How to Apply to College as an Introvert


NBC News interviewed deans and admissions counselors at top universities this week for tips on how introverted students can best showcase their talents in college admissions.

According to Seth Allen, Pomona College’s dean of admissions, “‘Being introspective can be particularly useful when it comes to the college essay…Introverted applicants can showcase their deep or divergent thinking through the essays.”

Hughes College Prep can help introverts and extroverts alike harness their personality in their college essays, and figure out how to best express what might not come through in their resume or activities list.

Other admissions officials offered advice on how to navigate college fairs and interviews, which might be stressful to shyer students. They recommend that you meet with your admissions officer one-on-one in person or over Skype, if possible, and bring along a list of questions or resume, which can be helpful safety nets if you get nervous about what to say or ask.

When visiting schools, sitting in on courses and joining tours might be easier than meeting with current students or professors individually, but both are fruitful. College will be a time to expand socially no matter what, so you should take the opportunity to get outside your comfort zone.

Letters of recommendation might help the introverts of the world too. Sara Harberson, founder of Admissions Revolution, recommended that “students seek out the teachers who ‘get them” and can write to their strengths in the classroom and out of it, that might not be as obvious.”

Other tips that we have for you, introverted or not? Try to apply to the kinds of schools that will be the right social fit (this might be determined by size, region or community-feel — is a great resource to mine for the student perspective on social fit), but know that you’ll discover your niche wherever you end up. Keep in mind that spending time on your essays, applications, and test prep might be a strain on your summer and fall, but will pay off later.
Read the full article here. Check out our post from last week on helping introverts thrive in school. Or contact us to get started on helping your college applications express the real you.


6 Ways to Get Outside and Stay Outside in College

  1. Take a Pre-Orientation wilderness trip. These end-of-summer trips, typically led by current students, take new freshman backpacking, paddling, or mountain climbing for a few days with other incoming freshmen before orientation. These trips are a great opportunity to learn about the recreation opportunities around your campus and head into orientation already knowing a group of people. As an upperclassmen you can lead and organize these trips to return that sense of adventure to a new class.
  1. Join an outdoor club. Some schools have clubs specific to a sport– rock climbing, kayaking, hiking, mountaineering– while others have one central outdoor club or program that runs numerous types of trips. Trips can range from beginner friendly around town to serious rock climbing adventures at Joshua Tree and are usually student led. Look into your outdoor club options at the rec center, or check out the athletic department on campus for a list of their resources. One perk of joining? Outdoor programs are also a way to network for some sweet and active summer jobs.
  1. Use the gear rental center early and often. Most universities have a gear center on campus that offers super cheap or free rentals for a variety of outdoor equipment, including things as exciting as kayaks or rafts, or as necessary as sleeping bags and stoves for a weekend trip.
  1. Get trained. Avalanche Certification, Wilderness First Aid, Swift Water Rescue: these classes and more might be offered at your future college, often at a discounted rate for students. Outdoor education classes are a great way to build on skills you already have or to build your confidence.
  1. Practice at the gym or rock climbing wall. Are you too busy studying to hit the peaks or slopes every weekend? Stay in shape and practice at the university’s gym. Many universities and colleges have indoor climbing walls, pools and gym equipment. If a state-of-the-art gym is important to you, this is a great thing to look into ahead of time on their website, particularly if the winters are long and hard, or if your course load prevents you from exploring too much off campus.

6. Sign up for a semester program. There are a number of interesting semester-long courses that are offered to students regardless of which university you attend. A few examples include Semester At Sea, Outward Bound Semester, or NOLS semester. Make sure ahead of time that the credit transfers, but you can always look outside your school’s offerings and see if other programs offer what it might lack.

How to Harness the Power of Quiet Kids

This week, NPR interviewed participants in the Quiet Summer Institute, a professional development program which encourages teachers to help introverted kids participate more effectively in the classroom. Heidi Kasevich, an educator who created curriculum which utilizes Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, described how educators are learning to harness the energy of all their students– not just the extroverts and those eager to raise their hands first.

Kasevich describes how “‘There are expectations on our kids to…be a charismatic extrovert…’ (and) teachers tend to give more attention to the louder students.”

However, teachers at the Quiet Summer Institute are discussing how to effectively help more introverted students thrive in the classroom, while also “reimagining class participation” as “classroom engagement.” This means, teachers use acronyms like “W-A-I-T” which stands for “Why Am I Talking?” to help kids give each other the space to participate in different ways.

Kasevich describes how “‘Personality might be some of it…and we also might have kids who are quiet because they have been shut down. We might have kids that are quiet because they anticipate being shut down whether they have been or not.’”

She and Cain’s book suggest that introverts might not be shutting down in learning environments for lack of trying or out of fear, but because of inherent biases in the education and social system, like stereotypes or trouble at home.

Kasevich’s curriculum offers alternatives to a dialogue-driven classroom, like “drawing, writing, or working in pairs.” Educators from across the country came together to brainstorm new ideas and models for classroom engagement that works for all students.

Read the full article here. If you’d like to hear more about Susan Cain’s theories on the power of introverts, check out her TED Talk. Hughes College Prep offers the kind of one-on-one mentorship that helps introverts thrive, and find the future school that will be a great fit for their learning style.

The Best Majors for Outdoor Lovers

So you want to be outside? Not every major requires equal parts library and computer time. Plenty of majors in both the humanities and STEM will help get you out of the dorm and into the field. They might even lead you to a life far away from a desk job, where you can breathe fresh air every day in your work environment (and preserve that air quality for future generations).

Outdoor Recreation:

According to Eastern Washington University, students pursuing an Outdoor Recreation major “will learn basic technical skills and leadership skills in activities such as backpacking, whitewater boating, winter camping, rock climbing, and mountaineering. In addition to a degree, students will obtain other certificates relevant to the outdoor industry.” Other colleges who offer the major include Colorado Mountain College, Northern Michigan University, George Mason University and Western Washington University.


Ecology majors will be prepared to do field work at ecological sites and attend lectures and labs about living systems. Some careers in ecology include: research scientist, field ecologist, environmental planner/consultant, park naturalist.

Colleges that offer Ecology as a major: Beloit College, Boston University, Columbia University, Emory University, and Northwestern University (and many more).


If the cross-section of hard science and policy appeals to you and your academic interests, consider majoring in Forestry. According to UC Berkeley, a Forestry and Natural Resources major “focuses on the conservation and restoration of the earth’s natural resources through hands-on study of the ecology, stewardship, and management of forest, woodland, and grassland ecosystems. The program offers concentrations in forestry and natural sciences and in human dimensions of natural resources, and qualifies students for the Registered Professional Forester’s licensing exam in California. Topics studied include wildlife and conservation biology, ecosystem restoration, rangeland management, water policy, fire science, GIS and remote sensing, environmental justice, and rural sociology. Students participate in an 8-week summer field program in the Sierra Nevada.”

Programs in Forestry are offered at University of Montana, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Humboldt State University, and Michigan State University among others.


Outdoor Education/ Adventure Education:

Do you want to work outdoors in leadership positions? Plymouth State College describes their Adventure Education major as a path for those who “ typically don’t have 8-to-5 jobs. We are often out 24/7. Similarly, many of the Adventure Education field-based courses meet all afternoon, over weekends, over spring break, after the spring semester ends in May, and at other times that do not match the traditional college schedule. For example, you may have a paddling class or rock climbing class that leaves at 6:00 AM Saturday morning. You need to show up alert, ready to learn, and practice safety. You will often be out days or weeks at a time. Some of this time in the wilderness you will be cold, tired, wet or hungry. This schedule and commitment may not allow you to participate in an athletic team or hold a part-time job some semesters. You will also need to commit to working summer jobs at a camp or outdoor program, in order to accumulate 60 days of experience as a prerequisite for the Adventure Education Internship.”

Colleges where you can major in Adventure Education: Fort Lewis College, Prescott College, Northland College, and Southern Oregon University.


Would you rather document the landscape or turn it into art, rather than study its moving pieces? Photojournalism might be the ideal track for your adventurous and artistic sides, while also giving you a practical skillset for a journalism career. Syracuse University’s Newhouse School describes the photojournalism track as “the excitement of being in the field capturing a story as it unfolds or telling a story of the human condition using images, sound and text.”

Check out photojournalism tracks at University of Missouri, Ohio University, University of Miami and Bradley University.

Sustainability Studies/Environmental Science and Policy:

More and more universities are offering Sustainability tracks and majors for their students preparing for environmental studies with a focus on climate change and sustainability practices. Not only will you get to focus your studies on the outdoors, but you’ll be preserving natural landscapes for generations to come.

University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, University of Montana-Western, Smith College and NYU all offer Sustainability or Environmental Policy tracks for their students.

Hughes College Prep has an expert to help you bridge the gap between choosing a major with great benefits and getting a job with benefits. Next week, we’ll explore options outside of a major if you’re dedicated to being outdoors during your college experience, and careers to explore once you’ve graduated.

5 Things to Read This Summer to Get Ahead on College Application Season

1. The freshman summer reading assignment for colleges on your list. Most universities require all their freshman to read the same assigned book before arriving on campus in the fall. This reading assignment is a telling text for what you might be reading in college, or what universities you’re researching might value. Even if you don’t finish the book for every school on your list, you might learn a lot in the process. Some examples of past freshman reading assignments include: The Proving Ground, The Things They Carried, Mountains Beyond Mountains, Bad Feminist, and All the Light We Cannot See. You can usually find past assignments on the Current Students tab on each school’s website.

2. Something for fun! Anything! Reading (including Hunger Games or other entertaining series) can do a lot to help with your writing and literacy skills, in addition to boosting your standardized test scores. Even STEM fields require lots of reading when you get to college, so it’s a good thing to learn to enjoy early. This includes the internet! Just because you’re reading on a computer, doesn’t mean you’re not digesting information. If you don’t like the novels you’ve been assigned in school, read articles from reputable publications on topics that you’re excited about. Everything helps. And you might learn a little in the process.

3. Personal essays. This is the genre that the Common Application essay and so many other admissions essays are written in. Familiarize yourself with this genre, and you’ll have a much easier time writing in it. The fun thing about personal essays is you get to read about — you guessed it — personal things. Check out Tina Fey or Amy Poehler’s personal essays for a humorous bent, or Joan Didion for something more serious.

4. Your SAT/ACT test prep book. We know it’s not glamorous, but they have some excellent tips! The more you become comfortable with the format of the SAT and ACT, the easier time you’ll have facing the test in the fall or spring. Know which passages tend to trip you up (Natural Science? Prose? Social Sciences? Humanities?) and which you can breeze through. If you time yourself on the reading sections, even without answering any of the questions, you can practice your speed reading and skimming skills.

5. Books for your upcoming high school courses. Nothing will help you more in the fall of your senior year than being ahead on your reading. Email your English teacher for a syllabus or reading list if they have it (most AP and IB teachers will have a list they’re drawing from, if they haven’t fully settled on what they’re teaching) and start in on the books now, rather than a week or two (or even month) before the test. Cramming isn’t going to help you, your English grade, or your college application season stress, so getting ahead will make a huge difference. Even if you can’t fully complete the books, take advantage of the time you have this summer and dive into The Great Gatsby or Pride and Prejudice now and allow yourself the right amount of breathing room to enjoy some great works of literature.

ACT Will Revise Essay Scoring Method

This week, reported that the scoring method for the ACT essay will return to a 2-to-12 point scale, after it was changed this year to a 1-to-36 point scale.

What is the ACT essay and does this change anything for students?

The newly revised essay section requires students to write a “unified, coherent essay in which (they) evaluate multiple perspectives.” They must also “state and develop (their) own perspective on the issue” and contrast it with those given. Previously, the ACT essay asked students to take a stance on a given issue and argue their own side, rather than compare/contrast and consider multiple perspectives.

How is it changing? The format isn’t changing, according to, but while “the essays will still be scored using the same rubric, on four domains (ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use and conventions) by two independent readers…” the scores will be converted to a 2-to-12 scale. 

The rest of the ACT is scored on a 1-to-36 scale, which is why test creators changed the writing section to match. But with too much student confusion, they’ve decided to go back to the old rubric and scoring. The ACT essay will be scored by two individual scorers on a scale of one to six, which can add up to twelve in the four sections. The scores are then averaged.

“‘Our customers have spoken, and we have listened,’ said ACT Chief Commercial Officer Suzana Delanghe. ‘Converting the writing results to a 1-to-36 scale made sense conceptually, but in practice it created confusion among some students.’”

Students scored in similar percentile rankings, but something was lost in interpretation when they relied on the 36 point scale. The ACT now recommends students use percentile ranking to determine how their scores match up nationally.

Read the whole article and find out more about the new ACT here, or contact Hughes College Prep for individualized test prep and advice on improving your own ACT score.

Choosing a Major: Where to Start

Many students apply to college with a major or area of study in mind, but it can be a daunting task. Before you decide what you want to spend the next four years, or more, studying, let’s explore the basics. What is a major? What’s a minor? How do you know what they require, or don’t? Here are some things to keep in mind as you build your school list, research colleges and make decisions later down the line.

Here’s the difference between a major and minor:

Major: A college major focuses your courses on a specific subject and determines which courses you’ll take throughout your college career. For example, if you major in English, the majority of your courses will fulfill the requirements set by the English department, but you’ll still be required by the university to take general education requirements, which will fall under different departments. All this means is that you’ll get to study lots of subjects while you’re in college, but you get to focus in on much more than you could in high school.

Minor: A minor is another focus that you take fewer courses in than a major, but more than your general education requirements. Often a minor will require about half the courses required for the major, but each department is different, so always check the school’s website or check with your admissions counselor. Sometimes schools will have minors for smaller departments or areas of study that don’t offer as many courses as a major field of study might, but you can still focus your attention on the subject of your choice.

Department: The department houses individual majors, and might encompass a wide variety of majors. For example, a Business department might house the Accounting, Economics, Entrepreneurship, Sustainability and Business, and Finance majors, which have distinct requirements and courses, but might share professors, administrators or core requirements. Check out each department’s website for a full picture of course offerings, department values, and funding.

Pre-professional programs: A pre-professional program helps fast track you to a professional school after you graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Pre-health, pre-law and pre-education are usually umbrella terms that help students more easily apply to and qualify for professional degrees like law school or medical school after graduation. They might help you find an academic advisor with specific experience in your future chosen field, or categorize your courses, but aren’t always majors. Some colleges do offer pre-professional majors, but always check with each of your schools!

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Plan ahead. Planning ahead doesn’t always mean choosing and sticking to a major early on, but there are certain tracks that are harder to switch into later without losing credits or time. For example, a pre-med or pre-engineering track prepares you for your degree in that field, but might be harder to get into without taking the prerequisites ahead of time, or tailoring your schedule to stricter parameters. Always start in the most rigorous program and switch out if you need to; it’s often far harder to opt in than it is to opt out.
  • You have options. Every college offers a different array of major/minor options, with “tracks” or “concentrations” or none, depending on the school. A major itself is the field of study or department that you go into. If you want to be in the health field, this might be as straightforward as choosing to be a Biology major, or as specific as Pre-Healthcare Professional major. It’s key that you research what your major options are ahead of applying, so that you know the school you’ll end up attending has the courses and requirements that you want to take. We recommend you check out the course catalog and department pages to determine what you’ll be required to take, and what you’ll get to explore through the major or concentration.
  • Some schools encourage cross-disciplinary study and others don’t. Know which you prefer. If you want to dabble in linguistics, chemistry and dance simultaneously, you might not want to commit to a program that doesn’t allow you to take many courses outside your major. Departments will list their credit requirements up front, so it might take a little math, but you can determine ahead of time how much wiggle room you have, and whether you’ll have time for that fencing course or pairing your art history with some organic chemistry.



Don’t stress! You’re going to find the area (or areas) of study that you’re interested in, that you can’t get enough of, and then you’ll be ready to buckle down, hit the books, and come out a graduate with a degree in ______. You have at least a year before deciding on a major at most schools, and if you need more advice, contact Hughes College Prep to talk it out and make a game plan with an advisor today.