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…)
I’m always on the lookout for new voices in the college admissions industry who try to help students and parents and all of us keep a balanced and sane perspective on the frenzied quest for the perfect college.
Kristin White, an educational consultant who wrote It’s the Student, Not the College: The Secrets of Succeeding at Any School: Without Going Broke or Crazy, does a great job of explaining how a student’s success has little to do with where they get in, even if it’s one of the 20 prestige schools so many believe they must attend or their lives will be ruined.
I asked Kristin if she would share her opinions on how she thinks about the college application essays, and she wrote this guest post on what is behind every great and effective essay—strong writing skills.
As she explains in this piece, strong writing chops can not only help you nail your college admissions essays, they are powerful skills that will help power your college experience as well as your effectiveness in the workplace. (more…)
I get a lot of students with my college application essay tutoring who fall into the “math/science” end of the learning spectrum.
In general, that means that classes such as Algebra II and Chemistry come relatively easy to them, and English and other humanities not so much.
Many think they are not strong writers and are mortified that their college application essay could pull so much weight in where they get into college.
This just doesn’t seem fair, especially when many of these students have off the charts test scores.
If it helps, I like to think that colleges understand this discrepancy and take the larger picture into consideration when deciding who to accept.
If nothing else, you math/science students should view your essay as a chance to set yourself apart from the pack, and also showcase your balanced personality at the same time.
(I don’t mean to stereotype, but math/science whiz kids sometimes get pegged as not as social or well-rounded as other students. You know, it’s that annoying nerd or geek thing.) (more…)
I’m Giving Away 100 Copies of My Popular Writing Guide!
10 a Day for 10 Days
Almost every day, I have students tell me they cannot afford to buy my ebook guide on writing college applications essays–Escape Essay Hell!--so I decided to give some away for free. I want as many students as possible to find help writing these dreaded essays, and I understand that ten bucks can be a lot for some people. That’s the main reason I started my blog!
So, starting tomorrow (Thursday, September 19, 2013), I am going to give away 10 copies a day to the first students who send me an email request–and I will send 10 copies a day for a total of 10 days. That means I will be giving away 100 copies total. (more…)
A student who I will call Ryan arrived for his tutoring session yesterday, and showed me what he had written for his English class.
His essay started with how he worked with Habit for Humanity and a trip he took to work with Native Americans.
Not the old mission trip essay.
Way too overdone. Usually dull as dirt.
So I suggested we start fresh.
Example of One of My Tutoring Sessions
I asked Ryan to jot down some of his defining qualities.
He wrote down conscientious, reliable, consistent and relaxed.
I noticed that several of his qualities overlapped, so I asked him about his sense of responsibility—fishing for his interesting stories, moments or small experiences that could “show” how or why he is “a responsible guy” in his essay. (more…)
I already featured this list of my favorite books on how to write essays–narrative-style, “slice of life,” personal essays–at the end of an earlier post. These are exactly what you want to write for your college application essays. (Don’t let anyone talk you into writing a stiff, formal academic style essay for your college admissions essay!) I didn’t want you to miss them in case you want to learn more about how to write in this style.
Needless to say, I also believe my own guide on writing college application essays, Escape Essay Hell!, has great advice on writing these essays, because it’s specifically geared toward helping students find unique topics, and then write them using this story-telling style. But I drew many of my ideas from these other guides. When it comes to writing, you can never learn enough. (more…)
I love anecdotes.
Especially for starting narrative essays for college application essays.
They can take a little practice to compose, but what a deceptively powerful writing tool.
Actually, if you start almost any type of writing with an anecdote–from a college essay to a book report to a press release–your message will instantly rise and shine above other written messages competing for readers’ attention.
They are engaging, accessible and they have a wow factor. Even though you don’t mean to be impressive, people often think you are so creative and accomplished when you wield them. (more…)
Maybe I’m just grumpy because it’s 90+ degrees in my garage office and I tweaked my back in yoga last week (while bowing and saying “Namaste” at the very end. really.) But I just received an email from a desperate parent that really sent me. It took everything I had not to give her a piece of my mind. Actually, I couldn’t take it and did give her a piece of my mind…
The good part of our exchange, which I will copy below, is that it gave me a reason to share a terrific article that I believe every parent, student and college counselor involved in this college application process should read. It was written by a former college counselor who was recruited by way-too-wealthy parents to help get their kids into the most select schools–especially to help them write their college application essays. (more…)
College Application Essays
Underprivileged or Underrepresented Students: This Means You!
Why You Must Share Stories That Show Your Grit
As a writing coach, I work mainly with students I consider “privileged.”
This means they can find support writing college application essays through an extensive network of tutors (like me), test prep programs, private college admissions counselors, services in their affluent schools, and most importantly, from well-educated, connected parents who will do almost anything to help them.
But I know there are thousands of bright, eager and deserving students out there who have none of this support.
In fact, at almost every turn, many are bombarded with obstacles that are not their fault. (more…)
College Application Essays
Which Prompt Will You Pick?
UPDATE: Most of this information is still helpful and relevant. However, please see the changes in the NEW Common Application Prompts for 2015-16!
If you are ready to brainstorm ideas for your Common Application essays, here’s a great place to start. I’ve written posts on each of the 5 new prompts–including how to focus your answer, to find unique angles and twists, to structure your essay, to tell a story with an anecdote, and topics to avoid, on and on.
Here are the new prompts for the 2013 Common Application essays
(click each prompt to find my post on how to respond to it!):
- Some students have a background or story or interest or talent that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
- The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
- Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
- 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.
- Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
Check out my posts on how to answer the two prompts for the University of California essays.
If you find these helpful, but still need more help in the actual writing of your narrative-style essay, consider buying a copy of my new book: Escape Essay Hell! You can order off my blog here or it’s now also available on Amazon via Kindle. luck!