ResourcesA Collection of Useful Links and Information



Your Pre-College Inventory is here to help you determine your strengths and interests as they pertain to a potential college major and ultimately a career. The RichardStep Strengths and Weaknesses Aptitude Test (RSWAT) is a tool to help you get a better look at who you really are and how much you could grow. Other links give insight to high school jobs that lead to careers based on your interests and personality.

How to Find the Right College for You

Use these guides to:

  • Learn about some key college search categories.
  • Answer questions to discover what's important to you.
  • Get advice from college students and educators.

4 Ways College Counselors Can Increase Access for Underrepresented Students


KhanAcademy offers free online practice tests for SAT reading, writing, and math exams. This interactive site also explains reasoning behind the correct answers to help students prepare for their tests.

The ACT online test prep guide, with practice questions and optional writing test samples

Navigating the Common Application

The Common Application is accepted by nearly 700 colleges, and for many students is a convenient way to navigate the application process. This site also provides tips on how to fill out the application.

An unprecedented coalition of diverse public and private colleges and universities has come together to improve the college admission application process for all students. The Coalition has developed a free platform of online tools to streamline the experience of applying to college. The initial iteration of the platform is now available for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors in high school

Tips for Writing a College Essay

Don’t let grades and test scores tell your whole story – the essay gives you a chance to let your personality shine through the paperwork. Admissions counselors cite the essay as the most important part of the application because it allows them to imagine how you would “fit in” on campus.

Starting Gate's Essay Writing Tips

How to “Demonstrate Interest” in College (or why Facebook posts matter)

From your first visit through the entire application process, Admissions officers keep track of your interactions with them. From Facebook likes to thank-you notes it all goes in your file for consideration.

Financial Aid Questions Answered

Yes the forms are overwhelming but help is available. Instructions for completing your financial aid profile are found at these sites. For the first time this year, the financial aid window will open on October 1, and you and your parents will not have to file your 2016 taxes before submitting your application.

6 Ways Colleges and Universities Award Financial Aid

FAFSA Resources for You and Your Students

For Shippers (International Students)

Talking About TOEFL

Free Sample TOEFL reading, listening, speaking, structure, and vocabulary tests are available at these sites.

International students are not eligible for U.S. federal and state scholarships, but that doesn’t mean they have to go it alone. Both these sites focus on funding only for international students attending college in the United States.

Campus visits are often cost-prohibitive for international students, so essays become even more important. Examples of essays written by accepted international students are found here.

This handy pocket guide is a trusted source to help in the application process

Have you heart set on an Ivy League School? Here’s what it takes to get in.

Search Resources

Write the Perfect Essay - Our Top Ten List

The 5 DONT's

1. Don't be Christopher Columbus
"Coming to America" essays fail to impress admissions committees because every other international applicant can more or less tell the same story.

2. Don't be the Town Crier
Town criers used noise makers and antics to attract attention to their message. Personalize your essay, but do it with words, not bells and whistles.

3. Don't be Pinocchio
Always tell the truth. Don't diminish or embellish your story and do not borrow stories from others for your essay.

4. Don't be Your Parents
Your parents aren't going to college, you are! Trust your gut and write your story. Be sure to have third-party readers review your essay.

5. Don't be a Chameleon
Don't blend in! You are unique, let that shine through your essay. You are not the right choice for every university and every university is not the right choice for you.


The 5 DO's

1. Be like Rocky Balboa
Don't underestimate your ability to be accepted to a reach school - underdogs can come out on top! If writing about a failure, be sure to also focus on how you grew from the experience.

2. Be like Caesar
"Rome wasn't built in a day." It takes time to make good things happen. Give yourself plenty of time to write and review. Revise after reflection.

3. Be like Aristotle
Master the "Art of Persuasion." Understand your audience, and what you hope to accomplish as you write your essay.

4. Think like The New York Times
Proof read and then proof read again. Don't exceed word count maximums and respect deadlines. Clean up your social media!

5. Think like the Smithsonian
Have a diary? Use it. Life artifacts trigger memories which inspire essays. Multi-media is great! Consider adding a video or portfolio if allowed and if your work reflects your best efforts

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Contact Info


Starting Gate is here to help students peruse the College Condition Book and select schools that match their academic interests, personal goals and professional aspirations. Please contact us to start your customized plan.


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