The 2015-16 Common Application is officially out. If you’re applying to college, you will be making a lot of decisions in upcoming months. Important ones.

What schools should you apply to?

What should you write your college application essay about so you get accepted?

Once you get in, what do you think you will want to study or do in college?

Even though I mainly try to help students figure out great topics for their essays, I think all these big decisions have one thing in common: You can help yourself immensely if you take a little time to identify what matters most to you in your life.

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The Best (and Worst)
College Application Essay Topics
Are Not What You Think!

 

When I first started working with students on how to write college applications essays about eight years ago now, I put together a list of Do’s and Don’ts about picking topics.

It was based on the idea that college admissions officers were seeing many of the same topics, or sensational or ill-suited topics that were not handled well.

And that those were the topics you should avoid at all cost.

But over the years, I realized there was no such thing as a bad topic.

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For more than 20 years, the magazine Vanity Fair has collected provocative and memorable details from the most famous people on the planet using their version of what is called the Proust Questionnaire.

The famous French writer didn’t actually pen these questions—although he did answer the questions twice in his life—but they were used in 19th century Parisian salons to entertain the bourgeois. It was one of the first personality tests.

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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.

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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.)

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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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