When writing a college essay, it's always necessary to think about which topics are acceptable and which may not be so well received. Since colleges often encourage you to "take a risk," and "show who you really are," choosing the right topic can be a tough call. This New York Times article by Steven Petrow gets to the heart of the matter addressing the charged question, "Should a student conceal her lesbian identity in college application essays?"
Petrow found that student views varied widely with some current students not wanting to mention sexual orientation in case it could affect chances of admission, while others felt that it might even increase changes of admission at schools where diversity was encouraged. A portion of students who had written on the topic during their admissions process felt that it did cause them to be rejected from schools that they should have been admitted to.
Opinions among admissions officers vary widely as well. In the end, it is a personal choice as to what a student considers private vs. a sharable story that is central to a student's identity. According to one comment that was left, what you decide could have an impact at some schools, "I sit on an admissions committee and it's just that - a committee, with all that entails...One or two of our members are not quite with the changing times. We often have to vote, and I can recall several times when the decision was swayed against the candidate on the basis of something they had bravely confided in their personal essay. Touchy issues are certainly not limited to sexual orientation. I don't want people to have too many illusions about the wisdom of admissions committees!"
While thousands of students await decisions on their early decision and early action applications, the proactive ones are already working on the applications for their remaining schools as well as considering the types of schools they want to attend. This article has some useful information for students interested in attending a large university, which has the benefit of offering endless options in terms of clubs, sports, and activities. Here's a list of the 10 largest schools and their undergraduate enrollment in 2012:
- DeVry University 59,484
- Arizona State University 59,382
- University of Central Florida 50,968
- Liberty University 46,133
- Ohio State University-Columbus 43,058
- Texas A&M University-College Station 40,103
- University of Texas-Austin 39,955
- Pennsylvania State University-University Park 39,192
- Florida International University 37,468
- Michigan State University 37,454
Interested in applying? Login to your College Essay Organizer account to see how many essays you will need to write.
University of Cincinati's Early Action (non-binding) deadline is December 1. Freshman applicants that wish to be considered for institutional merit-based scholarships and the Honors Program must also apply on December 1, and late applications will not be reviewed.
Additionally, it is recommended that students applying to the following colleges apply via Early Action (applications received after December 1 for these programs will be considered on a space-available basis):
College-Conservatory of Music (CCM)
Musical Theatre applicants, due to capacity limitations, are encouraged to complete their application file by November 1
College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP)
Graphic Communication Design
College of Engineering & Applied Sciences
All programs except Fire Science (Distance Learning)
College of Nursing
For complete details, please visit the University of Cincinnati website.
College Essay Organizer founder and president Daniel Stern was recently quoted by independent consultant and journalist Nancy Griesemer for this article in the examiner.com discussing the increase in frequency of the option to submit a graded paper: "Graded papers allow applicants to showcase their writing and reasoning skills on their own terms—the SAT and ACT essays are a bit of a joke and aren’t taken that seriously by colleges because of how they are scored." As colleges explore ways to make the application process more holistic and predictive of future academic success, more schools are adding test-optional policies which require students to submit a graded paper in lieu of test scores.
Griesemer provides the following tips on how to make the best impression when submitting a writing sample:
- Though over 20 Common App schools accept writing samples, there is rarely a mention of this included on the supplement. Make sure to thoroughly check each school's website or use College Essay Organizer to instantly see all the essay requirements for your list of colleges regardless of whether requirements are found on the Common App or on outside websites.
- Don't worry too much about the grade. A lower grade on a high-quality paper can show that the school sets a high standard for its students, while a high grade on a poorly written paper will not only represent you poorly, but your school as well.
- Make sure to hold on to graded copies so that you have a wide range of samples to choose from when the time is right.
Last year, when you were logged into your Common App account and viewing a college's supplement, you knew that you were seeing all of the questions available through the Common App. While there still might be additional departmental and scholarship questions found on a school's website, you knew that your supplement was not hiding anything from you. This year, the Common App has become infamous for its hidden questions which can only be viewed by selecting a particular combination of interests. College Essay Organizer has proven to be invaluable in this respect, ensuring that additional essays are not discovered during the final pre-deadline moments.
In addition to hidden questions, be on the alert for hidden tips regarding the length of an essay. Most schools either include a word limit or guideline in the question itself and/or provide a text box which allows a maximum number of words. The majority of students would not think to look further than that. However, if you examine the right side of the page when on a writing supplement, you will notice the title "Help Center." In most cases, this will simply lead to a page where you can search for answers to common questions. However, in some cases as in the University of Chicago, an additional note on the length is provided: "Please respond to Question 1 --and, if you choose, Question 2 --by writing a paragraph or two up to a full page, approximately 250 words, for each question. Then choose one of the six extended essay options, indicate your choice, and write a one- or two-page response." This offers important clarification beyond the 500-word-maximum text box provided.
Over 40 colleges recently extended their early deadlines to account for Common App glitches that continue to complicate the admissions process. In response, the Common App released a statement of commitment apologizing for its lack of responsiveness and promising to resolve all outstanding issues as quickly as possible. November 8, a popular extended deadline is fast approaching. As an aside, the deadline is at 11:59pm your local time. It does not matter what time zone the school you're applying to is in. Here's an update on some recent concerns:
- The Common App recently added several more staff to decrease response times, so you can expect quick assistance if you submit a help ticket.
- If you see a payment error on the dashboard with a zero dollar amount, please make sure that you answered the Citizenship question with the Profile section of the Common Application.
- PDF previews can now be generated.
- If you see an error page upon submission, log out of your account, and then log back in and it should display confirmation that the application was submitted.
- Follow up with colleges to make sure that all parts of you're application has been received as there are still outstanding issues.
Check out the Common App's facebook page for daily updates on the status of widespread issues you may be facing.
Students, high schools, and colleges using the Common App this season have been faced with numerous challenges from missing, hidden and late appearing questions (we've gotten tons of thanks from our members for covering them on this end) to submitting and pasting errors.
Here's one more error we want you to have on your radar. Text box lengths for several schools have changed lengths since supplements first went live. We want you to be aware of this so that you can stay on top of any changes and not be stuck cutting down or expanding your essay at the last minute. Please be sure to check your College Essay Organizer accounts for any recent changes and practice pasting in text from a text editor well before the application due date so that you can ensure a good fit. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any specific questions about this. We're always here to help.