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Start Your College Application Essay: Brainstorm Guide

start your college application essay

Find Your Problems
and You Will Find
Your Best Stories

 

Every year, I write a post for all you students who are ready to start your college application essay.

All you need is to find that one magic topic idea.

There are many ways to brainstorm ideas for college application essay topics.

This time, I’m going for the essay jugular and offering a brainstorm guide to start your college application essay by honing in on your best problems.

If you are new to this process of writing a narrative-style college application essay, let me clue you in to why problems are your golden ticket. read more…

Essay Lessons From a College Applicant Superstar

michael brown essay

Photo Via Johnathan Kimble/Courtesy Berthinia Rutledge-Brown

What You Can Learn From

Michael Brown’s College Application Essay

 

I must have watched the viral video of Michael Brown learning he got into Stanford at least three times in a row.

Such a feat and well-deserved accomplishment for what seems like an all-around great kid!

Not only was Michael accepted to 20 of our top learning institutions—including Harvard, Stanford and Yale—but he got a full ride to each of them. As well as more than a quarter million dollars in scholarships. read more…

New Trick for Finding Killer College Application Essay Topics

Let Lynda Barry Help You Find and Tell Your Best Stories!

Try One of Her Awesome Brainstorming Exercises

If you’re starting to brainstorm that perfect topic to craft your dreaded college application essay, I have a new writing technique you might find helpful.

I’m big on tapping mundane topics to inspire essays.

That means writing about everyday or ordinary experiences as opposed to those that try to impress or wow readers (aka college admissions folks).

Mundane topic example: My obsession with karaoke.

Trying-to-impress topic example: The time I played the star role in the school musical.

See the difference?

Which would you rather read about?

So when I discovered the brilliant writer and cartoonist Lynda Barry recently, and saw she also taps the mundane in life to help her students discover their personal stories, I couldn’t wait to share her ideas with those of you on the prowl for college application essay topics. read more…

Support High School Students Who Call BS on Guns

Learn How You Can Stand Up for Your Rights

Join the Parkland Students and Rally Your Own High School!

For the last decade, I’ve worked with hundreds of high school students every year on the notorious college application essay.

Once these teenagers start thinking and talking about who they are and what they care about, almost all of them reveal themselves as highly moral kids with idealistic goals and passions.

Above all, they know what’s right.

So it didn’t surprise me that the friends and classmates of the 14 high school students and three teachers slaughtered in Parkland, Florida last week have jumped into action.

Their simple and urgent message: Do something! read more…

College Rejection: 3 Lessons

college rejection

Don’t Despair over College Rejection

Sometimes You Discover a Better Path

 

It’s the time of year when high school seniors are learning where they got accepted to colleges or universities.

Yay! Good for you! Time to celebrate!

Many are also opening those dejecting rejection letters.

If they didn’t get into their dream school, that can be a bummer.

If they didn’t get into any of their schools, it can be a time of utter panic.

So I wanted to share a timely story about a young woman who recently sought my help after experiencing the wildly unpredictable and emotionally charged quest for the right school–and brutal college rejection. read more…

10 Quickie Tips to Nail Your UC Essays

uc essays

If you are just starting to write your four short UC essays (called Personal Insight Questions), here are ten simple tips that can help you crank them out.

I’ve written longer posts on how to brainstorm and map out answers for each of these questions for the University of California application, if you have the time and inclination. Find them here.

Too busy to read all those posts? No worries. read more…

The Big Eclipse: A Lesson in College Application Topic Ideas

 

Don’t Even Think About Writing About the Eclipse

And What to Write About Instead

 

When I was invited to give one of my college application essay writing workshops to students at Colorado Academy in Denver, Colorado, I had no idea it would be on the day of the big eclipse.

As Monday, August 21, neared, we all realized the sky would darken just about lunchtime during my daylong workshop.

Even though I knew it would be hard to compete with a full-on solar eclipse, I was excited because Denver was more in line with the action than my home in Southern California. read more…

How to Format Your Common Application Essay

format your common application essay

Confused on How to Format Your
Common Application Essay?

Here are 9 Hot Tips

The 2017-18 Common Application opened for business earlier this week (August. 1). Chances are you will soon need to know how to format your common application essay.

If you are on the ball, you might be ready to apply to specific colleges and universities and need to submit your core Common Application essay, as well as other shorter essays required by certain schools (often called Supplemental Essays).

Or you are still getting ready or working on writing them, but will need to know how to format your common application essay(s) in upcoming weeks or months.

The first step is to get an account with The Common Application. read more…

Why Kids CAN Write–If You Teach Them How

kids can write

Students Stress Over College App Essays

Because for the First Time They Want to Write

But Realize They Don’t Know How

The New York Times ran an article yesterday called “Why Kids Can’t Write.”

Great piece, but I didn’t agree with the title.

They can write. (Click bait.)

However, as the article chronicled at length, most students have not been taught how to write. The writing experts debated if the problem was at the mechanics end (lack of instruction on writing rules) or the other end with creative writing (lack of opportunity for personal expression through writing.)

I don’t think it’s an either-or issue. read more…

The Trouble with Boys and College Application Essays

college application essay

Who Writes Better College Application Essays:
Boys or Girls?

When I gave one of my summer college application essay writing boot camps this last weekend in my hometown of Laguna Beach, I had 11 boys and one girl.

As the students showed up, I casually mentioned this gender imbalance to the group and one of the boys quipped: “Because boys can’t write.”

I like to think of myself as someone who is gender neutral, and this comment caught me off guard.

My first thought was: That’s hogwash. read more…

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