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…)
Big changes in the new SAT test announced recently caused quite a stir, especially that they were dropping the essay component. I was most excited, however, that they also were going to stop emphasizing “obscure” vocabulary words.
Not only do I think it’s ridiculous to force students to memorize lists of long words no one uses, but I think it’s a huge waste of precious class and homework time.
After years of working with students on their college application essays, I have seen how the emphasis in English classes on these obscure words oozed into students’ writing–and made it pedantic (look it up. haha.) and dull. Most think they sounded smarter when they use words like “deleterious” and “cacophony” in their essays. (more…)
I recently received an email from a student named Daniel Ryu, who is a sophomore at Harvard University. Daniel said he was stressed out his senior year of high school during the application process and had found my blog helpful. He offered to share what worked for him. No matter where you are aiming to get in, I would listen closely to what Daniel has to say. Obviously, it worked!
Here’s Daniel’s guest post:
4 Tips for the College Essay
So you’re a high school senior or maybe even a junior; the thought of applying to college has been on your mind for some time. It seems that every moment of your high school career has been building up to this point. Your GPA is mostly set and you are already involved in all the clubs and extracurriculars that you will ever join, at least in high school. There is now one thing that stands in your way. The college essay. (more…)
The winter flurry of letters is landing in mail boxes around the globe this time of year. I just heard from three ecstatic students who learned last week they were accepted into their dream schools–one was Harvard, another Wellesley, and a third Middlebury. I felt excited and proud for them. But I will feel equally excited for my students who will soon learn they will be attending schools in our University of California system, whether it’s Berkeley, UCI or Santa Cruz, or other state universities such as UW, Boulder and U. of O, and especially those getting into the small liberal arts colleges no one has ever heard of, but are true gems.
And I also can’t help think about those who are getting those awful cryptic rejections in the mail at the same time. They can really sting.
But if you are still waiting to learn where you will be attending college (or are still working on your college application and essays), just know that you will land in the place that is right for you. It may not be that dream school, or the one you couldn’t wait to tell your friends about getting into. But chances are you will attend a school that you will end up absolutely loving. It’s all about finding the right match–kind of like shoes, if they don’t fit right, they will hurt your feet. (more…)
UPDATE: The University of California announced NEW essay prompts for 2016-17. Read about how to answer them HERE.
The following content in this post is no longer relevant and is outdated!
About three years ago, I wrote a post to try to help students applying to the University of California find topics to answer Prompt 1 for their college application essay: Describe the World You Come From. Since I shared my advice in my Describe the World You Come From post, I have received more than a 100 comments from students. Most have specific questions, mainly trying to see if their idea of a “world” would make a great essay.
Since then, I tried to answer most of their questions. This year, I am so swamped with tutoring students, however, that I’m not able to answer all the questions right now. But I have noticed that many cover the same ground—even though the topics range from someone’s world of books, to playing tennis, to making cookies, to an ill family member, etc. So I pulled some of the questions that I thought are more common, along with my answers, in hopes they might answer questions still lingering out there. See below. (more…)
The University of California CHANGED its essay prompts for 2016-17.
Learn about the all-new requirements by clicking HERE!
THIS POST IS OUTDATED!
How to Describe a Place
in a College App Essay
If you are applying to the University of California, you need to write two college application essays.
I wrote about how to Describe the World You Come From three years ago, explaining how to think about the first prompt and brainstorm ideas for your essay.
It would help you to read that advice first, then come back.
This time, I want to give you some ideas on how to SHOW the world you decide to write about when describing the setting of your world.
Since in the UC essay your world will be some type of community, I believe you might need to describe where you experienced it. In writing, that’s called the setting.
If you want a powerful essay, you will use descriptive language, sensory details and specific examples to help us see your world. (more…)
The Colorful New World of College Application Essay Prompts
But What Does It Really Mean?
University of Chicago: “Tell us your favorite joke and try to explain the joke without ruining it.”
Brandeis University: “If you could choose to be raised by robots, dinosaurs, or aliens, who would you pick? Why?”
University of Virginia: Make a bold prediction about something in the year 2020 that no one else has made a bold prediction about.
Johns Hopkins University: “Using a piece of wire, a Hopkins car window sticker, an egg carton, and any inexpensive hardware store item, create something that would solve a problem. Tell us about your creation, but don’t worry; we won’t require proof that it works!”
Santa Clara University: “Tell us about the most embarrassing moment of your life.”
University of Pennsylvania:
You have just finished your three hundred page autobiography. Please submit page 217.
University of Notre Dame:
You have 150 words. Take a risk.
A distinct pattern is emerging from the new college application prompts trickling out so far this year, and in recent years. Many have taken a promising turn toward the absurd, silly and provocative. What I see, however, are creative writing prompts. These are the exact type of questions English teachers would ask students to practice and sharpen their writing chops. (more…)
College Application Essays
How to Write An Anecdote About Almost Anything
Before one of my college application essay writing workshops yesterday, I skimmed over some of the rough drafts the students had written last semester for their English classes.
The writing was solid, the ideas strong.
Yet the essays were all on the dull side.
If only someone had taught these kids how to use anecdotes, I thought.
They are the ultimate writing technique for Showing (an example) rather than Telling (explaining) about a point you want to make.
Nothing powers a college application essay like an engaging anecdote in the introduction.
Often, you can pull an anecdote ( a mini true story) out of what you’ve already written and instantly transform it into an engaging read. And it can be a very everyday, simple event or moment. (more…)
Students must write one core college admissions essay if they are applying to a college or colleges that use The Common Application. But most schools also require additional essays, called supplements. The supp prompts for this year are starting to trickle out, and the trend so far is toward questions that are quirky and try to get students to think out of the box. (more…)
One of the best ways to connect with your reader in your college application essay is through emotion.
In my new book, Escape Essay Hell!, I share writing techniques and devices you can use to bring pathos to your essay, and forge a bond with your reader.
(With my following suggestions, I’m assuming you already have an introduction—probably an anecdote or mini-story—for your narrative essay, and have moved on to explain what it meant to you.) (more…)