Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Dozen Do's and Dont's: 2016 Common App College Essay Prompts

You can always read my latest blog here:

Here's the opening of my latest Huffington Post College page blog, which you can read in its entirety right here.

"Alongside my college counseling work, I’ve written six novels and taught creative writing to college students and adults for decades. You don’t need to write a novel to get into college, but you do need to adopt some of the essentials of writing creatively to make your application essays sing. Since most of the supplements are not yet on line, I’ll focus on the Common Application essay for now.

1. Get personal. Find a topic that makes your heart beat a little faster than usual - a topic with some energy and even tension in it: A piece of your personal story that’s essential to who you are and not reflected in your activities list, a talent, a hardship, a moment you took a risk and spoke out to defend a position, or a problem you solved, even if it was putting together a trampoline in your backyard. These are personal essays, not academic paper or speeches.
2. Before you start writing, do some free writing on your topic. Scribble down what comes to you without thinking about organization, voice or structure. This is a great way to find your voice and your material. Put your notes aside for a day or two, and when you come back to them, see which passages stand out.
Time - and time away from what you’re writing - is a great editor. Every writer I know has the experience that we write something we think is terrific and look at it in the morning and want to cry. The writing that holds up a week later is the good stuff.
3. Speaking of time: Don’t save this essay or any of the others for the last minute. Think of the essay as a work-in-progress, and set aside time to do it over a period of weeks.
4. Write informally and write long. Don’t stick to the 650-word limit as you begin. Again, you’re looking for material, energy, what matters. Once you have that down, you can edit out everything that isn’t essential.
5. College admissions officers often report that they want to be entertained and engaged by your essay. I’d say it’s more important to go for “engaged” than “entertained,” but the message is clear. The first sentence needs to be a grabber. You may end up writing the first terrific sentence once you’re done with the third draft. It doesn’t need to be acrobatic or pyrotechnic, and it doesn’t need to be one for the ages (“Call me Ishmael” - opening of Moby Dick), but a little pizazz goes a long way, at the beginning and throughout.  READ THE REST
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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Quirkiest College App Essay Prompts Are Out: U. of Chicago Supplements

If you're considering applying to the University of Chicago, this is essential reading about their famous - or infamous - supplementary essays. Here's the opening of my latest Huffington Post blog:

"Now that the 2016-‘17 questions are out, take a look and see what they do to your applause meter. You can read the University’s essay page here or below. 

"Remember, the Common App essay is the centerpiece of the application essays. Whatever else you write should not repeat what’s in that essay. READ MORE
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Monday, June 13, 2016

Common App Essay Prompts - Help Getting Started

My latest thoughts on Huffington Post's College Page:

There are more relaxing ways to spend summer vacation than worrying about Common App essays, personal statements, and the whole assortment of supplements coming up, but summer can also be a great time to actually do some of the essays — and put them behind you.
I wouldn’t say it’s important to do the essays this week or even this month, but I think it’s a good idea to become familiar with them and mull over the possibilities - and see which prompt makes your heart beat a little faster than the others. Remember, choose one of five, and your word limit is 650.
The point of the Common App essay is to reveal something about yourself - a passion, talent, accomplishment, perspective, life story, problem-solving ability - that will fill out your academic record and convey the essence of who you are and/or what you feel makes you stand out as an applicant. READ MORE 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

College Application News You Can Use- Essays, SATs, Admissions

"This spring brings an abundance of big news into the relatively staid world of college applications and admissions for the upcoming season - for those applying to be part of the class of 2021. Students and parents will need to navigate quite a few new organizations, essays, and even tests.
"The New SAT. The new version of the SAT is somewhat old news, but it’s here to stay. In the competition between the SAT and the ACT, the ACT is now the more popular choice for college applicants. Some say that in order to better compete with the ACT, the SAT modified its test to bring it more into line with the ACT. Many rising seniors have already taken the new test, and many more are signed up. One voice: A prominent tutor, Anthony-James Green, recommended that students not take the new SAT this year, and wait instead until there have been more responses to it."  READ MORE

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Best and Worst College App Essay Prompts

Looking back at the essay prompts for the 2015-16 applications .... Here are my thoughts on my favorites and least favorites.

From the opening of my HUFF PO piece:

"As the college application essay writing season draws to a close, with only a short time left before most regular applications are due, I'm looking back on some of the most interesting -- and most annoying -- essays prompts I've seen this year.
"I'm also taking a moment to marvel at how revealing the essay prompts are about what kind of students the colleges are looking for when they devise the questions that help them distinguish between tens of thousands of applicants. Precisely because there are so many hugely accomplished, talented students, and because the Common Application has devoted itself to making it easy to apply (and increasing its own coffers in the process, let's not forget), the essays are one of the tools used by the schools to make distinctions. And the essay questions, which vary enormously from institution to institution, tell us some of what each institution values in its applicants." READ MORE 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

New Common App Essay Prompts are HERE!

For my initial response to the new Common App essay prompts for 2015-16, please read my latest Huffington Post blog right here.

Here's the opening:

"This is big news in the college application world. It's not quite landing on the moon or Beyoncé having a baby, but the twittosphere is aflame this morning. The Common Application organization has just released the essay prompts for the upcoming year. Though applications aren't due until late in the fall for most students, the arrival of the prompts marks the start of the season." READ MORE

Saturday, February 28, 2015

College App Essays Run Amok: A Coach's Advice, Sympathy & A Word About Spiders

I published this essay on Huffington Post last fall, but I think it's worth reposting as parents and students start thinking about college application essays for this coming fall. It contains some background about the Common App essay and the supplements as well as an overview of the complexities of the application process. 

If you're new to the process, it might be worthwhile taking a look!  READ MORE