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On this site, you will learn tips, advice and strategies to write your dreaded college application essays—and escape the misery of Essay Hell. Read the helpful posts (click the flames and icons!) and learn to navigate the complicated admissions process, discover powerful writing tools and techniques, and craft standout essays that will help you land in your dream school.

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Accepted to 5 Ivies, Stanford and Other Awesome Schools for 2016, (She wrote the famous "Costco Essay")

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Everything You Need to Know About the Four Most Common Applications
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Common Application Essays

Find help on choosing from the five prompts for The Common Application, and crafting a “slice-of-life” essay that helps you stand out.

University of California Essays

University of California Essays

Brainstorm ideas and craft short essays for the eight new essay prompts for the University of California application.

Coalition for Access...Essays

This is a brand new application system: Find strategies for all five of the prompts to write the required personal statement essay.

ApplyTexas Essays (Most Texas Schools!)

Learn about the all-new prompts for the ApplyTexas application, and tips and advice on writing essays for Topic A, B and C.

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Defining Qualities Rock College Application Essays!

defining qualities

Some of my tutoring students skim through a college application essay prompt (such as the five options for The Common Application essay requirement), and in a flash, find one that speaks to them.

Others come armed with a long list of topic ideas they have been toying with for weeks.

But most, I would say more than 80 percent, have no clue where to start.

And it’s a terrible feeling. read more…

Don’t Write Sucky Supplemental Essays!

supplemental essays

No doubt about it.

Supplemental essays are the nasty little vexation of the college application process. (And you thought the Common App essay was a pain!)

I suggest students first tackle writing their core essay for The Common Application, or other applications that require a longer, personal-statement type of essay.

Get that out of the way first. It’s the hardest and most important.

But it’s never too early to start knocking off those pesky shorter essays, known as supplemental essays. read more…

Random Questions (and Answers) About College Application Essays

cloudquestion

Got a Burning Question
About Your College Application Essay?

(Leave it in the Comments!)

After working with students like you for nearly a decade now, I’ve heard a lot of questions about these cursed essays.

And you are so smart to ask them.

How else can you figure out what is expected of you and how to write them?

Here’s a list of some of the most common ones I’ve heard over the years, and my answers. read more…

Strategies for the New UC Transfer Essays 2016-17

 

future-lane-change

Students Must Write Four, All-New Short Transfer Essays
to Apply to University of California

If you want to transfer to any of the University of California schools, you need to write four short essays.

The UC changed the required essays this year (2016-17), and calls the new prompts “Personal Insight Questions.”

All but one of the four short essay prompts are almost the same as required for incoming freshmen: You have seven prompts to choose from to write three of your essays.

The fourth essay is a required prompt and specifically addresses your reasons for transferring. read more…

How to Find a Killer Topic

blue-telescope-lens-curves

 

The first step to writing a winning college application essay is to find that perfect topic.

This is the most important step, and often the hardest.

Once you land on one, you are ready to roll.

Things fall in place. read more…

Best College Application Essays Have Touch of Gray

gray-point-background

Learn How to Avoid Black-and-White Thinking
to Add Depth to Your Essays

 

It’s exciting to see that word is getting out to collegebound students, and those who support their admissions quests, that real-life stories power the most effective college application essays.

If you are new to this concept, read up on the narrative (storytelling) writing method that I promote all over this blog.

(If you are just starting learning about college application essays, I recommend first reading How to Write a College Application Essay in 3 Steps. This post you are reading here is intended for students who have a topic and have started writing their first draft.)

Here’s the essence of my writing approach: You use your real-life stories to illustrate or demonstrate one of your defining qualities, characteristics or core values in your college application essay or personal statement.  read more…

Timeless Life Advice from 2016 Commencement Speakers

commencement speakers

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…

How Brittany Stinson Wrote Her Costco Essay

brittany pic

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 for Access Essay 4: Teenager Advice

coalition prompt 4

 

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.

Why?

Of the five prompts, Coalition prompt 4 tries to be more creative and relevant to a high school student. read more…

Coalition for Access Prompt 3: A Belief Challenged

coalition prompt 3

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…

Strategies for Each of 8 New University of California Essays 2016-17

new uc essays

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…

Coalition for Access Essay Prompt 1: Tell a Story

coalition essay

 

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…

UC Essay Prompt 7: Volunteer Your Best Story

uc essay prompt 7

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.

read more…

UC Essay Prompt 6: Your Favorite Academic Subject

uc essay prompt 6

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…

UC Essay Prompt 5: Take the Challenge

uc essay prompt 5

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…

UC Essay Prompt 4: Educational Experiences

UC Essay Prompt 4

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…

Congratulations to the First Essay Jumpstart Experts!

essay-jumpstart-expert

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…

Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success Essay Prompts

confused-face

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…

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