St. John's University (NY) Admission Essay Prompt Confusion

While researching the essay requirements of the over 600 colleges and universities currently in our database, we have come upon many inconsistencies and contradictions, but few as noticeably different as the one between St. John's University's online application and the PDF version. Here's a taste of what we're talking about - St. John's online application asks this of all who apply:

Although this is optional, we'd like to learn just a little bit more about you. Please submit a short personal statement on one of the topics listed below.

  1. What motivates you? We'd like to know what activities you really enjoy. Do they tie in with any career goals? Have you won any awards or honors?
  2. Don't reinvent the wheel. You have the option to submit a graded essay from your senior year.

Nothing too out of the ordinary there. It's an optional but recommended essay with a straightforward prompt and another option to submit a writing sample. But here's what they ask if you're using the paper application:

A 250-word, typewritten personal statement or essay on a topic of your choice. If you choose to submit a personal statement, please offer some explanation of your current career goals, information about honors and awards you have received and/or other activities in which you have engaged in order to provide us with a clear, personal profile of your pursuits and interests beyond the classroom.

This prompt is clearly on a topic of the applicant's choice. So the options are wide-open, which for many applicants means the difference between writing an additional essay or not.

This is the kind of work CEO does for you. We check and re-check the thousands of requirements on many applications nationwide, looking for opportunities like these, and making sure that your options are clearly presented to you. CEO sides with the online application in this case, since it's the one the majority of applicants will be using, but we also provide a note in the school's header explaining the difference and allowing you to choose.

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College Essay Organizer and Integration Now Live

We are proud to announce that CEO has now been fully integrated into the platform, giving Independent Consultants access to the most comprehensive college planning platform on the market.

Independent Consultants who purchase their CEO accounts through will enjoy various benefits:

  1. They can access CEO directly from their counselor accounts without having to re-select any colleges for their students.
  2. The rate will be a flat fee of $34 per student, regardless of how many students you create CEO accounts for.
  3. Each student account will have a maximum of 20 college selections instead of 15.
  4. Each account will get one free CEO student account

If you are already a member who has purchased CEO, your current CEO student accounts will automatically transfer over so you can access them through You will still be able to access your CEO master account directly through CEO, if you'd like.

If you are already a member but have not yet purchased CEO, we encourage you to try your free CEO student account within your account. It will take less than a minute and will save you hours with each student.

If you are not a member, please click here to check it out so you can discover the benefits of a comprehensive college planning platform.

All members will receive one FREE CEO student account, whether you have already purchased CEO independently or not.

We look forward to making your educational consulting job even more efficient and successful!

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ACT or SAT: 10 points of comparison

Stephanie from Knewton addresses your standardized test questions.

Today's post is again from our friends at Knewton - this time from test expert Stephanie Wertkin.

Most high school students planning to go to college know that they probably have to take some kind of standardized test. Often, the only question is: Which one? Many schools accept both the SAT and ACT. Before you make your choice (or decide to take both!), it’s a good idea to compare the ins and outs of each test.

Here are a few basic points of comparison:

1. Cost

SAT exam registration costs $45. The ACT exam alone costs $32 – but if you want to take the optional writing test as well, it will set you back $47.

2. Length

The SAT consists of a 25 minute essay, six 25 minute sections, two 20 minute sections and a 10 minute multiple choice writing section. That means the whole test is 3 hours 45 minutes – not counting the 3 short breaks you get in between.

The ACT consists of 4 sections that total 2 hours and 55 minutes. If you take the Writing Test as well that will add an extra 30 minutes, for a total of 3 hours and 25 minutes.

3. Number of Questions

The SAT has 140 questions; the ACT has 215.

4. Subject Matter

This is one of the most important distinctions between the two tests. The SAT tests reasoning and problem-solving ability. The ACT, on the other hand, is a curriculum-based test, meaning the questions are designed to test a student’s knowledge of high school work.

The SAT covers mathematics, critical reading, and writing. The ACT covers English, mathematics, reading, and science. There are some differences in the way each test approaches the subject matter: for example, the ACT contains basic-intermediate algebra, geometry, and four trigonometry questions, while the SAT only tests basic algebra, word problems, and geometry. While the verbal sections of the SAT emphasize vocabulary, the ACT focuses on grammar and punctuation.

5. Scoring:

SAT – Aggregate score 600 – 2400, based on total of 3 scores (Reading, Math, Writing, each scored on a scale from 200-800); Score of 0-12 for Essay
ACT – Composite score 1-36 based on average of 4 sections (English Math, Reading Science);  Score 0-12 for Optional Essay.

6. The Essay

The ACT essay is optional, while the SAT essay is mandatory. The SAT prompt is usually abstract and open-ended (i.e., do people learn from their mistakes?), while the ACT prompt is more specific and high school-centric (i.e., should more schools adopt uniforms?). On both tests, you’re expected to write an essay that makes a strong argument and uses specific examples to support that argument.

7. Scoring

The ACT only counts the answers you get correct, whereas the SAT deducts 1/4 of a point for all incorrect multiple choice questions.

6. Difficulty

There’s a prevailing myth that the ACT is easier than the SAT. However, there’s not much truth to this: The vast majority of test-takers score in the same percentiles on both tests. Since both tests are scaled (that is, your final score is based on how you do compared to everybody else), that’s really all that matters.

On the SAT, questions increase in difficulty level as you move through that question type in a section (except reading passage questions, which progress chronologically through the passage). On the ACT, the difficulty level of the questions is random.

7. College Requirements

The majority of colleges in the U.S. now accept both the ACT (+ writing section) and the SAT.  However, just to be safe and to avoid confusion (and possibly despair) near application deadline time, make sure you know which scores the schools you are applying to require for admission. If you are confused about a school’s requirements, contact that college or university’s admissions office for clarification.

In addition to SAT or ACT (with the writing section), some  schools also require 2-3 SAT Subject tests.

8. Administration dates

The SAT is offered seven times per year: January, March or April, May, June, October, November, and December
The ACT is offered six times per year: February, April, June, September, October, and December (note that some states offer the ACT as part of their state testing requirements; these tests are not administered on the national test dates)

9. National Averages

For the Class of 2009 the average SAT scores were: Critical Reading – 501, Mathematics – 515, Writing – 493
The 90th percentile scores were: Critical Reading – 670, Mathematics – 700, Writing – 650

The ACT national averages in 2009 were: Total – 21.1, English – 20.6, Math – 21.0, Reading 21.4, Science 20.9
The 90th percentile scores were: Total – 28, English – 29, Math – 28, Reading – 30, Science – 20

10. Score Choice

Students can select which scores they send to colleges by test date for both the SAT and the ACT. Scores from an entire test are sent—scores of individual sections from different test dates cannot be selected independently for sending. Some colleges and universities (particularly the more competitive schools) require students to send all of their scores.

The way that admissions offices deal with multiple SAT scores varies from school to school. For more on College Board’s “Score Choice” program and more information about how colleges evaluate your SAT scores, check out our blog post decoding Score Choice.

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Free Webinar About How To Write Winning Admission Essays

How do you write college essays that help you stand out from thousands of other applicants? How can you manage all your different essays without going totally insane?

Organizing and writing your college essays is the most time-consuming and stressful part of the application process. This entertaining and informative webinar run by two of the nation's leading college essay experts will show you how to handle the entire process with greater ease and success.

Parents and students will explore good and bad essay topics, essay do's and don'ts, and even comical essay blunders. You'll also have the opportunity to inquire about your own essays and get immediate feedback.

School counselors: Please feel free to tell your seniors and their parents all about this webinar!

Dan Stern and Scott Farber run College Essay Organizer, a groundbreaking website that instantly streamlines the college essay process. They have led college essay workshops for more than a decade, helping thousands of students write their way into the colleges of their dreams.

WHEN: Wednesday, October 27, 9-10pm EST


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Early Decision Admission Deadlines Approaching

With most schools' early decision and early action admission deadlines fast approaching, we at CEO want to drop a little wisdom on you:

Don't wait until you hear back to get

started on the rest of your applications.

We see it year in and year out - students put all their eggs in the basket of their dreams, and are then left with a pile of writing to do in a very short window when they receive the dreaded thin envelope.

Remember that college applications, even if you're using the Common Application, are usually made up of several essays, both long and short. And when you're applying to six, eight, ten or even more universities, the amount of writing you may need to do can easily get out of hand.

Head on over to our Essay RoadMap preview and see - for FREE - how many essays your schools will require. Then get started ahead of time and make sure you're using your time wisely while writing as few essays as possible for all your questions.

We're looking to save you time and effort, so get started now. You can thank us later.

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3 Ways To Get Started On Your College Admissions Essays

It is very important that you let the experts help you. Do not ask kittens for help.

College admissions is a competitive game these days, as we are surely not the first to tell you. But more often than not it's the getting started that poses the greatest challenge for students. If you are feeling overwhelmed or have simply been procrastinating when you know you shouldn't be, read on.

1. Talk to your parents

Your parents have advice to offer that might surprise you. They've seen parts of the country you've never been to, and have likely studied all kinds of things you know nothing about. Some of these things are even interesting, and taking an intro course in one of those fields might not be a bad idea. One of the great things about American universities is that they don't expect you to declare your major before you arrive. Most schools will give you up to two years to do so. As a result, you're going to have the opportunity to study things you never knew existed. Your parents might be able to talk to you about what you're interested in and point out new academic opportunities where you least expect them.

At the very least, get a college tour or three under your belts. Your parents do the driving, they pay for the gas, you see exotic lands... It could be worse.

All this information will help get you on the ball when you talk to your counselor.

2. Meet with your guidance counselor.

You have a guidance counselor. Let that person do some guiding. He or she is going to have access to plenty of information about schools you're not familiar with. Ask for info on schools that offer the kind of scholastic programs, academic environment, and location you're after. Don't shy away from a school just because you haven't heard of it. Now is a good time to uncover those kinds of new experiences, viewpoints, and even parts of the country.

3. Get started with CEO

Your parents and your guidance counselor are probably going to give you more information than you know what to do with. That's where we come in. CEO is the only one stop shop for streamlining and optimizing the admissions essay experience. We show you how to write the fewest essays that work for all your applications. We make sure you don't miss any requirements, and even show you essays for special departments and scholarships that schools don't include on their primary applications.

So take the bull by the horns with these simple steps. And let us do the heavy lifting - get started today with some college admissions essay help.

Lake Forest College Scholarship Applications - Essays Aplenty

Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois, has a reasonable amount of essay requirements for its basic application - 4 on their own college application, or 2 supplements if you're using the Common Application.

But I'd bet you didn't know they have 23 scholarship application essays. Allow us to repeat: that's 23 additional essays.

Schools like Lake Forest are not uncommon. CEO's database is full of schools that have four or five basic requirements for admission, but more than ten optional, department-specific, and scholarship essays that come along with the regular application work load.

The University of Puget Sound's admission office steps it up with 22 department-specific and scholarship essays.

The University of Kentucky admission office doesn't mess around either - 16 department-specfic and scholarship essays.

But at CEO, we want you to look at this as a benefit rather than a problem. We do the work for you of searching for and organizing your essay requirements. One of the great perks of CEO is that we turn you on to departments and scholarship money you didn't even know existed.

So when you're using your Essay RoadMap and you see a surprisingly big number of total essays (hello, anyone applying to NYU), just know that we've pointed the way toward some great opportunities.

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SAT Writing Help: How To Be A Pro At Pronouns

Matthew Busick from Knewton

This week brings another guest post from our friends at Knewton - this time from writing expert Matthew Busick.

You’ve heard of the Ten Commandments, the G8, the Big Ten, Top 40 Pop, the Three Musketeers, the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the 1001 Things to Do Before You Die. The lists of impressive numbers are endless. But at Knewton, we’ve compiled the most impressive list of them all: the SAT Freshman 15 Grammar Rules. These are, in all their splendor, the top fifteen most commonly tested grammar rules on the SAT. Learn these, and your whole life will fall into place (that is, if your whole life is the writing section of the SAT).

Today, we’re going to talk about just one of these illustrious rules:

Rule 15. A pronoun must refer to a specific noun or a group of nouns (no matter how correct the pronoun may sound in a sentence.)

In everyday speech, we break this rule all the time. It allows us to express ideas easily and generally causes little confusion. Consequently, we often overlook ambiguous pronouns when they appear on the SAT. Rule 15 is meant to remind you that every pronoun on the SAT must logically refer to a noun or group of nouns in the sentence. These nouns, or groups of nouns, are known as “antecedents.”

Keep these three sub-rules in mind:

1. A pronoun cannot refer to an abstract idea. The most common offenders are the pronouns itthis,and that. These pronouns are often used to refer to broad ideas expressed in entire sentences or clauses. For example: “Devon broke his knee playing basketball, and because of this he had to quit the team.” This sentence is flawed because this must refer to a noun, but the only previous nouns in the sentence areDevonknee, and basketballThis might be attempting to refer to a general idea, such as the fact that Devon played basketball, or the fact that his knee was broken, but specifically which idea is not clear.

These sorts of sentences can be revised either by replacing the pronoun with a noun or by supplying a clear antecedent for the pronoun. If we say, “Devon broke his knee playing basketball, and because of this injury he had to quit the team,” the pronoun this now logically refers to the injury. This construction clarifies that the injury caused Devon to quit the team.

2. The pronoun “it” at the beginning of a sentence is not preferable. When the pronoun “it” begins a sentence or is part of the phrase “it is,” be on the lookout for a better option. Sentences that begin with “it” tend to be unnecessarily wordy, and the pronoun “it” is usually ambiguous. For example, in the sentence: “It is not typical for an adult to prefer cartoons,” the antecedent of the pronoun it is slightly unclear. Exactly what is not typical? An adult who prefers cartoons? The occurrence of an adult preferring cartoons? A better way to phrase this sentence would be: “An adult typically does not prefer cartoons.”

3. When a modifying phrase begins a sentence, the pronoun “it” can never be the first noun after the comma. In the sentence: “Traveling across the country in an RV, it is the first vacation that Edna is able to go on all year,” the pronoun it does not have an antecedent. It does not logically refer to the gerund traveling or to the nouns country or RV. The sentence should read: “Traveling across the country in an RV, Edna is on vacation for the first time this year.” In fact, the pronoun “it” will neverhave an antecedent when placed immediately after the comma. “It” cannot be modified by an opening phrase; without a prior subject, it doesn’t stand for anything.

The same rule applies to personal pronouns. Although a modifier may strongly imply a pronoun’s antecedent, it cannot itself function as that antecedent. Check out this example:

Incorrect: In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, he weaves a tale of death and deceit.
Correct: In Hamlet, Shakespeare weaves a tale of death and deceit.

The possessive modifier Shakespeare’s cannot function as the antecedent of he. The rewritten sentence eliminates the pronoun and inserts its implied antecedent, Shakespeare.

Well, there you have it: rule number 15, last but certainly not least on our Freshman 15. Tune in again to learn about subject-verb agreement, verb tense, modifiers, and sentence fragments. For now, go practice the skills you’ve gained from rule 15 on your friends and family. It… I mean, your proper use of pronouns is guaranteed to blow them away.

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Welcome, A-List Members!

Seniors, if you haven't yet made significant progress on your college essays, we encourage you to get some help from College Essay Organizer ("CEO"), which instantly provides all your essay questions in one place and shows you how to write the fewest essays that work for all of them.

Even if you're using the Common App, most colleges require various supplemental, program-specific, and departmental essays, many of which you won't find on the Common App and are difficult and time-consuming to find on the colleges' websites.

CEO is offering a 50% discount until October 31, so you can get all your essay questions for as little as $2. It's quick and simple:

  1. Go here
  2. Create a Student account and choose the RoadMap or QuickFinder service
  3. Enter alist456 in the promotion code box

Once you're in, simply select your colleges and CEO will do the rest, saving you hours and instantly eliminating procrastination and stress!

Need more info? Click the image below to read more about CEO's benefits!

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Free Essay QuickFinder From College Essay Organizer

What is CEO?

College Essay Organizer (”CEO”) is the only one-stop source for the college essay process. CEO instantly provides all your college essay questions and then delivers a plan for writing the fewest essays that answer all your questions.

With the special promo code below, you can get started for FREE with CEO’s Essay QuickFinder, which provides all your different college essay questions in one place. Or, if you choose, you can apply the code below to get $14 off CEO’s Essay RoadMap, which not only provides your essay questions but also shows you how to answer them all with as few pieces of writing as possible. (Essay RoadMap includes Essay QuickFinder, too!)

It's an incredible deal and saves you an enormous amount of time:

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