For more than 20 years, the magazine Vanity Fair has collected provocative and memorable details from the most famous people on the planet using their version of what is called the Proust Questionnaire.
The famous French writer didn’t actually pen these questions—although he did answer the questions twice in his life—but they were used in 19th century Parisian salons to entertain the bourgeois. It was one of the first personality tests. (more…)
How to Answer Prompt 4 for the Common App
for your College Application Essay
Prompt 4: 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.
You almost can’t go wrong if you pick this prompt to write your college application essay for The Common Application for 2015-16. It sets you up perfectly to tell an engaging story, which makes the best personal statement-style essays. (more…)
The Five Prompts to Write your College Application Essay
for The Common Application
(Same prompts for 2016-17!)
The folks at the Common Application announced the five essay prompts students will choose from to write their core essay for the coming college admissions “season.” I’m sharing them below.
In general, I think they improved upon the options, and the prompts will elicit more interesting and meaningful college application essays. Bravo Common App!
If you are just starting this process, don’t even need to bother to know what the old ones were. Just focus on understanding these new ones.
For those in the college admissions industry who watch these changes as closely as I do, here’s a look at the new prompts, in a nutshell.
Bottom line: The main change was they replaced Prompt Four. The new instructions are in italics; my comments in red. For you college-bound students eager to get started on your essay, click each link for more details on how to answer that prompt: (more…)
“If you want to ‘show’ something, ask, ‘Can you prove it with an example?'”
Started 9-28-2013: Click the Map for Details
I gave away 100 copies of my ebook guide last week. (If you missed the giveaway, I’m planning on doing another in October.) Even though I’ve always had visitors from all over the world, I was overwhelmed by the enthusiastic students from so many countries. And they all shared one thing in common–they wanted out of Essay Hell!
I haven’t crunched the numbers, but I would guess only about 30 percent were from the United States. Some were from large public schools in New York, California, Virginia, Ohia, Utah, Connecticut, Wisconsin, etc. Others were from parochial schools and specialty (charter, magnet, Montessori, all girls, etc.) schools. Two were home schooled.
I was so impressed by the variety of countries. My favorite part was hearing all their unusual, distinguished names and home countries. Here’s just a sampling:
Bernice from Ghana.
Aawaz from Nepal.
Innocent from Kenya.
Ahn from Vietnam. (more…)
A smart dad sent me an email recently asking how college-bound students could work in related achievements and accomplishments into their personal, narrative-style essay, without sounding like they were blowing their own horn.
It’s definitely a fine line. Students write these first-person essays as part of the application process to convince colleges to admit them.
How can they not strut their best stuff?
The whole challenge reminded me of humblebragging.
If you live on a different planet (or don’t use social media) and haven’t heard of this word for phony humility, it’s basically the fine art of boasting about yourself and making it sound like an accident.
The trick is to cloak your bragging with other comments, which make it seem as though the impressive part just kind of slipped out.
The more subtle, the better.
Did I mention how much my hand hurts from signing copies of my new book? (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…)
How to Conclude Your College Admissions Essays
Here’s an excerpt from my ebook guide on how to write a college application essay using a narrative, storytelling style. I pulled this from my chapter on writing conclusions. Some students find ending their essays a snap, others get a bit lost at the end and veer off track. What you want in your conclusion is to give your reader a sense of completion, and leave on a broad, forward-thinking note.
(These tips will make the most sense if you followed my loose formula for writing a personal essay, where you start with an anecdote to show your reader what you are talking about, and then go on to explain its significance in the rest of the essay. You can get a sense of this formula by reading my Jumpstart Guide post. If you want a step-by-step guide to this process, buy my instant ebook Escape Essay Hell! for about ten dollars either here or over at Amazon.) (more…)
Many of the students I work with have finished their core essays for their college applications, and are now asking for help on the supplements. For most, writing their personal statement-type essays wasn’t that bad, searching for their stories and unique topics to tell and share. But these supps are not nearly as fun. In fact, for most of the supplements I have seen so far, it’s a major drag.
So I ask: What’s the point? These supplements that want students to tell why they are the perfect fit for their school, or what they are going to give back to a university, or why they have selected a certain college. Most of my students tell me, “I have no idea what to write.” And why should they? Answering these questions is almost always an exercise in making up a bunch of stuff. (more…)