A good selfie can define and shape your personal image that you blast out to the world. The same goes with your college application essay.
Both selfies and personal statement essays are supposed to capture your essence on some level, and reveal what makes you stand out from the crowd of other applicants. Some of the same tricks you use to snap your selfies apply to writing these admission essays, such as for The Common App and other universities and colleges.
If you are starting the college admissions process, it’s time to put down the cell phone and pick up your pens now or this summer or as soon as you can. Here are five ways that selfies and college admission essays are similar, and some tips that can help you craft an awesome essay snapshot of yourself (click the links for more help):
1. A good one catches everyone’s attention. There is something about a great selfie that grabs the viewer; they can’t take their eyes off you. Same thing with your personal statement: It’s imperative to hook the reader’s attention at the start with a compelling introduction, such as starting with an anecdote. (more…)
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…)
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…)
One of my favorite student-run blogs on college admissions, The Prospect, featured this interview with me last week. I thought the writer, Oriana Halverson, did a terrific job, and flushed out some helpful information:
Essay Hell’s Janine Robinson:
Janine Robinson, Founder of Essay Hell.
By Oriana Halvorsen, Spring 2014 Community Outreach Intern for The Prospect
Name: Janine Robinson
Website: Essay Hell (She also has two e-books on sale on her website to check out, with a third on the way this spring!)
Social Media Links: Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.
To start off with a more career-oriented question, how did you get into the business of helping students write their college essays?
When my daughter was a junior in high school in 2008, I helped her brainstorm topics for her college essays—both for the University of California and The Common App. When I saw that these essays were best when written in a narrative (story-telling) style, I realized that my background as a journalist, writer/editor and English teacher almost perfectly prepared me to help her. So I started helping other students in my hometown of Laguna Beach, California. And it kind of took off from there. I also started my blog, Essay Hell, and published essay-writing guide books. (more…)
A couple weeks ago, I shared on LinkedIn a New York Times column about “annoying, overused and abused” words from 2013, and asked a group of college admissions experts for the most common offenders they found in college application essays.
The idea is that when you are editing a draft of your essay that you can try to spot words that don’t work, whether they were over-used, inaccurate, unnecessary, redundant or even not a word. And improve your essay.
When you first sit down to pound out your first draft, however, don’t even worry about what words you use. Just get it all out. This list is mainly for the process of self-editing, when you re-read your work and make changes to improve the clarity, flow and meaning. (more…)
Many students have trouble finding their “voice” while writing college application essays.
One of the biggest problems I see is that students want to sound smart and impressive, and they often lose their natural story-telling voice by forcing in big words and long, formal sentences.
Most students understand the narrative voice when they read it, but have a hard time capturing their own.
I always advise students to “write like they talk,” but this can be hard to do.
Here’s a technique I use to help them capture their natural language to use in their essays.
This is hard to do alone, but if you can rope someone else into helping you—a friend, teacher, college counselor, tutor, parent, etc.—it can be so helpful. (more…)
It’s almost Christmas Eve, just hours away in California. And we are coming upon another deadline–The Common Application–in January. If you are applying to colleges via the Common App, and you have yet to write your college application essays, I imagine you are starting to feel the heat of essay hell.
No use kicking yourself for waiting so long. I’m sure you have some good excuses. What does worry me, however, are students who might start to consider taking a “short cut.” Such as hiring one of those ubiquitous “Write Your Essay For You” online businesses that sell essays, or even worse, copying someone else’s. No matter how panicked you might feel at this point, it’s simply not worth it. For several reasons: (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…)
Tips for Writing Essays
College Admissions Folks Want to Read
While trying to think of topics for college essays, students often try to guess what the admissions officers are looking for, or what they want to read. It often feels like such a mystery.
But in a recent news article, three top admissions officers shared exactly what they like to read, and how students can find topics they love.
For those of you still doubting the value of a simple, true-life story or sharing a mundane moment to power your college application essay,
I hope this will help convince you about their effectiveness.
Read the entire article, From the Pros: Best College Essays Hint at Who You Are, by Ellen Ishkanian of the Boston Globe. Or check out some of the following highlights. (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…)