Colleges Love Your Stories
Especially Those That Seem Almost Ordinary!
I’ve read several news articles in recent weeks featuring college admissions officials sharing what they liked about college application essays they read over the last year.
This feedback can be invaluable for students just starting to think about their essays and brainstorming topic ideas.
The admissions staffers at some of the best schools in the nation talked about the types of topics they enjoyed, and why they found them effective in learning more about the student applicants, and connecting with them (and admitting them!).
What the articles didn’t include, however, were ideas on exactly how you can find your own unique topics, and craft them into engaging and meaningful essays.
But don’t despair! (more…)
In One Word: Focus!
I’ve been reading college application essays for the last decade.
I’m probably into the thousands by now.
Looking back, I have identified the most common flaw in many of them.
They are too general.
Which make them borrrrrrringggggg.
Should You Write About a Cliche Topic
for Your College Application Essay?
If you are just starting brainstorming ideas for your college application essays, one of the first pieces of advice you might stumble upon is to avoid “cliche” topics.
I always warn my students about these often over-used topics, which can include:
Death of loved ones
Sports (especially injuries and victories/losses)
Mission trips (volunteering)
Tutoring (especially special needs kids)
Travel (family trips)
RELATED: College Application Essay Topics to Avoid
The main reason to avoid them is that droves of other students have already written about these topics, so they aren’t as effective at helping you differentiate yourself from other applicants.
Can a Risky College Application Essay
Get You Into the Ivies?
This time of year, a flurry of stories hit the national media about students who get into all the Ivy League schools (plus Stanford).
The stories always include scrutiny and speculation about their college application essays.
I have to admit that I’m kind of a sucker for these articles.
There’s such unpredictability with who gets into what schools.
Everyone is looking for clues as to what works and what doesn’t–especially with the essays. (more…)
FAQ | College Application Essays
I’m sharing below 20 of the most common questions about college application essays that I have been asked over the years, along with links to longer explanations and related helpful information.
This spring I published a book with these and 30 other questions and answers, called Essay Hell’s 50 Most Commonly Asked Questions about College Application Essays.
As I’ve been watching the Democratic national convention this past week, I realized how much election speeches are like college application essays.
Both are sales pitches. Both candidates and college applicants want something—badly!
Candidates want votes. You want to get admitted. (more…)
Stand Out in Your
Common Application Essay
So you are ready to start writing your Common Application Essay?
Congratulations! You have found the best source of specific tips and strategies on exactly how to brainstorm topics for each of the 5 prompts–and learn to craft a powerful college application essay using a narrative (story-telling) style.
Start by reading through the 5 prompts, which I shared below.
(The folks from the Common Application just officially announced their essay writing prompts for this coming college admissions season of 2016-17, and it’s anticlimactic news, but they will be the same as last year. The idea is you know the prompts well before they start accepting applications in August, so you can get a head start on your essays.)
You just need to write a personal statement essay that addresses one of these prompts. The prompts are mainly to inspire you to write a personal essay about yourself that helps you stand out from the crowd. (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…)
Get My Latest College Application
Essay Writing Guide
FREE on Mother’s Day on Amazon!
Yup, it’s that simple. I’m celebrating the recent publication of the paperback version of my latest writing guide on Amazon by offering the Kindle ebook version for free on this May 10, which also happens to be Mother’s Day. (a $6.99 value!) Whether you are a college-bound student, or their mom or dad or counselor or teacher, I believe you will find this guide of great help. (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…)