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.

You can also start with my Instant Boot Camp for writing your two UC essays. If you read this selection of posts, you should have a good idea of what you need to do, and a plan on how to get it done.

But if you just keep procrastinating, finding reasons not to work on this Wednesday (because, hey, you deserve some down time), and then Thursday (because, hey, this is the big day and you are so stuffed now you can’t think and it’s time for a nap), and then Friday (your friends come up with some fun idea to go out and you tell yourself you still have all Saturday…) you could find yourself staring at a blank computer screen that night, feeling mad at yourself for waiting so long and trying not to panic.

If you have today (Wednesday) off, that’s your best day. Give yourself two hours in the morning to come up with topics, and write out a rough draft for one of the two prompts. Then block out two more hours that afternoon or evening to write out another draft for your other essay.

There, you will have two drafts. Almost there! Then, do nothing on Thanksgiving, unless you suddenly get in the mood, or didn’t quite get to those first drafts. Block out two more hours either Friday morning or afternoon to review what you have written, and cut out the bad stuff, add some more good stuff, read it out loud, go through a final editing checklist, etc.

From what I understand about the application system, lots of kids wait until the last minute, and often, the system gets glitchy and it can be frustrating and hard to turn in your application. So avoid this last minute rush as much as possible. Ideally, submit your application well before the final weekend. But above all, avoid Sunday, and especially Sunday night.

Of course, if you can start on these essays NOW, you will be that much further along, and won’t have to spend any of your precious Thanksgiving dealing with them. If you do wait, just stick to your plan and it will all work out!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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.

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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 Thesaurus.com.”

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If you are working on your two college application essays for the University of California freshman application, I’ve put together a short list of my most helpful posts.

Prompt 1: Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations. 

How to Describe the World You Come From

Sample College App Essay for UC Prompt 1

Brainstorm the World You Come From

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Download “Escape Essay Hell” Free on Sunday, November 16!

 

This is the final countdown for college deadlines for most major colleges and universities. If you are already done and have turned in your applications, congratulations and please pat yourself on the back. For those of you still struggling to write your college application essays, good news for you, too!

I’m offering my popular writing ebook guide Escape Essay Hell!: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Narrative College Application Essays for free on one day through Amazon.

Mark your calendars: Sunday, November 16.

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 How to Focus Your

College Application Essay!

I love all the comments students make about my posts. The most common ones ask about topics for the Common App or other core college application essays, including the University of California prompts. Students want to know what I think of their topic ideas.

I noticed the main problem with many of their ideas is that their topics are way to broad. WAY TOO BROAD! I think many ask my opinion because they suspect their topics are too general, but they don’t know how to focus them. And they are absolutely correct to worry about this. Essays about general topics are almost always dull and ineffective. (What good is an essay if no one wants to read it?)

I have written a lot about how to find topics that are not broad, and instead are engaging, meaningful and memorable. My best advice for students who worry that their topic is too broad would be to keep reading my blog posts! They all carry the same message—find a topic that is specific, zero in on real-life moments (anecdotes), brainstorm topics that are mundane (everyday) as opposed to impressive, pick one quality or characteristic to write about (as opposed to trying to cram in all the great things about yourself.) These are all ways to focus—or narrow down—your topics.

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College Admission Essay

Photo by Janine Robinson

 

Feeling a Bit Underwater
About Your College Application Essay?

 

It’s that time of year. Most “early decision” deadlines are counting down by the day, and other major deadlines aren’t far behind. Stay calm. Read my blog. Target your essay writing needs by using the indexed listing called “Help By Topic” in the right sidebar.

My last post was about an article that a USA Today reporter wrote sharing my advice on these essays, as well as tips from other college experts. When we first spoke, the reporter asked me to put together a list of my best tips. In her article, she wove in some of the tips I sent her, but I thought students might find the entire list I sent her even more helpful. So here it is:

 Essay Hell’s Top 10 Tips
For Writing Standout
College Application Essays

  

1.   Don’t try to impress. Instead, look for topics that are “mundane,” or everyday. (Scooping ice cream; singing karaoke; riding public busses; having big feet, etc.) It’s counter-intuitive, but those lead to the most memorable essays.

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By iStock

 Photo via USA Today and iStock

My Essay Advice in USA Today Article!

A young reporter from USA Today interviewed me the other day to collect some of my tips on writing college application essays. She included advice from other top college experts as well. If you’ve read my blog, you’ve probably heard most of it before, but thought you might find the article helpful anyway:

9 essay writing tips to ‘wow’ college admissions officers

By: 
October 23, 2014

You’ve taken the tests, requested the recommendations, completed the common app, and now it’s finally time to refocus on what you’ve been putting off: the essay.

While most students spend days, sometimes weeks, perfecting their personal statements, admissions officers only spend about three to five minutes actually reading them, according to Jim Rawlins, director of admissions at the University of Oregon.

High school seniors are faced with the challenge of summarizing the last 17 years into 600 words, all while showcasing their “unique” personality against thousands of other candidates.

“It’s hard to find a balance between sounding professional and smart without using all of those long words,” says Lily Klass, a senior at Milford High School in Milford, Mass. “I’m having trouble reflect myself without sounding arrogant or rude or anything like that.”

The following tips will help applicants make the leap from ‘average’ to ‘accepted’:

1. Open with an anecdote.

Since the admissions officers only spend a brief amount of time reviewing stories, it’s pivotal that you engage them from the very beginning.

“Instead of trying to come up with gimmicky, catchy first lines, start by sharing a moment,” says Janine Robinson, writing coach and founder of Essay Hell. “These mini stories naturally grab the reader … it’s the best way to really involve them in the story.”

Let the moment you choose be revealing of your personality and character. Describe how it shaped who you are today and who you will be tomorrow.

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college application essay

I’ve been meaning to write about the hubbub around the high school student who got accepted into all eight Ivy League schools last April. It was an amazing and well-deserved accomplishment for Kwasi Enin, a 17-year-old from Long Island, New York.

Because of his feat, the media and some college experts have held up his college application essay as one of the main reasons he was accepted. And it has been championed now as an example of a great essay.

I do not agree with this at all. I thought his essay was mediocre at best. (Read Kwasi’s essay and see for yourself.)

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Looking for your World to answer the University of California Prompt 1?

 

A high school English teacher contacted me this week asking if I had any sample essays for the University of California college application Prompt 1.

She was using my guides and Essay Hell blog posts to help teach her students how to write their college application essays. (Those are some lucky students!)

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