7 Great Career Paths for Psychology Majors Reply

If you major in psychology, or you’re thinking about declaring a psychology major, then you’ve probably had many friends and family asking if you’re going to become a psychiatrist. While this can be a great career path, it’s far from the only option for psychology majors after graduation.

Psychology is one of the most popular majors in the United States (it’s currently ranked in the top 10), and for good reason. It’s a fascinating subject, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology can serve as a foundation for a variety of different careers. Job outlook is promising as well—about 19% job growth in these fields is expected from 2014-2024.

So what kind of career paths can you choose from as a psychology major? Here are just a few of the many exciting options open to graduates.

  1. Clinical Psychologist

A clinical psychologist is the first job that comes to mind for most people who are thinking about getting a degree in psychology. Clinical psychologists can focus on general psychology and provide therapy for a range of patients, or they can specialize in disciplines like neuropsychology, cognitive psychology, or even forensic psychology. Becoming a clinical psychologist requires students to complete a doctoral program (PhD), which can be highly competitive. Successful students can earn a good living, however, and have the opportunity to make their patients’ lives easier and more fulfilling. It is important to understand the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist—psychiatrists are doctors who can prescribe medication and must complete MD training, while psychologists focus solely on psychotherapy.

Average salary: $73,000

  1. Counselor

Counselors work with patients in the same way that psychologists do, but they have a smaller scope of work, and are more limited in the tests and services they offer. It is easier to become a counselor than a psychologist, because counselors are required to complete a master’s degree, but not a PhD. Mental health counselors have a good outlook for employment, because many schools and organizations need people with this kind of training to help students and at-risk people through common problems and refer them to more specialized treatment if necessary. Counselors may work with people on a variety of issues, from depression to substance abuse to the negative impact of discrimination.

Average salary: $44,780

  1. Social Worker

Social work is a challenging field that can nevertheless be extremely fulfilling. Social workers help children and families to heal and cope with issues like domestic violence, which affects about 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men at some point during their lifetime. Most social workers need a master’s degree, and may work in a variety of settings including schools, hospitals, shelters, and child welfare organizations. Many social workers also visit families in their homes, to assess living conditions, provide counseling, and assess compliance with court orders.

Average Salary: $46,890

  1. Human Resources Manager

For people who are more interested in applying psychology in a business setting, human resource (HR) management could be an excellent career path. Human resource managers are responsible for hiring and terminations, resolving behavioral issues within the workplace, and often administrative work such as managing benefits. Typically, securing an entry-level job after completing a bachelor’s degree is the first step in becoming an HR manager. After this, many HR assistants can move up in the ranks organically without further education.

Average salary:  $106,910

  1. Marketing Manager

Though many people who are interested in marketing end up getting a degree in that field, psychology can lay a solid foundation for jobs in marketing. Marketing managers have to understand how people think and feel so they can strategize for marketing campaigns to increase brand awareness and sales. Marketing jobs can be entry level, but most organizations want to see a bachelor’s degree and some demonstration of marketing knowledge and communication abilities. Most people start as a marketing assistant and work their way up.

Average salary: $80,673

  1. Parole Officer

Though most people don’t dream of becoming a parole officer, psychology graduates can be excellent candidates for this role. Good parole officers work with offenders to help them turn their lives around, adjust to being back in society, and adhere to the terms of their release, making it a potentially fulfilling career. Because psychology majors have a deep understanding of how people think, they often make excellent parole officers. Most positions require only a bachelor’s degree, although federal parole officers must hold a master’s degree.

Average salary: $47,200

  1. College Admissions Counselor

For students who enjoy the academic setting and helping others, a college admissions counselor career could be an excellent fit. A bachelor’s degree is required for this position, since counselors are advising prospective students, but the position mostly involves recruiting and coordinating different admissions activities and procedures. Experience in an admissions office through work study is a helpful leg up in pursuing this career.

Average salary: $40,752

Endless Possibilities

These careers show just how broad the options are for psychology majors. It’s an excellent field of study if you love to work with people and understand how they think and feel. If you’re not sure what kind of career you want to pursue yet, psychology can be a great choice—simply because the possibilities are nearly endless once you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree. Whether you go on to earn a master’s or PhD or not, psychology serves as a solid foundation for a satisfying career.


Ryan Ayers has been a consultant for over five years within multiple industries including information technology, medical devices and logistics. Many clients call him the BizTech Guru. He is a freelance writer on the side and lover of all things related to business, technology, innovation and the LA Clippers. Read more from Ryan: @TheBizTechGuru


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com.

5 Ways ESL Students Can Leverage Their Life Story in College Applications 1

College admissions essays succeed when they tell the student’s unique story. Unlike the much more technically oriented academic paper, the admissions essay is more along the lines of the personal-essay genre than the five paragraph essay.

Rather than an introduction, thesis, supporting paragraphs, evidence citations, and a summation, the college essay relies on the expression of a personal experience that relates to the student’s desire to attend the school. Through the expression of these personal experiences, students convey their dreams, interests, and characters. They show why they will succeed at the school.

ESL students have a built-in story. Because they came to the United States from another country and put in the extra work needed to learn English while also mastering history, science, math, and elective subjects, the story of their journey through life so far has a natural relation to academic success in college. It shows they are driven, attentive, and willing to put in the study time.

To leverage these natural stories, here are some important tips for ESL college applicants:

Make Your Story Unique and Personal

The last thing any college applicant wants is for their essay to sound generic. That is not to say that all stories of coming to America and learning the language are the same. Quite the contrary, they are all as unique as their authors.

Most star athletes include their sports experiences in their essays. Ditto for debate team stars, chess players, dancers, and thespians. Each thespian has to tell their own unique story about the theatre experience. Each athlete has to convey what their sport means to them on a personal level.

When crafting an ESL related story, students can make them compelling when they really dig deep inside of themselves and find the personal meaning of their experience and how it developed their character, how it made them a stronger person and student.

Only Include the Most Compelling Events and Thoughts

College essays usually include both descriptions of specific events and introspective writing. They are also limited by a relatively small word count. Because of this, editing the essay to include only the most compelling pieces is a must.

High school English teacher Justin Nevin recommends students choose one or two narrative moments and tell them in the moment. Narration of too many events detracts from focus. Nevin recommends choosing a moment or two that is representative of the story the student wishes to tell. He also notes the importance of accepting that the essay is not an exact retelling of events. Events are a representation that relate to the student’s narrative.

Take the Time to Edit and Proofread

Though all students should heed this advice, there are some specifics to which ESL students need to pay close attention. Grammar should be reviewed carefully. Using your school’s writing center and having others read the essay helps a great deal.

Also, always be on the lookout for inappropriate vocabulary. Having a writing center tutor, teacher, or other native speaker review the essay for any out of place words can help the essay be in tip top shape upon submission.

Use College Preparation Opportunities at Your School

College essays should never be written under pressure. They are an expression of individual experience. It takes time for students to decide what they really want to say and to work that into a tightly written format. Many high schools offer college preparation help, such as Connections Academy. These resources help students work through the college essay process.

ESL students have compelling narratives to share on their college admissions essays. These stories provide a framework by which students can share their unique story and how it has prepared them for college life. When ESL students take the time to craft well-written, personalized stories, the results are tremendous.


About the author: Anica is a professional content and copywriter from San Francisco, California. She loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she’s used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty. You can connect with Anica here.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com.

For Immigrants: What an ESL Program Can Do for Your Future Career Prospects Reply

These days, learning English can give you a lot of opportunities, especially in your professional life. This article will show you a couple of ways that learning the English language will pay off in dividends at the end.

You’ll Get More Professional Opportunities

When you only speak one language, you may limit your job opportunities. Once you learn to speak English, your professional opportunities will automatically increase as you can look for jobs outside of your native land. If the job prospects in your home country become limited, you can find work in English-speaking countries like Canada, the United States, and much of Europe.

Multinational Companies Need Employees Who Speak English

When you have English language skills, you don’t have to leave your native country to find a high-paying job. Companies who have headquarters in English-speaking nations set up satellite buildings in other international locations. Depending on the work and the market that the company is trying to reach, speaking English may act as a requirement for hire. Many students enroll in schools such as the Interactive College of Technology to find lucrative positions in these types of companies.

You Have a Better Chance of Getting the Job

When you learn different languages, you already have at least one advantage over people who only speak their native tongue. You show that you like to challenge yourself by living in a foreign land and learning a new language. This bravery tells the employer that you regularly dedicate yourself to self-improvement.

You’ll Get More Opportunities within Your Company

If you have the ability to speak English as a second or even third language, you will get presented with more opportunities and could also get promotions. For example, you might get asked to travel to an English-speaking country and interact with colleagues who only speak that language.

You Will Change Your Brain

According to researchers, studying a new language changes how your brain works. Experts believe that multilingual people remember sequences and lists better, they become more aware of their immediate surrounding, and they have more focus. All of these things will make you a valuable employee at any company.

From living abroad to getting high pay in a job in your home country, you have plenty of reasons to learn English. With the world economy changing at a rapid clip, it will only help you to increase your employability. Learning English can make you much more valuable to employers all around the world.


Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball. Connect with her on Google+and (@LizzieWeakley).


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

The Right Choice: 5 Reasons to Pursue a College Degree Reply

Earning a college degree is a crucial step in life and is now considered an integral part of the “American Dream.” It is about creating opportunities in life. A college degree prepares your intellect and social abilities for your adult life and career.
Most people want to attend college, but they don’t know why they should or how it will benefit their lives. There are many benefits associated with earning a college degree and here are just a few.

1. Make More Money

For many people, the ability to make more money is what drives them to go to college. Whether it is a bachelor’s or master’s degree, a postsecondary degree gives you the opportunity to pursue higher paying careers that require advanced skills. Research indicates that college graduates earn more money in their lifetime compared to those who only possess a high school diploma.

According to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, high school graduates earn about $30,000 annually, and bachelor’s degree graduates earn about $50,000 a year. In a few years, this translates to a big earnings gap between these two groups of individuals. The earning potential also differs depending on your field of work. Although there is an income disparity based on your gender and race, your earning potential still increases significantly with a college degree.

2. Expand Your Knowledge Base

Getting college education helps you gain advanced knowledge in your subjects of interest and a broad range of experience in many other subjects. It also gives you the ability to exercise critical and abstract thinking. It helps you gain the capacity to express yourself both in writing and speech clearly and to make sensible decisions. These skills are quite crucial both on and off your job.

3. Better Career Opportunities

The most common path to a better career is earning a college degree. Although when most people enter college, they don’t know what they want to become in future, most of them know they need a good job that will pay them well and offer them more satisfaction and security. This is one of the primary reasons people invest their money and time to go to college.

Usually, it doesn’t matter what you study, what counts is just the fact that you earned the degree. Since college gives you a wide range of skills, many graduates end up working in various fields that are different from what they studied. Thus, college opens up doors for opportunities that aren’t always available to those who haven’t been engaged in higher education.

4. Satisfaction and Job Security

A post-secondary degree usually leads to better job security. The truth is, without a degree, you may not be as valuable to your employer. And when things get tough, it can be easier to lay you off. As a matter of fact, higher education is so vital that some companies will offer to pay for their employees’ tuition. That is how valuable a college degree is.

It is considered as an important investment that will be of benefit not only to the employee but the firm as well. Studies show that during economic recessions, college graduates are least likely to be laid off. Those who suffer most job cuts are individuals who only possess high school diplomas. If you are a college graduate, you are also bound to enjoy your job due to factors such as employment benefits, higher income, and opportunities to advance your career, and this translates to job satisfaction.

5. Ability to Weather Adversity

During an economic downturn, with more money available in your savings account, an education, and marketable skills, having a degree will help you survive hardship. The benefits of getting a college degree are very numerous indeed, and college education is a great investment in your life. You will gain more money, a bigger knowledge base, job security and satisfaction, and the ability to withstand tough times. And all these factors will give you a secure future.

Going to college will come with some difficulties. One of the thing you don’t have to do, however, is relocate. If you live in Colorado, for example, try to find a local college in Colorado instead of traveling to an out-of-state university. By attending a local college, you can maintain your current job and life while still attaining the many benefits available to you through a degree.


Kara Masterson is a freelance writer from Utah. She enjoys tennis and spending time with her family. Kara recommends looking into diplomacy programs for more information on degrees that can help save the world.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

Make Your College Application Shine: Six Strategies for Success Reply

One of the most important stages of your student life is your college application. However, the process of perfecting the applications that will determine the next years of your life can be scary and stressful.

Here you can find six strategies to optimize your college application process:

  1. Get organized

It’s crucial that you start your applications early and stay organized. Create a system that will allow you to keep track of the multiple tasks and deadlines of the applications you are working on. You can also develop a checklist or spread sheet with all the materials you need for each application such as official high school transcripts, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, portfolios and other supporting documents.

  1. Focus on your activities

Your accomplishments, leadership experiences, and community service can be a critical tool in helping separate yourself from all the others applicants with similar scores. Take the time to list all your extracurricular activities. College admissions officers often talk about the importance of being highly involved in activities and organizations, especially if they involve leadership. Many colleges are also placing a greater emphasis on encouraging students to reach out to the local communities.

  1. Decide on your application type and master it

More than 200 private colleges and universities in the U.S. accept the Common Application. You can actually complete the application online and then print out the number of copies you need, making sure your application answers are neat and professional. Make sure each school you want to apply to accepts it and even if they do, you should use the individual school’s application for your top colleges because it is sign that you care enough to individualize your application to that school. No matter what application you go for, always remember to read it thoroughly before starting filling it out. Start by completing a rough draft. Once you are happy with all your answers, take the time to complete the application neatly.

  1. Craft your best college essay

Your college essay is critical to your application. Besides being well written, it should also offer insight into your personality. Your essays should be original, personal, and honest and they are the best way to distinguish yourself from all the other similar applicants. And always remember to proofread your essay as carefully as possible.

  1. Take advantage of online resources

Online tools have become more and more helpful in making the college application process more manageable. Here you can find some of the most helpful resources to help you compose the perfect application:

  • Easy Word Count – this online word counter is perfect to keep a count of your words and characters when writing and editing your college application and specially your college essay.
  • State of Writing – a great tool for you to carefully edit your college application and improve your writing.
  • Grade On Fire – this writing community offers you quality writing guides and professional advice.
  • Uktopwriters – this tool will help you find complicated sentences and common errors that you want to avoid when editing your college application and essay. It allows you to paste your content into the tool and it will analyze it sentence by sentence.
  • Elite Assignment Help – use this tool to get expert writing help to improve your application and essay.
  • Resumention – an online tool that offers resume writing and editing services to help your resume and application stand out from the others.
  1. Seek help

Find someone to help you with the college application process. If you don’t have a family member to assist you, try a teacher or counsellor, a friend or any adult who has been through the process. Accept constructive criticism. The read your application, the stronger it will be.

To have a chance at getting accepted at the college of your choice, you need to meet the minimum requirements for acceptance. But apart from that, the most important element is the quality of your application and essay. Use these six strategies to help you build the strongest application and assay possible.


Freddie Tubbs is an eLearning project manager from Fort Myers, Florida. He works as a language researcher at Best Australian Writers and is a contributing author at The Atlantic.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

4 Things to Consider When Applying to Universities Reply

Choosing a college can be really easy. Or really hard. It all depends on a number of factors, some within your control and some beyond it. There are some components, however, that universally need to be considered when deciding on colleges that should be on your application list.

  1. Fit

Perhaps the most important thing to consider is fit. This is why it’s important to actually visit any universities you are seriously considering attending. Meet people – staff, professors and students – to really get a feel of the place and see how you feel about fitting in there. Not every college is for everybody, and you might find yourself simply liking the feel of some over others. Lots of schools have a website like this one for UC Clermont College. Spending some time on the schools website can help you get a feel for what the culture there will be like.

  1. Cost

While it’s not something most potential college students want to think about, the reality is that cost is always something you must consider when applying to universities. If you get more financial help to attend one school over another, that alone might make the decision for you. Or it might not. Always apply to schools you want because you might end up with more financial aid than you thought, and your college experience is not to be decided by money alone. But cost should always be a factor.

  1. Breadth Of Degree Choices

You are likely to change your major during college – that much is a fact. So if you’re looking at a very small school for a very specific program they are well-known for, what happens if you want to change your major and you then find there are not many other options to choose from? The smart thing to do is not only have a few majors in mind you might be interested in pursuing, but applying to colleges that have programs in a handful of subjects you are interested in, as well as other options you might not have even considered.

  1. Your Chances At Getting In

Have a good idea of the acceptance rate and average accepted student GPA of the schools you are considering. It might be best to simply not apply to any you have no realistic chance of getting into. If you are applying to a school or two that might be hard to get into, go the extra mile when crafting your application, essay and interview to present yourself as a student they want to accept. But also realistically determine if you’ll be able to keep up in the academic environment of those schools if you are accepted. And always apply to a “backup” school that you’re sure to get into.

The decision of what colleges to apply for is a very personal one, and there are a lot of things to consider. The benefits of a college education, including becoming a more well-rounded human being, better employment aspects and better lifetime salaries make it all worth it. Ultimately, follow both your heart and your head, as well as consider the four factors mentioned above, and good luck on those applications!


Kara Masterson is a freelance writer from Utah. She enjoys tennis and spending time with her family. Kara recommends looking into diplomacy programs for more information on degrees that can help save the world.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

First Year at University? 3 Things You Should Know Reply

You’ve picked your roommate and you know what dorm you’re staying in. You’ve even done the campus tour and mapped out the closest dining hall. You think you’re ready, but the real work is just beginning. Your first year of college can definitely be a huge life change, but it is a great life change. It definitely takes a lot of preparation though. It will definitely be unlike anything you have ever experienced. Here’s what you should know to thrive during your first year at college.

  1. Map it Out

In any college setting, it’s common for professors to assign a research paper to be turned in towards the end of the semester. Papers like this can take a lot of research and a lot of time. That’s why you are going to want to make sure to get started on it as soon as you can. By doing that you can avoid a lot of heartache and stress further on down the road. Sadly, chances are the paper will be mentioned once on the first day of class and then will hardly be mentioned again. That is until the day it’s due. Without proper organization and a plan to meet all of the deadlines you will face, you may find yourself up the proverbial creek without a paddle. Get a planner, use sticky notes or write it on the front of your notebook. Do whatever works best for you to stay organized and ensure you get all those papers with longer deadlines completed on time.

  1. Find Your Study Spot

By this stage in your scholastic career, you should be well acquainted with the most effective study strategies for your learning style. Now it’s time to take what you know about your learning techniques and apply that in a whole new environment. Scope out all the best study spots on campus. Find the space that will benefit you and then create a study schedule. Make consistent study dates with yourself and keep them. Resist the temptation to ditch the books in favor of pizza and dedicate yourself to your study spot. You’ll be glad you did.

  1. Become An Expert

Counselors are there to help and guide, but they also have a lot of students and expect you to take charge of your education. Understanding the requirements and deadlines for your program can keep you on the right track and make sure you are prepared for graduation. These requirements are also imperative if you want to pursue a graduate degree. Some programs like the criminal justice master’s program actually place their requirements directly on their webpage making it easy to track your progress and make sure you have what you need to gain acceptance into the next phase of your education.

College is a wonderful experience, full of excitement and challenges. These tips will help you embrace all that college is and allow you to conquer your first year. As you keep yourself organized and disciplined you’ll find handling your schedule more bearable. While most of the weight of your success rests on your shoulders, never be afraid to ask for help from teachers, counselors, and upper classmen.


Kara Masterson is a freelance writer from Utah. She enjoys tennis and spending time with her family. Kara recommends looking into diplomacy programs for more information on degrees that can help save the world.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

Dos and Don’ts for Writing Your College Application Essay Reply

Too often are college application essays neglected for their role in the admission process, while all of the focus is put on the student’s grades and tests scores. But your application essay can actually play a pivotal role as it gives the admission board a sense of who you are, reveals why you’re motivated and what sets you aside from all the other top scorers and exemplary students.

You should consider your application as a chance to present yourself and the elements that make you truly unique. While most colleges require only one essay, depending on your aspirations you might find yourself applying for a college which requires two or even more essays.

Don’t stress, because here is the list of dos and don’ts of the application essay writing that can make all the difference. Let’s do it.

Focus on Your Strengths

Naturally, you would want to point out your crowning traits, what makes you such a valuable “specimen”. The personal statement is a chance for the reader to get to know your personality, so make sure to share personal stories and anecdotes that portray your strengths. Did you have someone at your school to whom you helped study for their exam? Did you help the needy in your neighborhood? Those are the kind of stories people want to hear in order to be able to see you as a compassionate, empathetic and genuine person.

Never Show Mediocrity

There are too many average people in this world, and you are not one of them. By all means, do your best to state that. This doesn’t mean you should brag and come off as presumptuous in your essay, no; you need to be walking a fine line between stating your worth and showing humility and respect.

Rather than falling into the trap of resorting to clichés and generic stories heard thousands of times, you should focus on writing a detailed and concise story full of rewarding experiences, portraying your values and personality. This will set you apart from others.

Always Show Wisdom

Your story should be compelling, which means it should include your worldviews, highlighted in the details of your experience, showing a depth of character. People have a tendency of falling prey to the allure of good storytelling without actually emphasizing the key moments that shaped their beliefs, thus negating the main point of the entire statement.

Admission officers who will read your application essay might enjoy the anecdote, but the statement will prove itself worthless in the actual admission process. So make sure your story has a contemplative tone, while a good storytelling could serve as icing on the cake.

Start Writing Your Essay Early

Even if you’re one of the “panic creatives” who are used to doing everything at the eleventh hour, you should do your best to start writing the essay early. This will not only give you time to pick out the approach and the stories you’re doing to tell, but more importantly, it will give you time to edit and improve it.

Too many people start writing their application essays days before submission, completely ruining the possibility of improving and polishing the essay, when they’ve had the time to read it carefully once again and sleep on it. The pressure of a restrictive deadline will only allow for errors to be made, key points to be missed and ultimately, the essay will be pegged as a subpar submission, thrown into the “average” column.

Therefore, make sure to give yourself plenty of time, as most topics and questions for university admissions are made public in June or July, so don’t wait until you’re done with your finals to start writing. Also, don’t be afraid to re-read the essay time and time again. Not only will you gain fresh insight and realize what other approaches you could use, but you will be able to check your essay for any grammar or spelling mistakes as well.

Let Everyone See Your Work

No matter how deep and personal your story may be, if the admissions reader can see it, so can your family and closest friends. It’s very important that you let someone who knows you well take a look at your application essay. This way, you’ll get useful feedback and an objective opinion and advice on the tone, style, and vocabulary. And the most important part, whether the unique points you are trying to convey do stand out in your story.

Don’t Forget to Be Yourself

With all of this talk of portraying a certain image, it becomes all too easy to forget what you’re actually all about, and instead, focus on what you would actually want to become someday. This is the wrong approach that will present something very different from your actual personality, and people will see through it.

This could lead to big problems when your interview comes along, so make sure to never forget who you are at this moment, and emphasize what you would like to become by attending that specific college. It will give the readers an incentive to help you achieve your goals, and will also play with their own vanity and pride, by accentuating the values you recognize in their particular school.

Writing your application essay should not be easy, but it should be fun and fulfilling. Hopefully, with these tips and guidelines, you will manage to write your application essay in no time!


Emma Miller is a marketer and a writer from Sydney. Her focus is digital marketing, social media, start-ups and latest trends. She’s a contributor at Bizzmark blog and a mother of two.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

10 Things About College Admission That Might Surprise You Reply

Portrait of stressed female student in library

A lot of stuff can surprise you in the college admission process—and they’re not always the good surprises, like finding money in your jeans or those magical extra French fries at the bottom of the bag.

Luckily, we’re here to take some of the shock out of these common college admission surprises. Because the more you know, the less likely you are to be caught off guard…

  1. Surprise! Taking tough classes is better than getting a high GPA

College admission folks would rather see you get a “B” in a challenging class than an “A” in an easier one. They want to see you pushing yourself academically—and they definitely don’t want to see you pad your GPA. So take the toughest course load you think you can handle, especially if you have any AP, honors, or other advanced classes available to you.

  1. Surprise! A long list of extracurriculars won’t impress colleges

College admission reps would also much rather see that you committed yourself to one or two extracurricular activities, especially over a longer period of time. That’s way better than joining 17 clubs spring of junior year. Admission counselors are looking for depth, not breadth of involvement. They want to see passion! So join the clubs you love, devote as much time to them as you can, and look for leadership roles that fit you.

  1. Surprise! That “optional” interview isn’t actually optional

Okay, it’s not like you won’t be considered for admission if you don’t participate in an “optional” interview. But college admission interviews aren’t that common, so when a school suggests participating in one, they probably think interviews are pretty important. Also, participating in an interview shows you’re really excited about attending the college. Admission counselors call that “demonstrated interest”—and it could give you a little bit of an edge compared to the kid who didn’t participate in an interview.

  1. Surprise! A recommendation letter from a VIP isn’t that helpful

You might be tempted to e-mail someone like your state senator, school superintendent, or Neil Degrasse Tyson in hopes that they’ll write you a college recommendation letter. But unless the VIP happens to know you really well, don’t waste your time (or theirs) trying to get a recommendation. Colleges only want to see recommendations from people who know you well enough to speak to your character and strengths, whether it’s your favorite teacher, mentor, coach, drama director, employer, pastor, etc.

  1. Surprise! The most expensive colleges on your list might be cheaper in the long run

Here’s the thing: financial aid changes everything—and you never know what kind of financial aid package you’ll get until you apply. It’s totally possible that the most expensive school on your list will offer you enough aid to magically become your cheapest option. Or you might find the school offering you the biggest financial aid package made a huge chunk of that “aid” student loans. Or you might get a big scholarship from one school that only lasts freshman year, whereas another school offers a smaller scholarship that gets renewed all four years and is ultimately worth more… Confusing, right? Instead of hunting down the cheapest colleges you can find, focus on applying to schools that really and truly fit you. Then make sure you fully understand your financial aid award letters when you get them (they come with your acceptance packages).

  1. Surprise! Admission counselors are looking at your social media accounts

You might’ve already been warned about this: yes, colleges look at your social media accounts, and, yes, you should delete any questionable posts. However, you don’t want to erase yourself from the Internet. In fact, you want admission counselors to find you and see all the fun, interesting stuff you do and care about. Look at your social media through a college admission counselor’s eyes: do your posts reflect the kind of thoughtful, creative, passionate student they’d want to admit?

  1. Surprise! Asking for financial aid can sometimes hurt your chances of admission

Learn these two terms if you haven’t already: need-blind admission and need-aware admission. Colleges with need-blind admission don’t care if you apply for financial aid, and they won’t consider it when they review your application. But colleges with need-aware admission do consider it—and they might weigh your financial need against you. It’s not necessarily an admissions deal-breaker. But, at need-aware colleges, all else being equal, the student who doesn’t need aid will get in before the student who does need financial help. You can typically figure out if the schools on your list are need-blind or need-aware by doing a little online research, or you can e-mail or call the admission office to ask.

  1. Surprise! The PSAT matters

It’s not just a practice run for the SAT. The PSAT is also the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program. If you score high enough (in the top 50,000-ish test takers), you could be eligible for a National Merit scholarship. (Here’s the breakdown of how to qualify.) Not only that, but most colleges love admitting students who crack the top 50,000, even if they don’t end up winning an official National Merit Scholarship. That might get you a leg-up in admission—and maybe even an institutional scholarship. So give the PSAT your best shot.

  1. Surprise! The college that sent you brochures and e-mails might not accept you

Yes, colleges and universities send out marketing materials to students they think might be a good fit for their institution, students they very well might accept. But they also send brochures to lots of students in hopes that lots will apply—which might boost their selectivity rate. At the end of the day, you should absolutely, positively apply to any and all schools that fit you. Just remember, a brochure isn’t a guarantee.

  1. Surprise! Admission counselors actually read your application essays

They really do. Why would they ask for them if they didn’t? Colleges use the essay to get a sense of your personality, values, motivations, and college readiness. It helps them see if you’re a good overall fit for their institution—and the kind of student they should admit. So take advantage of your application essays. Show the admission committee why they should invite you to join their campus. And tell the story only you can tell.

Did anything on this list surprise you? Or have you encountered any other surprises in your college search? Let us know in the comments!


Jessica Tomer, Editor-in-Chief, CollegeXpress

Jessica Tomer is the Editor-in-Chief for CollegeXpress, a free college and scholarship search site designed to guide students through the entire college journey—admissions, financial aid, majors, campus visits, you name it. She is an education advocate, storyteller, and grammar nerd. Like many of her fellow Emerson College alumni, Jessica is a news junkie and bookworm. You can get in touch with her on Twitter: @CollegeXpress or @JessicaTomer.

A Step By Step Guide to Writing the Best College Admissions Essay Reply

Office of Admission Sign on WallCollege admissions essays are seen as an insurmountable obstacle in your college application. Most students haven’t written an essay quite like it before, and now this piece of writing will confirm whether you get into your chosen university? It’s too much pressure.

It helps when you have a guide you can follow. This step by step guide will show you how to go about writing your essay, and give you tools that will help. Soon you’ll have an essay that you can really be proud of.

Step One: Really think about your prompt

Many an essay has floundered because the writer hasn’t quite grasped what the question was asking of them. They may have read it once, got the wrong impression, and then started writing. Really spend some time reading, rereading, and thinking about the prompt. How can you relate to it, and what experiences can you bring to it?

Step Two: Brainstorm your ideas

Now you need to get together all of the ideas that are floating around your head. Sit down with a piece of paper, and start writing down everything that comes to mind when you think of the prompt. Get down as much as you can, as you’ll be narrowing down your ideas soon. Reflect on all the experiences you have, and which ones will be relevant to your essay. Write down the ones you think will work in your essay.

Step Three: Plan out your essay

This is the point where you’ll be writing out your outline for your essay. It’s important that you don’t miss this step, as if you do you’ll find it much harder to write the essay. Plan out what you’re going to say, when you’re going to say, and how it will answer the prompt given. Use the information you got in the brainstorming session to inform your plan. You’ll pick the best ideas and experiences from that to include in your finished piece.

Step Four: Get writing

Now you’ve done all the planning, so you need to get writing! Sit down at your computer, and work on a rough draft. Don’t worry too much, just get it all down. You’ll be editing it in the next steps. As you’re writing, remember to be yourself. The admissions committee are looking to see what you’re like as a person, so be tempted to show off, or pretend to be someone you’re not. Just let your real self shine through.

Step Five: Proofread and edit

Proofreading and editing is one of the most important jobs you’ll have to do with your essay. You’ve got your basic rough draft, now you need to polish up. It’ll take a few passes until it’s perfect, but keep at it. Look for spelling and punctuation errors, confusing or run on sentences, and incorrect facts. A good tip is to give the essay to someone else read over. They’ll be able to spot errors you can’t, as you’re too close to the text.

Step Six: Use online tools to polish your work

Writing The College Application Essay: This resource has detailed instructions for the different sections of your essay. Also, there’s a plenty of samples to check out and take inspiration from.

Australian help: This educational portal can be used almost anywhere to brush up on your skills. Watch tutorials and do short tests to get you feeling confident in your chosen topic.

The Writing Center: This guide gives you some detailed, usable advice for writing your essay. It includes advice on avoiding too much style in your essay, and how to research your ideas.

Personal Insight Questions: This video gives you some ideas on how to present yourself in your essay. You’ll think about what answers you’ll need to give to tell the committee what they need to know about you.

Readability Score: Your essay needs to be easy to understand, but how do you know how readable it is? This tool allows you to check it against several readability tools, so you know the committee will be able to really get what you’re telling them.

UK Writings: It’s not that easy to write, edit and proofread a great essay. This interactive online writing tool will work with you to organize and plan your essay.

Examples of Awesome Personal Statements: It’s always easier to write when you have some examples of successful essays to hand. This is a great depository of such examples to draw on when you’re struggling with your own essay.

EssayEdge: Get admission essay suggestions from experts in their field, all graduates from Ivy-League schools such as Harvard and Yale.

If you follow this step by step plan, you’ll be able to write the best essay you possibly can. You’ll wow the committee reading your essays, and convince them they’re the student they want for their university.


About Gloria Kopp

Gloria Kopp is a web content writer and an e-learning consultant from Manville city. She graduated from the University of Wyoming and started a career of a creative writer. She has recently launched her Studydemic educational website and is currently working as a freelance writer and editor.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.