Write Track Admissions Archives - Write Track Admissions
Attention at Home College Students: 6 ways to stay productive and healthy during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic!
You may be reading this article from home, not because you are ditching classes, but because your university is one of the many that has asked their students not to return after spring break due to the COVID-19 outbreak.    Now, if you have not heard about the coronavirus or COVID-19, then you have been hiding under a rock. Local and international news outlets are covering the novel (new) coronavirus as well social media and the outbreak has been affecting daily life as schools are shutting down, experts warn against travel and caution against large gatherings.    People are increasingly searching on Google about coronavirus with questions such as:   
  • What is the coronavirus?
  • How many people have died from coronavirus?
  • How to prepare for the coronavirus
  • How did the coronavirus get started? 
  • How is coronavirus spread?
Image from Google Trends

What is coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

According to the CDC (2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Situation Summary), the novel (new) coronavirus is a respiratory disease that was first detected in China, but has spread internationally. (Live updates: Coronavirus cases pass 115,000 worldwide For frequent updates of confirmed locations of the coronavirus/COVID-19 cases, please check with the CDC website   Locations with Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Global Map   Up to the minute updates of the coronavirus outbreak can be found on CNN’S website. All major sporting events for the NBA, NHL, MLB are being cancelled, amusement parks are shuttering their doors, businesses are asking employees to work from home, and travel has been ground to a halt. With the number of coronavirus cases rising, the effects it is having on our communities is serious. You may have noticed a shortage of toilet paper, water and hand sanitizer at your local stores.  
Trader Joe’s in Santa Monica, CA (3/12/2020)

Universities shutting their doors

In direct response to the CDC limiting large gatherings of people, Large universities such as Harvard, Northwestern, UCLA, Stanford, NYU, Yale and Columbia (among many others) have announced cancelled classes, shutting down campus and holding their courses online. (Major colleges and universities going remote over coronavirus fears & Harvard University is shutting down because of coronavirus).  Indeed, for example in a statement, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Saturday; “It’s a question of when — not if — some California public schools will face closure because of COVID-19. School districts must prepare for these scenarios so that parents and children can plan for what would happen if their local school faced closure.”

What can I do to stay productive and healthy? 

With schools shutting down likely until the end of spring term, you have to find ways to stay healthy and productive! Why? Because at first it may seem like a dream, but after a few days without your regular routine, you may find yourself going stir crazy or unmotivated from lack of a strict schedule.  So here are a few ways to stay active and productive during this time:

1. Self care. Your school may be putting your courses online, and while that may seem like a breeze, you may struggle with staying focused. Take a break. You don’t find yourself sitting in classes for hours on end, or sitting completing work without getting up for a few breaks here and there. Stand up and stretch, go for a walk or give a friend a call. Avoid being stagnant. 

2. Designate a work space. You may find yourself working remotely or studying from home, but that doesn’t mean that you need to be regimented. You may work best from a coffee shop or a local park bench. Find what works for you and reserve some areas of your home for work-free spaces (such as your bed or that cozy nook you like to read in).

3. Have a schedule. Working or studying from home may feel like freedom, but the key to success is having a little structure. Manage your time and structure time blocks for getting things done. Building a schedule instead of aimlessly floating around your home will help you continue to stay productive and happy.

4. Eat healthy and stay hydrated. Don’t neglect your diet, workout routine or sleep habits. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables will continue to help you stay healthy and active. “Eating well, getting plenty of sleep and taking regular breaks for 10-15 mins to stretch the arms and legs helps keep focus and avoids eye strain from computer monitors.” (21 Tips for Online Classes Success | How to Study) (It is key to stay ahead of this virus by being informed. Here are some top ways to avoid being exposed to this virus: Prevention of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

5. Try new things! If you’re finding yourself with more free time in your hands, pick up a hobby or participate in something you haven’t done in awhile. Dance, read, listen to music, play games, draw, FaceTime your parents or start an online community.

6. Stay connected. If you find yourself quarantined or thrown off your regular schedule, it’s easy to feel alone or depressed. Make sure you utilize technology to stay connected to friends and family. If you are not sick, take the time to get coffee or grab a meal with a friend or colleague. 

  To read more on how to prevent coronavirus, please visit the CDC’s website HERE



Keep yourself informed by doing your own research:  *Direct link to case map: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html…   Stay busy, read, continue with any class assignments, study, workout, etc. While there are a ton of funny memes floating around, if you do have tests to prepare for or assignments due, make sure you’re mapping out a timeline and staying organized. Contact your professors for additional guidance for classwork.    We are all in this together, and Write Track is committed to being a resource for our students. Please feel free to contact us with any admissions questions: info@writetrackadmissions.com.
Why regulating the College Prep industry is not the answer
Reading Time: 7 minutes   This past November, Enterprise Press, a Egyptian based news and trends media outlet, published a comprehensive article titled The rise of the college prep industry in Egypt (Nov. 25, 2019), which outlines the growing number of tutors, consultants, guidance counselors making up a cottage industry of “480 firms in Cairo advertising themselves on Facebook” and counting, that is highly unregulated and often misunderstood. The editors conclude by championing the need to regulate the industry least we end up with a lack of quality control that can negatively impact the chances of admissions for college-bound applicants. Yet, this is a concern not just in Egypt but across the world, including here in the U.S.   This issue is personal. I founded Write Track Admissions, a U.S.-based admissions consulting company in 2008. For over the past decade we have strived to maintain the highest levels of integrity and quality standards with our college and graduate applicants. Based on my experience, I will do my best to provide answers and guidance on how to navigate this burgeoning industry so as to help give college-bound applicants the most informed options possible.   

Why is the industry difficult to regulate?

In the U.S. for example, there are several organizations seeking to oversee the industry, including the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA). However, despite their best efforts, the industry still remains highly unregulated. Why? Because the barriers to entry are low (anyone can claim they are admission gurus), no license is required to practice (entrants can ignore recommended quality/ethical guidelines), the global market of applicants is seemingly endless and inelastic (demand remains high regardless of economic swings), and competition to top universities as well as costs are increasing (so parents are becoming more desperate to give their child a competitive-edge).   What does this all mean? It is impossible to regulate an industry that is easy to join, high in demand, difficult to monitor, and so remote in geography (think gig economy). As a result, there are your fair share of charlatans that are selling pipe dreams at exuberant costs, and even committing fraud to get students admitted into top programs. Just look at Rick Singer and the recent college admissions scandal. However, it has to be said, these people are the exception rather than the norm.     So what is the answer? While tackling the whole industry may be challenging, I can provide guidance, based on my experience, on how to overcome an unregulated market for admissions consultants. Ultimately, I highly recommend that you become as informed as possible when considering whether you need an admissions consultant. Then be prepared to ask these key questions to find the right one for your child.      

Do you need an admissions consultant?

In deciding this, ask yourself these questions. Is your child stressed out trying to desperately manage extra-curricular activities, coursework, volunteer experience, standardized test prep, academic tutoring etc.? Does your son or daughter feel lost and overwhelming trying to figure out the ‘right’ story to stand out, which standardized tests to take, when to apply, where to get letters of recommendation? Are you having difficulty figuring out the visa process, what documents are needed for financial support, what is a suitable list of schools that aligns with your child’s goals and interests? If this is the case, then you will stand to benefit immeasurably by having an admissions consultant who will act as your child’s personalized high school counselor, coach and admissions guide.    From our experience here are just some of the pieces of advice we provided our clients in Egypt and around the world that may be relatable to you:  
    • Start the application process far in advance to give yourself time to respond to various requirements by the different schools related to testing, grade verification, financial information, additional application materials, etc. 
    • Figure out when to apply (early action vs. early decision vs. regular admissions) and manage, through a strict calendaring system, the numerous deadlines. 
    • Keep in mind the differences between the application requirements and how to frame your story to match the various essay prompts.
    • Research standardized testing exams/strategies and take the exam early in the process in case of cancelations (we saw this happen numerous times in 2019).


How do I find the right consultant?

Now that you have decided your child needs an admissions consultant, how do you find the right one, and why is it important to have the “right one”? The consultant needs to earn the trust of both you and your child in terms of what they know, what they can deliver, and how well they can motivate/guide your child through the entire process. This is especially the case given the sheer number of demands and activities already on your child’s plate.    So after many years of doing this work and through extensive research, we have found that it is imperative to ask the following questions to find the right consultant:  
1.  How familiar are you with the testing, school system, cultural traditions, and unique narratives of the country and community?
This is critical especially for international students because the most important part of the application is the applicant’s story. Acute knowledge of the unique narratives that exist is critical to this process as well as knowing the various demands on the students by the academic systems of the country or community.    
2.  How much and what kind of experience do you have?
Does the consultant have formal training? Have they themselves applied and gained admission to top programs? How long have they been working with applicants? It is important to research not just the company but the consultant that your child will be working with. One of the most important parts of this process is engendering inspiration and confidence between the consultant and your child. This comes from experience, compassion, and the consultant being “in-touch”, basically not removed from the life experiences and cultural trends of today.  
3.  How do you distinguish yourself from others offering a similar service?
What separates them from other competitors? Do they provide one-on-one consulting? Do they specialize in the country or programs your child is applying to? What is their track record for success? How international is their scope? How plugged in are they compared to others in terms of the dynamic field of admissions?  
4.  How does your process work? 
It is key to get a better understanding of how the consultant will work with your child, in terms of time commitment, means of communication (phone, video-conference, in-person or remote), actual brainstorming and editing processes etc. Also you need to get clarity on how long will the process take, payment structure (hourly or per service), and end product.  
5.  Are you making any unrealistic guarantees?
Is the consultant providing guarantees of admission? If so, this is a false statement and borderline fraud since no one should be able to guarantee admissions given the multitude of factors that go into the decision-making process (standardized scores, academic record, applicant experiences, diversity, time of submission, number of applicants etc.).   
6.  Do you have any references we can contact based on past work?
While often the work is confidential, sometimes former clients are willing to act as a reference. In that case, it doesn’t hurt to ask so that you have a better idea of the experience of the former client with the company. That being said, each experience can be different so it should help inform but not be the deciding factor for you.     If I had to guess, the admissions consulting industry is not going to go away. Top universities will only get more competitive, higher education will only cost more money, and post-college job opportunities will only become harder. Receiving that competitive edge is therefore key to getting into a top university, attaining a scholarship, and putting your child on the best career path possible. So be vigilant and informed about your options and how best to support your child through one of the most difficult yet critical junctures in their lives.     ~ Hamada Zahawi, Esq. | Founder, Write Track Admissions
What are your options and next steps if you have been denied by your top choice colleges?
Reading Time: 6 minutes   Don’t think your life is over because you have been denied admissions. While this is certainly a dilemma that some people will face or are facing, there is a plan of action you can take that will help set you back on track.   So I will break this down into three parts to better outline next steps in the process:  
  1. Why did you get denied.
  2. What you can do better next time.
  3. What you can do TODAY!
  1. Qualifications: Your SAT/ACT/SAT IIs were not competitive enough for that year OR your GPA was on the borderline.
  2. Application Materials: Your essays, resume, application questions etc. did not help you stand out as a unique/must-have candidate.
  3. Timing: You may have applied too late in the admissions season (for example I first applied to LSE in late January so I was denied by mid-Feb. The second time I applied was in October and was admitted with the scholarship less than a month later).
  4. Oversubscribed: The major you applied to was oversubscribed (many many people applied) so while you had a great application, when push came to shove you didn’t make it through the final cut.
  1. Re-take your Standardized Test: If you take a year out (like a gap year) then you can retake the SAT. Even if you do marginally better you still show the school that you are trying (FYI – I took the SAT three times, the LSAT three times and the GRE twice…in each case I represented to the school that I was so keen to gain admissions to their school that I bothered to do the exam again and again (but there is a point of overkill and after 3 times its not worth it anymore (aka diminishing returns)).
  2. College Credit Courses: If you want to take a year out (not do community college) then take some college credit courses and if you do well you can submit those to the schools and that may help (in case your GPA was on the lower side). 
  3. Get Admissions Guidance: I can’t tell you how many times I have worked with someone who was denied the year before because they applied on their own and were blind to so many issues that could have otherwise made their applications amazing. An admissions expert or at least someone very familiar with the admissions process and ready to give you their time, will help you find the ideal story, make sure you properly surface your qualifications, and ensure you have a unique application to truly stand out. 
  4. Start EARLY!: I cant emphasize this enough. Even if you are applying for programs that do not have rolling admissions, you need to give yourself plenty of time to prepare your application materials. And for those programs that do have rolling admissions then your chances of admissions when you apply early are 2–3 times greater then if you wait until the last minute. Moreover, the earlier you apply the higher the chances of admissions (I received a lot funding when I applied early to Cambridge and Harvard). 
  5. Diversify: Make sure you apply broadly to reach, attainable and safety schools so you can give yourself the highest chances of admissions. 
  1. Feedback: Find out from some of the schools why you got rejected. Not all schools will give you candid feedback but some will and this will help you better understand what to do and improve.
  2. For College Applicants – Community College: If you are in the U.S. I would definitely advise applying and attending a local community college that can feed directly into the one or more of your desire universities. Here is a great article on how to maximize the community college to university transition: Tips for Transferring from Community College (U.S. News). Additionally this will give you guidance on why Community College to University route: Should I go to community college and then transfer to a university?
  Hope this helps!   Read more helpful tips on our Quora account and stay tuned to other blogs on our Write Track Admissions Page.   ~ Hamada | Write Track Founder
What happens if you apply early decision to a university, get accepted, and don’t go?
Reading Time: 5 minutes   Early Decision, Early Action and Regular Admissions can be very confusing and stressful when making the decision to choose which path to take for which schools. So I will break it down in simple parts to help you with the decision and outcome.  
Difference Between Early Decision & Early Action
  In brief, ED is binding while EA is Not. It is said that ED gives you a better chance of admissions. I read that some legacy and influential parents encourage their children to apply ED since acceptance rates can be as high as 50%+. For example at Duke, ED acceptance is 20% where normally its closer to 6%. On the other, EA acceptance rates may only be slightly better than regular admissions, but require that you submit your application early, which requires better time management to submit in time.   Also some schools offer ED and others don’t, and others will allow you to ONLY apply ED to their schools but not others.   Here is an example from Vanderbilt: Consequences for Reneging on Early Decisions:   ED is binding but not legally binding. From my readings and knowledge it seems that the worst that can happen (which actually would really suck!) would be if the student applied to several schools through ED, and selected one over the others. Then the rejected school(s) can call the one you accepted and inform them prompting a withdrawal of the acceptance (this may be tricker for AdComms to do if you accept a decision for a university abroad like in England or even Canada).   In the end, many put it at honor and say if you pull-out of a ED then it would tarnish your reputation at your high school and likely with that college. So its not something you want to do!   But there are reasons to justify why you would not be able to uphold a ED acceptance. Here are some examples from a great U.S. News Article on the topic:   Most colleges will release students from early decision offers without penalty if applicants receive a financial aid package that doesn’t make it feasible economically for the student to attend.   There may be other compelling reasons that would sway an admissions officer to release an accepted student from an early decision offer without consequence – a sick parent, for instance – admissions officers say.  
Considerations & Next Steps
  So when deciding whether to apply ED v. EA or Regular Admissions you should ask yourself these questions (some questions derived from a U.S. News Article on the topic):  
  1. Is there a significant statistical advantage to applying ED?
  Make sure to look at historical acceptance rates of ED v. EA v. Regular admissions from the school you are applying to so you can figure out the advantage.  
  1. Would a midyear addition to your application such as a completed internship or first semester grades enhance your overall profile?
  If you expect to have an advantage in your application (better grades, retaken SAT, completed internship, personal feat etc.) by December/January, then applying regular admissions may be better so that can be included in your application.  
  1. Have you thoroughly vetted the school, including sitting in on a class and staying on campus overnight?
  Basically are you 100% sure this is your top choice no matter what? If not then you should check it out, do all your due diligence and then make that final decision so you don’t reverse course and reject the ED acceptance.  
  1. Are you willing to part with financial aid options?
  If you accept at an ED school and the financial aid package is not great, then you may not be able to compare the package with other schools as you have to accept the aid they give you. This would not be the case with EA or regular admissions.   So think hard about this process and don’t jump the gun unless you have financial backing and know the ED school is your TOP choice (no matter what)!   Hope this helps!   Read more helpful tips on our Quora account and stay tuned to other blogs on our Write Track Admissions Page.   ~ Hamada | Write Track Founder
Should I go to community college and then transfer to a university?
One of the most frequently asked questions to us as admissions experts relates to community college as a segue into university. Here are our thoughts and some major key tips for those of you considering this option.   Are your high school grades and/or SAT low? Then Community College gives you a second bite at the apple in that you can reinvent yourself in Community College. You just need to get great grades and your chances of transferring from a Community College to a university is higher than from a university to a university. And you won’t even need to SAT!   Are finances a major issue for you? Community College is a great backdoor, saving you thousands of dollars as you will be able to skip the first two years of university tuition. ALSO, for those trying to get in-state status at a state school (i.e. University of California), then community college can buy you the time you need to establish in-state residency. You can then apply to a state school, which will save you not only money but will also increase your chances of admissions. This is because gaining in-state status will favor those applying to state schools who are mandated to admit a far higher number of in-state residents then students who are applying out of state.   Are you still confused as to your intended major? If so this is a great way to test out different classes and then apply to your intended major at college with a high GPA and thereby hit the ground running.   Are you going to be focused and take Community College seriously? If not, then don’t take this path because you’ll be stuck in a time warp struggling year after year, losing confidence and never graduating with more than an Associate’s Degree. Basically, you HAVE to think about this as a pass-through and the only way to pass-through is to achieve high grades; without them you won’t go really anywhere.   NOTE:  

(1) Make sure to work with a college counselor as soon as you start Community College so you know exactly which classes you need, the GPA you should attain etc. to ensure your admissions to your university of choice;


(2) If possible, go to a Community College that is a traditional feeder to your university of choice (i.e. SMC to UCLA, De Anza to Berkeley, Saddleback to UCI);


(3) Some Community Colleges may not have all the required classes you need to transfer or they are heavily over-enrolled. So make sure you figure the exact classes you need, apply to get into them early, and if you need outline how you will go between 2-3 different community colleges to get all your required classes (see point 1 for help).

  Hope this helps!   Read more helpful tips on our Quora account and stay tuned to other blogs on our Write Track Admissions Page.   ~ Hamada | Write Track Founder
The Ultimate Guide to the UC Application
Charlie Nguyen/Flickr/CC BY 2.0 Read time: ~ 6 minutes   Navigating the University of California (UC) system can seem daunting to those who have not grown up in the Golden State with the presence of the 9 behemoth schools serving as a hallmark of educational culture. However, these schools are largely recognized as the go-to public universities for college hopefuls looking for some sunshine and a quality education. The campuses span the state, and branch off into Medical Centers, Research Labs, and Educational Outreach Programs, among other things. There are 9 UC campuses (all of which have undergraduate and graduate programs): Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz; there is also UC San Francisco, which is solely a graduate school with professional courses.    The UC campuses are ranked among the nation’s top universities – in both the public and private sector: 
UC Application requirements
The UC application is its own entity – completely separate from the Common App. It has its own list of requirements and its own personal statement section with prompts that are just unique enough that you will likely need to write new material from your Common App. The UC App also requires the following elements to be submitted: 
  • Official Transcripts
  • Standardized test scores (ACT or SAT)
  • Any advanced class exam scores (AP, IB, TOEFL, IETLS)
  • Annual income
  • This is contingent upon your dependency status – you will need to provide your income if you’re an independent, or your parent’s income if you’re a dependent
  • Social security number
  • Citizenship status
Personal Statements: 
Much like the Common Application, the UC application has a section for a personal statement. The UC Application Personal Insight Section comprises of 2 essays – one standardized and one that varies depending on whether or not you are a transfer student or an incoming freshman. Each essay must be less than 1,000 words total, and are to be guided by predetermined prompts. Though the prompts can seem very abstract, and thus a bit daunting, here are some tips to help with the writing process:   
    1. Know your audience: Compose your stories using language and verbal skills that are appropriate for a college admissions committee. Use elevated language when appropriate and avoid casual sentences.
    2. Compose with Quality in mind: Since there is a word cap, you need to ensure you are conveying your story efficiently and effectively. Make sure your essays are concise, while also taking the time to paint a colorful picture with your descriptions. This may be a difficult balance to strike so being mindful of it from the beginning can help ensure the quality you are seeking. 
    3. Put your heart on paper: The mark of a truly incredible personal statement is emotion. This is your chance to tell your story – with all the trials and tribulations that go along with it. Don’t be afraid to lay it all out there. Imbue your story with as much emotion as you can. 
  Students often find the essay portion of their applications to be the most daunting. If you find yourself in this position, it is wise to get some professional help, as colleges are increasingly putting more weight on the personal statement portion of applications. 
Important UC Application Deadlines:
  • October 1: Application for fall of the following year becomes available.
  • November 1-30: Submission window for applications for the upcoming fall term.
  • January 1: Filing period for FAFSA and Cal Grant Verification Form begins.
  • March 1: Notification of admission for the fall term begins.
  • March 2: Deadline to submit FAFSA and Cal Grant Verification Form
  • March 30: Notification of admission for the fall term ends.
  • May 1: Deadline to submit Statement of Intent to Register for incoming freshman.
  • June 1: Deadline to submit Statement of Intent to Register for transfer students. 
  • July 1: Last day to submit an official transcript for incoming students for fall term. 
Things to Consider When Applying to a UC:
The great thing about the UC Application is that you can apply to one or ALL the UCs with the click of a button. However, while the schools are grouped together in their own system, the average test scores and GPA, and the competitiveness of entry to the schools vary significantly. For example, for incoming freshman the average SAT composite score at UCLA is 1365 and the average GPA is 4.3. At UC Riverside, the average SAT of an incoming freshman  is 1179, and the average GPA is 3.6. When applying, it is important to keep this variance in mind, as your chances of admission into the UCs will vary by school requirements.    Just as each campus has its own level of academic competitiveness, each campus has its own specialty, research opportunities, and general ambiance. Hamada Zahawi, Founder and CEO of Write Track Admissions, attended UCSB (then transferred to UCLA) and UC Berkeley Law. He advises students to keep in mind that just because you like one campus does not mean you will like them all, as they vary by climate, vibe, specialty field(s), diversity, sports programs, location etc. So it is important to gauge your compatibility with each UC campus separately, and treat them as individual schools (not one big conglomerate). To this end, it’s a great idea to take a trip and visit each school – what better excuse to see the beautiful Golden Coast of California!    Aly Hartman | Write Track Communication Officer Write Track Admissions
What is the best advice you can give for someone to maximize their college experience?
Reading Time: 3 minutes   I have always said there are 5 things that will not only make your college experience great, but more importantly help you grow as a person. This is likely, in my opinion, the MAIN reason to attend college.  
    1. ACADEMICS: The reality is school is important. Its critical to your confidence, your personal development, and your future path. So you NEED TO focus on your studies and ensure you have an outstanding academic record which can come in the way of GPA, Honors, Publications, Research etc. The point is, if you have a mediocre record you WILL REGRET it later when you are applying for jobs, grad schools etc.

2. LEADERSHIP: Take on at least one leadership activity and sink your teeth in it. This is honestly more for your own personal development to prove to yourself that you have the moxie, leadership acumen and brains to make things happen! It doesn’t mean you have to be President or even VP of a club. Just part of the decision making board to work on an initiative and leave a legacy.


3. SOCIAL LIFE: This is a simple one and requires no explanation. BE SOCIAL! In the end, a strong EQ/EI (Emotional Intelligence) goes a much longer way than does purely IQ among employers, grad schools, future spouses. lol Speaking of, there is a higher likelihood you will meet someone that you will end up marrying in college than at any other time in your life. So be social, date, make new friends and network.


4. FITNESS: This is a plea for being healthy and not using the excuse of the “Freshman 15” to let yourself slide. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, going to the gym, picking up running, playing intramural sports, etc. will go a VERY long way to helping you stay young, confident and healthy not just during college but well after. These are some of the best years of your life so cherish them and stay fit and active.


5. STUDY ABROAD: This is one where people may scratch their heads at and say really is this THAT important? Studying abroad will likely the BEST excuse to travel, pick up a new language, meet new people and discover new places all the while earning credit for school. It will help you immeasurably grow as a person and embrace the world around you.

  NOTE: Make sure you can get credit as it can help you stay on track to graduate on time. Also make sure you select an awesome city and preferably in a country where you can see yourself using the language later in life. Finally the study abroad should be no less than 3 months to a year.   Bottomline, there is so much to benefit from in college to prepare you for life.   So as a freshman be intentional in planning out the next few years, make the most out of it, and never forget to keep growing as a person.   Hope this helps!   Read more helpful tips on our Quora account and stay tuned to other blogs on our Write Track Admissions Page.   ~ Hamada | Write Track Founder
How do I best answer the college application essay “describe your strengths and weaknesses”?
There is no easy answer to this but my quick response is start with strengths end with weaknesses and here is why:  
    • Admissions Officers have to read literally thousands of applications so if you start with a weakness and its poorly worded, explained, or is just a bad example, it can turn off the reader from the start. (Read below to see why)*
    • The chances of you screwing up your strengths is not high, and therefore most Admissions Officers will likely be on your side from the start. But if you start with a weakness that is half-baked (i.e. I’m a perfectionist, I’m overly ambitious, I work too hard, I bite off more then I can chew), this can turn them off and they wont even get to your strengths.
    • If you present a GREAT strength(s) then that will get the officer even more on your side so that when it comes to your weakness, the Officer will think its ok because s/he has a great strength that can help mitigate the weakness.
  To help illustrate the point, we found these two GREAT examples online for poor examples of weaknesses (the first is a strength dressed as a weakness and people will be able to see right through this. The second comes off as entirely arrogant).  
    1. My biggest weakness is probably biting off more than I can chew. I love learning new things, helping my colleagues, and being right in the thick of innovation. I usually get the hang of my job pretty quickly, which leads me to take on a lot of additional stretch projects. It’s funny how my bandwidth feels maxed but there’s always room for more!
    2. My biggest weakness is definitely the fact that I work too much. At my previous job my boss actually had to implement a rule that I needed to be out of the office by 7pm because I was routinely staying until 9pm. I did win the award for highest sell through rate though.
So when selecting your weakness be sure to select an adequate example that can allow you to address the following:
    • Clearly explain the weakness so there isn’t confusion that will undermine the response.
    • Be honest about the weakness so it comes off as humble (NOT humble-bragging)
    • Demonstrate what you learned from the weakness (same if it was a mistake)
  Click HERE for a FREE Consultation to get started!   ~ Hamada | Write Track Founder
How to Leverage the GAP Year to Get Into Your Top Choice College!
Read Time: 7 minutes   A few days ago, a concerned mom called us asking about options for her son since he had a poor GPA, low SAT, no volunteer experience, and NO idea what he wanted to study in College. Basically, the student was lost and needed an option that wasn’t community college. We suggested a Gap year!    The Gap year has always been a confusing concept for U.S. students. But for those of you who are:  
    • Not mentally ready yet to go to a four year university
    • Want time to think about what you want to study in college and pursue after graduation
    • Eager to undertake a unique experience, start a business, take time to resolve family issues before starting higher education etc.
    • Need time to rework your GPA and SAT (and Community College is not appealing)
    • Can’t afford college and need to make some money before going…
  …then this article is for you!   
  The Gap Year Association defines the Gap Year as:   A semester or year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and prior to career or post-secondary education, in order to deepen one’s practical, professional, and personal awareness.”   The concept of a Gap year or Sabbatical year as its also called really grew out England and Australia where students were encouraged to take a year off after their A-level exams to figure out what they want to study in college. In the U.S. one survey said approximately 30,000-40,000 students took a Gap semester or year. This is far lower than the millions that apply each year to colleges in the U.S., but it is still a growing figure.   
  If the Gap year is well structured it can be quite beneficial for the students. In fact, one survey said that 90% of students who do a structured gap year will most likely graduate on time and end up with a higher GPA.    Further, according to the research of Karl Haigler in his seminal book a ‘The Gap Year Advantage’, the year out can help the student overcome two major issues; burnout of the competitive pressure of high school AND the opportunity to know more about themselves. Both of which are key to the early success of college students.    Ultimately, there are numerous advantages to doing the Gap year but WARNING: IT HAS TO BE STRUCTURED! If your Gap year is one filled with empty down time, without life experiences, and just time off, this can SERIOUSLY undermine your college admissions.    Further there are a number of disadvantages you should be aware of including, losing momentum, falling behind, not finding your calling, not getting financial aid for college. So be sure to consider everything before you make the decision.  
Options to Maximize Your Time
  Avis Hinkson, Dean of Barnard College in New York, summarizes it well, in terms of what students choose to do:   “Some will have internships, some will travel, some will fulfill religious responsibilities and some find paid work. All-in-all, they will grow and mature.”   That last part is KEY, “growth and maturity”. The idea is that after the year is done you need to demonstrate how you grew as a person, and how you are still able, based on your experiences, to add value to the college community now that you are a year older and wiser!   So here are some options to consider:  
    • Traveling with purpose not just for fun, but so you learn from the experience i.e. learn a new language, cultural exchange, exploring
    • Volunteering to show compassion, dedication to a cause or program, and leadership/teamwork
    • Working to develop skills, show teamwork and may save for your college tuition (sense of responsibility) and/or to help family
    • Studying to retake the SAT or taking college credits to show you can handle the college level rigor to offset a poor GPA or SAT score
    • Introspecting into who you are and what you stand for so that you can figure out your major of choice, and your future goals   
  Remember being introspective should be done with gaining life experiences. Also you can study but that will only last through September and then you have the rest of the year to show how you have developed as a person and that you learned important life lessons.   
No-Miss Considerations
  As a senior, you will finish high school in June. Yet, you will still need to apply to colleges between September – November. So you HAVE to show the school what you are doing and how you are growing as a person. Basically, you shouldn’t take the summer off and then say in your applications, “hey I’m taking a gap year and I will plan to do X, Y, and Z”. Why would they believe you?!? You need to show that you have a plan, and you have started executing it as early as the summer time and here is what you have learnt so far etc.   Another consideration is that you can always apply to colleges even if you are considering a gap year. The idea is that, if you don’t get in or get in but don’t want to go, then you can do the gap year and then re-apply or defer your acceptance. Bottomline, still make sure you have a plan of action for that gap year as soon as you finish submitting your applications.   
Next Steps
  If the Gap year is for you then you need to have a plan. Here is what you should focus on:   
    • Planning out the year from June to June, 
    • Applying for and lining up volunteer/work experiences etc, 
    • Having a plan of action regarding applications in the fall etc. 
  These are just some of the things you NEED to be thinking about well before June so that you hit the ground running and ensure that the year off will be worth your while and will be an advantage on your college applications.    Note, we have a program called COMPASS which helps our students map out their year ahead, especially for those who are taking the gap year. Email us for a personalized consultation to see how we can help you maximize this important and life-changing year ahead for you!   ~ Hamada | Founder, Write Track Admissions  
It’s Not the End! 6 ways to get ahead of the 2019 SAT Cancellations
Some of you woke up on October 16, 2019 to this message from the College Board (the administers of the SAT Exam):  

letter from College Board

        This is SUPER confusing, alarming, and unfair to all those that studied hard and took this exam without cheating! Yet this is not a new phenomenon. In fact, this year alone scores of international students, especially from Egypt, had their scores cancelled in March, May, and now October 2019! This has also taken place in the U.S., Morocco, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and China in recent years (you can track all the international test closings here).    For those students applying Early Decision (ED) and Early Action (EA), this does place them at a disadvantage, as there is no international testing date in November. In fact, the next available date would be December 7, 2019 (registration ends November 8, 2019), which is well after the November 1, 2019 ED and EA deadlines.   So what can you do to get in front of this issue especially for those who need an SAT score before applying?    Here are some of Write Track’s recommendations that will give you the guidance you need to plan out next steps:   1. Submit EA & ED applications. Submit your Early Decision and Early Action application if applicable for the November 1st deadline even if you do not have an SAT Score.   2. Write an Addendum. After submitting your application, write an addendum to respective offices of admission. We would be happy to help you draft this addendum to strengthen your case. We would also advise appending a letter from your SAT tutor (if applicable) to explain what you were averaging over the course of your lessons. It is imperative that the SAT tutors are honest and accurate as the letter would essentially serve as an affidavit.   3. Sign-up for the December test date. Though this would be after the deadline for early applicants, if you are placed on a waitlist, an improved score can help you in the long-run. Make sure to sign up as soon as possible to reserve spots (registration ends November 8, 2019), as many will be attempting to re-take the SAT in December.   4. Take the SAT test in neighboring countries. While there is no test date in November anywhere in the Middle East, consider these other country options in December, as there is consistent targeting scores in Egypt specifically.   5. Take November SAT in the U.S. We know this may be an incredible financial burden and time investment. Yet, this is just an option to consider if it is feasible for you.   6. Consider the ACT. Less students internationally take the ACT exam and therefore there is less of a chance for systemic cheating, which could otherwise impact your score. The ACT exam is deemed to be more straightforward than the SAT and many schools take the ACT in lieu of the SAT. Even though its not administered in November, you can still take it in December.   We recognize the significant burden and confusion of this cancellation and are here to help you and/or your child navigate this difficult time.    Please contact us directly (+1(323) 628-1640 | info@writetrackadmissions.com) with any questions so we can best help your child move forward and submit successful applications for the 2019-2020 admissions cycle!   ~ Hamada | Founder, Write Track Admissions