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…)
I already featured this list of my favorite books on how to write essays–narrative-style, “slice of life,” personal essays–at the end of an earlier post. These are exactly what you want to write for your college application essays. (Don’t let anyone talk you into writing a stiff, formal academic style essay for your college admissions essay!) I didn’t want you to miss them in case you want to learn more about how to write in this style.
Needless to say, I also believe my own guide on writing college application essays, Escape Essay Hell!, has great advice on writing these essays, because it’s specifically geared toward helping students find unique topics, and then write them using this story-telling style. But I drew many of my ideas from these other guides. When it comes to writing, you can never learn enough. (more…)
College Application Essays
Underprivileged or Underrepresented Students: This Means You!
Why You Must Share Stories That Show Your Grit
As a writing coach, I work mainly with students I consider “privileged.”
This means they can find support writing college application essays through an extensive network of tutors (like me), test prep programs, private college admissions counselors, services in their affluent schools, and most importantly, from well-educated, connected parents who will do almost anything to help them.
But I know there are thousands of bright, eager and deserving students out there who have none of this support.
In fact, at almost every turn, many are bombarded with obstacles that are not their fault. (more…)
College Application Essays
Yes, You Can Go Too Far
Colleges are encouraging students to get creative with their essays.
This is great.
However, I think students should be careful of trying too hard to showcase their creative writing skills.
Rather, I believe they should put those creative writing tools to work to write an engaging, meaningful essay.
There’s a difference.
Some people think creative writing is a goal in itself.
They think it’s when a writer gets kind of wild, breaks the conventional English language rules, and cuts loose with what they have to say and how they say it.
The essays start to read more like rambling poetry.
The goal of a college application essay is not to create a “piece of creative writing.”
Instead, the goal is to use creative writing techniques to express yourself better. (more…)