

Read More

Netting Big Bucks from Niche Scholarships

Netting Big Bucks from Niche Scholarships

*Note: This article appears as a guest post on Parents Countdown to College Coach

Learn how I was able to graduate with my B.S. from Cornell and Ph.D. from UCLA debt free using niche scholarships. It’s amazing how much money students can earn from niche scholarships that provide a nice chunk of money and are significantly less competitive!

And check out Suzanne Shaffer's great resources for navigating the financial aid process!

Read More

How I Navigated Higher Education With a Disability and How You Can Help Your Child Do the Same

How I Navigated Higher Education With a Disability and How You Can Help Your Child Do the Same

*Note: This article originally appeared on The Mental Illness Happy Hour

Attending Armenian schools in Los Angeles throughout my childhood was rough. Sure, I was distractible in class and sometimes spoke out of turn, but that’s not why peers and teachers kept their eyes on me. That attention came from my facial and vocal tics, which led to a Tourette Syndrome (TS) diagnosis around age 9 that I carry to this day.

Graduating high school was a relief, but I was still concerned about how college peers would treat me and how I would be received by faculty and staff. Well, I’m glad to report that I successfully managed undergrad (UCLA as a freshman and sophomore before transferring and graduating from Cornell University) and grad school (Ph.D. in clinical psychology from UCLA) with a disability with the help of incredibly supportive faculty, staff, and peers. Now I want to offer some pointers you can share with your child so they can do the same.

Read More

Academic Success Story: Jesse Brown, Ph.D.

Academic Success Story: Jesse Brown, Ph.D.

Dr. Jesse Brown is somewhat of an enigma—equal parts laid-back San Diegan, intensely focused neuroscientist, deep philosopher, and incredibly kind friend.

I first met Jesse in 2009 during a road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco for a neuroscience conference. A few miles into our drive, we stopped for gas in a strip mall in the San Fernando Valley (LA's version of the boonies), where Jesse asked, "Where in the world are we?" In response, I launched into an enthusiastic diatribe about the virtues of growing up there, to which he patiently listened. Despite (probably) thinking I was a weirdo, he made several trips with me to my favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurants there and took the time to mentor me on my Master’s thesis, all while making significant findings about Alzheimer’s disease risk and earning major fellowships like the National Research Service Award (NRSA) and his own grant.

Whereas Jesse may be a mystery, there is no secret as to why I like him so much, or why you should read his insights about pursuing a science Ph.D. and beyond. He’s a young wise old man, offering thoughtful bigger picture responses to seemingly simple questions without ever making you feel inferior. He proves my point in this interview.

Read More

Academic Success Story: Varty Hindoyan, J.D.

Academic Success Story: Varty Hindoyan, J.D.

Today’s Academic Success Story profiles Varty Hindoyan, a brilliant lawyer who has always been far too accomplished and wise for her age ;) She’s been a very close friend since we met in 5th grade at the tiny C&E Merdinian Armenian Evangelical School 19(!) years ago. 

Our educational paths diverged upon graduating from the 8th grade, and Varty eventually pursued her undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), where she (unsurprisingly) graduated magna cum laude (i.e., “with great honor”) in (amazingly) just three years. As if these achievements weren’t enough to make many of us awestruck, she then completed her J.D. at Berkeley Law.

If you’re ever worried about getting too comfortable with your accomplishments, I encourage you to get to know Varty. Be prepared, however, to be dazzled by how well-read, well-traveled, and persuasive she is (I unfortunately speak from experience).

Read More

How to Tell Effective Stories Through College Essays

How to Tell Effective Stories Through College Essays

What do successful college and graduate school applicants have in common with millionaire entrepreneurs?

Does the answer immediately jump to mind? Didn't think so.

Find out how savvy entrepreneurs are connecting with consumers and investors on an emotional level, and how admissions applicants can do the same with admissions committee members.

Read More