Welcome to Essay Hell!
Yes—students, parents, counselors and teachers—that means you!
Learn to write your dreaded college application essays so you can escape the stress and misery of Essay Hell. Read the helpful posts (click the flames!) to discover powerful writing techniques and strategies, and craft narrative style essays that will help you land in your dream school.
Everything You Need to Know About the Four Most Common Applications
“Hi! This is Brittany! The girl who wrote the essay. Funnily enough, I actually used this website to help guide a lot of my application essays, including this one. So I guess this would be the perfect opportunity to say thank you! I feel like my essays definitely strengthened my entire application.” (Read her writing tips!)Brittany Stinson
Escape the Heat!
Read popular posts on these subjects!
Essay Hell’s Online Writing Course
Learn how to write a standout college application essay in one hour!
Click the lightbulb to learn more about my on-demand, online essay writing course: How to Write a College Application Essay.
Includes 11 short instructional videos, my four writing guides and related exercises and handouts. You can start now! $99.
How Do You Learn Best?
Check out my services and resources below!
Counselors. Teachers. Parents.
Want to Become an Essay Expert?
Learn how you can become an essay expert and help students craft narrative-style personal essays that help them land in their target schools. Perfect for educational consultants, admissions counselors, teachers and parents! The training is short and effective, and graduates receive teaching resources, a certificate and badge for their web sites. (Click the badge to learn more.)
The Essay Hell BlogMore than 3 million viewers and counting!
I arrived home to California yesterday from St. Louis, Missouri, after attending my son’s graduation from Washington University in chemical engineering. (Woot Woot!)
As part of graduating from college (as well as high school), my son and other students are bombarded with life advice.
For college graduates, the idea is that you are now moving out of the structured, sheltered world of academia and into the “real world.” read more…
A Q&A With The Author of the Viral Costco Essay
Last month, Brittany Stinson learned she got into five Ivy League colleges, as well as Stanford and many other top schools.
When a newspaper reporter asked her to share her college application essay, Brittany didn’t think twice.
Within hours, her essay went viral. read more…
Coalition Prompt 4: What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
When I first read through the five prompts students have to choose from to write their one personal statement essay for the new Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success application, this one popped out at me.
I bet it did the same for you.
Of the five prompts, Coalition prompt 4 tries to be more creative and relevant to a high school student. read more…
You Believe That?
Coalition for Access Essay Prompt 3: Has there been a time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
So you need to write your core essay for the new Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success application.
I assume you’ve already scanned the five Coalition for Access prompts you have to choose from to write your personal statement (an essay about yourself).
For some reason this one jumped out at you. read more…
If you’re using the new Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success to apply to one or more colleges for 2016-17, you need to write a core essay that responds to one of their five prompts.
First, I encourage you to read through the five prompts and see if one appeals to you or sparks any ideas.
If so, give that one a go. read more…
Quickly Find Ideas for Each of the
8 New Personal Insight Questions
I hope everyone applying to any of the University of California schools this fall got the big news: They have all new essay prompts for 2016-17!
Instead of writing two longer essays, incoming freshmen now are required to write four shorter essays—and have eight new prompts, called Personal Insight Questions, to choose from.
Since the big announcement this spring, I’ve written eight new posts on each of the new UC essays.
I’ve listed them all together here (below) in this post so you can find them easily. read more…
Tips and Ideas for Coalition for Access
Essay Prompts: The First and Last
If you are using the new Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success to apply to college for 2016-17, you first need to check if the college or university you want to attend requires essays.
Some will require you to write the main general essay, and others might only require you write their shorter, additional essays specifically for individual schools, which are called supplemental essays. A few might not want any essays.
It’s up to you to figure out what each school wants from you, something you can find out on the Coalition for Access web site.
If they require you write the main Coalition essay, there’s good news!
You can write a personal statement on any topic you want. read more…
University of California Personal Insight Question 7:
Time to Talk About One of Those Volunteer Experiences
UC essay prompt 7: What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
The minute I read UC essay prompt 7, I thought most students would jump at this question because most have spent endless hours volunteering during high school.
Now it’s time to recall some of your most interesting or meaningful “times” or experiences.
You could write a strong essay about giving back, but you have to be careful to avoid the cliche trap.The trick is to think of something unusual or unexpected that happened during one of those experiences.
University of California Personal Insight Question 6:
Brainiacs, Nerds, Geeks and Former Slackers—This Essay is For You!
UC Essay Prompt 6: Describe your favorite academic subject and explain how it has influenced you.
Well, this is probably the most straightforward of the eight Personal Insight Questions (which I call essay prompts) that the University of California admissions has to offer wannabe freshmen for 2016-17.
It’s also your best chance, similar to UC essay prompt 4, to showcase your passion for learning.
When you read UC essay prompt 6, did an answer pop into your head immediately?
If so, this could be a no-brainer essay for you to write. read more…
University of California Personal Insight Question 5:
Your Chance to Get Real and Personal
If You Have Faced Hardships, Share Them!
Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?
If you are a high school student who has had to deal with some tough issues in your life or background, you should seriously consider writing about at least one of them in UC Essay Prompt 5 (also known as Personal Insight Question 5)
This is not whining or complaining.
In fact, students who have had to overcome or deal with obstacles in their life and managed to succeed in school despite those issues are highly desirable to almost all college and universities. And the UCs are no exception. read more…
University of California Personal Insight Question 4:
A Chance to Showcase Your Field of Interest
(For those of you just starting the UC application for 2016-17, incoming freshman pick four essays—each under 350 words—out of eight all-new prompts, known as Personal Insight Questions. I’m writing separate posts on ideas about how to write about all eight of them.)
If you know what you want to study in college, I would seriously consider writing about UC essay prompt 4.
It’s your chance to show the University of California that you already know something about this field and were serious enough to learn about it. read more…
College Admissions Consultants Learn Essay Coaching
A group of nine college admissions consultants from the San Diego area helped me kick off my College Application Essay Writing Bootcamp this week.
After participating in my two-hour workshop at the beautiful home of one of the counselors in Rancho Santa Fe, the nine women are now official “Essay Jumpstart Experts,” and can sport this digital “badge” (above) on their own professional web sites. read more…
The 5 New Essay Prompts for
the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success
Application (coming soon?)
(And a little rant)
What Coalition, you ask?
If you are like most of us, you either have never heard of this Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success application, or you are still waiting to learn how to use it.
Or you are wondering if it even matters at this point.
Here’s what I know:
This Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success is an alternative way to apply to college, a new application system very similar to The Common Application that most private colleges and many universities use (about 500+, including the ives). read more…
What Are You Good At?
(Yes, UC Essay Prompt 3 Can Be About Almost Anything!)
I believe all students who need to answer four of the new University of California “Personal Insight Questions” should seriously consider the third one, otherwise known as UC Essay Prompt 3.
If you’re a student who has focused on one special talent or skill in your life, and are recognized in that field as “among the best,” this is your chance to share that in detail.
However, you don’t need to be a star at your talent or skill to write an effective essay about it.
And your talent or skill doesn’t even need to be impressive. read more…
For the first time in the eight years I’ve been helping students with their college application essays, I’ve had a flurry of requests from students asking for help with waitlist essays and letters.
What torture for them!
Most have been waiting for months and months and now they get a “maybe?”
Which really means “probably not,” but keep trying anyway. (Sorry if you didn’t know that.)
That’s what I call admissions purgatory. read more…
ApplyTexas, which handles the applications for the public universities in Texas, as well as many private colleges, has announced on its web site that they have all-new essay prompts for Fall 2017.
These new ApplyTexas essays apply to students who would be starting as freshman in Fall 2017, and applying to schools such as the University of Texas at Austin, or its other locations, as well as other Texas colleges.
They replaced the three main prompts, called Topic A, Topic B and Topic C, with new questions. read more…
Viral Costco Essay Writer Thanks Essay Hell!
Read Brittany Stinson’s College Application Essay
That Landed Her in Four Ivies—plus Stanford!
I can’t resist the news stories that break this time of year announcing students who get into multiple ivy league colleges.
What I find interesting is that these articles tout the student’s college application essay as the reason they got them into these insanely competitive schools.
It’s never that simple. read more…
Learn the Secret to Nailing a Short Essay
for Your College Applications
Students applying to college often spend most of their energy on their core essay for The Common Application or larger universities.
They will soon learn, however, that they need to master the art of writing shorter essays.
Lots of short essays. read more…
University of California Essay Prompts for Fall 2017
(Ideas for Answering Personal Insight Question No. 2)
2. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.
If this prompt jumped out when you first read through the eight essay prompts for the University of California application, good chance you have a creative side.
And you should seriously consider writing about it.
Even if this prompt didn’t initially appeal to you, consider it anyway.
It’s not just intended for aspiring artists! read more…
University of California Essay Prompts for Fall 2017
(Ideas for Answering Personal Insight Question No. 1)
Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.
UC Essay Prompt 1 is the first of eight essay prompts for the University of California application that you can choose to answer if you are an incoming freshman.
Of the eight Personal Insight Questions, you only need to answer four.
If you consider leadership one of your defining qualities, or have had an interesting experience as a leader in some capacity, you might want to consider this essay. read more…