I loved a recent post by my friend, Lynn O’Shaughessy, who is a fellow journalist and now the international guru for creative ways to pay for college.

(If you’re losing sleep over the insane cost of college, make sure to check out The College Blog.)

Lynn also just shared 6 Things You Can Do Now Before Applying to College on her column for CBS MoneyWatch.

I asked Lynn if I could share her favorite tips about college application essays with you, and she told me to have at it. So here they are:

 

A favorite college essay tip

by  on June 14, 2015

I’ve looked at plenty of college essays over the years and the vast majority of them have been b-o-r-i-n-g.
The mediocre essays that I’ve seen have usually been guilty of one or more of these no-no’s:
1. They lack details.
2. They didn’t convey the student’s voice.
3. They covered too much territory. (Writing about something that lasted seconds, minutes of a day in a teen’s life is much better than trying to jam a student’s entire life into a 500-word essay!)crumpled paper 14. They read like the dull expository essays that high school English teachers force students to write. Formal English papers are deadly and relying on English teachers, who may be poor writers themselves, for instructions on how to write a winning college essay is often asking for trouble.

A Favorite College Essay Tip

Summer is an excellent time to get started writing college essays. I’ll be talking more about college essays as the 2015-2016 admission season kicks into gear, but today I want to share one of my favorite tips:

Don’t bore the admission readers with a dull opening line!

During admission season, admission reps often have to read dozens of essays a day. It’s inevitable that the essays will blur together, which is an excellent reason why applicants need to make theirs stand apart.

Applicants will win brownie points if they start their essays with an opening sentence that grabs the reader’s attention.

Need examples? If so, you should read an old article in the Stanford Magazine that includes opening college essay lines that the university’s admission reps particularly liked.

Opening Lines from Stanford University Admission Essays

Here are some of the Stanford admission officers’ favorite opening lines from the school’s 2012 graduating class:

  • I have old hands.
  • The spaghetti burbled and slushed around the pan, and as I stirred it, the noises it gave off began to sound increasingly like bodily functions.
  • I’ve been surfing Lake Michigan since I was 3 years old.
  • On a hot Hollywood evening, I sat on a bike, sweltering in a winter coat and furry boots.
  • As an Indian-American, I am forever bound to the hyphen.
  • Unlike many mathematicians, I live in an irrational world; I feel that my life is defined by a certain amount of irrationalities that bloom too frequently, such as my brief foray in front of 400 people without my pants.
  • I change my name each time I place an order at Starbucks.
  • When I was in eighth grade I couldn’t read.
  • Sitting cross-legged on the floor of a Bhimanagar slum dwelling in Bangalore, I ran my fingers across a fresh cut on my forehead.
  • Some fathers might disapprove of their children handling noxious chemicals in the garage.

Here’s where you can read the entire Stanford Magazine article on college essay opening lines.

Where To Get Great College Essay Advice

essay hell

Before getting started on a college essay, I’d strongly urge teenagers to head over to Essay Hell, which is a tremendous source of advice and tips on how to craft amazing college essays.

At Essay Hell, you’ll find tons of free advice on the site’s blog, as well as invaluable ebooks and an online writing bootcamp.

 

 

 

A lot of pieces go into crafting a college application essay that will help you stand out from the competition, and quite possibly push you through the door to your dream school:

It needs to be engaging, especially at the start. (Here’s how you do that.)

It needs to have a topic that’s unique and interesting. (Here’s how you do that.)

It needs to showcase something about you that the college wouldn’t otherwise know. (Here’s how you do that.)

Continue reading »

The Best Way to “Show”
in Your College App Essay

 

When I started as a young reporter at my first newspaper job in Illinois, I was assigned to cover a half dozen small farm towns.

I didn’t think much would happen out there.

But after about a month, there was a gruesome double murder in one of the towns on my beat.

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or

Why Bad Writers
Write the Best
College Application Essays

 

If you think you can’t write, and you need to write a college application essay, this is your lucky day. There’s a higher-than-average chance you will write an awesome essay.

(If you think you can write, there’s still hope for you, too. But you might have more work to do.)

Let me start by asking you why you’re so sure that you can’t write, at least not well.

Is it because you got average to low grades in English class? Or even flunked out.

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college application essay

Short Answer:
ONE College Application Essay
for The Common App

 

The Common Application comes out officially August 1. But they already announced the changes for this coming 2015-16 season.

The most important were changes to the five essay prompts. (You can write your main Common App essay about one of the five.)

Beside the prompts, there were two other significant tweaks you should know about:

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college application essay

 

The folks at The Common Application added a new prompt this year and I love it.

It asks you to write about a problem.

What’s so great about a problem?

Problems = Stories = Great Essays!

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college application essay

 

I’m not sure how many high schools require their English teachers to help students write college application essays, but those that do could give their juniors and seniors a huge advantage in the college admissions game.

For many students, an assignment to write one of these essays for English class will be the only outside help they get. 

But if a high school decides to have its English teachers include these essays in their curriculum, it’s important to get them right.

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college application essay

I’m Giving It Away to 50 Lucky Students!

 

UPDATE 5-30-2015: This offer is over. Sorry!

 

I’m offering my new mini online course, How to Write a College Application Essay, to the first 50 students who send me a request via email.

I will send you a link, which will bring you to the host site, Udemy. And you take it from there.

The course only takes about an hour to go through the 11 short tutorials and related handouts, and walks you step-by-step through the brainstorming, writing and editing process.

It’s the exact approach I take with my private tutoring students and use during my workshops—so I know it works!

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college application essay

Colleges Encourage Students to Write About $ and Work
in College Application Essays

 

The New York Times today published the seven college application essays it liked the best for its contest about writing on the topic of money.

Most of the winners wrote about their experiences facing various types of financial hardship and challenges.

They are worth reading simply as sample essays, which could give you ideas for topics of your own.

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college application essay

 

I’m always on the lookout for new voices in the college admissions industry who try to help students and parents and all of us keep a balanced and sane perspective on the frenzied quest for the perfect college.

Kristin White, an educational consultant who wrote It’s the Student, Not the College: The Secrets of Succeeding at Any School: Without Going Broke or Crazy, does a great job of explaining how a student’s success has little to do with where they get in, even if it’s one of the 20 prestige schools so many believe they must attend or their lives will be ruined.

I asked Kristin if she would share her opinions on how she thinks about the college application essays, and she wrote this guest post on what is behind every great and effective essay—strong writing skills. As she explains in this piece, strong writing chops can not only help you nail your college admissions essays, they are powerful skills that will help power your college experience as well as your effectiveness in the workplace.

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