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. (more…)
College Application Essays
A Mini-Lesson from a Storytelling Pro
I found this brilliant little example of how to understand what makes up a good story today in a column written by the talented sportswriter and journalist named Tommy Tomlinson. If you are writing your college application essay, and want to use the narrative style to tell a “slice of life” story or use an anecdote, this mini-lesson can help you a lot. Tomlinson wrote: “First, I’m gonna draw three objects. (more…)
Roy Peter Clark was a famous writing coach when newspapers started directing their reporters to tell the news through a story-telling format in the late 70s and 80s, a genre called New Journalism and made famous by Tom Wolfe.
(The main difference between New Journalism stories and your college essays is that your stories are told in the first person, as opposed to the third person. It’s all narrative writing.)
Here’s a link to his 50 tips, and podcasts: http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=78&aid=103943
My favorite tips, when it comes to writing college essays, are numbers 1, 8, 9, 10, 14, 20, 21, 22, 24, 32 and 34.
(With each podcast, Clark elaborates on the tip with examples and further insights–if you have the patience and are a good listener. I’m getting the book!)
One of the best ways to write about yourself is to start with a little story, also known as an anecdote. Not only are these mini-stories compelling and natural “grabbers,” they are an excellent way to “show” the reader about yourself instead of just “telling” them. (Want to learn how to “show” your reader what sets you apart from the pack, and write in a narrative, or story-telling, style? Read THIS.)
So let’s assume you have chosen your story. (Click HERE to find great story topics!) Now, where do you start? Make sure the beginning has the most interesting, dramatic, compelling part of the story–otherwise you won’t hook your reader. It is quite common to “bury your lead,” that is, have the best part of your story, the highlight, the drama, the irony, etc., too far down in the narrative. If this is the case, just bring it up–and background it later.
Start your story at the best part, even if it happened in the middle. Start with the good stuff, the action, the impact, the peak of the problem, the punch of the moment, whatever has the most “juice.” Usually, you will only describe “a time” or moment that only lasted a few minutes. Often, this incident also will reflect on your larger message–that’s why it has that “juice.”
If you start in the middle of your story, and describe the highlight, you just need to quickly take your reader back to the beginning of your story in the following paragraph. You always want to go back and start at the beginning because that’s the most natural way to tell a story: chronologically. That way, you also end at the end, so writing your conclusion is natural and simple.
Read some sample essays that tell stories and note where the writer starts her or his story, and study how the narrative was handled. If you want more help on writing a mini-story or anecdote, read THIS POST on how to write an anecdote. If you need help getting started with your college admission essay, try my Jumpstart Guide.
Go Deep to Reveal Your Intellectual Vitality!
When writing narrative-style college application essays, I advise students to start by sharing a real-life story that illustrates one of their defining qualities or characteristics.
Once a student shares a real-life story with a problem (either big or small), they can go on to explain how they handled it.
Then comes the most important part: What they learned in the process.
This analysis, reflection or questioning is the most important part of an effective college application essay.
The Best Way to “Show”
in Your College App Essay
When I started as a young reporter at my first newspaper job in Illinois, I was assigned to cover a half dozen small farm towns.
I didn’t think much would happen out there.
But after about a month, there was a gruesome double murder in one of the towns on my beat. (more…)
College Application Essays:
What They Mean When They Ask for a Story
Most students have never written narrative essays, which are so different from most essays taught in English classes.
The classic 5-paragraph essay has a formal style, uses the third person, includes a main point or thesis statement in the introduction and has three supporting body paragraphs.
These college application (narrative) essays are the opposite.
The style is more casual, the structure looser and no one is counting the number of paragraphs.
They are told in the first-person and the main point is usually not stated directly, but implied by the essay itself.
What Is An Anecdote?
They are called “narrative” essays because they often use a story-like style—you are the narrator. (Many college counselors will advise you to “tell a story” in your essay. I do, too!)
However, there seems to be confusion between whether these narrative essays are the same as stories, or if they just contain mini-stories from real life. In general, they only contain small pieces of stories, called anecdotes.
These are used in the introductions because they grab the reader’s attention with a compelling description of an interesting moment or experience.
However, the entire essay is not one complete story that starts at the beginning and runs through the entire piece until the end.
Writers start with an anecdote to engage the reader by describing a moment, which tries to illustrate a larger point in their essay.
The rest of the essay is used to explain the broader meaning of the anecdote.
I know it can be confusing.
But I think people who resist the idea of narrative-style writing in these essays don’t understand the difference, and think narrative means the essay relates one long story. It doesn’t.
The narrative, or story-like style that reads like fiction, is mainly used only in the beginning of these essays. (In news or magazine stories, they are called anecdotal ledes.) The rest then shifts into a more explanatory mode.
So you do not want to tell one long story in your essay.
But you do want to look for mini-stories, or moments, or “times,” that you can relate as examples of something you want to illuminate in your essay.
In my new ebook, Escape Essay Hell!, I explain how you can use a Show and Tell structure to write a compelling narrative essay about yourself. The first part, using an anecdote, is the Show part.
The second part, where you explain what the moment or experience meant, how you thought and felt about it, and what you learned, is the Tell part.
Find examples of narrative writing in college application essay in my favorite collections of sample essays.
In my last post, I talked about how to ditch the 5-paragraph essay by switching to the “show and tell” approach. For you visual learners, I put together a simple outline of each so you can see the difference.
Read more about how to Show and Tell to write a terrific narrative-style essay for your college application!
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. (more…)