Developed by a professional college counselor, each College Specific Toolkit is an e-book that includes:
Short, entertaining, information-packed animated videos
Tips from an expert who guides many students each year
An expansive set of companion “tools” to help you take control of the process
Multiple formats that work with any e-book reader or computer


Cassie Nichols, founder and Director of College Specific, is a professional college counselor who has built a thriving business guiding her private clients through the complex and stressful college admissions process. But not everyone can afford this sort of premium, one-on-one service.  Recognizing the need for an affordable alternative, Cassie developed College Specific Toolkits, a suite of interactive e-books formulated to help college-bound high school students navigate the college admissions process and boost their prospects of getting into that “perfect” college.

Cassie is a graduate of Princeton University, and holds an M.A. in Education with an emphasis on curriculum development. She has taught the college essay at the high school level, and she has written a popular book about what to avoid when writing the college essay. She is a noted expert in the field of college admissions.

Whether you’re scrambling to apply to college this fall or just beginning to think about where you might want to go to college, College Specific Toolkits are here to help you understand the process quickly and painlessly.


    Understand how to approach your senior year of high school–and application season–intelligently and effectively. Don’t just “survive” application season–submit a solid application that maximizes your chances of acceptance to each college on your list.

    Click to buy ($9.99)


    Be ahead of the game as you begin to sort through your college options. From academic planning to college visits, the Junior Toolkit will help you ensure that you are on track all year long, and ready to hit the ground running when application season begins next year.

    Click to buy ($9.99)


    The college essay is not just a requirement, it’s an opportunity to connect with college admissions officers on a personal level. With the College Essay Toolkit in your arsenal, you’ll know exactly how to write a compelling and unique college essay.

    Click to buy ($9.99)

A pplying to college can be an overwhelming experience. It’s become so complex, in fact, that many students seek out the guidance of professional college counselors to help them successfully navigate college application season. Not everyone is willing or able to pay a professional counselor, however. And with College Specifc Toolkits, they don’t have to.

Whether you’re a high school senior in the thick of application season, a high school junior exploring college options, or a parent trying to understand how to help your child maximize his or her chances and minimize stress, College Specific Toolkits can help provide you with the tools and knowledge you need to make the most of this process.

Formulated by a Princeton grad with a Masters degree in curriculum development—who also a highly regarded professional college counselor in Santa Barbara, California—each Toolkit is geared toward making the college admissions process what it should be: exciting and rewarding.

There are three College Specific Toolkits:

  • The Senior Toolkit
  • The Junior Toolkit
  • The College Essay Toolkit

Scroll down to find out more and to see a full sample video.

Sample Video

Here is a full-length sample video to help you evaluate the Toolkits. This is the first video in the Senior Toolkit.


THE SENIOR TOOLKIT was developed to enable high school seniors to take control of the application process. It helps students understand and keep track of the many elements of their college application, removing a lot of the stress that results from this busy but rewarding period. For a list of the contents of the Senior Toolkit, click the left tab below.


THE JUNIOR TOOLKIT is geared toward high school juniors who are taking their first steps toward college. The junior year is critical for future college applicants, and knowing how to make the right decisions now will help ensure that all possible options are available when senior year—and application season—rolls around next year. For a list of the contents of the Junior Toolkit, click the middle tab below.


THE COLLEGE ESSAY TOOLKIT is an invaluable tool for college applicants who are writing—or rewriting—their college essay. Based in part on College Specific Director Cassie Nichols’ book The College Essay Trap, it contains a wealth of important information and guidance that will enable students to produce the very best essay possible. For a list of the contents of the College Essay Toolkit, click the right-most tab below.

Scroll down to see the contents of each Toolkit.

Toolkit Contents

Click on these tabs to see the contents of each Toolkit.



The Senior Toolkit was created to help seniors navigate the incredibly complex and occasionally stressful college application season. It contains the following sections:

Section 1: Your Senior Year

An overview of what to expect during your senior year, especially during college application season. We’ve included the video from this section for free so you can get an idea of what is in each Toolkit. Check it out above.

This section also includes the Application Season Calendar.

Section 2: The Application

Mind-numbingly complex? It doesn’t have to be. We break the college application down for you and help you understand its various components. This section also includes its own video and the extremely useful Application Checklist Spreadsheet to help you keep track of all the madness… along with a fully completed sample spreadsheet to help you understand how to use it.

Section 3: Choosing a Major

Don’t know what you want to be when you grow up? Don’t worry; this section helps you understand the what, when and why of choosing a college major. It includes it’s own video and a helpful worksheet to keep track of the various major requirements for colleges on your list… along with a completed sample, of course.

Section 4: College Interviews

Interviews can be intimidating if you don’t know what to expect. This section is geared toward helping you survive and thrive during your college interview… and get as much out of it as possible. It contains its own video and materials to help you conduct a mock interview before the big day.

Section 5: Application Deadlines

Are you applying Early Decision or Early Action? Is it binding or non-binding? What about EDII? This section rips through the mystery and confusion surrounding the various types of application deadlines. It includes its own video–the most succinct and engaging deadline video in existence, we’re told–and an easy-to-follow breakdown for later reference.

Section 6: The College Résumé

Whether you realize it or not, you probably should have a solid college résumé. This section helps you understand what to include, what not to include, and why. It contains its own video (of course) along with both a college résumé template and a completed college résumé for reference.

Click here to purchase the Senior Toolkit



Section 1: Academic Planning

Junior year curriculum can be critical when it comes to college acceptance. This section helps you understand how college admissions officers will view your academic choices when you apply to their college. It contains a video on academic planning and a Course Map template (along with a finished sample Course Map so you can see what yours might look like when it’s done).

Section 2: Choosing a Major

Don’t know what you want to be when you grow up? Don’t worry; this section helps you understand the what, when and why of choosing a college major. It includes it’s own video and a helpful worksheet to keep track of the various major requirements for colleges on your list… along with a completed sample, of course.

Section 3: List Building

One of the first steps in applying to college is figuring out which schools best fit your needs, your capabilities, and your personality. There’s a lot more to it than looking at school rankings, and this section is formulated to get you started on building a solid college list that is both realistic and exciting. It contains a video on list building and an extremely useful list-building spider chart that will help you pick the right schools for the right reasons.

Section 4: College Visits

Should you visit the campuses of the schools you’re interested in? Why? Which schools should you visit? What should you do when you get there? What if you can’t visit? This section will help you understand and prepare for your college visits. It comes with its own video (of course) and a handy College Visit Notebook to help you keep track of and get the most out of your college visits.

Section 5: Standardized Tests

How much to standardized tests really matter? Which ones should you take? Should you retake them if you feel you can do better? All of these are important considerations, and all of them are addressed in this section’s video and accompanying resources, the Standardized Test Comparision Chart and the Standardized Test Results Tracker (we include both a blank Tracker and a completed sample).

Section 6: Summer Planning

What are your plans for the summer? This section will help you figure that out. It provides crucial insight into the importance your summer activities can have when you apply to college in your senior year, and on the importance of spending your summer doing something you actually enjoy and care about. The video in this section is among the most popular in all the College Specific Toolkits, and it’s must-see viewing for juniors and rising seniors.

Click here to purchase the Junior Toolkit



Section 1: Essay Overview

What is the college essay? How is it different from all the other essays you’ve written throughout high school? Why does it matter so much that you write a compelling college essay? All of these points and more are addressed in this section, which contains the Essay Overview video (it’s more fun than it sounds!) and the the very handy Essay Spreadsheet (a blank template and a completed sample to give you an idea what yours should look like when it’s done).

Section 2: Admissions Officers

While understanding the college essay itself is critical, it’s also important to understand who will be reading and evaluating it. Who are these mysterious people, who hold your college career in their hands? In this section, we discuss admissions officers: who they are, what they want, and how to use your essay to connect with them. This section contains its own video and a wealth of advice from admissions officers from all over the United States.

Section 3: Essay Traps

You’ve probably noticed that there are a lot of books telling you how to write your college essay. Cassie Nichols, director of College Specific and the driving force behind College Specific Toolkits, authored a popular book that takes the opposite approach. In her book, The College Essay Trap, she shows college essay writers what not to do when writing a college essay: how to avoid making those common mistakes that make admissions officers groan. This section and its video are based on that book.

Section 4: Prompt Analysis

The most important college essay you’ll write is probably the Common Application’s personal essay. This section reviews, dissects and illuminates the five writing prompts you’ll have to choose from as you select a topic for your essay. Which one will you choose, and how can you ensure that your topic is a good one? This section, including a Prompt Analysis video, will help you figure this out and choose the prompt that’s right for you.

Section 5: Essay Brainstorming

After choosing your writing prompt, it’s time to decide exactly what you’re going to write about. It’s not always easy: the prompts give you a lot of latitude, so finding the right topic for your prompt may take some work. In fact, this is where many college essay writers find themselves at a loss, often resulting in a change of topics later on. This section, which contains an Essay Brainstorming video along with the Brainstorming Flowchart and the Brainstorming Questionnaire, will help you choose the right topic the first time.

Section 6: Writing Your Essay

You understand the essay, you understand who’s reading it, you’ve learned which mistakes to avoid, you’ve chosen a writing prompt, and you’ve brainstormed a topic. Now it’s time to start writing. This section will serve as your guide during the writing process itself, from outlining to writing to revising your essay. It includes the valuable Essay Writing Tipsheet, which you’ll want to keep on hand as you slog through the writing process. Then, when you’ve got a draft you really like, it’s time to get some feedback. When you send your essay to a trusted friend, relative or teacher for review, you’ll send the unique Essay Evaluation Scoresheet along with it. Since this interactive tool makes it easy to provide a quick and effective review, you’re more likely to get a solid feedback you can really use—even if your reviewer doesn’t have any experience with the college essay.

Click here to purchase the College Essay Toolkit

About College Specific

Headquartered in Santa Barbara, California, College Specific’s counselors meet one-on-one with families – in person or online – working with them to make wise academic and extracurricular choices throughout high school, build an ideal list of colleges, complete their college essays and applications, and stay organized along the way. College Specific’s counselors travel throughout the United States and abroad, conducting workshops and presentations on college admissions for schools as well as private groups and organizations. College Specific is dedicated to producing quality educational products that help students worldwide navigate the increasingly complex college admissions process.

About Founder Cassie Nichols

A native of Santa Barbara, California, Cassie Nichols earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Princeton University. At Princeton, she was an NCAA All-American and Academic All-American athlete, as well as captain of the Princeton women’s water polo team. After graduating from Princeton in 2002, Cassie settled in New Haven, Connecticut and conducted educational research at Yale University. Cassie later accepted a faculty position at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut, where she taught American and World Literature, as well as the college essay, to high school juniors and seniors. Cassie returned to Santa Barbara in 2006 to earn a Masters of Arts degree in Education from University of California, Santa Barbara. While at UCSB, Cassie taught college freshman composition courses for UCSB’s Writing Program and conducted extensive research on the teaching of writing and literature. She also supervised and facilitated UCSB’s student teachers as they prepared their Masters of Education theses. Cassie founded College Specific in response to the clear need for guidance and reassurance throughout the college admissions process, and to help students create a clear and sustainable path to the college of their choice. In 2012, Cassie published The College Essay Trap, a book designed to help students through the college essay-writing process. In addition to providing individual guidance to families, Cassie publishes articles, conducts college admissions workshops and presentations, and works with the College Specific team to develop products and events that provide guidance to college applicants from around the world.

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