college application essays


To welcome in spring, I’m offering my inspiring collection of sample college application essays free to all teachers now through the end of this month (March).

In recent years, I’ve had English teachers from all over the country contact me about my blog and writing resources. Apparently, many Language Arts programs now teach units on how to write these essays, either in the spring for high school juniors or during fall for seniors.

Continue reading »

 Best Writing Tips
for College Application Essays!

I’m excited to introduce my newest writing guide for college application essays: Essay Hell’s Writing Survival Kit. It includes some of the best writing tips and advice I know of, as well as other handy college admissions-related resources and sample narrative style essays written by real students.

It will be available the first of April on Amazon as a Kindle ebook, and shortly after, in paperback as well.

Continue reading »



Columist Frank Bruni of the New York Times just published one of the most timely and convincing articles today on the issue of students vying for the most elite colleges—often at the expense of their sense of self-worth. It’s a dangerous trend, and Bruni shares the stories of students who were rejected, and where they ended up.

For the most part, he found that students who steered clear of the most prestigious schools—or were outright rejected—ended up at wonderful liberal arts colleges and public universities enjoyed experiences that were rich and empowering. It was less about their classes and grades and status, and most what they learned about themselves and participating in a larger community.

“People bloom at various stages of life, and different individuals flourish in different climates,” Bruni wrote in the piece, “How to Survive the College Admissions Madness.” (To me, it’s a must-read whether you are a student or parents just starting the application process, or waiting for those acceptance letters.)

Continue reading »


A good selfie can define and shape your personal image that you blast out to the world. The same goes with your college application essay.

Both selfies and personal statement essays are supposed to capture your essence on some level, and reveal what makes you stand out from the crowd of other applicants. Some of the same tricks you use to snap your selfies apply to writing these admission essays, such as for The Common App and other universities and colleges.

If you are starting the college admissions process, it’s time to put down the cell phone and pick up your pens now or this summer or as soon as you can. Here are five ways that selfies and college admission essays are similar, and some tips that can help you craft an awesome essay snapshot of yourself (click the links for more help):

1. A good one catches everyone’s attention. There is something about a great selfie that grabs the viewer; they can’t take their eyes off you. Same thing with your personal statement: It’s imperative to hook the reader’s attention at the start with a compelling introduction, such as starting with an anecdote.

Continue reading »


With all the hype and pressure surrounding college admissions, I don’t blame students and parents for looking for shortcuts or anything that can give them an edge in the selection process.

While I believe students should take the helm of figuring out where they want to go to college, I understand the attraction of getting some help. Taking prep classes for standardized tests. Hiring a private college admissions counselor. And working with a writing expert on the dreaded college application essays.

Yep, I provide help with essays, including tutoring. But I do not write them for students. It can be a fuzzy line, and I think we all know when it’s been crossed.

Continue reading »

college application essay


Not many images are more daunting than a blank page. The horror! But starting next month (March), I’m launching a weekly Webinar series to assist more students and families with starting their college application essays.

I write this blog, peddle my three guide books and tutor privately to get out my advice, tips and inspiration to make this process less miserable. I actually believe writing these essays can be an enlightening and productive experience, and dare I say, fun, if you have some direction and support. It can also be a total drag.

But I think you have a choice on how it goes. A lot of the stress of the college admissions process is caused by the unknown. Once you know what to do, you will see that it’s not that impossible.

I’m hoping that my Webinars can help students, and parents and others who work with students, get a jump on what they need to do.

Continue reading »

college application essay


Over the past couple years, I’ve been asked to check out a couple of new Internet companies that try to help students and others organize their college admissions essays. Without naming names, none so far has been very impressive. They sounded good, but then when I tried them out, I was totally confused and found them a royal pain.

Recently, the co-founder of a new site called Zoomita asked me to give his site a whirl. I only spent about 20 minutes exploring the organizing tools, and immediately saw they were amazing.

Continue reading »


If you are applying to the University of California schools, you have until the end of this month (this Sunday, Nov. 30!). As busy seniors, some of you might have waited to write your two college application essays over Thanksgiving, when you have some days off and can catch up.

The key, however, is to not let this last minute deadline dash ruin your Thanksgiving. So yes, you are really cutting it close. If you don’t have a plan, it could hang over your head the entire holiday weekend.

To not let these essays ruin one of the best times of the year–when you are supposed to be feasting with your family, watching football games and focusing on all you have to be grateful for–take a few minutes to map out a plan. These essays don’t have to take days and days to write. If you can latch on to some strong topic ideas, and then pound out a rough draft, you could crank them out in a matter of hours.

Continue reading »

My friend, Lynn O’Shaughnessy, who is a national expert on helping families afford higher education, interviewed me recently about how to write standout college application essays. If you are struggling to figure out how to pay for your college or university, Lynn has the best insider information and resources, including her best-selling book and popular online courses.

I believe one thing that many students and parents don’t realize is that a strong essay not only can help you get into a competitive school, but it can also help you score merit scholarship money. This isn’t true for all schools, especially large universities, but many liberal arts colleges use the essays to determine who they want at their school and then work to help them afford it—including offering money.

Continue reading »


This hilarious video is making the rounds on the Internet (my niece’s husband shared it with me on Facebook) just in time for many college application essay deadlines. It’s funny because the outrageous statements made by students are painfully true.

A couple of my favorite lines: “I’m trying to hide the fact that I’m a privileged white person.” and “If this wasn’t a college essay, it would be considered way over-sharing.”

Another favorite was: “I’m using words I literally just learned a minute ago on”

Continue reading »