How to Get into Your Dream College [Part 1] | Nicolas Chae | Skillshare

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How to Get into Your Dream College [Part 1]

teacher avatar Nicolas Chae, Princeton University Class of 2021

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

5 Lessons (14m)
    • 1. Welcome to Nic's Declassified!

    • 2. Picking Your High School Courses

    • 3. Extracurriculars

    • 4. Creating the College List

    • 5. Standardized Testing

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About This Class

Nic’s Declassified School Survival Guide

Worried about what you need to do to get into your dream college? Lucky for you, Nic’s Declassified has it covered. YouTuber, Entrepreneur, and Princeton University Economics student Nicolas Chae will teach you everything you need to know about the college application process in order to ensure you get into the school of your dreams. 

In order to best prepare yourself for the college application process, there are a couple of foundational elements you need to build throughout your time in high school. In the first part of this series, Nic provides a breakdown of

  • Which courses you should take each year
  • How to get involved in meaningful extracurriculars
  • Starting the search for the college of your dreams

In the second part of this series, Nic walks you through the entire process of completing your college application including key lectures breaking down how to build your best profile for admission into your dream college:

  • Writing a unique, compelling college essay
  • Demystifying financial aid & scholarships
  • Asking for letters of recommendations
  • How to stand out in your interviews

Once you’re officially a college student, Nic takes you through:

  • Acclimating to College Life
  • How to pick a major
  • Building habits for success in college

Whether you’re a freshman in High School, or a senior who has no idea where to begin in the college application process, this class is your one-stop shop for all things college. In less than one hour, Nic will provide you with the tools you need to get accepted to any college of your choosing.

Meet Your Teacher

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Nicolas Chae

Princeton University Class of 2021


Greetings and salutations, friends!

My name is Nic (21) and I'm a senior in the Economics Department at Princeton University. Since I got into college, I've been documenting my life as a college student and the journey it took to get me here through YouTube to an audience of engaged, interactive students from all over the world.

Throughout my time at Princeton, I've gotten hundreds of messages from people just like you asking how to succeed in high school to get into the school of your dreams. As someone who understands the frustrations and uncertainty in the college application process, I decided to come up with a series of lectures outlining everything you need to know, from your freshman year of high school, all the way up to your first year of college.

I'm ... See full profile

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1. Welcome to Nic's Declassified!: There are few things as intimidating as a college application process. The culmination of all your years of hard work boiled down into a single application to determine whether or not you're qualified for the school of your dreams. I know it's a scary process because well, I've been there. My name is Douglas Jay and I'm a senior in the economics department at Princeton University. Since my freshman year of college, I've been documenting my life through YouTube and the journey you took to get me here. Throughout this process, I've gone hundreds of messages from people, just like you asking me questions about how I got into the number one university in the country. Now as I come to the close of this chapter of my life, I'm very excited to announce the launch of Nick's declassified comprehensive guide, walking you through every step of the college application process, everything you need to know from the start of your freshman year of high school all the way to your transition to college. Now, a couple years back as I was going through the process myself, I was thinking, dang, I wish there was a comprehensive guide that would tell me everything I needed to know. So I did just that builds an all-in-one comprehensive resource to answer any sort of question that Google can't help with. And the reason I believe this is so beneficial and revolutionary is that every single course throughout this lecture has been written by an actual college student who has been through the process just like you, what better way to learn from your peers who had the exact same struggle with and had the same questions but ended up succeeding throughout this entire journey, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship money and are now attending some of the most prestigious universities in the country. This course, I'll be taking you through the various steps of the college application process, starting with the foundation of a successful high school curriculum to best set yourself up for admission into your dream University. Then we'll break down the actual aspects of the application as well. Some tips on formulating a cohesive, well-thought-out essay that's gonna make you stand out from the crowd, will also provide tips on standardized testing for tests such as the SAT or the ACT, as well as how to maximize your efforts for SAT subject tests, an AP tests. Finally, we'll conclude with your transition into college, as well as billions of habits for success. And you start your first semester of college, we'd put in several hours of preparation to bringing guys this course diving is going to be really beneficial and bringing a lot of utility. Hopefully as you guys go through these lectures, you'll find a lot of value in insights that you won't find anywhere else without further ado. Welcome to Nick's declassified. 2. Picking Your High School Courses: Now before we begin talking about how to find the right college, we need to first lay the foundation of a successful high school curriculum, rounded out with strong extracurriculars to ensure you have the best shot at admins interior dream college. With that being said, our first lecture is on picking your high school courses. Now the biggest regret I hear from some of my friends is I wish I would have tried harder freshman year. Not to sound harsh, but your success in freshman year can either make or break your eventual acceptance into any sort of college. Looking back on the process, I can't help but think how much I stressed myself out over things that inevitably I wouldn't be able to control at this point in your high school career, you've done just about everything you could participate in your extracurriculars, study your butt off for the SAT, and done the best you could with their GPA. As a senior in college, I still get thousands of messages from you guys saying things like, I don't think I'll ever be able to get into an Ivy League school or what tips do you have to get into your dream school? Well, I'm here today to provide you with a comprehensive guide to all your questions. Now first, let me briefly break down the trajectory of high-school. Although you might think that freshman year you get a pass to mess around and not worry about your future. I strongly suggest you take things seriously and have some sort of path outline for your high school career. I'm not saying you need to immediately know which college you went to attend, but you should have some idea of the calibre of the schools so you can plan your classes accordingly and likewise, maintain your grades to meet these expectations. But all that being said, you should still have fun and experiment with what you're interested in because I have no idea where I wanted to go nor what I wanted to pursue this early on. Sophomore year is when you become more acclimated with the rigor of your classes, this is the perfect time to start dipping your feet into AP level classes and finding certain subjects that interest you more than others. It's also never too early to begin preparing for standardized testing. A few hours a day on Khan Academy are practicing a few sections from practice SAT book will only benefit you in the future this year is also primetime to introduce yourself to your counselor and begin establishing a long-lasting relationship. Having a counselor who can put your name to your face will have tremendous benefits out of your entirety of high-school junior year is the inflection point of your eventual admins into the College of your dreams, Princeton, Stanford, Harvard, Yale. Every single one of these schools have set a high bar of the type of applicants they will be accepting. One expectation that had significant way is your standardized test scores. But we will go into further details later. Now, regardless of whether or not your dream is to attendant Ivy League school, a high SAT or ACT score can result in serious scholarships and potential for rights. These scholarships have some sort of test score requirement to be eligible to put in the work now and your returns on these investments will pay off. Additionally, this should be the year where you run for leadership positions in your clubs. Begin talking colleges and look at further requirements for the schools you're interested in. While junior year may seem unbearably stressful at times, grinding your butt off this year will have tremendous awards, but at the same time, find time to relax and take a break when needed. Your mental and physical health are still important, so don't stress yourself out too much over test scores. Now hands down by far, no doubt about it. Senior year will be the best time of your life. You will make some of the best memories from your time in high school and the feeling of walking across the stage to receive your diploma is one of the biggest milestones this far in your life. While it's easy to get senior rightist and you'll be wishing for the year to go by as fast as possible. I can genuinely say that you will regret not making the best of everyday. You have left with your best friends and teachers and everyone else who has impacted you for summer going into your senior year will also be crunch time with your college applications. Before the year get started, you should already have a game plan to tackle the various essays, forums, and scholarships they need to be completed once school starts, you should find time every week to make some progress on each application rather than trying to crunch for essays and one weekend before the deadline, trust me, splitting up the work that needs to get done over the span of a few months will alleviate the stress when it comes time to submit everything. 3. Extracurriculars: Now I'll cut straight to the point when it comes to your extracurriculars. Everyone thinks you need to be Valedictorian student body president and co-founder of five different clubs to get into a great school despite these looking great for your application. It's also so overdone by every applicant. Admission Committees are really just looking for someone who had dedicated their time to things that they are actually passionate about rather than what they think will look good on their applications. There's this thing called the spike, and it's essentially being successful in one certain academic where extra curricular field that makes you instantly stand out amongst other applicants. Examples of spikes include national level debate champion, US chemistry Quiz Bowl winner, state-level clarinet player, distinguished artists and International Science Fair winner. Essentially the spike is your biggest achievement throughout high school. No worries if you haven't found one yet up until the beginning of your senior year, you should begin narrowing down your extracurriculars and finding something you can stand out in a more niche the better. Once again, don't overwhelm yourself with too many clubs, societies, or organizations. Try to choose a couple and really excel in them rather than doing a bunch of them just to be a member, I also recommend having unique experiences that not a lot of your peers will have done working in a hospital in a third world country is an opportunity that will not only change your life, but will also help tell a compelling story in your essays. Seek out experiences that are not only unique, but things that really excite you and you're passionate about. Avoid volunteering for a charity just because you think it'll look good on your application. If it's a bit disingenuous, it'll probably be noticeable it might make for a less cohesive, convincing application. There will be something unique out there for everybody that they have genuine passion for it. It just has to be sought out. 4. Creating the College List: Creating the college list now comes the question of where he should actually apply. Most college counselors will break it up into three tiers. Number one is going to be your safety schools, schools that you have automatic admission to, or schools that you are very confident that you will get into. The school should be your worst-case scenario, just in case something freaky happens. And we're two is going to be your Meteor schools, schools that are definitely not out of reach, but your emission is not certain. The school should be ones that you actually see yourself going to college at. Finally, is going to be your reach schools. Schools rated chances of admissions are very slim and you'll have to work your butt off to get there. It's always good to have a couple of these because the whole application process is a crap shoot and you never know what might happen. Now don't use the university just for the brand name, looking at actual programs and what classes they offer for your major. If they have professors or fields that you're really passionate about and base your list off of those factors, rather than national college rankings. Don't let elite schools like Harvard or Stanford entice you because you think big names mean better opportunities. This is a myth. College is all about what you put into it at the end of the day, remember that the overwhelming majority of students at big-name high caliber schools are graduate students. So if the Ivy League is truly what you're shooting for, it don't get discouraged if it doesn't happen right away. Remember, each school also require some kind of supplemental essay along with the main essay and possibly several short answers. In addition to that, most schools would require application fees of 50 to a $100 if money isn't issue, there are certain schools that will waive this fee. 5. Standardized Testing: How to ace the standardized test SAT vs. ACT. What you should know. Testing is usually the first step in the college process and ultimately sets the bar for where and what types of schools you can apply to. There are two main tests that pretty much every college will accept. The SAT offered by the College Board and ACT. We will go into further detail later, but I can't emphasize enough the importance of scoring well on these tests, while they aren't the sole indicator of whether or not you will get into your dream school. Just about every University uses these scores as a preliminary benchmark to see if you're academically qualified before looking at any other part of your application, don't let that intimidate you, but use that to make yourself work harder to get the scores you want. Practice, test, repeat, depending on your circumstances and desires, sign-up for as many tests until you're satisfied. Coven 19 update due to the coronavirus pandemic, many schools, including some IVY leagues, are choosing to implement a test optional policy for the 2020 to 2021 school year. Although schools will still consider submitted scores, it is not a defining factor to your application. They're mixed opinions about this. However, the test optional policy does give you as more of an opportunity when applying to competitive or reach schools. Besides that, there are also some universities going tests blind where they won't consider an SAT or ACT score at all. As of this recording, Harvard, Stanford, Yale, MIT, Princeton, Brown, and Duke still require an SAT or ACT submission while they make the SAT two or subject test optional. Such as UPenn, Caltech, Dartmouth, Cornell, and Columbia, or making the SAT and ACT optional and are not required if you want the most up-to-date information on the new testing policies for the school year. You can check out the links we provide it to you in this course. Now let's talk about these tests more specifically, the SAT is a more traditional school test, is broken up into two sections, and evidence-based reading and writing section in a map section that says he is a more traditional school test. It's broken up into two sections, and evidence-based reading and writing section and emax section. The reading is 52 questions in 65 minutes, writing 44 questions and 35 minutes math no calculator, 20 questions at 25 minutes, math calculator 38 questions in 55 minutes. The registration fee is $47.50 without the essay and $64.50 with the essay. Act is more of a time test and composed of four sections. English is going to be 75 questions in 45 minutes. Math, 60 questions in 60 minutes, reading 40 questions in that 35 minutes, science, 40 questions in 35 minutes. The registration fee is $46 without the essay and $62.50 with the essay. If costs are financial burden to your family, there are ways to contact the administration and see if they will weigh the feed based on your circumstances? Personally, I was a better test taker at the ACTs. It's known to be more of a timed test, whereas the SAT is more of a traditional test with deeper readings, the best way to see which is the right fit for you is to take multiple practice, test and time situations and see what you score better in and feel more confident. At the end of the day, colleges seriously do not have a specific preference. So take whatever is the best fit for you, tips and strategies. As a veteran of about five or six test prep academies and probably over dozens of practice in real test. I think I might know a thing or two about standardized testing. First off, it's all a game, every single test by the College Board and ACT. It's designed with a blueprint formula that changes ever so slightly each iteration, once you understand the rules and crack the code, each test is just a matter of replicating results. For example, just about every reading section contains some questions like defining a vocab term, analyzing what the author meant in line 19 or how to rearrange this paragraph. Every single one of these questions hasn't answered in the passage. There is nothing you need outside information to answer. Reading a lot of books and writing are advantageous to your success. The best regiment is exposing yourself to as many questions as possible so that when it comes to the real deal, you'll already know exactly how to tackle it. The same thing goes for the math section. A few trigonometry questions, word problems, maybe a few formulas that you'll have to plug numbers into silica till it is your best friend. And having all your area volume in circumference formulas memorize will save you seconds of precious time. Khan Academy has dozens of topics covering every possible question that come up. It's just a matter of recognizing the pattern and using your tactic to solve it. For some people, the hardest part is a ticking clock. If you feel like you're never able to answer all the questions or had to rush through and guess than either answer for you. Speed reading, it sounds simple, but if you start practicing to read faster, it will inherently increased with time you have left to answer questions. Now if you're the nervous type of test taker where your legs are shaking hands or so sweater that you keep dropping your pencil, then force yourself to practice in the exact testing situation you'll be in. Means staying after class to take a practice test in a classroom desk, or having your parents act as a proctor, do whatever you have to do to feel confident when it comes to the big day. For me, I found that taking practice tests over and over again was the most effective method to prepare for these exams. It helped me build up the insurance and sit through a four hour exam and stay mentally focused the entire time? Yes, it's going to suck, but devoting the hours for one or two months will make you so happy with your final outcomes. Remember, test scores are one of the first benchmarks when it comes to your application. So really prioritizing step, finally, always eat breakfast before your test. We can't emphasize enough the importance of a healthy energizing meal before you're stuck in a desk for four hours, wear comfortable clothes, arrive early to find parking. Bring your favorite water bottle, a few snacks, and don't do anything out of your regular routine to psych yourself out or mess with your mojo, walk into that room with your head high and tell yourself you're going to make this test. You're having confidence in thinking with a positive mentality can work wonders on your final score. Please don't be that kid that's waiting in lines still looking at their prep book, trying to cram a few more questions in. At this point, you are either ready or you're not. Also keep in mind that each ties slightly differs in difficulty in topics covered. You may luck out and read about passages you're super interested in and have mostly geometry questions which are your strong suit. On the other hand, you could be hit with complex science readings and Trigonometry problems you've never seen. Life is unfair and so standardized testing, so do the best with the hand you're dealt and make necessary steps after scores come out depending on what it is you need to do. If you walk out of the room and feel like you completely bonded, there's also the option to cancel the score completely so it doesn't show up on your record. Take that advice with caution. Super scoring subject has been sending scores. So after the test you will receive your score report. If you know, uh, colleges, you are going to send your scores as soon as possible. However, always remember you can cancel your scores up to a week after the test if you feel like you really bond it and don't want to showing up on your record what the SAT they give you the option to send for free optional score reports before you actually take the test, meaning that regardless of the score you get, it will be sent to the schools you put down. I personally do not recommend sending anything beforehand as you never know how the real score could fluctuate from your practice tests, although it will cost $12 per report after your test, it's better to sign a confidence score than not being able to take back a test. You tanked sections. Both of the tests have an optional Writing section for an additional fee. If you are aiming for top tier schools, we do recommend taking the writing section as many universities either require it or are favorable for your application researchers specific school to see whether the essay isn't important or mandatory factor of their application. Sat subject tests calls board also offers subject tests in various fields as another marker of academic excellence. Once again, the top schools will require it or highly recommended. These are also offered several times throughout the year and we recommend signing up for two or three in subjects you tend to excel in high school, preparation for these tests is recommended. But if you are already setting for the same API tests and that should suffice. Ap test scoring well on the AP test can be a really good indicator for admissions officers and can also translate to accredited college hours depending on your specific school. While we recommend taking as many AP tests as possible, it's also important to do consistently well on them, rather than three is across the board. Preparation for these exams can be quite difficult to remember to plan ahead, especially if you have multiple tests to tackle. It would also be beneficial to coordinate these tests at the same time as SAT subject tests. So you can kill two birds with one stone.