As neighbors of the best two universities in the world—Harvard and MIT—Cogito World Education has gathered keen insight on what it takes to reach the top! Our experience with getting students into the best schools is what sets us apart. With Harvard and MIT students working at our company, and after communicating with various admission officers, we’ve gathered a wealth of information on what you should know before applying to the top 50 colleges and universities in the US.



There are no secrets and no direct methods of gaining admission to any one school, only steps you can take to help you better prepare for applying. Here are five key components of college applications that will help you get into your dream school:


1. ESSAYS: This is a great opportunity to reflect on any personal experiences, talents, special circumstances, and other aspects that you can’t express elsewhere in your college application. Be concise, honest, articulate, and, most importantly, be an individual! Try to incorporate what sets you apart from other candidates. Usually, essays can be written in two forms: anecdotal and essay style. For American admissions, the board of admissions wants to see personal stories – not a resume, which will be easily seen through your Common Application’s awards and extracurricular activities. Expand on an activity or a moment of hardship. Don’t be afraid that, among the supplemental essays for each specific college, you pick the more pathos leaning topic to write on. The best essays are the ones that best portray the student and aren’t made to trick you. Write an application like a story, then go back and revisit how to structure it best for board members to digest.



2. EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES: Your participation in any outside extracurricular activities must reflect passion, leadership, and impact. Colleges want to see that you devoted your time in things that meant a great deal to you, and that you have interests outside the academic realm. As opposed to focusing on 10 activities and racking up a plate of various awards, show your well-roundedness through a few activities, with one at the center of your passion. This could be journalism work outside of high school, a leadership role in a math society, or founding a club at your school. Show that you had a place of influence in your club, and it’s okay to not “found” something. Regardless, make sure to really sell your activity; don’t be shy to show explain everything you have done, but don’t explain your activity with fluffy words that over-extend themselves to try and persuade the admissions board. After talking with a few admissions officers, we’ve also learned that they prefer to have long-term activities as opposed to, say, two-week program you did one summer. They want to see long term commitment and investment to particular activities!


3. LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION: Colleges typically ask for 1-3 letters of recommendation. These letters should be written by someone who not only knows your accomplishments and skills, but someone who can speak a great deal about how you are as a person. More important than a person’s title is the actual content of the letter. Be sure to ask someone who can do this well, such as a teacher, a counselor, a boss, or someone outside the school setting, or even a peer! Don’t be afraid to ask a peer for a recommendation for supplementary applications; oftentimes, a peer can shed light on an individual that a teacher cannot. Sometimes the best recommendations do not necessarily come from the most prestigious people of certain positions – if you are able to get someone of important standing, amazing! However, if you only have light interaction with certain people, it may be better to find someone perhaps of less well-recognized position who knows your work ethic and personality.


4. TESTING: Most of the top universities require an SAT or ACT for admissions. However, test-flexible admission policies have been rising, with some schools like Columbia and Barnard no longer requiring test scores. It’s important that you look into which schools require SAT/ACT scores, which recommend these scores, and which do neither. SAT subject tests are also a big component for admissions into some universities, like MIT, which require these exams. Most schools would like at least 1 or 2 subject tests submitted, so make sure to take some in subjects you can excel in! This is where you can show any additional academic strengths of your choosing.



5. LUCK! Even with perfect essays, SAT scores, and a great deal of extracurricular activities, there are hundreds of other students that have equally impressive applications. So you also need lots of luck! Do you know how you can improve your luck? Apply to several schools, with a recommended 7-10 to increase thew chances that one of them is looking for a candidate exactly like you! 



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Ataullah K.


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