In One Word: Focus!
I’ve been reading college application essays for the last decade.
I’m probably into the thousands by now.
Looking back, I have identified the most common flaw in many of them.
They are too general.
Which make them borrrrrrringggggg.
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)
Mission trips (volunteering)
Tutoring (especially special needs kids)
Travel (family trips)
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…
Can a Risky College Application Essay
Get You Into the Ivies?
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…
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…
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…
3 HOT TIPS
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…
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…
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.
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:
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.
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…
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…
Most of you landed here in Essay Hell looking for advice on how to write your college application essays.
And you are definitely at the right place!
This post, however, I’m skipping the essay talk and offering something equally valuable:
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…
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.
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…
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…
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…
It’s been a big year for changes in the college admissions scene.
About the same time this was published, yet another college application system entered the admissions picture. It’s call the Cappex Application, and you can learn about it in this article. It’s supposed to “launch” in September. read more…
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…
The first step to writing a winning college application essay is to find that perfect topic.
This is the most important step, and often the hardest.
Once you land on one, you are ready to roll.
Things fall in place. read more…
Learn How to Avoid Black-and-White Thinking
to Add Depth to Your Essays
It’s exciting to see that word is getting out to collegebound students, and those who support their admissions quests, that real-life stories power the most effective college application essays.
If you are new to this concept, read up on the narrative (storytelling) writing method that I promote all over this blog.
(If you are just starting learning about college application essays, I recommend first reading How to Write a College Application Essay in 3 Steps. This post you are reading here is intended for students who have a topic and have started writing their first draft.)
Here’s the essence of my writing approach: You use your real-life stories to illustrate or demonstrate one of your defining qualities, characteristics or core values in your college application essay or personal statement. read more…
I arrived home to California yesterday from St. Louis, Missouri, after attending my son’s graduation from Washington University in chemical engineering. (Woot Woot!)
As part of graduating from college (as well as high school), my son and other students are bombarded with life advice.
For college graduates, the idea is that you are now moving out of the structured, sheltered world of academia and into the “real world.” read more…
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. read more…
Coalition Prompt 4: What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
When I first read through the five prompts students have to choose from to write their one personal statement essay for the new Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success application, this one popped out at me.
I bet it did the same for you.
Of the five prompts, Coalition prompt 4 tries to be more creative and relevant to a high school student. read more…
You Believe That?
Coalition for Access Essay Prompt 3: Has there been a time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
So you need to write your core essay for the new Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success application.
I assume you’ve already scanned the five Coalition for Access prompts you have to choose from to write your personal statement (an essay about yourself).
For some reason this one jumped out at you. read more…
If you’re using the new Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success to apply to one or more colleges for 2016-17, you need to write a core essay that responds to one of their five prompts.
First, I encourage you to read through the five prompts and see if one appeals to you or sparks any ideas.
If so, give that one a go. read more…
Quickly Find Ideas for Each of the
8 New Personal Insight Questions
I hope everyone applying to any of the University of California schools this fall got the big news: They have all new essay prompts for 2016-17!
Instead of writing two longer essays, incoming freshmen now are required to write four shorter essays—and have eight new prompts, called Personal Insight Questions, to choose from.
Since the big announcement this spring, I’ve written eight new posts on each of the new UC essays.
I’ve listed them all together here (below) in this post so you can find them easily. read more…
Tips and Ideas for Coalition for Access
Essay Prompts: The First and Last
If you are using the new Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success to apply to college for 2016-17, you first need to check if the college or university you want to attend requires essays.
Some will require you to write the main general essay, and others might only require you write their shorter, additional essays specifically for individual schools, which are called supplemental essays. A few might not want any essays.
It’s up to you to figure out what each school wants from you, something you can find out on the Coalition for Access web site.
If they require you write the main Coalition essay, there’s good news!
You can write a personal statement on any topic you want. read more…
University of California Personal Insight Question 7:
Time to Talk About One of Those Volunteer Experiences
UC essay prompt 7: What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
The minute I read UC essay prompt 7, I thought most students would jump at this question because most have spent endless hours volunteering during high school.
Now it’s time to recall some of your most interesting or meaningful “times” or experiences.
You could write a strong essay about giving back, but you have to be careful to avoid the cliche trap.The trick is to think of something unusual or unexpected that happened during one of those experiences.