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Welcome to Essay Hell!

On this site, you will learn tips, advice and strategies to write your dreaded college application essays—and escape the misery of Essay Hell.

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“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.”

Brittany Stinson
Accepted to all 8 ivies and Stanford
2016
(wrote 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 seven 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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3 Fixes for Cliche College Application Essay Topics

Should You Write About a Cliche Topic
for Your College Application Essay?

If you are just starting brainstorming ideas for your college application essays, one of the first pieces of advice you might stumble upon is to avoid “cliche” topics.

I always warn my students about these often over-used topics, which can include:

Death of loved ones

Sports (especially injuries and victories/losses)

Band

Mission trips (volunteering)

Tutoring (especially special needs kids)

Travel (family trips)

RELATED: College Application Essay Topics to Avoid

The main reason to avoid them is that droves of other students have already written about these topics, so they aren’t as effective at helping you differentiate yourself from other applicants.

HOWEVER… read more…

Should You Gamble on Your College Application Essay?

college application essay

Can a Risky College Application Essay
Get You Into the Ivies?

Maybe…

 

This time of year, a flurry of stories hit the national media about students who get into all the Ivy League schools (plus Stanford).

The stories always include scrutiny and speculation about their college application essays.

I have to admit that I’m kind of a sucker for these articles.

There’s such unpredictability with who gets into what schools.

Everyone is looking for clues as to what works and what doesn’t–especially with the essays. read more…

College Application Essay Workshops in Laguna Beach this Summer!

Weekend Essay Writing Boot Camps
in Laguna Beach

I will be offering three, two-part essay workshops this summer in my hometown of Laguna Beach on how to write awesome college application essays.

The workshops, which will be 90 minutes each on Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon, will be held at our coastal town’s wonderful community center, on Third Street, called the Suzi Q, located in the heart of our downtown.

The boot camps will include everything from understanding what makes an effective essay to how to brainstorm unique topics to editing and polishing drafts.

The essay workshops will teach students how to craft personal statement essays that will be perfect for the Common Application and other core essays, as well as writing admissions essays for the University of California and other colleges and universities. read more…

Start Your Personal Statement the Right Way

personal statement

 

Ready to write your personal statement essay?

It can be for your Common Application essay, or other university or college prompts, or transfers, or medical or law school, or even scholarship applications.

To start, always read the prompt.

If it asks you to write something fundamental about yourself (such as all seven of the Common App prompts), then they want a personal statement essay from you.

The next step is to start brainstorming. read more…

Hot Tips for new Common Application Prompt 6

new common application prompt 6

3 HOT TIPS
for
Common App Prompt 6

 

In a previous post, I warned about the possible pitfalls of writing about the new Common Application prompt 6.

My main concern was that in writing about one of your passions — a “topic, idea or concept — you will need to make sure to craft a personal essay that is mainly about YOU!

As opposed to one that is only about the “topic, idea or concept” that you pick to write about.

Read about how to write an essay about the new Common Application prompt 6 that is engaging and personal, instead of academic and dull, in this post:  Common Application Prompt 6: Be Warned.

Then come back to learn three other hot tips on how to write about this tricky prompt. read more…

Common Application Prompt 6: Be Warned!

common application prompt 6

 

Big Red Flag on this New
Common Application Prompt 6!

The Common Application added two new prompts for 2017-18.

Now students can choose from seven prompts (instead of five) to inspire their personal statement “Common App” essay.

The seventh new Common Application prompt basically allows you to write about anything you want, and you can learn more about it and the new prompts in New Common Application Prompts for 2017-18.

The other prompt, the new Common Application Prompt 6, essentially asks you to write about one of your intellectual passions. read more…

Launching My New Essay Guide with Amazon Giveaway!

GET IT FOR FREE FOR LIMITED TIME!

I’m introducing my hot-off-the-press writing guide, “Essay Hell’s 50 Most Commonly Asked Questions about College Application Essays” by giving it away for the next 5 days on Amazon.

Starting tomorrow, February 13, just go to its sales page on Amazon and you can download the Kindle version for free.(Click HERE to get free Kindle app for your computer, phone or table.)

I designed this guide for students, parents, teachers and counselors who want quick and easy answers to the questions I have fielded the most during my decade working with these dreaded college application essays.

Not only do I include simple answers for each of the 50 questions, I also include clickable links to related posts from this blog to provide even more in depth explanations, advice and tips. read more…

New Common Application Prompts for 2017-18

new common application prompts

New Common Application Prompts for 2017-18:

TOPIC OF CHOICE IS BACK!!

 

Great news for you college-bound juniors who are just starting to think about your college application essays.

If you need to write your personal statement essay for The Common Application, they just made it a lot easier.

Instead of having to pick one topic from their list of suggested 5 prompts, you can now write about ANYTHING YOU WANT.

read more…

Essay Hell Writing Tips Make the Tabloids!

college application essay
A friendly reporter from the popular daily tabloid newspaper, Metro, contacted me a couple weeks ago. She was writing a piece for the New York edition on college admissions, and wanted to feature some of my college application essay writing tips. (It’s actually a legit newspaper that boasts 18 million daily readers internationally!)
I love getting out the word about my writing advice. So I shared what I thought were four of my most helpful ideas and tips with her.

read more…

UC Shares Videos on Personal Insight Questions

 

As you probably know, the University of California changed its required essay prompts for 2016-17.

Instead of writing two longer personal statement essays, you now chose from eight prompts (which they call Personal Insight Questions) and write four short essays, each under 350 words. (For incoming freshmen; transfer students have similar, yet slightly different requirement.)

The University of California recently shared several videos intended to help students understand what is expected from these new Personal Insight Questions prompts. read more…

Essay Writing Cheat Sheet for Stuck Students

shutterstock_146379659

I’m always trying to find ways to help students quickly come up with topic ideas and a path to cranking out their college application essays.

Typically, I advise them to start with their defining qualities or characteristics, and then find real-life stories or moments to illustrate one of these, and go from there.

(Use How to Write Your Common Application Essay in 3 Steps for that approach. It’s also spelled out in greater detail in my popular writing guide, Escape Essay Hell!, available on Amazon.) read more…

Are You a Hillary with your College Application Essay?

hillary

As I’ve been watching the Democratic national convention this past week, I realized how much election speeches are like college application essays.

Both are sales pitches. Both candidates and college applicants want something—badly!

Candidates want votes. You want to get admitted. read more…

Start Your UC Personal Insight Question Essays for 2016-17 Now!

california-badge

Want to Go To College In California?
Get Your Application in ASAP!!

 

This year marks my 30th year living in California.

I love this state! I moved here from across the country to join my future husband in 1986, and never looked back.

The people are welcoming and forward-minded (for the most part), the dramatic natural beauty of ocean, mountains and dessert is everywhere, and the weather is near-perfect.

Also, California’s public educational system is unsurpassed, from the network of community colleges to the Cal States to its world-class research and learning universities, like Berkeley and UCLA.
read more…

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…

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