Based on the real-life experiences of students who were admitted to the United States' most prestigious universities, this guide provides proven strategies to get into and pay for any college. Detailing what high school students—from freshmen to seniors—can do to prepare, this updated edition addresses recent changes in admissions and financial-aid processes and the increasingly popular early-admissions option. Examples of applications, interviews, and 23 actual college-admission essays complement information on how parents can help without hurting, what it takes to ace the new SAT and ACT, and where students can find free cash for tuition. Stories of students' successes and failures reveal how the college-admissions and financial-aid processes really work, while giving a personal face to what is often seen as an impersonal experience. A section for special groups includes admission considerations for athletes, transfer and international students, students with disabilities, and home-schooled students.