Friday, December 28, 2012

Tis the Season

Hey everyone! Pweft! This weekend will finally be a relaxing one for me because I finished all my college applications! Most of the regular applications are due by January 1st, so I had to finish everything this week. I am very excited because now I can spend my rest of my Holiday Break doing other fun activities with my family and friends.
Ice Skating at the Del
A couple days ago I celebrated Christmas with my family. I traveled down to San Diego to have Christmas dinner with my grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousin. It was delicious! We even ended the diner with a chocolate cake shaped like a yule log. The next day we went down to the famous Hotel Del in Coronado and ice skated right next to the beach! It was so fun to be able to experience two different climates. Just be careful if you fall--since it is so warm the ice melts fast and leaves puddles of water!
Disneyland with my Friends
I have been doing a lot of other fun things over the break with my friends too. On the first day of Holiday Break my friends and I went to Disneyland! Since I live so close to Disneyland, I can go with my friends for an afternoon or night. We went on all my favorite rides like the big roller coaster called California Screaming and the ride that drops you up and down called Tower or Terror. It was fun and a great way to start off the Holiday Break Season!
Gift Exchange with my Friends
I've also had Christmas baking parties, like I talked about in my last blog, along with a big Christmas gift exchange. All my friends bought presents for each other to celebrate the holidays and we went to dinner and gave them out. I got so many great things like my favorite perfume and a pink necklace.

I hope all of you have a wonderful rest of holiday season! What do you do on holidays with your family and friends? Let me know in the comments!


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holly College-y Christmas

Hey everyone! This last week at school has been pretty hectic because it is the last week before the two week Holiday Vacation we have here in the United States! All high schools have at least two weeks off around this time to celebrate Christmas, New Years, and all the other holidays and most colleges have up to a month off! Because of this large time frame off of school, its the perfect opportunity to spend with family and friends, especially if you have been away at college until now.
For students like me who are in the middle of college applications, Holiday Break is the final time to finish and submit your applications. Since almost all applications are due to schools by the beginning of January, the days off school beforehand are perfect for checking over your applications and making sure they are perfect before you submit them. Once you have submitted all your college apps, you can celebrate by getting together for the holidays with all of your family and friends! I know I will be! I already had a cookie party with all of my friends, where all made and traded different cookies and desserts we made from scratch together. It was delicious!

What do you plan on doing during your Holiday Vacation? How much time do you get off school? Let me know in the comments!


Monday, December 10, 2012

Extraordinary Extracurriculars

My Tennis Team
Model UN Team
Hey everyone!  For most colleges and universities in the US, Extracurricular Activities are an important part of the application process.  They want to know how you have spent your time outside of the classroom, and what talents and interests you have other than academics.   Colleges want their students to be interesting people, ones that will participate in the variety of activities that are offered and help make their school a fun place to be. 
Whether its sports, music debate, drama, or community service, or a part time job, pick something you like to do and get involved!  It’s never too early to start!  Don’t try to do everything.  Pick a few activities that are your favorite and get involved in depth.  Colleges like to see personal development and leadership within a few activities much more than a list of a dozen activities that you just tried out.  As they say, quality is better than quantity!
My blog AmericanAmanda
Volunteering-Serving Meals
to the Military
Some of the extracurricular activities I have been involved in are 4 years on my school’s varsity tennis team and track teams, community service volunteer with the National Charity League, Model United Nations delegate, and of course, American Amanda blogger for the US Embassy in Oslo.  Being involved with each of these areas for several years has given me the chance to hold leadership positions and win awards, plus feel like a had a chance to really make a difference in each one. 
Track and Field Long Jump

The pictures all show a different extracurricular activity I am involved in! 
What extracurricular activities are you involved in?  Let me know in the comments!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Admittance Attitude

Hey everyone! November 30th was the deadline for the public schools in California, the UC schools and Cal State schools, and December 1st was the deadline for applying early to many private schools like USC. (Check out my October 14th post for more on these schools!) However, almost all private colleges have a January 1st deadline for regular decision.  The upside to applying to these institutions early is hearing back from them earlier! A lot of my friends have already heard back from colleges they applied to, and they are all super excited that they are going to college! The great part is there are many different schools you can apply for early, so you might hear back from multiple schools in the end of fall or early winter. You might even get into your dream school early and not have to apply anywhere else!

One of the best parts about applying early is, of course, getting in. Since I am applying to college right now, my friends and I love watching college acceptance reactions on YouTube! Watching other people get so excited when they get into the schools of their dreams motivates you to try for your dream school as well! Plus, they are always funny and a good relaxer during the stressful college application time. Watch my favorite reaction video below! (Watch your volume, there is screaming!)

To everyone who has already submitted early applications: Good luck! You will be hearing back soon and I know you will end up in the perfect school for you.

To everyone who is applying regular or who is too young to apply: It's never too early to start on your application to your dream school! If you put a lot of work into it, who knows what the outcome will be. I know you will also end up in a school perfect for you.

Have you applied to any colleges early? Would you? Let me know in the comments below!


Sunday, November 25, 2012

AmericanAmanda goes to Norway!

Meeting Ambassador White
Speaking about US life
Hey everyone! I just spent the last week in Norway talking to Norwegian students about high school life in America and the US college application process. My first stop was Oslo where I visited three high schools to talk about my life as a US high school student. At night I gave an International Education Seminar about applying to US colleges at the US embassy. I also had a nice meeting with Ambassador White, the US Ambassador to Norway. 
Giving a college application seminar
Then I traveled to Ă…lesund and went to three more high schools and held another Education Seminar. I absolutely loved meeting all the norwegian students and listening to their great questions about life in the United States and applying to colleges! 

If you saw one of my presentations and you read my blog make sure to leave a comment and I will reply to you!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Incredible Interviews

Hey Everyone! In addition to reading all about you through your high school transcript, your list of extracurricular activities, your recommendations, and your personal essays, many private colleges offer personal interviews as another way to learn about whether you would be a good fit at their school.  These interviews are sometimes held at the admission office at the school, but since there isn’t time or resources to interview all applicants that way, most interviews are done by alumni of the school that live all around the country.  That way, applicants can have an interview in the town where they live and don’t have to travel to the school.  The alumni are familiar with the school and will let the admissions office know if they think you will be a good fit for the school after the interview. 

The college interview probably isn't the most important part of your application, but it can help you if you make a good impression. A bad impression may hurt your chances of getting accepted.  An interview is also an important way to let you ask questions about the college and make sure it has everything you are looking for as well.

Before a college interview it is important to prepare like you would for any interview.  Here are some tips:
  1. Research the school- so you can be informed when answering questions 
  2. Think about your responses- to common interview questions-so you can be prepared
  3. Give complete answers - don’t just answer “yew” or “no” to questions.  They want to know as much about you as they can.
  4. Dress neatly- it shows you care about the interview and want to make a good impression
  5. Show interest- by asking questions about the school (that are well thought out and not easily found on the website.)   They want to know that you want to go to their school.
  6. Don’t bring your parents into the room – talk with the interviewer by yourself, that way your parents won’t answer the questions for you.
Check out some common questions asked in college interviews by clicking here!

How do you feel about college interviews? Are you confident in your interviewing skills? Let me know in the comments!


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Rock the Vote!

Hey everyone! This Tuesday my friends and I will take a break from our college applications to follow the 2012 Election.  Republican Mitt Romney is challenging the current President Barack Obama, and the polls show it will be a very close election to determine who will be our next President.  Both parties have differing opinions on alot of policies, so there could be some changes depending on who wins on Tuesday.
In addition to electing the President and other national positions like the representatives of Congress, voters will be deciding on many state and local propositions as well. In the US funding for the public schools and universities is provided by each state, and several of the 2012 propositions for California will affect the amount of money our state will be able to give to its schools.  Because of a tight state budget California has had to cut the funding for its public schools over the last few years, which raises the tuition students have to pay to attend the public universities.   So many students are particularly interested in the election results this year.
To be able to vote in an election is the US, you must be 18 years of age and be registered to vote in the County that you are currently living in.  It’s important to get the word out to high school seniors that when they turn 18 they need to register to vote and then remember to reregister if they move for college or a job to a different county.  There are several websites, like and , that are doing a great job in encouraging young voters to register, get involved, and vote!  Most universities and many high schools have Young Republican or Young Democrat clubs that students have put together who are excited about politics.
Credit for President Obama’s victory in 2008 is often given partly to the 18-29 year old demographic, which provided then-Senator Obama with 66% support over the Republican candidate.  It will be exciting to see whether that will be the case in 2012 or if things have changed.
I am still 17 so won’t be able to vote on Tuesday, but many of my friends who have turned 18 will be going to the polls for the first time! We will all be following the election results Tuesday night.
Check out these videos by young American celebrities encouraging young people to go out and vote!
Who would you vote for in the election? Would you exercise your right to vote? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Being 1st for the 1st

Hey everyone! Happy November 1st!  Many high school seniors are happy today (or they will be at midnight when they finish their application) because today is one of the big deadlines for college applications.  November 1st is the most common date for “early” applications.  One great thing about applying “early” to a college is that they will give you their decision in mid December, months before the “regular” decisions are made. While many private and some public universities offer this option, some say you may only apply to one school “early”, so it’s important to choose wisely! I have already finished and submitted my “early” application this week, so I am very happy today!  Many of my friends will be up late tonight finishing up theirs.  Hopefully they will click “submit” on their computer before midnight!
The private school I applied to “early” accepted the Common Application, which is also accepted by almost 500 other private schools in the U.S.  The Common App required me to include information about myself, my school and my family.  I listed all my extracurricular activities in order of importance to me, and the time I spent on each one during high school.   I asked two of my teachers and my principal to write recommendations, and they sent these all directly to my Common App file.  I also sent in my official school transcript that listed all my classes and the GPA (grade point average) I had achieved during high school.  I ordered my test scores from the SAT and ACT testing boards and these where sent directly to the school.  Finally, I wrote two essays that will be included in my Common Application file.  Most schools have one or two essays and some questions that are specific to their school in addition to all this Common App information, but most of the information is shared by all schools.  Now that my Common Application is finished, I will have much less work when I go to submit the final application for the other schools!
How did you spend your November 1st? How are your college applications coming? Let me know in the comments!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Charismatic California Private Colleges

Stanford University
Hey everyone! California is such a great place to live that many students in high school really want to stay in California for college as well.  Luckily there are over 130 private universities and over 30 public ones in California to choose from, so there’s something for everyone.   Even if you know you want to be in California, its  important to research the schools to find out which have the size, campus culture, entrance requirements and course offerings that fit what is right for you. 
USC Tour
Stanford football game
This fall I visited two of the highly ranked private schools in California, Stanford University in Palo Alto and University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles.  Both schools are highly regarded for their academics, research, and strong sports teams.   Stanford is ranked #5 in the US, and admits only 6% of applicants.  It is very popular with California students for its beautiful weather and location close to San Francisco, along with its outstanding academic programs.  Stanford is very close to what is called “Silicon Valley” , a hub for new technology development.  USC is also very popular and has a strong network of alumni in California.  Along with its traditional academic departments, USC is located in Los Angeles, and therefore has a great Film and Cinematic school with a lot of great opportunities for internships in Hollywood.   As you can guess, both of these schools require high grades and test scores, along with strong essays and teacher recommendations for admittance.  
USC football game
The most popular sport in college is American football, and both Stanford and USC have large football stadiums that fill up with many excited fans for each football game.  They have marching bands and cheer leaders that put on a show during halftime.  It was fun to wear the school “colors” and help cheer on the teams to victory!
Are you a fan of private universities? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Purposeful Public Schools

Hey everyone! In my blog I have been talking about some of the private schools around the US, but each state also has a system of public colleges and universities. The main difference between public and private schools is that the public ones are funded, in part, by tax dollars and subsidies from the state government.  This means that the tuition and fees charged to students that attend these schools is much less than the private schools. Most public universities also tend to be larger and have more students than the private ones.

In California we have two very good systems, known as the University of California (UC) and the California State University (CSU) systems.  UC has 10 campuses in California and all are very popular and well respected.  Each school varies in size and location and “feel” of the campus.  UC Berkeley is ranked as the #1 public university in the United States and UC Los Angeles is ranked #2.  These universities require very good grades and test scores for admittance just like the best private schools, and normally accept the top 12% of students that apply.  They are well respected for academics and research as well as their strong sports teams. There are 23 universities in the CSU system, and these are also very good schools and admit the top 30-50% of students that apply.  Two of the most popular ones in my area are San Diego State and Cal Poly San Louis Obispo.  The CSU schools are known for their practical training and don’t do as much research as the UCs.
Applications for the UC and CSU schools are accepted from October 1-November 30th, so many seniors at my school are busy completing these applications right now.   I have visited the UCLA and UC Berkeley campuses this year and liked both of them.
There are many great choices of colleges and universities in the US.  When selecting which ones to apply to its important to identify your goals and interests, and consider costs, class size, culture and environment of each school before choosing between a public university and private school.
What type of public school would you prefer to go to? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Influential Ivies

Hey everyone! During this crazy college application time, students are applying to colleges all over the country that suit their interests. The group of colleges that get the most applicants are the Ivy Leagues. Only 6-8 percent of applicants get accepted, so it is very important to have a high GPA and test scores for these schools. The name Ivy League is given to the group of eight universities located on the East Coast (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale) that have common interests in academics and athletics. The"ivy" term came from the ivy plants that cover the buildings of these universities. These eight universities are the most challenging to get into in the entire country because of their prestigious appeal in academics as well as research. These eight schools face each other in the Ivy League for sports like American football and basketball. Plus, these universities also have considerable international influence and involvement, making their appeal even higher for all students.

I recently went on a trip to see some of these highly sought out Ivy Leagues and see what made them so popular. The first university I visited was Harvard in Massachusetts. This school, along with Princeton, are ranked number one in the United States. It had a nice campus, surrounded by the pretty college town of Cambridge, and only a bus ride away from the city of downtown Boston. It was fun to tour the campus and city with my family. The next school I visited was Dartmouth in New Hampshire. This school had a more rural feel, with a wide open campus and small shopping area (one street to be exact). The buildings and scenery were beautiful and there were miles of forests surrounding the campus from all sides, perfect for the young adventurer or wilderness explorer.

I also visited Yale in Connecticut. Yale had a metropolitan feel, being surrounded by the city of New Haven. It did not have a college town like Harvard, but instead a entire city outside the campus walls. It was nice to be able to experience the college life and city life in one trip.

These three universities represent the three major environments of the Ivy Leagues: rural, urban, and inbetween. Although they are all unique, they all share some of the same things like rich architecture, four distinct seasons, and of course, prestigious academic and athletic appeal. With so many options, everyone can find an environment perfect for them.

Which Ivy League would you apply to? Are you applying to more than one? Let me know in the comments!


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Essays that Excel

Hey everyone! One important, and also time consuming, part of the college application process are the application essays.  Along with school transcripts, test scores, and recommendations, most private and many public universities require students to write one or more essays to add to their application.  The essay question might be to write about yourself, to write why you would like to attend a certain college or university, or to give an answer to a specific question, like “who do you most admire and why” or “what’s important?”  Right now I am in the middle of working on essays for several different schools I am applying to.  It’s always a challenge to fit these in along with school work and fall sports, but it has to be done!

It’s important to do your own writing when completing the essays, and to be yourself, as colleges can quickly see if an essay doesn’t sound like the words of a high school student.  But it’s always good to talk over essay topics first with your parents and other adults, and definitely have them proofread it to make sure it’s the best it can be.  It’s also good to do plenty of research on each college you are applying to, so when they ask “why do you want to go here?” you can answer with specific reasons that help them see what a good fit you will be for their school.
Here is a link to some more advice on what to expect from college essays from the College Board:

What are you gonna write your essay about? Let me know in the comments!


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lovely Letters

Hey everyone! Another step that is very important to your college application process is letters of recommendation.  Almost all private universities require letters of recommendation from a counselor and teachers, but most public schools do not. Since I am applying to a lot of private schools, this aspect of the application is very important to me.
Most of the time you are assigned to a school counselor who write about you, but the teachers are completely by choice. Because of this, it is very important you choose wisely. Try to pick teachers not just because you got a good grade in their class, but because they know you on a deeper level. Teachers who know about your work ethic and leadership can write a much more convincing letter to colleges about your academic ability than a teacher who knows nothing about you. Sometimes the best letters emerge from the classes your got lower grades in, because the teachers can comment on how hard you tired and you really worked for the grade you got. Some colleges require only one letter, but most require a letter from two teachers. The teachers who are writing your letters should also be teachers or a core curriculum class like math or science. I chose my United States History/Model UN teacher and Calculus teacher who is also my tennis coach because they both know me on levels both in and out of school.
Since the required letters must be from core curriculum classes, there is also opportunity to summit one or two additional letters from teachers, coaches, or any individual whose letter could add to your application. Pick a person who is unique to something you do, like the advisor of a club or community service coordinator.
All in all, the letter of recommendation is just one part of the rigorous process that is college applications. But with the right preparation and pick, it should be smooth sailing.

Who would write your letter of recommendation for college? Let me know in the comments!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Advanced Applications, College Credentials

Hey everyone! When applying to colleges, you have three main choices for your application: early decision, early action, or regular decision. Regular decision is pretty self explanatory. I am applying to practically all my schools regular decision, which means that I fill out and summit all my applications by the first week of January. However, early decision and early action are a bit more complicated. Below, I will tell you all about early decision and early action: the pros, the cons, and what I recommend.

Early Decision
When you apply for a school early decision, that means you summit your application for the one school you want to apply early around November. Early decision plans are binding. That means if you apply to a school and are accepted you must attend. As an early decision applicant, you apply early to your favorite school and receive a decision early, normally by December. You must attend that school unless you have a financial restraint. You can only apply to one college early decision, but as many colleges regular decision as you want. However if you are accepted to your early decision school, you must withdraw all other applications.

Early Action
While you still apply to one specific school in Novemember for early action, the plan is nonbinding, which means students recieve an early response to their application but do not have to commit to the college until the normal reply date of May 1st. When applying early, you receive your admission decision early like January or February and are allowed to apply to other colleges during the regular decision application process. Most schools have restrictive early action, so you can only apply to one. If you are accepted, you have until may first to give your decision.

Applying early is not for everyone. Only apply to a school early if you have researched the college, are sure it is your number one, have found a strong match academically, socially, and geographically, meet the SAT and GPA averages, and have a solid academic record. Personally, I am not ready to commit to a school yet, so I am applying early action to one school, and regular decision to the rest. But ultimately the choice is up to you. Start thinking about schools and preparing early so if you want to apply early, you are ready!

Find out more about Early Decision vs. Early Action by clicking here.

Would you apply early to your first choice college? Let me know in the comments!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Common Colleges

Hey everyone! September is a very exciting, and stressful, month for seniors. This is because it is the first month where college applications are well underway! I am starting my applications this month, and am already feeling the work! However, it is a very interesting process to go through, as you decide where you want to spend your next four years.
The Common Application is
an application accepted by 488 private schools in the United States. I am applying to many private schools, so I am using the Common App a lot. When starting my applications, the first step I did was set up an account.
The Common App is an application that can be hand written or filled in online. In addition to the general information most colleges require supplemental essays or information along with the Common App. There are even some private colleges that do not accept the Common App, and you have to fill out a separate application if you want to apply to them.
The Common App is very user friendly and easy to use. It opens August 1st every year, so I started checking it out early and did some work over the summer.
Once I made an account, I started adding the schools I wanted to apply to. Then I started filling out the basic information about myself, my school record, and my testing history. Teacher and school counselor recommendations are also needed, so be prepared to ask a teacher you think can write a good and meaningful letter about you. Once all the data is filled, letters are written, and essays are finished, I will be ready to summit my application! Over the next couple of months, I will continue to work on my Common Application. But since this application is just for private schools, I still have to fill out more applications for my state schools. It's a lot of work, but it is worth it to find the perfect school for me!

To find out more about the Common App, click here

Where do you plan on applying to college? Is it a Common App school? Let me know in the comments!


Monday, September 3, 2012

5 Tips for the College Application Superstar

Hey everyone! Now that summer is over and the school year is upon us, I will be starting a new segment all about the college application process. I am starting my senior year of high school here in the United States, and my blog will keep you updated on everything you need to know about the college application process as I go through it! Here is an overview of some of the things I will be talking about that you can do in high school to get ready for the application process.

1. Enroll in challenging classes and take them seriously
We all know that hard classes can be, well, difficult. However, colleges also know this and will reward you for challenging yourself. The level of coursework and your GPA (Grade Point Average) is important. Honors and AP (advance placement) classes, generally, add extra points to your GPA, so you may get an extra boost. Beginning in freshman or sophomore year, take the most challenging classes you can and do your best. Seek outside tutoring (often available free from older students) on difficult subjects. 
2. Get involved outside the classroom
Show that you have passions outside of school. Whether it's sports, music, drama, debate, community service, or other school clubs, select  2-3 extracurriculars that interest you. Don't join every club you come in contact with. Instead, focus on a few that demonstrate your interest and work towards leadership positions. Show the admissions team that you have leadership qualities.
3. Prepare for the SAT or the ACT early
Your score on these tests matter, so take the time to prepare early in your junior year. You can take these tests as many times as you want, so start early incase you may want to retake them. You can study review books or attend review sessions to help improve your score. Give yourself time to take the tests more than once to improve your score before senior year. 
4. Research colleges and universities
There are almost 3000 colleges and universities in the US, so you can find a school that is a perfect fit for you. Take time to research the details of different schools online. Schools vary by size, location, specialties, student body, and cost. Many offer generous financial aid and scholarships. If you are able, try to drive or fly to visit schools that interest you. Get a feel for the campus and meet current faculty and students.
5. Choose summer experiences that highlight your interest

Use your summer breaks during high school wisely. Look for summer jobs, programs, classes, or camps that demonstrate your interest and give you experience in your areas of interest. Internships are another fun and responsible way to show colleges your interests and responsibility

How are you getting ready to apply to college? Let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Even the Sun Sets in Paradise

Hey everyone! This will be my last post in my summer series here on American Amanda! Next, I will begin to write all about school and the college application process.

Since summer is coming to a close, last weekend my friends and I all traveled to a nearby vacation spot for a fun girls weekend! We traveled to Palm Springs, which is a few hours inland from where I live. Since it is in the desert, the temperature was around 105 degrees Fahrenheit, or 40.5 degrees Celsius. Talk about your heat wave! Since it was so hot, we spent most of the time near the pool. Don't forget your lemonade smoothies to keep cool! It was fun to be able to have a mini-vacation without being far from home.

Lots of people are going on vacations now before summer ends. Some are traveling far places, like sea cruises to Canada or trips to Europe. Most people, though, are staying close to home and traveling to places like Palm Springs, Lake Havasu in Arizona, or Lake Tahoe in Nevada. Since the weather is so hot, its important to be near water! Happy tripping!

How are you spending your last few weeks of summer? And if you are already in school, what was your favorite summer memory? Let me know in the comments!