Published by NACAC

1: Start early. More time = less stress. You’ll have plenty of time to give the essay your best effort.

2: Be yourself. One of the biggest mistakes students make is writing what they think others want to hear, rather than about an issue, event, or person they care about. An essay like that is not just boring to write. It’s boring to read. What interests you? What do you love to talk about? Write about that. Think of your essay as a creative way to help college officials get to know you as a person.

3: Be honest. College admission officers have read hundreds, even thousands of essays. They are masters at discovering any form of plagiarism. Don’t risk your college career by buying an essay off the internet or getting someone else to write your essay.

4: Stay focused. Read the essay question carefully. Jot down a few ideas, then choose the one that looks like the most fun to write about. Stick to that main theme throughout the essay. Essays can help you make your case to admission officials, but don’t go overboard. There will be opportunities elsewhere in the application to list all your achievements.

5: Put your best foot forward. Applying online may feel like you’re sending an email, but you’re not. Incorrect capitalization or abbreviations like B4 or “thanx” are not appropriate for a formal document. Make sure your essay represents the best of you.

6: Write and rewrite. Don’t try to knock out a masterpiece on your first try. For your first draft, write anything that comes to mind about your topic. Let it “rest” for a few hours or a few days. When you come back to the draft, look for ways to make it more focused and better written. Are there details that don’t really relate to the topic? Cut them. Do you need another example? Put it in.

7: Get a second opinion. When you’ve rewritten the essay to your satisfaction, find someone who can give you advice on how to make it even better. Choose a person you respect and who knows something about writing. Ask them to tell you what they like best about your essay, and what you can do to improve it.

8: Keep an open mind. Criticism can be tough to hear, but try to listen with an open mind. You don’t have to make every change suggested. After all, it’s your essay and no one else’s. But you should seriously consider each suggestion.

9: Proofread, proofread, proofread. Little errors creep in throughout the writing and editing process. Before you submit your essay, make sure to proofread. Try reading your essay aloud or having someone else read it to you. Another strategy is to read the essay backward, from the last sentence to the first. Errors your eye may have previously skipped over will jump out at you.

10: Don’t expect too much from an essay. The application essay is important. But admission officers look at the whole package — your academics, extracurricular activities, standardized tests, and other factors. Make your essay as well-written as you can, but don’t put so much pressure on yourself that the rest of the application fades in importance.

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The Best 15+ Internships for College Students

The Best 15+ Internships for College Students

There are many internships available to college students, but choosing a quality program that fits their educational and professional goals can be overwhelming. Students can start their search by checking out the following top internships across different fields.

    • Arts and Humanities

      Americans for the Arts Internships
      Americans for the Arts, the country’s leading nonprofit for the advancement of the arts, notes the mutual benefits of offering high-quality internships to students: students gain the skills needed to become future leaders and stewards of the arts, and the Americans for the Arts organization gets the creative input from young thinkers needed to further the arts. Interns earn an hourly wage, career and academic support, peer-to-peer networking and the chance to collaborate on a variety of projects. The organization offers three internships: 

      Arts Action Fund
      Government and Public Affairs
      Meetings and Events

      National Endowment for the Humanities Internship Program
      The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is an independent federal agency that aims to promote and further knowledge in the humanities. The organization offers a wide range of internship opportunities to students of all humanities disciplines, including history, linguistics and literature. Internships fall under different offices, such as preservation and access, education programs, research, congressional affairs and communications.

      Premier TEFL Homestay Internship in China
      Premier TEFL offers a great internship for those interested in education, diplomacy, cultural exchange or working with children. Interns participate in a homestay program in China, where they teach English to young students. Prior to their classroom time, interns will complete a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) course, and they will also receive Mandarin lessons throughout their stay. A stipend is provided, along with flight reimbursement, housing and cultural excursions.

    • STEM+

      U.S. Department of Defense STEM Internships
      Hands-on research, engineering, computer science, cybersecurity and physics are a few of the focus areas of the numerous internships offered by the Department of Defense. Specific tasks and requirements vary by internship, but many programs offer mentorships and compensation in addition to the invaluable experience. 

      IAESTE International Internships
      The International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experiences aims to promote the intercultural exchange between STEM students and provides them with internship opportunities abroad. Students get the dual benefit of gaining professional and cultural experience. Students within technical fields, including architecture, are eligible to apply. Those who receive the internship also get a stipend, which covers the cost of transportation, housing and food.

    • Government, Law, Health and Social Services

      U.S. Department of Justice Internships
      The U.S. Department of Justice offers a range of unpaid internships and volunteer opportunities for undergraduates and law students who are interested in gaining practical experience within specific justice departments like the Office of the Assistant Attorney General, the Policy and Strategy Section or the Voting Rights Section. Students may also apply for the Pathways Program, which provides opportunities for paid internships within federal agencies. 

      U.S. Department of State Internships
      Students interested in foreign policy, diplomacy or other federal careers may be interested in pursuing internships at the U.S. Department of State. Students have the opportunity to work in Washington, D.C., at embassies around the world or in departments throughout the U.S. The Pathways Program is also available to students looking for paid internships at the Department of State.

      Health Career Connection Internship
      Students pursuing medical and other health care professions can take advantage of Health Career Connection’s Internship program, which offers paid summer positions in a wide range of health care roles and departments. Each intern gets a mentor, networking opportunities and time to work on meaningful projects within their field of academic and professional study.

    • Business, Finance and Consulting

      Bank of America Internships
      Bank of America offers a range of internships and other programs for students at various points in their educations. For instance, those who have recently started their undergraduate program and are curious if banking, finance, operations or research is right for them could benefit from Bank of America’s insight programs, which give a more holistic view of various departments and roles. Summer internships are directed toward juniors who will be entering the workforce within a year. Most of Bank of America’s new hires are sourced from their internship programs. 

      Deloitte Internships
      Deloitte is one of the most prominent professional services networks in the world and specializes in audit, tax, advisory and consulting services. Students interested in these fields can apply for Deloitte’s internships and other leadership opportunities. Deloitte offers internships to undergraduates of all class standings, so green and seasoned students alike can gain top-notch professional experience while in school.

      Pioneer Internship
      Discovery Internship
      Internal Services Internship
      Client Service Internship

      KPMG Internships
      Students who intern at KPMG, one of the “Big Four” accounting companies, can get a well-rounded experience, thanks to the company’s Build Your Own Internship Program. Students choose one major area of internship, where they focus on the core skills needed for that practice, and one developmental area, which allows students to explore different career options and gain a holistic understanding of auditory, tax and advisory work. KPMG also has a global internship program, where students spend four weeks abroad working with major clients. KPMG provides its interns with national training and mentoring throughout their internships.

      Morgan Stanley Internships
      Financial services company and multinational investment bank, Morgan Stanley, offers over one thousand internships to students each year. Their program finder tool makes it easy for students to find meaningful internships across the U.S. and abroad; students just answer a few questions and get a list of suggested internships within divisions that align with their skills and interests.

  • Communications, Media and More

    Marketing and advertising students should keep their eyes on Digitas’ summer internships for current students and full-time tracks for recent graduates. Internships give students hands-on experience in marketing that culminates in a creative capstone projects. Throughout their internships, students will be guided by mentors and invited to participate in staff events, outings and community service projects. 

    Perhaps it’s no surprise that the social media giant would have the resources to build a top-notch internship program. Interns are paired one-on-one with mentors, can participate in tons of activities and receive housing assistance and employment benefits. Facebook offers internships to students of all areas of interest, from sound design to engineering research.

    NBCUniversal Campus 2 Career Internship Program
    NBCU’s top-ranked internships are highly competitive, but those who get accepted can benefit from hands-on experience in ad sales, accounting and finance, communications and media relations, film production and development, business development and strategy, marketing, human resources, legal and more, depending on their interests. This internship program puts a strong emphasis on career readiness, giving students impactful roles and responsibilities during their tenure.

Summer Holidays and Bored Teenagers

Summer Holidays and Bored Teenagers

by David Coleman

Holidays and teenagers. For many parents, the two just don’t go together. Not because teenagers don’t like the long three-month break from school (they do), but parents often dread the thought of their teenager hanging around listlessly with too much time and not enough focus.

Even if your teens were doing state exams, they’re finished and rested now. There are still weeks of summer to fill.

Most of you probably can’t take extended holidays of your own and must continue to work.

That means that there are many teenagers with hours in the day and days in the week to fill, with nobody structuring that time for them. Teenagers with little to do and little or no supervision are ripe for falling into mischief.

These kinds of circumstances lead to bored teenagers and anxious parents.

With a view to keeping your teenager on some kind of healthy and even virtuous path, I have 10 tips for occupying your teenager over the holiday period.

Plan some goals with them:

Sit down with them and plan the next nine weeks. Teenagers are renowned for not being able to think past their next meal.

This isn’t a character flaw, it is an issue with their brain maturity.

However, the upshot is still the same. They may have grand ideas for what to do, but no real plan for how to achieve it.

You may be amazed to discover that your son or daughter has some very clear goals, but just haven’t taken anybody else in the family into account when coming up with those goals.

Spend a bit of time talking about what they would like to be different in their lives, themselves or even the family by the time they go back to school.

You will probably find that they do actually want to improve on some skill, build up their friendships or feel like they have a real rest and a break.

Help them to think about their hobbies or pastimes and whether there are any personal goals they could achieve now they have more time to practice or devote to the activity.

Help them to think broadly about what they might do.

It may fall into many categories, including sport, fitness, dance, music, skateboarding, writing, gaming or drama. Indeed, the list could go on.

Your teenager may limit themselves, and your outside perspective may get them thinking about other goals they hadn’t considered.

One of the most important things about this kind of chat, however, is that it means your teenager’s voice gets heard so they don’t feel that their summer is being scheduled for them.

Consider a summer camp:

There are actually quite a few blocks that can keep teenagers from taking part in summer camps. For example, expense or lack of enthusiasm from your teenager may be an issue. In addition, quite a few summer camps will only facilitate youngsters up to the age of 14.

However, if you can overcome these obstacles, a summer camp could really fit in with the goals your teenager has set. For example, they may want to gain skills in their preferred sport, or in photography, drama or music. These tend to be the kinds of camps that are available for teens.

Getting a structured week in the middle of the summer can often helpfully interrupt the malaise of boredom and listlessness and possibly give them a break from those friends that may be leading the mischief.

Organize household chores for them:

This may sound like an easy way to a row. But the theory is sound. Chores give teenagers a sense of responsibility, so they feel healthy and good in their own right.

Moreover, the additional chores you agree with them on may also allow you to give them some small amount of money. This will increase their feeling of independence.

Teenagers do need to have some access to money, and no parent likes to feel that they are being bled dry for cash all the time. If you get something useful done around the house (for money that you may have had to pay out anyway), then everyone wins.

Rope in your relatives for accommodation:

Think about giving your son or daughter a break from you, their home area, and their friends by sending them off to aunts, uncles, grandparents, or family friends.

Like a summer camp, this just mixes things up for teenagers rather than having them fall into a slump of inactivity at home.

It can work very well for the relatives, who may have a project or piece of work that they need to be done at their home, farm, or in their business. The extra pair of hands that your teenager provides could be very welcome.

This is great for their self-esteem as they can feel valued and needed.

The dynamic is often much more positive between your son or daughter and your relatives than it may be at times between you and your teenager.

This is natural enough since their relatives don’t have to live with your teenager full time!

Rope in your relatives for a part-time or full-time job:

Even if your son or daughter is still living at home for the whole time, it is a great thing for them to have a job.

Family or family friends are often the best sources of such work.

If the job is of interest to your son or daughter then all the better. The most important thing is that their days get filled up productively.

There is a lot for teenagers to learn about life and other people when they are in the world of adult work. They can gain huge amounts of responsibility and a strong work ethic. They will also learn about dealing with people, meeting expectations, and pulling their weight.

Get them involved in volunteer work:

We sometimes give little credit to teenagers for their interest in and capacity for helping others. Volunteering in an area of social justice or one that helps marginalized people is good for them and good for the folks they are volunteering to help.

Some ideas include animal shelters, halfway houses, nursing homes, church-run initiatives, soup kitchens, Special Olympics or local youth clubs.

In many ways, the kind of volunteering they do is less important than the simple fact of the work they do.

Take them away with you:

When your time and finances permit, do try to take them away for a few days or as long as you can. The opportunity to travel is great for teenagers.

They can get so much more engaged in the culture and the excitement of foreign travel than younger children.

It also has the same benefit of perhaps breaking their reliance on a peer group that you may not be so happy with.

Sometimes it can kick-start their usual daily rhythms again to get them awake and busy in the day and sleeping at night, after falling into bad habits of sleeping late and staying up too late.

Encourage their entrepreneurial skills:

Many teenagers, especially those who have gone through Transition Year, will have formed small companies that have created and sold products or provided services.

It can be a real shame if the mini-companies just fade away, especially when the concept or product is good.

So why not get your son or daughter to kick-start their business ideas again?

Money isn’t the only motivation for teenagers, but they can all usually find plenty to do with their cash when they have earned it.

Small businesses can generate some income, but more importantly, they’ll soak up time and energy.

Get to know their friends:

As long as you can offer some initial supervision then you might want your son or daughter to bring their friends around to your house.

This provides them with a base rather than loitering on the streets, and it also allows you to get to know their friends.

Sometimes we can worry unduly about teenagers having downtime just ‘hanging out’ with their friends.

However, that hanging out is an important part of their adolescence and their development. They need the time to flirt, joke, chat, laugh and row with their friends (just like we did when we were their age).

Most of the time this happens out of eyeshot and earshot of parents, so it can be reassuring to know that most of their friends are pretty copped on.

It is also useful to be prepared if you learn that some of their friends count as ‘bad company’.

Talk to other parents of local teenagers:

If you live in an area where the majority of teenagers are loitering aimlessly, by talking with other parents you may come to realize that all parents share the same worries about the kids having little to do.

This may be the catalyst to try to form some kind of community cooperative, with interested parents volunteering to coordinate some kind of youth club, structured sports or activities, day trips, or any other imaginative plans that you might come up with to occupy your collective group of teenagers.

Each of you may not have the time to do each activity, but together you may be able to put something useful, engaging, and fun together for your sons and daughters to do.

When all else fails, we may just have to reassure ourselves that September, and with it the structure and sanctuary of school, will come around soon enough.

What If My High School Offers Few Rigorous Classes?

What If My High School Offers Few Rigorous Classes?

Not all high schools offer tons of challenging courses. If this is the case for you, what should you do to prove that you’re indeed ready for college-level work? Here are your two best options:

Option 1: Look for Outside Options

Whether your school lacks advanced study options or lacks subjects you find especially compelling, one option is to take classes outside your school. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your school offer a dual enrollment program? If so, you could take rigorous college-level courses that provide both high school and college credit.
  • Do you have the opportunity to take online or summer courses? This could be a way to fill in curriculum gaps.
Option 2: Explain Your Circumstances on Your Application

College admissions offices put a tremendous amount of effort into figuring out what your high school is like when they look at your transcript.

This is why if you go to a low-performing school, it’s a good idea to include in your college application a description of what was and was not available at your high school.

You should also definitely know that even the most exclusive colleges do not expect you to be able to provide coursework for yourself outside what your school offers you.

For example, Yale’s admission Q&A page stresses how much they take context into account:

“We know you did not design your school’s curriculum … Different schools have different requirements that may restrict what courses you can take. Again, we only expect that you will excel in the opportunities to which you have access.”

Nevertheless, very competitive colleges will favor those students that made the effort to take rigorous courses that were not necessarily available to them in school. If this is the route you want to take, look into your local community college for summer classes, or online courses.

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Weil College Advising, LLC

Why “Well-Rounded” Isn’t What Colleges Want

Why “Well-Rounded” Isn’t What Colleges Want

by Jason Patel for Niche

Colleges are searching for a diverse student body. They want students with different talents and interests who will make varying contributions to campus.

When building a freshman class, colleges aren’t looking to accept hundreds of students who are identically well-rounded. They’re hoping to find students with unique skills and specialties.

Colleges want well-rounded classes, not well-rounded students.

But you don’t have to take it from us. Here’s what a few top colleges have to say on the subject:

  • “You [should] demonstrate a deep commitment to and genuine appreciation for what you spend your time doing. The joy you take in the pursuits that really matter to you – rather than a resume padded with a long list of activities – will strengthen your candidacy.” –Yale’s advice on Activities
  • “When we evaluate an applicant’s activity list, we’re not looking for a specific number of involvements or even specific types.  We are much more interested in seeing an applicant follow their passions and show dedication over time to a few specific involvements rather than spreading themselves too thin.” –USC Admissions Blog
  • “We are looking for students who will contribute their talents, interests, perspectives, and distinct voices to our community… We are more interested in your focus on a few activities over time (such as work, care for parents and siblings, service, or athletics), rather than membership in a long list of clubs—although we understand that some students can balance an assortment of activities.” –Swarthmore College, “What We Look for in a Swattie”
  • “You’re joining a team. And because we’re recruiting a team of people who will work together, we want a variety of strengths and talents that, together, will form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. So, not every talented student needs to be talented in the same way.” – UNC-Chapel Hill, “Who We Want”

Think of a college’s student body as a puzzle, with each student representing a uniquely important piece. You’re the only one with your exact talents and interests, so demonstrate and deepen those instead of participating in many activities at a shallow level.

IEP vs. 504 Plans for Special Education

IEP vs. 504 Plans for Special Education

by Erin Celletti for Niche

The world of special education (and education in general) is filled with acronyms and jargon, which can often make it even more difficult to navigate and understand. Two of the more important documents that families should be familiar with include IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) and 504 plans.

Not to be confused with one another, both formal documents provide important accommodations and information for any child with special needs, yet they are vastly different.

Here’s what you need to know about the similarities and differences of each.

What They Are

An IEP is a comprehensive document that essentially serves as a blueprint or roadmap for a child with special education services. It includes comprehensive information about a child’s diagnoses, needs, recommended services, and accommodations, and pretty much anything else pertaining to the child’s unique identifying factors. It’s formal and legally binding and is the result of a comprehensive evaluation.

A 504 plan is also a map or plan, but it deals specifically with how a child will be learning within the school and does not equate to a diagnosis or even formal special education services. The name of the document arises from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities who are in need of accommodations. This is issued to students who are able to participate in a general education classroom, but still, need accommodations that the school must provide.


  • Both documents outline accommodations for the student that are to be made under federal law.
  • Both documents are provided to all education and service providers who are responsible for the student named within the document.
  • Federal and state guidelines apply to both.


  • An IEP is an in-depth document for all students who require special education services. A 504 plan can accommodate students who can learn within a general education environment with stated modifications.
  • A 504 plan does not necessarily mean a child qualifies for special education services as per the child study team or districts’ respective equivalent.
  • 504 plans can be utilized on an as-needed basis – for instance, physical accommodations for a student with a temporary injury. IEPs constitute a fully active special education plan for students and are renewed annually.
  • Everything included in a 504 can be included in an IEP, but not everything in an IEP is included in a 504.
  • An IEP can provide services and supports that a 504 plan can’t, such as specialized instruction.

Important To Note

A child might technically be able to have both an IEP and a 504 plan, but often there is no need to have both.

Would you like to know more about college applications for students with learning differences? Email us at