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 “”>

Her Campus Highlights the 6 Mistakes Made During the College Admissions Process

The College Admissions process is one of the most daunting, stressful times for high school seniors. Her Campus speaks about the top 6 mistakes that high school seniors make during the admissions period, how the mistakes affect the seniors, and potential ways to overcome the mistakes so seniors have the greatest chance of scoring a seat in their dream college while reducing their stress levels.
Click here to read Her Campus 6 Mistakes Most High School Seniors Make When They Apply to College

Her Campus website

4 Steps to Finalizing Your College List!

4 Steps to Finalizing Your College List

College is a time for students to explore, be curious, discover new interests and uncover new passions. The big question is,“ Where do I begin? How do I create a college list?” With over 4,000 colleges and universities from which to choose, it can be analogous to finding the perfect home. Guess what? College is your new home for the next four years. Follow these steps and off you go.

Step 1: Visit websites that help identify colleges that are right for you.

Find out what you like. Ask yourself: Am I a student who wants to study biochemical engineering and focus on undergraduate research under an esteemed professor? Do I want to go to a Division 1 school in the East Division of the Big Ten Conference? Am I the college student who will be oozing with school spirit in the bleachers, cheering on my home team? Maybe I’ll branch into the humanities and arts and discover rich history within a prestigious liberal arts school. The sky’s the limit here, and the list of possibilities is endless!

Websites such as The College Match, Unigo, Cappex, and the College Board are good resources.

TIP: When creating your college list, it can be very helpful to take a virtual tour of the schools on your college list.

Step 2: Know what colleges are looking for in their applicants.

Now that you have websites to peruse to create your college list, you should ask, “What should I include in my search to create my college list?” The following criteria will jump start your list:

This is the most important part of your admissions profile. Admissions committees always want to know your current course selection. Are you challenging yourself with AP, IB, and Honors classes? It is very important to excel and maintain good grades all throughout high school.

SAT/ACT Scores
This is the second most important piece of information. It will help you determine what colleges on your list to classify as “reach,” “target,” and “likely.” By inputting the aforementioned data, you will have a college list you can now narrow down. TIP: Many schools are becoming test-optional, so if you know that you are not a good test taker and tests doesn’t showcase your abilities, please visit FairTest to create or add to your college list.

Acceptance Rates
This is the percentage of applicants admitted the previous year. It’s a very useful indicator when creating your college list. Typically, I recommend making sure your GPA and test scores place you at the 75th percentile for the likely schools and above the 25th percent for the reach schools.

Step 3: Find Your “FIT.”

What is “FIT?” Where do I see myself for the next four years? Factors such as location, size, academics, community, type of school, and so much more are involved in your college decision.

Location: Where do I see myself? Do I want to be in the Northeast? South? Midwest? West Coast? Could I even go abroad? Do I like the weather?

Size: Do I want a small school with small class sizes where I can have intimate discussions? Or do I want a large or medium-sized school with larger lectures.

Academics: There are many different types of academic styles at college. What style of learning do I prefer? A lecture style, discussion, seminar, laboratory, studio or independent study/research? Also, if you know what you may want to major in or what field of study to pursue, you should research schools that excel if the course of study you may be interested in.

Community: It’s important that the community in which you place yourself for college is a place where you feel comfortable and can thrive. Everyone has a different community from where they hail. Everyone has different needs. It is important to discover early where your passions and career interests lie. This will enable you to find a community that feels SAFE while also providing the excitement and adventure of college learning and growing.

Types of School: Do you want a public or private college, a liberal arts school, large university, two or four year college, school with special focus, single-sex college, religious college or a specialized-mission college?

Step 4: Finalize your list.

I recommend 10 schools to be on your final college list: 3 reach, 3 target, 3 likely, and 1 more to whichever category you choose. Once you create your list, start setting up your college visits. TIP: There is nothing better than seeing the campus firsthand, sitting in on a class, and getting a sense of the community. Don’t forget to stop into the student center to grab a bite to eat and talk to actual students! A college visit and tour can make or break your college list. I highly recommend downloading The Campus Visit Score Card to keep track of each visit.

It’s never too early to start creating your college list: the earlier the better! A true “fit” is a place where you feel welcome and at home.

Mara Patti is the founder of the premier college consulting company, One2One College Consulting, and provides customized educational services to students and parents. Mara enjoys working hands-on and is committed to helping students achieve their academic goals. She believes it is important for her to get to know her students’ aspirations, dreams, strengths and weaknesses as early as possible, because getting to know a student personally plays an integral role in finding the best “fit” school.

She is a member of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), American School Counselors Association (ASCA), College Counselors (Admission’s and Financial Aid) and the New Jersey Professional School Counselors Association. Prior, Mara served as the College Coordinator and guidance counselor at Bergen County Academies, a public magnet high school in northern New Jersey, where she assisted students through the college application process. She also coordinated college information sessions, panels, and trips to schools ranging from Ivy League to highly selective universities. To learn more about Mara and One2One College Consulting, visit her website here.