by j9robinson | Jun 9, 2014
Over the years, I’ve heard almost every imaginable complaint and concern about writing college application essays.
Like most common fears, they are almost all in your head.
That doesn’t mean they don’t feel real.
But if you can realize that a lot of your success will depend on not psyching yourself out, and staying calm and focused, you can then get to work.
Find a great topic.
Map out a writing plan.
Pound out a rough draft.
Before you know it, you will have a knock-out essay! (more…)
by j9robinson | Jun 3, 2014
Meet Jessica Peyton Roberts, who is a talented and enthusiastic private college admissions consultant from Tacoma, Washington. Roberts, of Aim High Writing College Consulting, recently wrote a comprehensive guide for students and parents called Navigating the College Application Process.
In her ebook, she has a chapter on writing the college application essay, and graciously allowed me to share part of her sage advice.
I talk a lot in this blog and my guide books about how to find and share your personal stories, usually in the form of an anecdote, to bring your narrative-style essays to life and reveal part of who you are.
by j9robinson | May 14, 2014
I’m very excited to announce that my new collection of sample college application essays–Heavenly Essays–is now available in paperback on Amazon. You also can buy ebook copies there and on this site as well.
To celebrate–and help spread the word–I’m offering Heavenly Essays: 50 Narrative College Application Essays That Worked, along with my snappy essay writing guide, Escape Essay Hell, for free in exchange for a review. (more…)
by j9robinson | May 5, 2014
At the end of last year, I announced an essay writing contest. My goal was to find some quality examples of narrative writing by real students that I could include in my just-published collection of 50 sample college application essays, called Heavenly Essays.
About a hundred or so students generously submitted their essays, and most were very well-conceived and engaging. It was extremely difficult for me to pick the winners.
What I looked for were students who revealed a part of themselves in their essay by using narrative writing techniques, such as anecdotes, dialogues, descriptive writing, sensory details, an authentic voice, etc. (more…)
by j9robinson | Apr 18, 2014
In my previous post, I featured a question and answer session with author Robert Cronk, who wrote a popular writing guide on how to write narrative-style college application essays. I found Concise Advise, which directs students on how to use movie-script writing techniques to bring their essays to life, a helpful resource.
I invited him to share more of his advice and tips here on Essay Hell, and this is the second part. (Here’s Part One in case you missed it.):
Me: What do you think is the most important part of a college app essay?
Bob: To me, it’s the element of character development, or transition, or transformation, or realization of something, even in small ways. The best essays start with a moment that led to that development and ends with a better, stronger, wiser person. (more…)
by j9robinson | Apr 17, 2014
I’m always on the lookout for great writing guides—especially books on how to write narrative, slice-of-life essays (like mine).
Only recently did I discover this book, Concise Advice, by Robert N. Cronk.
What I loved was that his approach was different than mine, but arrived at the same goal—a compelling college application essay that reveals the writer’s unique personality, character, passions, talents, goals, etc.
This is what I wrote about our two different approaches in a review for Amazon on the latest (third) edition of his book:
I was surprised at how similar this book was to mine, although it offered a different approach–and our goals were very similar. My guide steps students through the process of finding their defining qualities, and then looking for slice-of-life “moments” or “incidents” that illustrate that quality in a compelling way. I encourage them to look for “times” when they encountered some type of “problem,” and use that to show how they handled it and what they learned. The result are highly readable “narrative” essays that do a beautiful job of revealing what makes a student tick. (more…)
by j9robinson | Mar 10, 2014
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…)
by j9robinson | Dec 24, 2013
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…)
by j9robinson | Dec 17, 2013
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…)
by j9robinson | Dec 9, 2013
You Already Wrote It.
Why Not Submit it?
Enter Your College Application Essay
in Essay Hell’s Heavenly Essays Contest!
One of the first things I advise students to do when they start working on their college application essay is read sample essays. There’s no better way to get topic ideas and learn how to write in a narrative style than by reading what other students have written. I usually direct them to a couple of my favorite collections of sample essays.
But after working with hundreds of students on these essays since 2008, I realized I have a source of wonderful samples. You guys! Many of you wrote your essays using my advice and guidance to find and tell your stories. And I know first-hand how terrific most of them are. It seems a shame that only a few people ever got to read them.
Cash Prizes! Become a Published Author! Help Other Students!
So…I’m starting to collect the best essays and publish them in a book this spring. It will be called Heavenly Essays: Sample College Application Essays That Rose to the Top. Do you like that? (I’m always open to suggestions!) Each essay will include a brief analysis of what I think worked, and why, at the end. (more…)