How Brittany Stinson Wrote Her Costco Essay

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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. (more…)

Warning: 5 Ways to Blow Your College Application Essay

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How to Avoid College Application Essay
Booby Traps

No matter where you are with writing your college application essay, you should double check that you are on the right track.

It’s way too easy to inadvertently torpedo your chances of writing an essay that gives you an edge in the admissions game. (more…)

Listen to Me Talk About Writing Great College App Essays!

My friend, Lynn O’Shaughnessy, who is a national expert on helping families afford higher education, interviewed me recently about how to write standout college application essays. If you are struggling to figure out how to pay for your college or university, Lynn has the best insider information and resources, including her best-selling book and popular online courses.

I believe one thing that many students and parents don’t realize is that a strong essay not only can help you get into a competitive school, but it can also help you score merit scholarship money. This isn’t true for all schools, especially large universities, but many liberal arts colleges use the essays to determine who they want at their school and then work to help them afford it—including offering money. (more…)

Great Student; Not a Great Essay

college application essay

I’ve been meaning to write about the hubbub around the high school student who got accepted into all eight Ivy League schools last April. It was an amazing and well-deserved accomplishment for Kwasi Enin, a 17-year-old from Long Island, New York.

Because of his feat, the media and some college experts have held up his college application essay as one of the main reasons he was accepted. And it has been championed now as an example of a great essay.

I do not agree with this at all. I thought his essay was mediocre at best. (Read Kwasi’s essay and see for yourself.) (more…)

What Makes a College Application Essay “Great”?

Are you starting to think about writing your college application essay?

If so, you need to know what makes a great essay to know how to start brainstorming and writing your own.

You can often recognize a “great one” when you read or hear it—but it’s more difficult to explain what exactly made it that way.

Here’s my attempt to list the features that comprise a great college application essay.

Unlike other essays, these have a very specific goal that you must always factor in when you write a great one: To help your college application land in the “Yes!” pile.

Many of the elements of an effective college admissions essay further that goal.

A GRRRREATTT college application essay:

1. “Grabs” the readers at the start. I believe one of the best ways to do this is to start with an anecdote (real-life incident). Something happens.

2. Usually is written in a narrative (story-telling/memoir-like/slice-of-life) style drawing off real-life experiences.

3. Reveals a specific core or “defining” quality (creative, resourceful, fierce, resilient, driven, etc.) about the writer, rather than trying to describe many qualities. This is how to focus the essay. (more…)