The Harvard Crimson Highlights 10 Successful Harvard Application Essays

With the top applicants from every high school applying to the best schools in the country, it’s important to have an edge in your college application. The link below highlights 10 Harvard application essays and profiles from students who made it in.

Getting Into College: Campus Tours in the Time of COVID

How to say “I want to go here” when you can’t actually be there: it’s easier than you think!

How do you show a college that you’re committed to succeeding if you’re accepted, when you can’t meet Admissions Officers face to face? Traditionally, getting on campus and making in-person connections was the perfect chance. Nothing established your sincere interest in a university like a handshake, a smile, and eye contact – all of the little human interactions that leave lasting impacts on the people you meet.

But if you’ve looked into arranging a college tour in the last 12 months, it may have been a disappointing and frustrating experience. The pandemic forced schools across the country to drastically scale back “live” options for touring their campuses. Instead, colleges created virtual tours, giving applicants the opportunity to see a school through their phone, tablet, or device – hardly the ideal way to help families make decisions about where students would be spending the next four to six years of their lives.

This doesn’t mean you need to become Ernest Hemingway on your Common Application. (In fact, Hemingway himself probably couldn’t have gotten by with the 650-word essay limit!) The essay, whether it’s for the Common App or a college’s individual application, gives you the opportunity to tell a compelling story that doesn’t necessarily show itself on the rest of your application. And don’t discount the importance of what are called the “supplemental” questions.

While the main essay is a piece of the Common Application all colleges will receive, the supplements are school-specific. This is the perfect place to let a college know you’re genuinely interested in joining their student body.

Getting Into College: Do Your Homework

Typical supplemental questions can include:

  • Why do you want to attend Joe College University?
  • What do you hope to contribute to the Joe College University Community?
  • The Joe College University mascot, the Aardvark, is a symbol of strength, stability, and individuality. How have you demonstrated Aardvark qualities throughout your life? How will you demonstrate them as a college student?

And typical responses will include “because it’s the perfect fit for me”; “I will give back by getting involved in lots of activities”; “I have been an Aardvark in many ways since I was a child”. All general, non-specific statements that lead into general, non-specific paragraphs. And they leave general, non-specific impressions on the officer who reads them.

Getting into college can hinge on showing these officers something they haven’t seen before. Do some legwork before you write, exploring the college’s website and other online resources and find details like:

  • A special location or particular building on campus.
  • An alumni who has inspired you.
  • An instructor you’d love to learn from.
  • A nearby landmark that has meaning for you.
  • A school motto that speaks to you.
  • A trait about their mascot (not an Aardvark, hopefully) you connect with.

Be as specific as possible: show yourself gathering with other students at that campus ehotspot or following in the alumni’s footsteps in pursuit of a goal. Mention the professor’s publications and how they connect to your planned studies and maybe even career plans. Anything you discover about the college will make your essay stand out from the crowd and tell a reader, “I really want to be a part of your community, and you can count on me to go the extra step.”

Getting into College: Don’t Despair

No matter what you may think about the college admissions process and how it’s changed due to the coronavirus, remember that Admissions Officers want reasons to let you in, not keep you out. Personal connections can still be made with a phone call or email to a specific member of the Admissions team, so don’t hesitate to reach out and ask about connecting with a particular person. Make friends. It will pay off.

Touring college during the time of COVID won’t look like what it did before 2020. But that doesn’t mean you can’t demonstrate your interest and shine in the eyes of the people reviewing your application. You want them to see you as special – show them you think they are special too!

Picture Sources: (1) (2)

What Should I Be Thinking About When Embarking on the College Admissions Process?

Are you about to embark on the college admissions process? Are you asking yourself, “Where do I start?”

What college do I want to attend? How far away from home do I want to go? What do I want to major in? Do I want to attend a public or private university? Do I want to be in a big city or someplace more rural? Is school spirit important to me? What type of community do I want? Andddd the list goes on.

Aside from ‘Y’ being the 25th letter of the alphabet, ‘Why’ is a very important question to ask yourself when you are selecting a college. Why do I want to go to college X?

One of the MOST important questions you should ask yourself before starting your journey is the age-old question: “what do I want to be when I grow up?” It seems like a silly question at first, but, the main reason people choose to go to college is to pursue their career goals.

Also, depending on your career aspirations, you can further narrow down your college options (and thus, application fees!). For example, if you’re interested in theatre or performing arts as a career, you will most likely want to attend college in a city known for its performing arts (NYC, LA, Boston, Washington D.C.), so you can learn from established faculty, intern at theaters or studios in the area, and build a fabulous network with your school’s alumni and other artists.

Once you decide on a career path, ***(and don’t worry if you haven’t!! Many colleges allow students to enroll as an “undecided” major, and declare one before their third year.)*** Other factors to consider: location, cost, alumni network and relations, job placement and internships, and any other personal attributes you are specifically looking for in your college experience.

LOCATION: For many students, location plays a big role in deciding which colleges to apply to (and which one to ultimately attend). You will be studying, working hard, making connections, and living your life at college for the next four years.

You want to be in a place that makes you happy, as the right attitude will help open many doors, personal and career-wise, for your future self. This is why you should visit most, if not all, of the colleges on your list before applying. You may love the school and surrounding area after you tour, or you may hate it. If you hate it, you do not have to apply.

While on your tour, speak with current students about their experiences. Ask them where most students live over the course of four years, what clubs and organizations are available to join, what do students do in their free time, what internship or work opportunities are available, if there is a career counseling center and how helpful it is, and one thing they love about the school and one thing they wish to change about the school. Speaking with current students will be your best gauge into the school itself, including the environment, course load, and extracurricular opportunities offered to you.

It is also important to speak with admissions staff, as they will be able to better answer questions regarding career outcomes and job placements per each graduating class as well as if students have the ability to contact alumni, and the office of financial aid, as they will provide information regarding scholarships, cost of attendance, and other cost-related questions.

COST: The cost of college is another important factor to consider when applying. There are many expenses besides tuition to think about. If you are planning to move away to college, you will have to consider, rent, utilities, food, insurance, and other miscellaneous daily and monthly expenses.

If you will be using a car, you will need to consider car payments, insurance, gas, and any potential maintenance and repair costs. If you plan on using public transportation, those costs will need to be factored in, as well. These are a few of the basic, universal costs for college students, but depending on your personal situation, you may have more or less expenses than the above. Many colleges have financial aid offices that will be more than happy to sit down with you and help determine your monthly expenses and how much money you will need each semester.

Speaking with the financial aid office is also important to determine how to best finance your education. They can speak about the differences between funding options, such as scholarships vs. grants vs. loans, and resources to apply for different types of funding. They are also very knowledgeable about FAFSA, loan disbursements, entrance and exit interviews, and how to minimize debt.

ALUMNI NETWORK/RELATIONS: A strong alumni network/relations can be very important in securing your future dream job. Alumni that work in your desired industry can provide you with more insight into the field, companies that are hiring, specific courses and/or certifications that will help you stand out in the applicant pool, and a potential reference or letter of recommendation. Alumni can also recommend you to other alumni that can help you reach your career goals.

Many schools have alumni events on campus or trips to different states and cities, such as New York City, to meet and network with alumni in those cities. It is important to attend these events to meet and greet with the alumni, learn about the specific companies that are being highlighted, and discover more about the location. The Office of Admissions at each school should be able to give you more information about their specific alumni relations network and events.

A strong alumni network is an asset that you should exhaust fully. And remember, once you graduate, you will be a part of the alumni network and have the ability to give back by helping future students reach their career aspirations!

JOB PLACEMENT: Getting a job is a big reason why many students go on to college. Some students know the exact industry, company, and job title they want. Others may not. However, all students should ask the Office of Admissions for statistics on their past two or three graduating classes. IE: what percentage of students graduate with a job offer? Which fields do the graduates enter? Which companies recruit and do the graduates work for? Seeing how many graduates find employment before graduation can either solidify your decision to attend this school or look for another school.

College is truly a place to personally learn and grow. With all of the colleges in America, as well as abroad, there is that “ FIT” for you – the one that has a major in your desired field, strong ties with alumni in the area and all over the world, a high job placement rate in your desired career, opportunities to explore new things, people who want to see you succeed, and a location that makes you happy. Coupled with an amazing community whereby you will build long lasting friendships and develop strong faculty relationships. Some of my best relationships now are with students who I have helped along the way and now they are successful, happy young professionals who are eager to give back to my current students. This circle of life is what truly reminds me of the significance and importance in my job. I am so proud to be a part of each student’s journey! Carpe Diem! 

If you would like to learn more about college and how to begin your journey today, please contact Mara Patti, Founder of One2One College Consulting, at

Gain a competitive edge in your college admissions process NOW!

Mara Patti, Founder of One2One College Consulting

IECA, Associate Member

NACAC, Member

Telephone: 212-327-1210


Mara Was My Sounding Board!

When I started the college application process the choices were overwhelming and I was not
sure what schools would be the best fit for me. Mara really helped me figure out the type of
school that I should target. Through this process, I leaned that I would be happier in a smaller school that was not in an urban setting. She was a great sounding board and spent the time to really get to know me. Thank you Mara for helping me with this process and I am excited to be attending Duke!

-Duke University

Decoding the College Essay: Four Tips from an Admissions Expert

Decoding the College Essay: Four Tips from an Admissions Expert

As the increased number of applicants has made college admissions more selective, applicants have become even more competitive in order to present themselves as worthy candidates. How can you stand out?



Colleges and universities are quickly becoming more competitive than ever. Every year, the number of qualified students applying to top schools increases, resulting in drops in acceptance rates. Harvard College accepted 1,962 out of 42,749 applicants in 2018, a mere 4.59 percent—the lowest acceptance rate in Harvard’s history.

As the increased number of applicants has made college admissions more selective, applicants have become even more competitive in order to present themselves as worthy candidates. How can you stand out?

Community involvement is key to being a well-rounded individual and college candidate—it shows the admissions office that you will be involved with student life on campus. It’s never too late to get involved in community service at your place of worship, youth group, local soup kitchen, or nearby homeless shelter. Demonstrate that you are a leader and a thoughtful citizen, and you will not only improve your extracurricular portfolio, but also demonstrate your commitment to making a difference in college and beyond.



Beyond that, the essay is your opportunity to stand out; take advantage of it. With top schools, almost every other applicant will have a high GPA and good test scores. The essay is a chance to become three-dimensional and distinguish yourself as more than just a number on a page. It shows admissions officers who you are as a person and differentiates you from the others. It is crucial to present your true personality through your essay.

Your essay should be a window into your personality that adds vitality and depth to the facts and statistics listed in your application. When well-written, the essay allows admissions officers to see not only how you write, but also gives them a glimpse into the kind of person you are in a way your transcript cannot. A few tips on writing your essay:</p>

Show your thinking. Many of the prompts on the Common Application are left open-ended for a reason. They serve as starting points while giving you freedom to show colleges who you are. It doesn’t matter which prompt you use. What matters is <em>how </em>you use it. A common mistake that students make while writing their essays is focusing completely on an event that took place. While what occurred is important, you need to demonstrate how it affected you and how you felt. Admissions officers want to see how you think and how you’ve grown. The essay is the only place on your application to truly take them into your mind.

Admissions officers want to see how you think and how you’ve grown. The essay is the only place on your application to truly take them into your mind.

Fill in your gaps. Your transcript, awards, and extracurriculars tell one story. Don’t list them in your essay. Rather, focus on aspects of you that haven’t been covered yet. As for what story to fill that gap, many students haven’t experienced extremely novel circumstances yet, and that’s okay! It is more important in how you use your event to showcase your personality. No event is too mundane if you can make it show how it was pivotal to your development.

Show your passion. This advice may have been repeated over and over, but that is because it’s true. Don’t write about something because you think it will look more impressive to admissions officers. They can see past that. If you choose something you are passionate about, the enthusiasm behind it will show, and that is more valuable than anything you could do solely for college admissions.

Use clear language.The language in your essay should be a more refined version of how you normally speak, but don’t try to be overly flowery in your writing in an attempt to woo the admissions officers. You don’t want to confuse the reader or come off as pretentious.



Remember that there are over 4,000 colleges to choose from, and you should look for the school that will help you reach your greatest potential. In other words, you should find a school that offers interesting academic programs, helpful and accomplished faculty, and a vibrant community in which you are excited to get involved. A true “fit” is a place where you feel welcome and at home.

One2One college counseling will help you approach the college process strategically, strengthening your application and showcasing your passions.



One2One will help you gain a competitive edge in the admissions process that will help you get into your dream school. For more information, visit “”>