For more than five years now, I’ve encouraged students to write their college application essays using a narrative style.
Sharing true-life stories to reveal your personality, character, interests, dreams and goals is the best way to tell about yourself in a personal essay.
Until recently, many “college experts” directed students to write more formal, academic essays.
But now many also are championing slice-of-life essays—which is great! (more…)
When my two kids were finishing their junior years of high school, they each received the assignment from their English teacher to write a college application essay.
It sure sounded good—they could get a jump on these dreaded essays and receive professional direction on how to find great topics and write them in an engaging, memorable style.
It didn’t quite work out that way.
From what I could tell, this task of teaching how to write college admissions essays was dumped on these teachers, and they had to cram in a last-minute writing section at the very end of the year (and compete with the AP test crunch time, other end-of-year deadlines/pressures and spring fever.).
Also, as far as I could tell, no one really taught the teachers how to write college admissions essays and students had had very little practice writing in a narrative style. (more…)
I thought you might like to read one of the 50 sample college application essays featured in my new book, Heavenly Essays. This is the first one in the book. Like most of the essays in this collection, it was written by a former tutoring student of mine. I will share a few others in the next couple weeks.
Like I say in the book, I believe reading examples of essays written by other students is one of the best ways to learn how to write your own. Not only can these essays give you ideas for your own topics, but you can get a feel for the style that works best—narrative (storytelling) writing. (more…)
I thought it might be helpful to type up an explanation of why I write my blog, the source of my intentions, and what I think about the dreaded college application essay. You might find it boring, but I wanted to get it out and all in one place. Here’s what I have so far:
The Essay Hell Manifesto
I believe college application essays can be fundamentally unfair. Most students have not been taught how to write personal statements, or other types of narrative-style essays. Some can afford outside help; most cannot.
At the same time, these essays have become one of the most important pieces of the college application process in deciding who gets into which schools, especially the most competitive ones. Some colleges also use them to help decide who deserves scholarship money. (more…)
I’m very excited to announce that my new collection of sample college application essays–Heavenly Essays–is now available in paperback on Amazon. You also can buy ebook copies there and on this site as well.
To celebrate–and help spread the word–I’m offering Heavenly Essays: 50 Narrative College Application Essays That Worked, along with my snappy essay writing guide, Escape Essay Hell, for free in exchange for a review. (more…)
At the end of last year, I announced an essay writing contest. My goal was to find some quality examples of narrative writing by real students that I could include in my just-published collection of 50 sample college application essays, called Heavenly Essays.
About a hundred or so students generously submitted their essays, and most were very well-conceived and engaging. It was extremely difficult for me to pick the winners.
What I looked for were students who revealed a part of themselves in their essay by using narrative writing techniques, such as anecdotes, dialogues, descriptive writing, sensory details, an authentic voice, etc. (more…)
I was watching the most recent episode of Modern Family the other night, and thought it was funny and telling that Alex Dunphy, the token brainiac of the family, was obsessing about her college application essay.
The family was on a vacation in Australia, and Alex kept annoying everyone by trying to find life lessons and metaphors from the trip to use in her essay.
First off, what does that tell you about how these essays are becoming more and more of a national obsession? (My last post was about David Letterman’s Top 10 Ways to Make Your College App Essay Stand Out.)
To me, it says that these dreaded essays continue to rise above the other parts of the college admissions process in terms of what can either get you into a top college or keep you out. (more…)
If you are a Letterman fan, you know that I am supposed to list these college application essay tips backwards, and end with No. 1. But I prefer chronological order. You can watch the YouTube video, where he has the young man, Kwasi Enin, who was accepted to all eight ivies this year, count them down on his show. Some media have tried to pin Kwasi’s success on his essay—but that is pure conjecture (Kwasi is amazing on many levels). Anyway, if you are college bound, you might get a kick out of watching the whole thing.
If you are shy on time, I wrote out Letterman’s list here. And then I wrote my own list below. His may be funny; but mine works!
David Letterman’s Top 10 Ways to Make Your College Application Essay Stand Out
1. In the part where it says, “Office Use Only,” write: “Accept.”
2. Personally give to dean at home in the middle of the night.
3. If you’ve been to space, mention that you’ve been to space. (more…)
In my previous post, I featured a question and answer session with author Robert Cronk, who wrote a popular writing guide on how to write narrative-style college application essays. I found Concise Advise, which directs students on how to use movie-script writing techniques to bring their essays to life, a helpful resource.
I invited him to share more of his advice and tips here on Essay Hell, and this is the second part. (Here’s Part One in case you missed it.):
Me: What do you think is the most important part of a college app essay?
Bob: To me, it’s the element of character development, or transition, or transformation, or realization of something, even in small ways. The best essays start with a moment that led to that development and ends with a better, stronger, wiser person. (more…)
I’m always on the lookout for great writing guides—especially books on how to write narrative, slice-of-life essays (like mine).
Only recently did I discover this book, Concise Advice, by Robert N. Cronk.
What I loved was that his approach was different than mine, but arrived at the same goal—a compelling college application essay that reveals the writer’s unique personality, character, passions, talents, goals, etc.
This is what I wrote about our two different approaches in a review for Amazon on the latest (third) edition of his book:
I was surprised at how similar this book was to mine, although it offered a different approach–and our goals were very similar. My guide steps students through the process of finding their defining qualities, and then looking for slice-of-life “moments” or “incidents” that illustrate that quality in a compelling way. I encourage them to look for “times” when they encountered some type of “problem,” and use that to show how they handled it and what they learned. The result are highly readable “narrative” essays that do a beautiful job of revealing what makes a student tick. (more…)