All students have plenty to write about for their college application essays.
However, from what I’ve seen working with college-bound students for the last decade, many of our most talented, driven and intelligent teenagers are living such parallel, over-achieving lives that they struggle to find an effective essay topic.
These are the same kids, many targeting Ivy League educations, who will need bull’s-eye essays to have even a shot of getting in.
It’s sad, unfair and ironic: The hardest working students have no time for a life. (more…)
When I give writing workshops to students on college application essays and what makes them effective, I love to show this short video on YouTube.
It’s just over two minutes long, but in that brief time, I believe many students quickly get a sense of what they need to do to craft essays that will be engaging and memorable.
Take a couple minutes to watch this video, which brings you around a table of college admissions officers at Amherst College, a liberal arts college in Massachusetts, as they sort through applications. (more…)
Storytelling “Clues” from a Master
for your College Application Essay
If anyone knows how to spin a great story, it’s this guy: Andrew Stanton. Ok, I hadn’t heard of him before either, but I certainly know about his films: All the Toy Story movies, Monsters, A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, WALL-E, and a ton more. If you are working on your college application essay, you grew up with all these popular animated films.
Stanton is an American filmmaker with Pixar studios, and he recently gave a TED talk about what makes a story powerful. His greatest storytelling commandment? “Make me care,” he says. (more…)
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…)
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…)
If you are struggling with your college application essay right about now, you might be cursing the entire process.
And I don’t blame you.
You’re supposed to think up some fascinating topic that will grab the attention of those bored-to-tears admissions officers and help your application stand out among the thousands of other students vying for the same spot at your dream college.
All the experts tell you “Just be yourself!” or “Tell a story.”
While they are right, it’s totally normal that you don’t have much confidence in how to do that in 650 words or less.
Most high school students have not been taught how to write a narrative (story-telling style) personal essay.
And to write good ones takes a lot of practice. (more…)
If you’ve been looking for help with your college application essay, I assume you have discovered the mountains of information (some helpful; a lot no so much) out there on the Web. One of my favorite resources for students is The Prospect, which is an organization centered on college admissions and high school/college life.
The main reason I love The Prospect so much is that it is all about helping students survive high school and get into the college of their dreams–but it’s also run by students like you! Their talented staff offered to share some of their best essay-writing tips here on Essay Hell. I think you will find their foodie-approach fun, inspiring and useful! (more…)
The middle of August is when I first notice a dramatic spike in visitors to Essay Hell. A few students get that early start on their college application essays at the beginning of summer, but the majority seem to wait until now through fall.
I thought I would try to offer some encouragement to any student just diving into the process by extending a hot deal on my guide books. I’m offering all three of my ebook guides for $9.99. Usually they would cost more than double that. (Sorry, this deal doesn’t apply to paperback copies, which only are available on Amazon.) (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…)
Students trying to submit their college applications–including their essays–to The Common Application are finding all sorts of glitches and problems this fall. Apparently, it’s a new system and some students have spent literally hours trying to make it work–and often without any luck. Some colleges have had to extend their deadlines.
The good news is that my friend, Lynn O’Shaughnessy, a renowned college expert from San Diego, has written a list of tips you can follow to try to avoid the nightmare–or at least find ways to deal with it. I love Lynn because she’s also a professional journalist who knows how to get the best inside scoop and communicate it well. (If you are trying to figure out how you are going to pay for your education, you should check out her web site, blog, books, workshops, and everything she offers that you can get your hands on!) (more…)
As a professional writing coach, I help students, parents, counselors, teachers and others from around the world on these dreaded essays!
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