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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. (more…)

Do You Undermine Yourself with Words?

college application essay

Photo Via Goop

 

This might seem random, but I found some powerful writing advice on the blog of Gwyneth Paltrow that I believe is relevant to students writing their college application essays, and others, especially women.

The woman Paltrow recently featured in her blog, Goop, had some opinions about how women have unconscious habits in their speech and writing that cause them to come across as less confident and competent.

And they hit me hard.

When I thought about it, I was surprised how my lingering insecurities and self-esteem issues still creep into my writing, and even how I talk.

So I thought you might would find them interesting, too. (more…)

It’s Official: Out with the Big Words!

 

Big changes in the new SAT test announced recently caused quite a stir, especially that they were dropping the essay component. I was most excited, however, that they also were going to stop emphasizing “obscure” vocabulary words.

Not only do I think it’s ridiculous to force students to memorize lists of long words no one uses, but I think it’s a huge waste of precious class and homework time.

After years of working with students on their college application essays, I have seen how the emphasis in English classes on these obscure words oozed into students’ writing–and made it pedantic (look it up. haha.) and dull. Most think they sounded smarter when they use words like “deleterious” and “cacophony” in their essays. (more…)

Should You Humblebrag in Your Essay?

 

A smart dad sent me an email recently asking how college-bound students could work in related achievements and accomplishments into their personal, narrative-style essay, without sounding like they were blowing their own horn.

It’s definitely a fine line. Students write these first-person essays as part of the application process to convince colleges to admit them.

How can they not strut their best stuff? 

The whole challenge reminded me of  humblebragging.

If you live on a different planet (or don’t use social media) and haven’t heard of this word for phony humility, it’s basically the fine art of boasting about yourself and making it sound like an accident.

The trick is to cloak your bragging with other comments, which make it seem as though the impressive part just kind of slipped out.

The more subtle, the better.

Did I mention how much my hand hurts from signing copies of my new book? (more…)

Is Your Privilege Showing?

 

College Application Essays

Humility Goes a Long Way

 

Many of the students I work with are from privileged backgrounds. (Hey, it’s expensive to hire a tutor!)

They live in affluent communities, go on extravagant vacations and enjoy pricey hobbies and activities.

There’s nothing wrong with being privileged (a humble way of saying wealthy or rich).

But when you are writing about yourself in your college application essay, and want to come across as well-adjusted and likable, it helps to know if you are.

That way, you can make sure you don’t include topics, or comments, in your essays that might imply that you are spoiled, snobby, materialistic or entitled (think that you deserve more than others). (more…)

Want to be Likable? Here’s how.

College Admissions Essays:

How to make sure you come across as likable

 

“Think of something you might boast about and turn it into an entertaining flaw.”

College expert and blogger Jay Matthews on self-deprecation

In the typical list of hot tips from college counselors for crafting a winning college application essay, “Be likeable” is usually near the top.

This advice is usually followed up with “Don’t impress.”

But it’s a fine line when you are basically writing a marketing piece trying to sell yourself to the college of your dreams.

You feel the need to impress your colleges by describing your best achievements, qualities and talents, but one wrong word or phrase and you instantly sound like a braggart.

No one likes a braggart, and even a whiff of entitlement or unchecked ego can send your essay into the “No” pile.

The best way to avoid sounding like a braggart is to focus on what you did,  how you did it and why, and not just on the fact that you did it.

The trick is to highlight the quality behind your accomplishment, and then relay a specific example of how you developed that quality or furthered it somehow.

My Jumpstart Guide and other posts on finding topics can help you with that approach.

(more…)