by j9robinson | May 21, 2015
Colleges Encourage Students to Write About $ and Work
in College Application Essays
The New York Times today published the seven college application essays it liked the best for its contest about writing on the topic of money.
Most of the winners wrote about their experiences facing various types of financial hardship and challenges.
They are worth reading simply as sample essays, which could give you ideas for topics of your own. (more…)
“If you want to ‘show’ something, ask, ‘Can you prove it with an example?'”
by j9robinson | Feb 22, 2015
With all the hype and pressure surrounding college admissions, I don’t blame students and parents for looking for shortcuts or anything that can give them an edge in the selection process.
While I believe students should take the helm of figuring out where they want to go to college, I understand the attraction of getting some help.
Taking prep classes for standardized tests.
Hiring a private college admissions counselor.
And working with a writing expert on the dreaded college application essays.
Yep, I provide help with essays, including tutoring.
But I do not write them for students.
It can be a fuzzy line, and I think we all know when it’s been crossed. (more…)
by j9robinson | Feb 13, 2015
Not many images are more daunting than a blank page. The horror! But starting next month (March), I’m launching a weekly Webinar series to assist more students and families with starting their college application essays.
I write this blog, peddle my three guide books and tutor privately to get out my advice, tips and inspiration to make this process less miserable. I actually believe writing these essays can be an enlightening and productive experience, and dare I say, fun, if you have some direction and support. It can also be a total drag.
But I think you have a choice on how it goes. A lot of the stress of the college admissions process is caused by the unknown. Once you know what to do, you will see that it’s not that impossible.
I’m hoping that my Webinars can help students, and parents and others who work with students, get a jump on what they need to do. (more…)
by j9robinson | Nov 8, 2014
How to Focus Your
College Application Essay!
I love all the comments students make about my posts. The most common ones ask about topics for the Common App or other core college application essays, including the University of California prompts. Students want to know what I think of their topic ideas.
I noticed the main problem with many of their ideas is that their topics are way to broad. WAY TOO BROAD! I think many ask my opinion because they suspect their topics are too general, but they don’t know how to focus them. And they are absolutely correct to worry about this. Essays about general topics are almost always dull and ineffective. (What good is an essay if no one wants to read it?)
I have written a lot about how to find topics that are not broad, and instead are engaging, meaningful and memorable. My best advice for students who worry that their topic is too broad would be to keep reading my blog posts! They all carry the same message—find a topic that is specific, zero in on real-life moments (anecdotes), brainstorm topics that are mundane (everyday) as opposed to impressive, pick one quality or characteristic to write about (as opposed to trying to cram in all the great things about yourself.) These are all ways to focus—or narrow down—your topics. (more…)
by j9robinson | Oct 25, 2014
Photo by Janine Robinson
Feeling a Bit Underwater
About Your College Application Essay?
It’s that time of year. Most “early decision” deadlines are counting down by the day, and other major deadlines aren’t far behind. Stay calm. Read my blog. Target your essay writing needs by using the indexed listing called “Help By Topic” in the right sidebar.
My last post was about an article that a USA Today reporter wrote sharing my advice on these essays, as well as tips from other college experts. When we first spoke, the reporter asked me to put together a list of my best tips. In her article, she wove in some of the tips I sent her, but I thought students might find the entire list I sent her even more helpful. So here it is:
Essay Hell’s Top 10 Tips
For Writing Standout
College Application Essays
1. Don’t try to impress. Instead, look for topics that are “mundane,” or everyday. (Scooping ice cream; singing karaoke; riding public busses; having big feet, etc.) It’s counter-intuitive, but those lead to the most memorable essays. (more…)
by j9robinson | Oct 24, 2014
Photo via USA Today and iStock
My Essay Advice in USA Today Article!
A young reporter from USA Today interviewed me the other day to collect some of my tips on writing college application essays. She included advice from other top college experts as well. If you’ve read my blog, you’ve probably heard most of it before, but thought you might find the article helpful anyway:
9 essay writing tips to ‘wow’ college admissions officers
By: Paige Carlotti
October 23, 2014
You’ve taken the tests, requested the recommendations, completed the common app, and now it’s finally time to refocus on what you’ve been putting off: the essay.
While most students spend days, sometimes weeks, perfecting their personal statements, admissions officers only spend about three to five minutes actually reading them, according to Jim Rawlins, director of admissions at the University of Oregon.
High school seniors are faced with the challenge of summarizing the last 17 years into 600 words, all while showcasing their “unique” personality against thousands of other candidates.
“It’s hard to find a balance between sounding professional and smart without using all of those long words,” says Lily Klass, a senior at Milford High School in Milford, Mass. “I’m having trouble reflect myself without sounding arrogant or rude or anything like that.”
The following tips will help applicants make the leap from ‘average’ to ‘accepted’:
1. Open with an anecdote.
Since the admissions officers only spend a brief amount of time reviewing stories, it’s pivotal that you engage them from the very beginning.
“Instead of trying to come up with gimmicky, catchy first lines, start by sharing a moment,” says Janine Robinson, writing coach and founder of Essay Hell. “These mini stories naturally grab the reader … it’s the best way to really involve them in the story.”
Let the moment you choose be revealing of your personality and character. Describe how it shaped who you are today and who you will be tomorrow. (more…)
by j9robinson | Oct 20, 2014
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…)
by j9robinson | Sep 8, 2014
If you are struggling with your college application essay right about now, you might be cursing the entire process.
And I don’t blame you.
You’re supposed to think up some fascinating topic that will grab the attention of those bored-to-tears admissions officers and help your application stand out among the thousands of other students vying for the same spot at your dream college.
All the experts tell you “Just be yourself!” or “Tell a story.”
While they are right, it’s totally normal that you don’t have much confidence in how to do that in 650 words or less.
Most high school students have not been taught how to write a narrative (story-telling style) personal essay.
And to write good ones takes a lot of practice. (more…)
by j9robinson | Aug 26, 2014
If you’ve been looking for help with your college application essay, I assume you have discovered the mountains of information (some helpful; a lot no so much) out there on the Web. One of my favorite resources for students is The Prospect, which is an organization centered on college admissions and high school/college life.
The main reason I love The Prospect so much is that it is all about helping students survive high school and get into the college of their dreams–but it’s also run by students like you! Their talented staff offered to share some of their best essay-writing tips here on Essay Hell. I think you will find their foodie-approach fun, inspiring and useful! (more…)