5 must-have tips for writing college application essays

You want to stand out. The application essay is your chance to let your college admissions office know who you are, and why you would be great at their school. Yet, on the practical side, you’re a busy senior with a calculus test on Friday. Here are five ways to create an interesting essay in a streamlined fashion:

  • Don’t reinvent the wheel. Between college and scholarship applications, you may have several essays to write, and many of them may ask the same type of questions. So don’t start from scratch each time you compose an essay. After you write your first essay, see if you can pull out sections that you can re-work and apply for other essays. It’s not just cutting and pasting, of course, you’ll need to modify each section according to the essay you’re writing.
  • Spend more time editing than writing. Your essay should reflect some of your very best writing, which will require some serious editing time. Get your thoughts down fairly quickly. Starting with a simple outline, write first without worrying about things being perfectly well-said or in the perfect order—that’s what editing is for. Once you’ve got a very rough draft written, go back and re-work things. This is the time to fix your grammar, move things around, and consider whether some sections need tweaking. Take a break from it and come back the next day. You’ll be surprised at what you see with fresh eyes and how much easier it is to focus on editing, rather than shooting for perfection out of the gate.
  • Get their attention. Remember that the people who will be reading your essay likely read hundreds of them. You want to stand out. Spend some time to make sure your title and opening paragraph are interesting and attention-getting. Imagine you only have a few seconds to grab their attention. What would you say? Consider your style for getting someone’s attention. Do you say something simple and intriguing? Or are you prone to bold statements? Maybe your style is more quirky. There are many ways to capture attention: say something unexpected, ask an interesting question, or spin a story that draws a person in. Choose what works for you and go with it.
  • Let your voice come through. While you certainly want your essay to be interesting and attention-getting, you also want it to sound like you. Be genuine. Use your best grammar and punctuation, of course, but let your style and personality shine through. Start out by writing how you actually speak—pretend you’re talking to a friend. Then go back and edit it for grammar, etc.
  • Get feedback from someone in the know. Once you have completed your best possible work, have someone else also review to make sure you didn’t overlook anything. This could be your English teacher, your parent, or another adult with good grammar and writing skills.
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Planning ahead for financial aid

Picture yourself moving to college next fall: unpacking, organizing your dorm, meeting your roommate, learning your way around campus. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to focus on these things because you already know how you will cover your first semester’s tuition?

In order to keep things running smoothly next fall, you’ll want to get organized now. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Meet with your school counselor. Your school counselor is a great place to start learning about your financial aid options. Ask about local scholarship opportunities that might be available to you.

Keep track of scholarship deadlines. November is National Scholarship Month, so this is the perfect time to get started searching for scholarships if you haven’t already. As you come across scholarships that you want to apply for, be sure to note the deadlines and keep track of them on a master calendar so you don’t miss any opportunities.

Attend a financial aid night. If your school hosts a financial aid night, be sure to attend – and ask your parents to join you. These nights are a great way to learn more and ask questions about financial aid options that are available to you.

Have a family talk about finances. Make sure you and your parents are on the same page about who’s paying for what when it comes to college costs. Are your parents covering any part of your tuition? Will you be expected to get a job during the school year? Take time to talk it out so there are no surprises next year.

Complete the FAFSA in January. The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Schools use this form to award most types of financial aid, so you and your parents should complete this application together as soon as possible after January 1.

Review your award letters. The schools you’re considering will send an award letter that lists the financial aid you’re eligible to receive. Evaluate the award letters carefully to determine what your actual college costs will look like.

Explore student loan options. If you need extra funding to cover your education costs, carefully compare all your options. There are government and private financing options available to help cover the gap.

For more information and tips on the financial aid process, be sure to watch our Financial Aid Journey in 5 Steps videos at wellsfargo.com/fivesteps. Mr. Fellows will help you through the financial aid process so you can understand the options available to help you pay for college.

How does your family handle paying for college? Share your tips and ideas with us on The Wells Fargo Community.

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Fraud awareness

This week, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners is sponsoring International Fraud Awareness Week, and Wells Fargo is proud to support this effort. Now is a great time to brush up on your awareness in detecting and preventing fraud, and learning more about the steps Wells Fargo takes to protect you and your accounts from suspicious activity.

Fraud is more than just having your debit or credit card number stolen. People steal your personal information—like your social security number, date of birth, or address—and use your identity to apply for loans and credit cards, use your health insurance, and more. And fraudsters are now using social media to get this information.

Here are some tips to stay safe online:

  • Use multiple passwords. Don’t use the same password for your online banking that you use for anything else. And remember to not to use easily guessed passwords—use symbols and numbers to make your password harder to guess or engineer. Many fraudsters use software to test thousands of passwords to hack accounts, and complicated ones are harder to crack.
  • Enable two-step verification. Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, and Apple iCloud all offer a double layer of protection on your accounts so logins from unknown devices require a second password that is texted to you. This extra layer of security prevents others from accessing your personal information without access to your phone.
  • Limit the amount of personal information you post. Be especially guarded with your address or information about your schedule or routine. And make sure you monitor what your connections post about you.
  • Evaluate your settings. Sites like Facebook change their privacy options, so review your security and privacy settings regularly. To be safe, in case settings change unexpectedly, don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want the public to see.
  • Be wary of third-party applications. Use caution when deciding which applications to enable and, when possible, limit the amount of information the applications can access. Think about third party applications that connect using your Facebook or Twitter account for an easier registration and login—make sure you only enable ones with companies you know and trust.

Be on the lookout for imposter fraud in social media. Be very cautious about connecting with people you don’t know or recognize. Fraudsters create fake personas and try to connect with multiple people from one organization—like your high school or college—so they look like a mutual acquaintance. Then, once you’re connected, this person sends malicious links through e-mail, chat, videos or a direct message. If you click it, your device will likely be compromised and that imposter now has access to more easily hack into your accounts and files.

Wells Fargo is always working to help protect you and your accounts from fraudulent activity. In an effort to help prevent fraud, we continually monitor cardholder accounts for unusual patterns and activity, and if we believe the security of a debit card or credit card is at risk, we take actions to help safeguard your account. You should also know that Wells Fargo Credit Cards and Debit Cards are protected by Zero Liability. This means if a Wells Fargo Credit Card or Debit Card or its card number is ever lost, stolen or used without cardholder authorization and the cardholder provides us with prompt notification, a cardholder will not be held liable for any unauthorized transactions made at merchants, over the phone, on the Internet or at the ATM. (Refer to the applicable Wells Fargo account agreement for information on liability for unauthorized use.)

Be sure to follow Wells Fargo on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ where we share tips for helping to protect yourself against fraud, and visit our Fraud Information Center to learn more about common scams. The more precautions you take, and the more awareness you have of these scams, the safer you, your identity and your money will be from fraudulent attempts.

Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. Member FDIC.

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Parents: how to help navigate the road to college

As your student prepares to head to college, where do you fit in? They’ll likely need your help and guidance, but may also want to do some of the planning on their own.

One approach is to take on the role of “coach” when it comes to college planning. Offer guidance and suggestions, but let your student do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to seeking scholarships, submitting college applications and applying for financial aid.
How can you help?

Staying on track for college applications
The college application process involves a number of different steps and many different deadlines. Help your student stay on track with these tips:
• Help your student manage multiple college application deadlines
• Talk about handling letters of recommendation: who to reach out to, giving them enough time, thanking those who write letters
• Discuss essay-writing: creating timelines for completion, asking for a teacher or mentor to review it

College prep
The summer before college is a busy time. You can help your student map out a game plan for getting everything done.

Here’s a list to get you both started:
• Plan to attend college orientation with your student, and discuss who to meet with when you’re there.
• Talk with your student about banking options during college and set up any accounts he or she may need.
• Discuss good money management tips and banking habits with your child.
• Have your student make a college packing list early in the summer.
• Purchase items over the summer months to help spread out the cost.

Researching financial aid
For many families, figuring out how to pay for college is probably one of your top priorities. As talk about college gets more serious, here are some tips for discussing the financial details with your student:

• Discuss how much money your family plans to contribute toward your student’s college education.
• Discuss choosing a school that will both meet your student’s needs and be within budget.
• Talk early and often about options to pay for college, including grants and scholarships.
• Attend a financial aid night together with your student.
• Encourage planning ahead for deadlines to complete tasks like college and scholarship applications.

Tell us how you’re supporting your student >

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Stay on top of deadlines

It’s senior year, and the clock is ticking.   It seems that your final year of high school is all about deadlines. While you can’t control the timeline you’re under to complete paperwork and applications, you can manage your deadlines and stay on track.

A master calendar is key. Start by creating a master calendar of all your deadlines and commitments. Build it out as far as you know it and include everything, such as: scholarship application deadlines, college application deadlines, financial aid nights, and financial aid application deadlines. Use this same calendar to plug in important dates for all your school and extra-curricular activities. Using a single calendar will help you notice if you have an important scholarship application due the same weekend that you’ll be traveling for a sports tournament. Seeing all your commitments in one place can give you a sense of control and understanding of how to budget your time.

Share your calendar. Once you create your master calendar, consider sharing it with your parents. It will help them get a better understanding of what you’ve got going on, and it allows them to help you manage your deadlines and plan family activities accordingly. Plus, some things on your calendar should be on theirs as well, including financial aid nights and financial aid application deadlines.

Set mini-deadlines. If you know you’ve got a deadline looming a month or more away, set mini-deadlines for yourself, to stay on track. For instance, if you need to have a scholarship application essay ready to go at the end of December, set a deadline for completing an outline, and another for completing a first-draft. Large tasks aren’t nearly as overwhelming if you break them up into smaller tasks, but setting—and honoring—those deadlines is key.

Reward yourself. There’s a lot of work to be done during your senior year, so be sure to build in rewards for yourself along the way. Keep yourself committed to those deadlines you’ve set by planning treats for yourself. Did you finish a draft of that college application essay? Check. Head to a movie with your friends! Rewards will help keep you focused and ensure that you build in some fun along the way.

Check out our list of great calendar apps to get started!

Once you have a calendar, download our helpful reminders to keep you on track during your senior year!

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College Hacks: Soda Bottle Speakers

Soda bottle speaker
Sometimes you need a sixty-second dance party during a study break. But your phone’s dinky little speaker isn’t going to cut it. What will cut it is a 2-liter soda bottle. Cut a slot for your phone, cut off the top, and hit “Play.” Instant smooth jams, as loud as you want them.
Soda bottle speaker in use
Studying, like dancing, is often more fun with other people. Check out the benefits of studying with friends.

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College Hacks: Easy Bookshelves

Easy Bookshelves
Don’t chuck those handy plastic moving crates in the trash when you’re done moving into your college living space. And don’t worry about having no place to store them. Tie those crates together with a few zip ties and boom: instant bookshelf. A good way to organize the space.
Easy Bookshelves
Speaking of packing for college: here are 9 things you don’t need to worry about packing.

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Connect with your school counselor

As a high school senior, you have a busy year ahead with many decisions to make about college. Your school counselor is a great person to help guide you through this important time in your life.

Even if you’ve never visited with your school counselor before, take some time to connect soon. Below are a few topics to help get you started with your discussion, but don’t expect to cover all these in one session. Plan to stay in regular touch with your school counselor throughout your senior year and be sure to come prepared with any materials or questions you may have about the topic at hand.

Scholarships. Get help deciding which scholarships to apply for and determining who you might ask for a recommendation, if needed. Your school counselor may have knowledge of local scholarships that are available, as well as tips on how to conduct an online search for scholarship opportunities. Ask questions about how to organize your scholarship search and manage deadlines if you’re concerned about the process.

College choice. Your school counselor can help you narrow down your list of schools and get started on your applications. As with scholarships, your school counselor may have some ideas about who to contact about letters of recommendation. Be sure to come prepared with a list of schools you’re considering, what you like about each one and any questions or concerns you have about your college search. Be open to ideas your school counselor may have about additional schools to consider.

SAT/ACT scores. Hopefully you’ve already taken the SAT or ACT test at least once. Discuss your score(s) with your school counselor, and what they mean to your college and scholarship application process. If your score(s) were higher than you anticipated, perhaps it may open the door to a college you hadn’t previously considered. On the flip side, if your score(s) are not quite as high as you would have hoped, your school counselor may have some advice about how to maximize your options.

Academic progress. Talk with your school counselor about your grades and class ranking. Find out whether either of these will impact the colleges you apply to or scholarships you’re seeking. Talk with your school counselor about strategies for keeping your grades up, even after you’ve been accepted to college—many colleges will ask for a final transcript of your grades.

Your counselor is not the only important person that you should plan to connect with. Take a look at 5 more people to have in your corner for senior year.

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College Hacks: Tablet Cinema

Tablet cinema
Watching TV with your sweetie doesn’t need a TV room. Or even a TV. Load up your tablet with whatever you want to watch, grab a few removable hooks, and you’ll be able to set up a screening anywhere you like.
Tablet cinema
Helpful way to do a date on the cheap. Read up on doing a vacation on the cheap right here.

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College Hacks: Shoebox Projector

Shoebox projector

Shoebox projector

The whole world’s your cinema, provided you’ve got a shoebox and a good blank space to project. All you’ve got to do is add a magnifying glass and your trusty smartphone and you can watch anything you want, anywhere. Don’t forget to bring the popcorn and someone to cling to if the movie gets scary.
Shoebox projector as built

Shoebox projector as built

The Shoebox Projector is one sensible way to stick to a budget. Here’s a few more tips for you to check out.

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