When I give writing workshops to students on college application essays and what makes them effective, I love to show this short video on YouTube.
It’s just over two minutes long, but in that brief time, I believe many students quickly get a sense of what they need to do to craft essays that will be engaging and memorable.
Take a couple minutes to watch this video, which brings you around a table of college admissions officers at Amherst College, a liberal arts college in Massachusetts, as they sort through applications. (more…)
Many of the students I work with have finished their core essays for their college applications, and are now asking for help on the supplements. For most, writing their personal statement-type essays wasn’t that bad, searching for their stories and unique topics to tell and share. But these supps are not nearly as fun. In fact, for most of the supplements I have seen so far, it’s a major drag.
So I ask: What’s the point? These supplements that want students to tell why they are the perfect fit for their school, or what they are going to give back to a university, or why they have selected a certain college. Most of my students tell me, “I have no idea what to write.” And why should they? Answering these questions is almost always an exercise in making up a bunch of stuff. (more…)
Underprivileged or Underrepresented Students: This Means You!
Why You Must Share Stories That Show Your Grit
As a writing coach, I work mainly with students I consider “privileged.”
This means they can find support writing college application essays through an extensive network of tutors (like me), test prep programs, private college admissions counselors, services in their affluent schools, and most importantly, from well-educated, connected parents who will do almost anything to help them.
But I know there are thousands of bright, eager and deserving students out there who have none of this support.
In fact, at almost every turn, many are bombarded with obstacles that are not their fault. (more…)
Insider Writing Tips From a School That Knows Creative Writing
When I read this post by an admissions officer at Tufts University named Lee Coffin (who has been dubbed “Hip Dean”) on word limits for Common App essays, I discovered he also included some savvy tips on how to write powerful essays.
You can read the entire post called “500 Words of Less,” or this section that I’ve copied below where he focuses more on writing advice. I took the liberty to highlight what I thought were his best points. (more…)
The Colorful New World of College Application Essay Prompts
But What Does It Really Mean?
University of Chicago: “Tell us your favorite joke and try to explain the joke without ruining it.”
Brandeis University: “If you could choose to be raised by robots, dinosaurs, or aliens, who would you pick? Why?”
University of Virginia: Make a bold prediction about something in the year 2020 that no one else has made a bold prediction about.
Johns Hopkins University: “Using a piece of wire, a Hopkins car window sticker, an egg carton, and any inexpensive hardware store item, create something that would solve a problem. Tell us about your creation, but don’t worry; we won’t require proof that it works!”
Santa Clara University: “Tell us about the most embarrassing moment of your life.”
University of Pennsylvania: You have just finished your three hundred page autobiography. Please submit page 217.
University of Notre Dame: You have 150 words. Take a risk.
A distinct pattern is emerging from the new college application prompts trickling out so far this year, and in recent years. Many have taken a promising turn toward the absurd, silly and provocative. What I see, however, are creative writing prompts. These are the exact type of questions English teachers would ask students to practice and sharpen their writing chops. (more…)
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