New York Times Addresses The Importance Of the College Essay

New York TimesThe New York Times posted an in-depth and informative piece this past weekend about the growing number of applicants to American universities from other countries, and how important the college essay is for gaining an edge.  The problem the article describes is simple: the number of overseas applicants is skyrocketing, increasing at more than 50% a year, every year, and the number of slots available in each school's incoming class is staying the same. With competition becoming ever more aggressive, the cost of advising and essay help is reaching into the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars per student. While most independent consultants are wonderful, helpful guides, some are willing to rewrite every element of an applicant's essay, or even write it for the student outright.

College Essay Organizer is the ethical solution to this problem. We have been helping foreign students navigate the lengthy and complex essay process for years, and as with all of College Essay Organizer's members, we do it quickly and at a low cost. With the circuitous application system we have in America, it can be difficult to even know where to begin. College Essay Organizer is a one-stop shop for your essay requirements, allowing you to work smarter and spend your time efficiently on the work you have to do, rather than the enormous amount that it seems you have to do.

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College Essay Organizer's Essay Contest Honorable Mentions

Today we announce the four honorable mention winners of the College Essay Organizer contest. Each will receive a $50 prize.

As we mentioned yesterday, we received thousands of terrific submissions from college applicants throughout the world, and enjoyed reading through them all. We're grateful to all who submitted and wish congratulations to those who let us know about your recent college acceptances!

Our decisions were made as a group, and we learned quickly that such decisions are inherently subjective. Each of us responded to different material, and choosing among the best submissions led to lively debates about the merits of each. We discussed what each essay said about the applicant's character and what that applicant would be capable of later in life - the ultimate measure of any college essay.

So without further ado, here are our four honorable mention essays.


Home Is Where The Heart Is - This contest winner chose to remain anonymous:

“No, I do not live in a hut or tree house,” I’d have to explain, “nor do I wear clogs on a daily basis, go to school on a camel, or wear skirts (which are actually called kilts) to school.” The phrase “Third Culture Kid” would be putting it lightly – I have never lived in my own country.

“Where is home?” has been one question I have never been able to answer easily. While attempting to provide an answer, I quickly discovered that “Muscat, Oman” could easily be mistaken for “Muscrat, Vermont” and that there is not only a “Scotland” in Pennsylvania, but also an “Aberdeen” in New Jersey. To keep it simple, I remind myself of what my mother says, “Home is where the heart is.”

My dad’s job has always had us on good terms with the moving company. That is, we’ve been moving ever since I was a baby when oil exploration went global (We’ve lived in Malaysia, The Netherlands, Oman, and Scotland). On the eve of my high-school junior year, my dad was transferred to Nigeria, a dangerous place for families. Needless to say, I was not to go with my parents this time. Instead, I was going to the place I knew the least, a place I was actually terrified to go to – the place my passport says is “home.”

The expression “culture shocked” would be an understatement for how I felt. I had read so many culture shock pamphlets I could practically recite them by heart, but it was still so new. Worst of all, there certainly weren’t any pamphlets on how to repatriate to your home country because you would think that being a U.S. citizen, I would know it all already.

There were moments in my childhood when I knew I was different; but in my home country, I was a different kind of different. Moving back to the United States and being part of the majority was the hardest concept for me to grasp. I suppose what frightened me the most was the anticipation of going to a place I had only really experienced in movies, a place where I expected I was going to be just like everyone else. I remember moments overseas where the whole church knew when we skipped a Sunday service – our family managed to increase the white population in the church to a shocking total of five. I remember being threatened to be beaten up by one of my Iraqi friends because I wanted to do a school project on the United States. I remember people stroking my hair and calling me “habibi” (Arabic for “sweetheart”) because I was the only blonde girl they had ever seen. To me, all of this was just a social norm.

And now that I’m in my home country? Well, I may be here, but my heart belongs to the monsoon season in South East Asia and to floating make-shift boats from orange peels down the river. It belongs to pancakes smothered in powdered sugar at Dutch Poffertjes Stands and to biking lanes next to the highways. It belongs to 100 degree weather year-round and to explaining to passport control that I’m not a terrorist. It belongs to ceilidhs (A Gaelic term for Scottish Folk Dancing and pronounced like kay-lee) with lively drunken Scotsmen and to stomach aches from too much fish and chips. It belongs to Nigeria with my loving parents, to George School with my friends and classmates, and to my United States passport for reminding me that I really do come from somewhere. I may not have it all sorted out, but my heart belongs to an international culture that has made me who I am.

My mother always told us that because we are flexpats (a phrase coined by the international community meaning “flexible expatriates”), we need to make an effort to make everywhere we go feel like home, no matter how temporary. So, “Where is home?” That’s easy. I am a citizen of the world, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.



This essay is by Maia Shoham:

A good reflection of a person’s nature, I think, is their choice in cereal. One morning in the dining hall, I found myself the solitary occupant. I basked in the silence as steam wafted off my coffee.  A bit mentally feeble at such an hour, I waited for the grogginess to lift so I could don my witty personality for yet another day. I traced the circumference of the mug with a fingertip and gazed, unfocused, at the tablecloth.

Someone shuffled in. His comically pointed hood bobbed around the cereal dispensers as he darted around. Noticing me observing him, he broke off eye contact. I lowered my gaze. When I looked up again he had silently seated himself across from me, but seemed uncomfortable, poking nervously at his food.

He offered me a raise of his prominent eyebrows in greeting. I did not begrudge him this lack of propriety; we were not acquainted and had thus no reason to exchange pleasantries at such an hour.  I nodded in response. His large eyes shifted sideways to my breakfast – a cup of black coffee, a bowl of cereal. He smirked a bit.

“Raisin Bran, huh?”

He ate Cheerios - oaten particles that abandon their resolve to crunch after an average of 5.4 seconds of milk exposure, with a distinctive aftertaste that lingers for hours. He placed his elbows on the table, seeming to shield his little white bowl. It was somewhat symbolic, I noted, as he had a reputation for being one of the most impenetrable personalities of the student body. Yet the small gesture indicated that perhaps he just had an exoskeleton that masked something softer or different – I was intrigued. I sensed that it was time for me to respond.

“Cheerios…”

I raised another spoonful of my cereal to my lips and enjoyed the juxtaposition of earthy grains and sweet chewiness for a brief moment.

“Ultimately, it’s just breakfast, right?” I shrugged.

“I think that cereal says a lot about a person,” he said, looking me straight in the eyes.

With that simple line, he substantiated our tentative interaction. I wanted to continue the line of conversation, but was uncomfortable doing so. It was early, he was a stranger; I was too tired to break social barriers in the name of intellectual curiosity.

Twenty-three hours and seven minutes later, it was déjà vu. I sat listlessly at the table, fighting to keep my eyelids open. I looked down at my food, and wondered why on earth I had chosen Cheerios today. They were soggy. I swirled my spoon around and some of them stuck to the convex part of it, like barnacles on a ship’s hull.

A bowl of Raisin Bran seemed to conjure itself before me as he sat down. He picked up his spoon with calculated nonchalance and sighed. Then, he noticed what I was eating. I was tickled by the irony. He smiled, bent his head over the nearly overflowing brim, and ate a spoonful.



Disobedience is Progression by Marlene Chasolen:

Already, by conventional standards, this essay is entirely wrong. The topic is to describe myself, and nowhere have I included the phrase “I am”. I have not provided you, the reader, with a list of qualities that make me both academically and personally suitable for your liking. You don’t know my favorite color, my favorite movie, or my favorite book. According to this essay, you don’t even know my name. I even capitalized Progression, which in itself challenges the pre-conceived notion that writing must adhere to strict and structured guidelines. But, humor me. Grant me some poetic license.

In a course of seventeen years, I have never once been asked to describe myself; instead, I have been confined to a list of questions. What is your favorite color? Favorite movie? Book? Well, if you must know. The color green resonates with me. I have seen Requiem For A Dream more times than I can count, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is, for the time being, my favorite novel. But in no way do these personify all attributes of my personality. Don’t get me wrong. I do believe that I am, in partial, a manifestation of my likes and dislikes, but I will not attest to say that these determine my entire psyche.

For sake of coherence, allow me to clarify. Society and popular culture have molded people into nothing more than this conglomeration. No one asks more than a few trivial questions before deriving further conclusions on who a person may (or may not) be. They’ve heard all they need to hear, and just by examining a person’s outer appearance, they’ve seen it all.

So?

As explored by Oscar Wilde’s “The Soul of Man Under Socialism”, it is only when one goes against the norm, can anything new be discovered. Hence, disobedience is in fact, Progression. How else would society today have become more liberal than its conservative disposition of centuries prior? Someone had to step out of place.

So:

I deviated from the path.  I exposed my latent ingenuity. I embraced obscurities and I created a name for myself. I uncensored the stories I had written and shared with my English class. I spoke out about my (lack of) religious beliefs. I spent my lunch period with the photography teacher whom no student respected and my afternoons at Barnes and Noble writing. I put on my thick-rimmed glasses, corduroy button-up shirt, and pocket watch necklace, then preceded to walk down a hallway overflowing with students uniformly dressed. I never craved any admiration or attention. In fact, I desired the exact opposite. The art of my own being was illustrated by absolutely and honestly myself. I ostracized myself from an orthodox way of thinking. I ripped the rules of society to pieces. I became disobedient. How did I manage such a self-awakening? I discovered the power embedded in three simple words. Disobedience is Progression.

So, who am I?

I am Marlene Chasolen. I am Disobedience. I am Progression.



This essay is by Gabriela Grskovic:

Grskovic. G-R-S-K…Four consonants in a row?  It goes against every rule in the English language. But, I am not an ordinary American. I am first generation, one-hundred percent Croatian. Ever since I was little, I knew I was different than everyone else. I used to ask new friends, “What are you?”—Hoping to find a cultural connection. But I was always disappointed when they would answer back, “I’m a girl”, or “I’m a princess”.

As I got older, I was constantly afraid to invite my friends over, in fear of what they would think of the Croatian music my parents would sing to on the radio, or how they would react to me calling my father, “Tata”. In school, my peers would share amusing stories from their CCD classes, or discuss what they had learned in Hebrew school, and I would sit there silently—saddened by my parents’ decision to take me to a different church, which was conducted in a different language.

The summer of 6th grade my parents took us on our first trip to Croatia. I was awed by the bluest oceans and the cleanest beaches that I had ever seen; not to mention the least amount of clothing! The houses were all built into the mountainsides, overlooking beautiful sunrises, and majestic sunsets. There, I thought I would finally be able to fit in. I assumed that no one would question me about why I never was able to partake in sleepovers, or why my dad cooked dinner every single night of the week, (after all, dinner on a normal day included more courses than Americans have for Christmas or Thanksgiving). But I was wrong. I stood out like a sore thumb.

That summer I was disappointed to find that I was labeled an “Amerikanac”, an American. I was teased because I couldn’t pronounce certain words the way my Croatian friends did, and could not fully follow their conversations. Further, I could not dribble a soccer ball like Pele, and I most certainly could not catch fish using a spear. It seemed like I was a Croatian failing to be American in one country, yet an American failing to be Croatian in the other.

Where did I fit in?

I returned that summer feeling confused and defeated. But that didn’t last for long. A couple of weeks after my return from vacation, I was finding hope whilst taking a fashion design class. I was surprised to find the amount of international students involved in the program. When the professor asked everyone to design an outfit that showed who they were, a girl sitting next to me drew ripped jeans, and a t-shirt with some peculiar character on the front. She later explained that the character on the shirt was her favorite character from a Chinese comic book her cousin had given her. No one made fun of her, laughed at her, or judged her. In fact, my classmates wanted to know about the comic book series.  In just five minutes, she had showed me I had nothing to be afraid of. I could be American and Croatian. Instead of avoiding the questions my friends asked, I realized that I should take the opportunity to teach them about my culture.

My ability to integrate Croatian and American culture has helped me in all aspects of my life. Overcoming this challenge has led me to be much more tolerant of diversity because I know what it feels like to not fit in. No matter the college I attend, I will be with people of all different ethnicities, cultural experiences and opinions. My experiences will allow me not only to fully integrate into the community, but use those interactions in the classroom.   Not only will the location of a school broaden my horizons, but the diverse student population will as well. I look forward to being involved in an environment where students and teachers feed off of each other’s life-long interactions. Someone once said, “Perception is reality”. My unique perceptions of the events around me, like my embracement of new people, cultures and environments, allow me to create a new reality which will pave my way to success.



Those are our four honorable mentions. Congrats to all the winners, and thanks again for taking part!

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College Essay Organizer Announces Essay Contest Winners

We're happy to announce the winners of College Essay Organizer's first annual essay contest. We received thousands of terrific submissions from college applicants throughout the world, and enjoyed reading through them all. Among the entertaining pieces that did not make our list of winners are the essay about one guy's very lengthy detention history (and how it was never his fault), and the essay detailing why humanity is doomed (a funny story that was ultimately a bit too depressing for our tastes).

We're grateful to all who submitted and wish congratulations to those who let us know about your recent college acceptances!

Our decisions were made as a group, and we learned quickly that such decisions are inherently subjective. Each of us responded to different material, and choosing among the best submissions led to lively debates about the merits of each. We discussed what each essay said about the applicant's character and what that applicant would be capable of later in life - the ultimate measure of any college essay.

So without further ado, here are our three winners.



First Place ($500 prize) - This contest winner chose to remain anonymous:

The acrylics started to blend, the water started to drip, and slowly the whole canvas turned into an unimaginable storm of dark colors seeping through the fabric and dripping off the edges.

This canvas is my life. The blending acrylics are my parents whose addictions brought dysfunction into my family, and the water seeping through the fabric are my hidden tears. Dripping off the edges with the water are my innocence and childhood that had been mere illusions in my life. What remains on this canvas are the permanent stains of divorce, neglect, and addiction.

Eyes shut, no movement, and all I hear is the faint thump of a heartbeat. As I sit next to this strange, fragile body that is nothing more than a bottle of vodka, a handful of pills, and a line of cocaine, I question how I ever called this woman my mother. My trembling hand checks for a pulse on her cold skin. This became my daily routine, coming home from school to find my mother drugged out on her bed.

She was no longer the mother I once knew; her eyes were absent of kindness and she never smiled until the poison filled glass touched her parched lips. Looking into her eyes, all I saw was an old worn canvas, possibly beyond restoration.

At nightfall the other monster, my father, would appear, thus beginning my parental role in which I would clean up after them and make sure they were safely put to bed. Together, these monsters created a storm that no child should have to endure: drugs and fighting that escalated to abuse and resulted in divorce.

Well put together each morning, I would enter school expertly camouflaging my canvas’s smudges and stains. Underneath, these stains were spreading faster and deeper until the whole painting began to shred. Friends began asking why I spent my free periods researching alcoholism and drug addiction, and neighbors gossiped about my mom’s “accident,” where she smashed her wrist through the window, cutting her main artery.

However, on the morning of November 4, 2008, my sister and I finally risked everything and called an interventionist. Forming a circle, my sister, three of my mom’s closest friends, the interventionist and I sat paralyzed, time and lungs frozen. We listened for the crescendo of approaching footsteps. The door opened and my mother’s frail, emaciated body appeared. She screamed and fell to the floor in disbelief, recognizing the intervention. We picked her weak body up off the floor and sat her between my sister and me. I then read my letter. I told her I felt that I was losing my once-adored mother, my role model and that I would no longer be able to maintain contact with her unless she went to rehab that very day. Dead silence filled the room. All I could hear were the drops of tears falling on the hardwood floor until my mother whispered consent of, “Yes. I will.”

Months of rehabilitation, meetings, and workshops were all worth it to be able to look into her sober eyes and see a beautiful new canvas, one on which any artist would be honored to paint. My mother and I have negotiated a new relationship, in which we share the bond of recovery. I attend AA meetings with her and spend Tuesday nights at Alateen – a recovery program for children of alcoholics. Art, along with Alateen, has been my salvation and where I can express myself best.

Although my father’s canvas is still a work in progress, I now have the resources to help me through this next step.

I no longer see the world in dark hues, but as a beautiful ray of colors. I see people not as simple canvases, but as paintings that each have intricate layers. Living now with just my sober mother, I can confidently leave for college knowing that we will both be okay. Although my canvas may not be perfect – the water may continue to drip and the acrylics may continue to blend – the foundation of this canvas has given me an inner strength that will support me throughout my life.



2nd Place ($200 Prize) - This contest winner chose to remain anonymous:

Swerving along the icy roads of New Jersey, my date and I embarked upon a wintry odyssey I have never forgotten. With a whiplashing jerk, she wedged the flivver into the parking space. Our first destination: the early bird special.
Upon entering the restaurant, reels of the 1971 classic Harold and Maude, a film about a teenage boy who develops a friendship with a much older woman, flashed through my mind. How did I find myself seated at this restaurant across from a woman old enough to be my grandmother?

It all began my Freshman Year of high school, when I decided to take piano lessons. Hariette, my assigned piano teacher, a woman five times my age with tangled, wild gray hair, oversized spectacles, and a 1960s hippie floral dress, introduced herself to me. Soon, my piano lessons flowed into stories of Hariette’s life as a Broadway opera singer, interspersed with enchanting tales rich with family history. I listened with rapt attention to her nostalgic recollections of performances by Rachmaninoff and Marion Anderson. In return, I introduced the world of the iPod and digital music to Hariette. When my piano lessons were interrupted by winter break, I realized Hariette was still on my mind. I decided I would call her for a date.

To be honest, sitting in the restaurant with Hariette felt slightly bizarre; imagine what my friends would think! But it was not bizarre since it was not a “date” in the general sense of the word, but a lovely afternoon with someone I admired and thoroughly enjoyed. There was a great difference in age, but, hey, the most interesting bonds can be made with the most unlikely people.

Keys in the ignition, Hariette floored the accelerator. We were off again. My heart and stomach lurched into my mouth as she weaved the car in and out of lanes on the highway. Hariette rattled, “I was married twice…with a few men in between, ha-ha!” SCREECH! went the tires.

Our second destination: The Montclair Museum of Art. What I find most interesting about art is how each individual artist interprets the world, thus creating a myriad of unique works. Yet, I was most astonished by Hariette’s own interpretation of the exhibit that day, (although voiced a bit too loudly to the chagrin of the other museum attendees!) To me, Hariette was the most enjoyable art class I have ever taken. Personally, I would love to critique art or film one day, and I attribute part of my enthusiasm to Hariette’s fascinating, idiosyncratic views. Hariette fuels my belief that diverse friendships bring unique perspectives and richness into one’s life.

As she pulled her car into my driveway, Hariette thanked me for a wonderful afternoon, but it was I who should have thanked her, for Hariette evolved from a piano teacher into one of my dearest friends. She opened my mind to the realization that no matter where you are on the winding road of life, it is never too late to find friendship, even in the most unlikely places. Sometimes you have to break convention and take an eighty-year old woman on a date to understand this, and as Hariette peeled off down the road, smashing into our neighbor’s garbage can, I realized the meaning of the word friendship.



Third Place ($100 prize) - A Tingle On The Skin by Tai Wei Guo:

I was fourteen and I was in the hospital (tumor, surgery, fine now). I wept my share of tears, kept my share of faith. I wasn’t traumatized; I wasn’t in horrific pain. Actually, I was lying comfortably on an inclined bed with twenty buttons that performed all manners of amusing things. Facing me was an HDTV with cable access and a DVD player, and there was a computer in the corner and—get this: if I wanted, I could just press a button to call the nurse and ask that she cart in a Wii and a collection of games. She would even set everything up for me and hand me the remote. It was a teenager’s paradise. It was not enough.

I was fourteen and I knew just a little of what it was like to be old. I wanted to stretch. No. I wanted to scream. At the top of my lungs. I wanted to punch the sofa until my hands hurt and my voice gave way. Part of it might be frustration but I just wanted to check if I still remembered movement: the air slicing across skin, the rhythmic pounding of heart in chest and feet on ground, the chaotic incomprehensible sound of wind against your ears and voices you pass by too quickly to hear. I missed running. I hadn’t really run since I decided I was too mature to be acting like a child. Actually, I didn’t even have to run. I just had to be outside. I had to breathe air, real air, not this stale mixture of gases. I found myself migrating more and more to the sofa by the window, so I could shiver in sunlight and watch ships drift down the river to empty into the ocean. I wondered why the hospital would tempt their patients with sea breeze that almost floats up the nostrils and tickles the brain, sea breeze that almost tingles on the skin and seeps into the soul.

In fourteen years, I had never been lonelier no matter how much traffic and sympathy passed through the doors. But once, my cousin visited me. He did not bother to ask after my condition. He cracked jokes and I laughed until I was soundless clutching the teddy bear he brought against my abdomen to keep its quivering from aggravating the incision. It was a hopeless cause, it hurt like hell, it was one of the happiest moments of my life.

Then I was free. I picked up tennis despite my mother’s nattering about being careful and my conspicuous lack of talent at the sport. I did miss running. But I didn’t want to seize the day. I didn’t feel like bungee jumping because life is short. I felt like sitting in a park talking with my friends, soft breeze on my skin, because life is long and there’s time yet to enjoy the spring.


There you have it - the top three. Tomorrow, we'll update you with the four essays we've selected for honorable mention. Stay tuned!

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College Essay Organizer at the IECA Conference in Philadelphia

IECA In Philadelphia

IECA In Philadelphia

We had a great time at the IECA Spring Conference in Philadelphia, PA! We were excited to meet in person so many of you who we'd only known through email. It was great to meet so many new people, too. As promised, we also gave away a free CEO master account valued at $200 during the IECA raffle. Good times all around.

Showing off our new improvements was definitely the highlight for us. For those of you who weren't on hand to get an in-person demo, College Essay Organizer users can now:

  • Remove essay questions from the Essay RoadMap that are not relevant to a client
  • Upload, edit, and track status of essay drafts within each client’s account instead of emailing back and forth
  • Gain access to our weekly webinars on topics related to the essay process

Thanks again to all of you who came to introduce yourselves in person. It makes running the site a more personal task for us and also helps us get concrete, usable feedback from our users. All of our most important improvements have come out of your requests!

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College Essay Contest Winners To Be Revealed Monday!

We have finished our evaluations of the college essays we received and have contacted all the winners. Watch this space for an announcement on Monday of the winners and their prizes, along with samples of the essays themselves!

We'll follow up again on Tuesday with the four honorable-mention prizes, too.

It was a real pleasure to be able to read through the many submissions, and to see the success so many of College Essay Organizer's users have had this application season. Jumping through all the hoops the application season puts in front of you is not easy. We're glad to have been of help while you navigate this tricky time.

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You Are What You Tweet

Have you googled yourself lately?

If you are gearing up to begin your college application process, you definitely want to read Danny Westneat’s article in the Seattle Times. In this article, he discusses how he discovered an inspiring story of a student with a rough start in life, who defied all odds and made it to college, but that his perspective changed when he discovered the student's Twitter feed.

Without getting into the content of his posts, the point is clear. It’s normal for high school students to share their world with their friends, but with today’s internet culture, the consequences of those discussions and the photographical evidence that may be associated with them, are obviously much more far reaching and long term.

Westneat quotes a Harvard interviewer during a debate on the website Quora, who offers some guidance in this area: “Does a Facebook profile or a website prejudice me before I meet a candidate? Yes. Absolutely. If you care about your college career, one of the best things you can do is Google yourself, then pull anything off you wouldn't voluntarily show your parents' friends." Unfortunately, it can be what is not included in your college application that leaves the biggest impression.

They're in! Now What? Parents, Keep It Real

Maureen Tillman

Guest blogger Maureen Tillman's got some tips to help you and your child with the transition.

Our post today comes from Maureen Tillman, L.C.S.W. She has served as the organizer and curator of The New York Times' Local College Corner, and is also the creator of College with Confidence, a comprehensive psychotherapy service that supports parents and young adults through the college experience. She has offices in Maplewood Village and Morristown, New Jersey and also provides educational seminars, training, phone and skype consultations.

Strategies for a successful college transition

The retention and graduation rates in this country scream out that American students experience significant challenges staying in and succeeding at college.According to the non-profit organization American College Testing, the national retention rate for four-year institutions is 67.6 percent at public schools and 68.7 percent at private schools. Completion rates are even starker. Just over half -- or 55.1 percent -- of students in private institutions, and 39.6 from public institutions, graduate in 5 years or less.

Many parents take an incredible leap of faith sending their children to college, spending an enormous amount of money as well as saddling their young adults with student loans in an uncertain economy.

Parents need to get real with their teens about what college really is. It's a valuable academic commitment in a world of wonderful opportunities -- and distractions.

One of the most important factors for success of college students is being real with themselves. This sounds easier than it is. In today's "bubble wrapped" society, most teens and parents do not realize how much support and monitoring they have received growing up, including parents, institutions and tutors. Too often, students used to constant support at home become overwhelmed when they arrive at college and don't reach out for support in a timely way, resulting in myriad of difficult outcomes.

Teens heading off to college need to understand what it takes for them to succeed in life -- socially, academically, and emotionally -- and how to make that happen.

How can parents start this process?

    1. Do some serious soul searching and evaluate how much monitoring and support your teen has had from you and others:
  • Are you waking them up in the morning, doing laundry, running errands, making their appointments?
  • Do you call the high school or college about information?
  • Do they have a tutor/therapist/psychiatrist/disability? Do they regularly spend time with a support team at high school?
  • Have you been making sure they meet deadlines?
  • Do you monitor/remind them often about their time and activities?
    2. Find a good time to talk:
  • State that beginning college can be a big adjustment and that you want to help them to get ready.
  • Explain that this will involve fostering their independence.
  • Ask what they feel you are still doing for them that they can do themselves.
  • Discuss recreating a support team on campus similar to the supports they are currently receiving.
  • Ask if they have any worries or concerns about transitioning to college. Whatever they express, listen, brainstorm for solutions, get information. Consult with a professional in the field now when they are still in your "orbit."
    3. Get the facts yourself. For resources on challenges at college as well as a successful transition, visit my website: www.collegewithconfidence.com

Follow Maureen Price Tillman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/maureenptillman

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College Essay Organizer's New Upgrades

College Essay Organizer

New Upgrades for College Essay Organizer!

College Essay Organizer is pleased to reveal a number of key upgrades that have been made for the 2011/2012 season that are already in effect! Let's get to it:

  • Select up to 20 colleges for each client: One of our most frequent requests has now been answered! Each College Essay Organizer account can now select up to 20 colleges instead of the previous limit of 15.
  • Remove essay questions that are not relevant to a client: The Essay RoadMap is now fully modifiable! If you want to remove a question from the list because it doesn't pertain to you or the program you'll be applying to, you can simply click to remove it from the list. Any hidden questions can be un-hidden just as easily.
  • New easy-to-read Essay RoadMap layout: Essay RoadMap is now re-oriented around the questions you're most likely going to have to write, and also includes all the biographical data for each school you'll be applying to, putting all the info you'll need on one easy-to-read page.
  • Upload, edit, and track the status of essay drafts within each account instead of emailing back and forth: College Essay Organizer is now a platform for sharing essays with your advisor, be it a guidance counselor or an independent consultant. You can upload, edit, and make notes on any essay draft from within the Essay RoadMap. You can even mark off which essays have been completed, making your Essay RoadMap also function as a task list for your essay process.
  • Attend our weekly webinars on topics related to the essay process: College Essay Organizer is reaching out in new ways to help as many students, guidance counselors, independent consultants, and parents learn about how to handle the college application process to the best of their abilities. Our weekly webinars will put you in touch with the College Essay Organizer staff and allow your questions to be answered directly, in real time.

These new upgrades have combined to make College Essay Organizer better than it's ever been before. We're always striving to improve, so if you have suggestions on what we can do to improve our work, don't hesitate to let us know!

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College Admissions: What You Need To Know

Zen College Life

Louise Baker from Zen College Life weighs
in on college admissions

Today's blog post comes from Louise Baker at Zen College Life. Zen College Life is a leading source for college and degree information online. Their writing has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, on MSN, About.com, The Consumerist, and many other publications and websites.

Going to college can open up a world of opportunities, both personally and professionally. Getting into college, however, has gotten progressively harder in recent years as more and more high school students have realized that attending college can give them the tools for lifelong success that they need. Below are the tips that you need to know, as you navigate the college admissions landscape.

Although you may be tempted to tag along with your high school buddies, as they road trip to the colleges that have the best parties in your area, it is important to do your own research on the schools that you want to attend. Unless you are confident that you want to attend a school, you will not be able to put together an application that convinces a college's admissions offices that you truly want to be at that university. Start by brainstorming the types of degree programs you are interested in and the geographic area you are willing to move to for college. Then begin visiting schools to narrow down factors like the size of the school and type of campus.

Once you have a list of five to seven schools that you would be okay with attending, make sure that among them is at least one or two safety schools. These should be schools that, based upon your SAT I and SAT II scores and your grades you are statistically likely to be admitted to for the fall semester. Hopefully, you will get into several of your choice colleges, but it is important that you have at least one school to attend in the fall. Remember, you can always transfer to another school later on!

Many colleges accept the common application, which means that you only need to write one essay and put together one package of information. Be careful though, as some schools will require supplemental statements. Sending one to the wrong school can mean being disqualified by both schools! Check the schools' requirements for letters of recommendation and make sure that your teachers write yours and send them in well in advance of their due dates so your application is not held up. Call the admissions office after your teachers notify you that they have sent them to confirm the schools' receipt.

Even if you are fairly confident that a school will accept you, you should still go ahead and ask for an interview. This is a time to show off what makes you special, which may be hard for an admissions counselor to see on your paper application. Show up in a suit or other nice outfit and be ready to discuss your favorite books.

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College Essay Organizer at the 2011 IECA Conference

Tiger Techie Postcard

Come by and see us tomorrow!

Tomorrow, May 6th, at 8am, we'll be at the technology seminar at the IECA Conference in Philadelphia. Make sure to stop by and get a sense of what College Essay Organizer can do for you!

This week in Philadelphia has been great. We've had many happy users coming by to introduce themselves in person, and lots of new people getting to know the site and what it can do for them. For those of you who haven't come to the College Essay Organizer booth yet - we're giving special discounts to all who make a purchase at the conference, so come find us and say hello. Most of the time we've been settled in at our table in Salon H.

College Essay Organizer is a product that reveals its benefits best with hands-on experience. We're giving demos all day long and have a lot of new features to show that improve the experience for both student and counselor, including the new Upload Draft feature and the new ways you can manipulate of the Essay RoadMap results to suit your needs. The site's scope and ease of use are improving every day and we're proud to show it off to the people we serve best.

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