The Edge Our college admission blog


by Katie Z, Ph.D November 23, 2015


Twitter is abuzz with #mondaymotivation, with 93.8K tweets so far today. Yes, Twitter is transformed into an extremely motivating place on Mondays! For instance:

“Dream big, work hard, stay focused, and surround yourself with good people.”

“Never allow the fear of failure to dissuade you from getting started. Be bold. Be brave.”

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer.”

“It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.”

“Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”

“Over time, grit is what separates fruitful lives from aimlessness.”

Thanks, Twitter! And thank you also for getting the wheels turning on today’s blog post. Today we turn our attention to the topic of grit. It’s a term that is coming up more frequently in reference to college admissions. Are you an individual who has shown grit in your life? Have you demonstrated courage and resolve? Do you have strength of character? Tenacity? Perseverance? Resiliency?



The personal characteristics associated with grit are clearly more subjective attributes than objective measures, like test scores, your high school GPA, and the number of AP exams you took. As such, determining grit is a greater challenge during the college application process than, say, seeing if you aced your standardized tests. Still, your essay (and we can help you with that) presents a great opportunity to delve into this trait. ZeeMee, an organization that helps to “bring your college application to life”, can also be very helpful in showing admissions officers this trait.

And why, you may ask, are colleges so interested in candidates who’ve got grit? The short answer is that grit has been shown to be a predictor of success, both academically and in life. And who, you may ask, has demonstrated this? Readers, meet Angela Lee Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania’s Duckworth Lab – she’s studying grit as a predictor of success, and her findings are really interesting! For instance, in April of 2013 she gave a TED Talk on the topic, the highlights from which were:

  • “What struck me (when I was teaching 7th graders math) was that IQ was not the only difference between my best and my worst students…I came to the conclusion that what we need in education is a much better understanding of students and learning from a motivational perspective, from a psychological perspective.”
  • “I started studying kids and adults in all kinds of super challenging settings, and in every study my question was, ‘Who was successful here and why?’ In all those very different contexts, one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success – and it wasn’t social intelligence, it wasn’t good looks, physical health, or IQ. It was grit.”
  • She also administered grit questionnaires to thousands of high school juniors and “it turns out that grittier kids were significantly more likely to graduate.”

Are you curious to know how you fare on a scale of grit? To learn if you’re “extremely gritty”, “not at all gritty”, or somewhere in between, click here to access the UPenn Grit Scale! Even just reading the twelve questions on the assessment gives you a pretty clear idea of why colleges are interested in recruiting students who display this personal characteristic – these are the students who are most likely to succeed in their studies, to graduate on time, and to make their alma mater proud with their post-graduation accomplishments!

If you scored low on the grit scale, fear not – grit can be learned and improved upon, and not only to boost your odds of acceptance at your top-choice schools (though that’s great) but to help improve your odds of success in all that you tackle in life. For instance, KIPP (“a national network of open-enrollment, college-prep public schools preparing students in underserved communities for success in college and in life”) has picked up on the importance of grit, and offers some great advice on working to improve one’s strength of character. Grit your teeth and come to grips with grit! #mondaymotivation

Thanksgiving Day “Grilling”

by Katie Z, Ph.D November 21, 2015


You have two days off from school – you’re likely hoping to sleep in late, fill yourself with stuffing, and (if you’re feeling ambitious) get some extra school work done. But here’s the reality: In a matter of minutes after sitting down to begin your Thanksgiving feast, surrounded by well-meaning family and friends, the “Thanksgiving Day Grilling” will commence! 

TurkeyIt starts with a seemingly casual question: “So, how are your college applications coming along?”

Then, there’s more…

“Where are you applying?”

“Did you apply early decision anywhere?”

“What’s your essay about?”

“Who did you ask to write your letters of recommendation?”

And it could get even  worse…perhaps your parents chime in about your report card, or tell a story about how your cousin already heard back from her top-choice college – sports recruitment!

In short, there’s a good chance that your college admissions trials and tribulations are now the hot topic of your family dinner, and there’s no way out…except…

What if you had answers?

You could certainly impress your family with a well-planned college listYou could test their responses when you share with them the details of your unique application essay! You could let them know about your upcoming deadlines and your plan on how to meet all of them in a timely manner. All in all, you could help yourself and your family to gain peace of mind and move on to what really matters – a stress-free Thanksgiving!

But how?

First of all, remember that you can do this! By January, all of your applications will be turned in, and you can rest easy knowing that you’ve done your very best to navigate the college admissions waters.

Secondly, know also that we’re here to help you prepare for the “Grilling!” that awaits high school students every Thanksgiving. In just five hours, we can listen to your story, help you to focus your efforts and make a plan, improve the “wow factor” in your essay, and get those applications well on their way to being submitted, guiding and supporting you as you move forward on your college journey. By the time the next holiday dinner comes around, you will impress those at the table with all that you’ve accomplished!

Admitster’s team of Admissions Experts are here to help you over the Thanksgiving Break! You’ll also be pleased to know that we’re offering you a Thanksgiving treat to rival even that homemade pumpkin pie gracing your Thanksgiving table – $50 off our admissions advising packages (starting at 5 hours)! Just click here and then enter the code “peaceofmind” when you get to the bottom of the page.

Instead of running to the bathroom to hide (or maybe to the kitchen to seek comfort by sneaking an extra piece of that pumpkin pie), call us at 1-800-803-1541 and we’ll call you right back! Alternatively, you can purchase our services right now and get started! We can get to work within hours. You (and your family) will be thankful – and isn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about?

Five Hours

by Katie Z, Ph.D November 20, 2015


It must be said, people can accomplish quite a lot over a period of five hours. You could, for instance, read a good book. You could get in your car, drive, and very likely cross state lines. You could run a marathon – or at least watch one. You could sleep. You could go out for dinner and a movie. You could cook a Thanksgiving feast. You could indulge in a Netflix binge-watching session. You could knit a fancy scarf. You could hike to the top of Mount Washington. You could play an intense game of Monopoly. You get my point – there are countless possibilities for filling five hours of allotted time!



Today, dear readers, I’d like to bring to your attention a further, most-excellent way of spending five hours – use that time to work with one of Admitster’s admissions experts! After all, though we may all be reluctant to admit it, the calendar tells us that it is almost December and regular admissions deadlines are just around the corner, with most falling between January 1st and February 1st. Booking a five hour admissions advising package with Admitster can really help to take the stress out of college admissions, no matter where you find yourself in the application process.

The ball gets rolling when you give us a call (1-800-803-1541), send us an e-mail (, or click here to complete the online form. This is followed by a free consult to see where you are in the process and to determine how we can best help you. Next, you’re matched with one of our college admissions experts and, from there, you will do great things in a five hour period!

Your expert will work with you to determine your best path for admissions success, including helping you to develop an application plan (which may also involve refining your current college list) and a calendar of upcoming deadlines. Your expert will also work with you to integrate your personal story into your essays and application, helping to create a cohesive and effective package to submit to your prospective schools.

In short, working with one of Admitster’s admissions experts will help to put your mind at ease during these turbulent college admissions times, and is five little hours that can absolutely change your life, boosting your odds of admission at your top-choice schools! Admitster’s experts can help you to take ownership of your journey to college – it’s a five hour path worth taking.

Click here to learn more!

Shouting From The Rooftops!

by Katie Z, Ph.D November 2, 2015


I recently came across a college counseling company’s website and was stunned to see that they’re charging nearly $3,000 for only their “College List Advising” service. Enough! Stop the madness!

To be honest, reading about that service at that price made me feel a bit like this:


Happily, Admitster is out to help level the college admissions playing field and we will provide you with a college list-building tool for FREE! All you have to do (be you a student, parent, or high school counselor) is take 30 seconds to register an account with us. Then click on “My Profile” to enter a bit of information about yourself, for instance, in terms of academics, activities, and leadership. From there, you click on “My College List” and let the fun begin!

Depending on where you are in the college list-building process, you can do a few things:

  1. You are starting from scratch and really aren’t sure where you’d like to apply. If this is the case, simply click on “Take the Survey” – we’ll ask you a few questions and then offer suggestions of colleges you may be interested in based on your survey responses.
  2. You’ve started building a college list and have a few schools that you know you’d like to apply to, but need to expand your list. If this sounds like you, then click on “Find Similar Schools.” We’ll use your profile and the schools that others like you have applied to, and show you relevant suggestions for additional schools you may be interested in and want to consider.
  3. You may feel that you already have a completed college list in-hand. If this sounds like you, then you can enter all of the schools on your list into your “Current List” and Admitster will let you know whether your list is well-balanced and robust or whether it needs further tweaking.

In going about this process, don’t forget our tips for creating a balanced list of schools! Your list should include three reach schools (those where you have a 10%-33% chance of acceptance), three target schools (those where you have a 34%-66% chance of acceptance), and three safety schools (those where you have greater than a 66% chance of acceptance). You should also have one school on your list where you have a 95% or higher chance of acceptance, and you should include two schools where you have at least an 80% chance of acceptance.  Remember, Admitster’s College List Building tool lets you know your chances of admission at each of the schools on your proposed list, so you’ll have all of the information you need at your fingertips!

We want to help.

We offer a number of free online college counseling tools (not only the College List Builder tool and extremely accurate projections of your acceptance odds, but also the What If? Engine, which allows you to experiment with different scenarios to see how they impact your admissions chances at different schools), it’s true. We also offer college essay review servicespersonalized admissions advising services, and tutoring & test prep services, all of which are accessible at price points that are designed to be affordable for everyone who wants to access them.

I’m shouting it from the rooftops! Admitster exists to help everyone, and not only those with tremendous financial means, to own the journey to college. Click here to learn more!

Lights, Camera, Action!

by Katie Z, Ph.D October 22, 2015



“You do not need to be better than the other applicants – you just need to add to the student body in a unique and interesting way.”

U.S. News & World Report got it right with that line. Read it again, this time out loud:

“You do not need to be better than the other applicants – you just need to add to the student body in a unique and interesting way.” This isn’t rocket science. It’s common sense, and it should be your college admissions mantra! Remember, as Jim Jump pointed out in a recent NPR interview, uniqueness is “the hidden currency of college admissions.”



We’re all unique, of course, but beyond “wow factor“ness, which jumps off the application page with very little effort, how can we make our unique qualities and talents shine through on a college application? Your application essay is a great place to start, and we can help you with that, but here’s another cool way to make your application shine: Showcase your uniqueness in a video!

One high school senior, in a recent article from The Washington Post, is quoted as saying, “I’m not just a grade.  I’m a person.” That, dear readers, is my point as well. No one can be whittled down to only a handful of numbers. We’re all unique and we all have a story to tell. The keys to submitting a successful college application are not only having the “right” numbers (in terms of GPA, grades, and test scores) but also telling your story well. If a video will help to make your application shine, then don’t hesitate to get yourself in front of a camera and hit the “record” button!

You may be wondering how to even begin such a process. Allow me to refer you back to the originally-quoted U.S. News & World Report article. It’s title? “Five Steps for Scripting a Video College Application Essay.” If a video essay is something that you would consider including in your college application, the short article is worth a read!

Keep in mind that you should double check that the schools to which you’re applying accept videos. Also, if videos are accepted, there is a distinction to make between colleges that will accept a video as a supplement to a more traditional application and those that accept videos as an alternative to the application essay. There are also some truly unique schools to know about, for instance, Maryland’s Goucher College, to which you can apply using either the Common Application or the Goucher Video Application – wow!

On a final (and related) note, here’s another great resource for your college admissions radar screen. Readers, meet ZeeMee – “Bring Your College Application To Life!” You simply sign up with them, and then upload videos, photos, and documents to your ZeeMee account. You can then add your ZeeMee link to any or all of your college applications (including in the Common App) and college admissions officers will have access to it! Like Admitster, ZeeMee is working to help level the college admissions playing field, writing on their site, “Regardless of your background, we want you to have the ability to tell your unique story and showcase what you are passionate about, without having to pay a single dime.” Cool!

Remember, “You do not need to be better than the other applicants – you just need to add to the student body in a unique and interesting way.” A unique and interesting application is a great starting point – Lights, Camera, Action!

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