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Welcome to Essay Hell!

On this site, you will learn tips, advice and strategies to write your dreaded college application essays—and escape the misery of Essay Hell.

Read the helpful posts (click the flames and icons!) and learn to navigate the complicated admissions process, discover powerful writing tools, and craft standout essays to land in your dream school.

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Click the lightbulb to learn more about my popular on-demand, online essay writing course: How to Write a College Application Essay.

Includes 11 short instructional videos, my four writing guides and related worksheets and exercises.

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“Funnily enough, I actually used this website to help guide a lot of my application essays, including this one. So I guess this would be the perfect opportunity to say thank you! I feel like my essays definitely strengthened my entire application.”

Brittany Stinson
Accepted to all 8 ivies and Stanford
(wrote famous “Costco essay”)

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Discover the Famous Essay Hell Blog!

How to Find a Hot Topic
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“Unlike other formulaic essay writing approaches…Essay Hell follows a narrative writing style and self-discovery framework that helps you find and write about the most important aspect of your college essays: YOU! Highly recommend!”

Ben Drake
Admitted UC Berkeley, Regents Scholar
Fall 2017
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Everything You Need to Know About the Four Most Common Applications
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Common Application Essays

Find help on choosing from the seven prompts for The Common Application, and crafting a “slice-of-life” essay that helps you stand out.

University of California Essays

University of California Essays

Brainstorm ideas and craft short essays for the eight new essay prompts for the University of California application.

Coalition for Access...Essays

This is a brand new application system: Find strategies for all five of the prompts to write the required personal statement essay.

ApplyTexas Essays (Most Texas Schools!)

Learn about the all-new prompts for the ApplyTexas application, and tips and advice on writing essays for Topic A, B and C.

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The Essay Hell Blog

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How to Record Scratch Your College App Essay Stories

                       How to Background an Anecdote (Includes 5 writing examples at the bottom!) If you've done your homework on how to write an effective college application essay, you probably know the place to start is with your real-life stories. The idea is...

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How to Self-Reflect for College App Essays

Who Are You? Tips and Resources to Think About Yourself If you are working on your personal statement for The Common Application or other college applications, the first step is to start to think about yourself. Sounds easy enough. Who am I? What am I like? How did I...

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Start Your College Application Essay: Brainstorm Guide

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...

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Essay Lessons From a College Applicant Superstar

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...

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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...

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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...

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College Rejection: 3 Lessons

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...

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10 Quickie Tips to Nail Your 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...

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