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 application essay topics.
This time, I’m going for the essay jugular and offering a brainstorm guide to start your college application essay by honing in on your best problems.
If you are new to this process of writing a narrative-style college application essay, let me clue you in to why problems are your golden ticket. (more…)
Why Bad Writers
Write the Best
College Application Essays
If you think you can’t write, and you need to write a college application essay, this is your lucky day. There’s a higher-than-average chance you will write an awesome essay.
(If you think you can write, there’s still hope for you, too. But you might have more work to do.)
Let me start by asking you why you’re so sure that you can’t write, at least not well.
Is it because you got average to low grades in English class? Or even flunked out. (more…)
ONE College Application Essay
for The Common App
The Common Application comes out officially August 1. But they already announced the changes for this coming 2015-16 season.
The most important were changes to the five essay prompts. (You can write your main Common App essay about one of the five.)
Beside the prompts, there were two other significant tweaks you should know about: (more…)
The folks at The Common Application added a new prompt this year and I love it.
It asks you to write about a problem.
What’s so great about a problem?
Problems = Stories = Great Essays! (more…)
If you landed on my Essay Hell blog, there’s a strong chance you are in search of help on writing your college application essay.
Yes, that’s what I do, and I’m happy to help you.
But I was thinking of how I would advise a student or parent who is looking for someone to assist in the essay writing process (other than me).
There are many options—from private college counselors to teachers and smart friends.
Many “experts” claim to know their stuff, but it’s important to make them prove it.
I think the trick is to A. determine if your essay helper really understands what makes a good college admissions essay (a very specific type of writing), and B. has the experience and skills to help a student write or improve her or his own. (more…)
How to Answer Prompt 4 for the Common App
for your College Application Essay
Prompt 4: Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma—anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
You almost can’t go wrong if you pick this prompt to write your college application essay for The Common Application for 2015-16. It sets you up perfectly to tell an engaging story, which makes the best personal statement-style essays. (more…)
College Application Essays
Humility Goes a Long Way
Many of the students I work with are from privileged backgrounds. (Hey, it’s expensive to hire a tutor!)
They live in affluent communities, go on extravagant vacations and enjoy pricey hobbies and activities.
There’s nothing wrong with being privileged (a humble way of saying wealthy or rich).
But when you are writing about yourself in your college application essay, and want to come across as well-adjusted and likable, it helps to know if you are.
That way, you can make sure you don’t include topics, or comments, in your essays that might imply that you are spoiled, snobby, materialistic or entitled (think that you deserve more than others). (more…)
College Admissions Essays:
The Common App. Prompt #1
Out of the seven prompts you can chose from to write your application essay for The Common Application, I like the first one a lot. (UPDATE: As of 2017, you can now write about any topic you want. See new prompt #7.)
Prompt No. 1 is trying to “prompt” you to find and share a story that will reveal an important part of what makes you unique and special.
These are called personal essays, and they are what my entire blog is trying to help you learn to write!
In a nutshell, you write these types of essays in the first-person (I, me, you…point of view) and use a “write-like-you-talk” casual style.
Narrative-style (storytelling) essays are natural “grabbers” because you use mini-stories from real life, also called anecdotes, for your introduction to illustrate a larger point.
Related: How to Write an Anecdote: Part One
The structure can be as elaborate as you want, but in general, you “show” the reader your point with an anecdote at the beginning, and then “tell” or explain what it means in the second part. (Here’s a quickie guide to help you Write a College Application Essay in 3 Steps.)
(Those stiff, 5-paragraph essays from high school English class are history!)
Narrative, slice-of-life essays are ideal for almost any type of admissions essay. But some college application essay prompts are trickier than others to figure out how to answer the question by telling a story.
Others, however, are easier and actually ask for a story. Like Prompt No. 1. (and No. 2 and 4). (more…)