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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Are you a school rep who wants to learn more?

College Essay Organizer is important to schools as well as students. Here are some frequently raised objections from school officials. Find your objection(s) below and see if our response(s) clarify things for you:

1. There are not that many essays to write.

This is the single greatest misconception. While some students may have only a few essays to write, many students have to address a vast number of essay questions, especially if they are applying to competitive or liberal arts colleges. Beyond that, there are program-specific and scholarship questions, most of which do not appear on the Common App supplements. Some students have to deal with more than 20 different essay questions.

2. Our students write great essays on their own.

Despite great resources for many aspects of the admissions experience, so much confusion, anxiety, and procrastination surrounds the college essay process for all. Much of students’ stress comes from not knowing what is involved upfront, and having to discover it painfully along the way under tight deadlines.

Having a clear plan that lays everything out from the beginning allows students to pace themselves and plan accordingly, so they can spend their energy writing great essays rather than trying to figure out how to manage the details.

3. Our juniors write a college essay before they even meet with us.

It’s great that they get started on their main personal statement before meeting with you, but this does not prepare them for the many additional essays their colleges will require. Supplemental, program-specific, department-specific, short-take, optional, and scholarship essays make up the majority of what students have to write, and most of these prompts are not posted on the Common App. Even if your students know to look for these essays, it takes hours to find and organize them, increasing frustration and stress—but often they don’t even know about such essays until too close to deadline.

Having spent 15 years with high-school students on a daily basis, I can assure you that so much of the student and parental anxiety stems from being unprepared for the college essay workload.

Why not have all of those questions and a personalized essay writing plan delivered instantly in one simple document?

4. We do a great job at reviewing each student’s essays.

Our goal is to empower you to continue this job with greater efficiency, by giving students a clear plan and freeing up your time to focus on more important issues, like helping students pick the right colleges and helping them brainstorm and edit their essays.

We now allow students to upload their essays to their College Essay Organizer accounts so school counselors can review, edit, and manage all essays smoothly and effectively through their master accounts. Keeping all your student essays in one place, with time-stamped updates, is so much cleaner than emailing drafts back and forth for multiple students with various essays and drafts.

5. Most of our students have private consultants or tutors anyway.

Many students seek outside help because they quickly see that there are more essays required of them than they ever anticipated. A simple web tool like College Essay Organizer can often replace the need for private consultants or tutors, while also cutting out the element of surprise and the confusion that comes along with discovering how much work they really have.

Plus, for those who still opt to pay for private guidance, College Essay Organizer will optimize the time they spend with their consultants/tutors, who would ordinarily bill for the time they spend manually doing what College Essay Organizer does instantly and inexpensively.

6. Our school cannot afford this.

Group rates for schools are as low as $5 per student. Considering the importance of the college essays and the potential return a successful college application represents, the value of College Essay Organizer is exceptional.

In some cases, parents associations have paid for group discount rates, leaving school obligations at zero.

In other situations, schools promote discounted rates that they secure for their students.

7. Students can do this organization on their own.

The reality is most students do not take the time to organize their essay questions on their own, and as a result struggle through the process without clear direction. We would not ask students to go to the library each time they have to look something up when they can use Google, or look up each college admissions' data by calling the college directly. It's no different for researching all the essay questions. Performing this time-consuming, confusing research on their own doesn't build character; it breeds frustration and procrastination.

Plus, students who decide to write their essays one application at a time inevitably end up doing more work and taking more time than they need to, since they do not plan in advance—it's like running a marathon without knowing beforehand how long the race will be. You need to know the course and pace yourself. College Essay Organizer lays out the path simply and clearly from the start, showing how to make it much more manageable than it may seem at first.

8. We want students to write unique essays for each college question.

If you've ever worked with a student applying to college during crunch time, you'll know that time is of the essence. That's why tools like Naviance and the Common App are so valuable. College Essay Organizer is simply the logical extension of these tools. Students naturally recognize that some essays can be used for multiple questions, and most colleges recognize this, too. The essays can (and should, as we recommend on our site) be modified as needed, so they answer the colleges' specific questions directly.

College Essay Organizer delivers a suggested plan for optimizing one's time during a hectic period. But when you're dealing with 8 or more different colleges and possibly 20 or more different questions, there is naturally going to be a good deal of thematic overlap. Our web tool simply automates what students have always done manually, doing work instantly that takes students hours.

9. Is College Essay Organizer an ethical tool?

College Essay Organizer is absolutely the ethical solution to the college essay challenge. A recent iParadigm report indicates the high prevalence of plagiarism among college applicants, and was supported by a Public Agenda study indicating that school counselors are so overwhelmed that they don’t have time to properly focus on each student’s essays. Some students have others write their essays or get unfair assistance because they do not have the time or the one-on-one support to do quality work, thus resorting to the short cuts we all frown upon. College Essay Organizer saves hours of time and provides great clarity. Procrastination is eliminated and the focus can shift from figuring out how to get started to actually writing great essays.

10. How can I place a value on College Essay Organizer?

Consider these key benefits. College Essay Organizer:

  • Saves each student more than 3 hours with an instant, well-organized essay writing strategy.
  • Helps students reduce their workloads by as much as 75%, resulting in higher quality writing and less anxiety.
  • Makes student meetings with counselors more strategic by allowing discussions to focus on writing rather than organization.
  • Allows counselors to manage all student essays in one platform, avoiding the need to email multiple drafts back and forth for all their students.
  • Saves your school money by optimizing the counselor’s time and increasing efficiency.
  • Cuts down on calls and emails from concerned parents by delivering a clear essay plan from the beginning that parent, student, and counselor all agree on.

If you use any management tool for managing the application process, such as Naviance, know that only College Essay Organizer addresses the college essays, the most time-consuming and challenging part of the application experience.

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Are you an educational consultant who wants to learn more?

We hope this clarifies the benefits of College Essay Organizer. Contact us directly if you have questions of your own.

1. I’m not sure I can afford College Essay Organizer.

Based on feedback from our members, the value of College Essay Organizer far exceeds our current price point. With our web tool, consultants save several hours per student, which means much less work required for the same number of billable hours. During the busy application season, this means your efficiency in managing clients and setting up new ones skyrockets.

In fact, many consultants have found that if they share a sample College Essay Organizer report with potential clients, it often convinces them that they could not possibly manage this process on their own without enduring excessive stress and confusion. In this sense, College Essay Organizer helps you generate additional revenue.

College Essay Organizer also finds program-specific essays that aren't included in schools' applications or on the Common App—questions that tend to get discovered late in the game or overlooked altogether. Rather than spending hours seeking these out or losing credibility when clients recognize that you've failed to address their particular needs, you can have all essay questions delivered instantly. You’ll also discover a multitude of scholarship essays that can mean thousands of dollars in additional money for applicants.

Moreover, with our new feature that allows you and your clients to upload, edit, and track the status of essay drafts directly within the College Essay Organizer accounts, you won't have to email multiple drafts back and forth for multiple clients.

The alternative to using College Essay Organizer is researching all the questions on your own or assigning this task to your clients, which may lead to incomplete or inaccurate results, not to mention frustrated students and parents. It also means resorting to the cumbersome process of emailing drafts back and forth dozens of times. Typically after two clients, College Essay Organizer pays itself off in time saved while increasing the professionalism of your practice.

We offer various promotional discounts via our partner sites throughout the year and post new discount codes on our blog regularly, giving you many opportunities to make College Essay Organizer an even more valuable part of your business.

2. I'm not sure how to purchase College Essay Organizer for my clients.

There are three simple ways to purchase College Essay Organizer:

- Option 1: Purchase a Master Account here and absorb the cost as an operational expense. You can see the low-cost group rates on that page. You can then decide whether or not to share the accounts with your students or simply use College Essay Organizer on your end. The simple options will be explained once you create your account.

- Option 2: Purchase a Master Account here at the low group rate and bill the cost into your fee structure. For example, you can explain to clients that ordinarily you would bill 3 hours for this sort of research and management, but using College Essay Organizer will save you time and allow you to work smarter, and will save the clients money and allow them to work smarter too. If your clients created College Essay Organizer accounts on their own, the rate for an Essay RoadMap would be $49 per student. However, since you are only paying, say, $34 per student account at your independent consultant rate, you could bill the client $40, thus covering your expenses and then some. The alternative is to spread yourself too thin on time, forgo using an efficient management tool, and deprive your clients of the ability to access this cutting-edge technology that thousands of competitive applicants are using.

You can then decide whether or not to share the accounts with your students or simply use College Essay Organizer on your end. The simple options will be explained once you create your account.

- Option 3: Purchase accounts through CollegePlannerPro for $39.

3. I’m not sure whether to let my students access their accounts or to use College Essay Organizer simply as a resource on my end.

Your choice depends on how you run your practice and on each individual client.

You can choose to keep College Essay Organizer to yourself, referencing each client’s report on your own. You can essentially use College Essay Organizer like an accountant might use TurboTax, as a tool that optimizes your time and productivity.

You can experiment and share College Essay Organizer with a few of your stronger students. For example, you can go over the essay plan with a student together. If the student has a diversity essay that will work for multiple questions, you can brainstorm with the student what diversity means to her and help her craft that piece. You can then help her see how that finished essay can be used for various questions, with some modification if needed. And then you can move on to the next essay together. As the process unfolds, the student becomes more independent.

You can immediately share College Essay Organizer with all clients, making clear that this website will save them hours of time and ensure a much smoother, more successful writing experience. Many consultants recognize from the start that their students are naturals at using online technology. Teens intuitively understand College Essay Organizer just as well as a professional and appreciate having this tool at their disposal. They often feel empowered with College Essay Organizer’s clear, personalized plan and thus work more proactively on their essays. If you choose to share College Essay Organizer with all your clients, you can then of course use it as your one-stop website for the entire essay process. You'll also find that having clients access College Essay Organizer demonstrates the value of having a professional guide, for they see how time-consuming and complex the process is (“it’s not just a couple essays anymore!”). Most parents and students are not aware of College Essay Organizer on their own, so they’ll be glad you use this cutting-edge technology in your practice. Plus, College Essay Organizer hardly replaces your role; your greatest asset is helping students brainstorm the essay topics that work best for them and helping them bring out their most compelling voices.

4. I don’t have many clients.

Businesses only grow when owners have the time to focus on the big picture, instead of organizational or managerial details. Technology makes that possible. It’s like using Google instead of driving to the library. College Essay Organizer eliminates hours of tedious and frustrating work, elevating consulting practices to new levels of efficiency.

If you have only 5 clients, your total cost for College Essay Organizer accounts will be $195, minus any association discount or free accounts you are entitled to. If you are billing your clients $50 per hour, that is just over 3 hours of billing time (and if you bill a higher hourly rate, it could work out to less than one hour of billing time). For this low cost, you will save hours in tedious research and organizational confusion, work much more efficiently, free up your days to focus on growing your business and providing even better service, and ensure a level of accuracy and professionalism that is very hard to provide on your own.

Many consultants also find that sharing College Essay Organizer accounts with each client validates the client’s decision to hire the consultant. Too many parents still believe that the essay process entails only one or two personal statements. Seeing the multitude of essays, including scholarship opportunities, allows them to appreciate the complexity of the process and the importance of your expert guidance.

Good word of mouth starts with using the right tools and knowing how to make them work for you.

5. I can do this research and organizational work on my own.

In our experience as admissions advisors, we found that manually collecting and organizing the essay questions took about 2 hours for each applicant—more if the student was applying to specific programs or had hard-to-find essay requirements. As students added and dropped colleges, we were forced to re-conceptualize their essay plans and determine if their previous essay topics were still sufficient. It’s just too time consuming.

In the midst of a hectic fall, would you pay $200 to save yourself, say, 20 hours of work?

Independent consultants have stressed-out clients, who naturally make the job demanding. College Essay Organizer is designed to make your work simple and efficient, while cutting out redundant work, stress, and anxiety.

6. I worry that letting my clients know about College Essay Organizer will make them think they don't need my guidance.

College Essay Organizer is not a substitute for your expert insight and personal touch. It is an easy-to-use management tool that will allow you to optimize the time you spend with clients. Think of it as TurboTax or QuickBooks. Those programs hardly replace your accountant; instead, they prevent your accountant from wasting his time focusing on tedious details and frees up his time to address the more important issues. Independent consultants who share College Essay Organizer accounts with their clients often report nothing but positive feedback from both students and parents who find that they have a clearer sense of what's involved and better appreciate your support after seeing how time-consuming and complex the essay process can be.

7. The applications really aren't that hard to figure out on my own.

College Essay Organizer instantly finds all essay questions for any selected colleges and displays them in one place, saving you from the piles of paper, PDFs, and logins for non-Common App colleges. We also alert you as soon as applications are made available, saving you the time it takes to check and re-check colleges’ sites and supplements.

But even if you find the applications simple to navigate, consider the amount of legwork College Essay Organizer does for you. We're tracking down the questions that aren't included on the applications themselves, like the optional, departmental, program-specific, and scholarship questions. We also note application deadlines, including those for specific programs within colleges. That kind of work is time consuming for any practice, and we can tell you from experience, some colleges can take hours. Consider USC with a total of 36 questions!

8. The applications don’t change from year to year.

Some colleges keep their essay requirements static from year to year, but the majority changes them yearly, sometimes in small ways, but often to completely different prompts. Colleges have also recently been adding more and more questions. The problem is that you can't know which ones will change and which ones won't—so without an alternative, you’d have to check them all individually. College Essay Organizer provides up to date requirements as soon as they're available—all in one place, instantly.

College Essay Organizer also addresses each college's department-specific, program-specific, and special applicant questions, which can be much harder to find, and which many applicants don't even know to look for. College Essay Organizer also provides numerous scholarship essay questions.

As a member, you can register for our email notification system and be alerted as soon as the essay requirements for any college are updated for the coming season.

9. Some of the colleges my clients apply to don’t have (m)any essay questions.

Just because a college does not require any essays doesn’t mean you know that from the start. You still have to look, and even then it’s hard to be sure since colleges rarely post their program-specific, departmental, or scholarship questions on their applications or the supplements. For example, USC has 33 program-specific questions, many of which are not listed on the Common App. And you aren’t even told to look for those questions to begin with!

Most colleges changed their essay questions last year, or added new ones. You can check them all again manually, or let College Essay Organizer provide them for you instantly.

If you don’t think students have many essays to write, we encourage you to contact us for a free trial account. You’re in for a surprise.

10. My students are responsible for researching all their essay questions.

Leaving this to your students is a recipe for disaster. Inevitably they procrastinate and then fail to be accurate and/or thorough, overlooking many questions, especially the program-specific and hidden questions. We used to assign this task to students until we got tired of having parents complain that we were outsourcing responsibility that we were paying for, and making their children even more stressed and confused. If you want to be a professional, you cannot let your clients manage this time-consuming, frustrating task. Using College Essay Organizer is the difference between being a good consultant and an exceptional one.

11. I guide clients just through the Common App essays and let them manage their supplemental essays on their own.

Clients are paying you to be an effective guide. By helping with only one or two essays and leaving the rest to them, you run the risk of making your clients feel as if you didn’t help them at all, even if you did an excellent job on everything else. You also run the risk of creating a disparity between the essays you’ve advised them on and the rest of their writing, which can cause the application to feel inconsistent.

Using College Essay Organizer and showing the reports to your clients is a great way to either convince them to utilize your services for the entire essay process or provide them a clear plan for finishing up on their own.

New referrals come when your clients feel like you chaperoned them through the entire process and led them to their destinations smoothly and successfully, instead of leading them only halfway there.

12. I don’t guide my clients through the college essay process.

Leaving the essays entirely to your clients after helping them with other key aspects of the admissions process is a bit like guiding them deep into the Amazon jungle and letting them find their way out on their own. After all, the college essay process is typically the most time-consuming and stressful part of the application experience. By providing your clients with College Essay Organizer accounts or contacting us to ask for discounts on behalf of your students, your clients will feel like you gave them the necessary tool for completing the application process smoothly and successfully.

Even if you choose not to work with them on their writing, providing an easy, inexpensive tool for them to cut down on their workload will reflect well on your practice.

13. I don't bill my students for that kind of work.

If you're not billing your students for tracking and organization, then College Essay Organizer is especially right for you. Why spend hours on things you don't expect to be paid for? Our web tool instantly saves you the time it takes to search for, find, organize, and store the application questions, freeing up hours to grow your business and focus on high-end responsibilities.

14. How can I trust a third-party to ensure the level of accuracy that I expect?

Accountability is a challenge we are up to. We guarantee our work, and give you access to our staff by email and by phone. Ironically, it's the fact that we are a broad-service third-party company that makes our standards so high. We are being held accountable not by just a few clients but by thousands of users worldwide, not to mention some of the most elite and demanding high schools in the country.

15. Putting a brand on my work that isn’t my own doesn’t sound right to me.

You don’t have to share these accounts with your clients. Keep the database to yourself and utilize it as you see fit. Provide the information as printouts to your clients and use it only as a tool for managing the information on your end. Like a professional accountant using TurboTax, your use of College Essay Organizer assures your clients that they’re getting a high level of professionalism and efficiency.

Plus, many consultants find that sharing College Essay Organizer with their clients validates their decision to hire a professional. It shows clients how overwhelming the essay process really is, and that you know how best to deal with it. This kind of competence and forward-thinking drives positive word of mouth.

16. I want just the Essay Questions, not the Essay RoadMap.

Independent consultants cannot purchase accounts that include only the page listing the essay questions. We have integrated the essay questions into the RoadMap so that College Essay Organizer is an even more robust, flexible service for consultants.

What that means is you can remove any questions that do not pertain to an applicant (eg, department-specific questions, scholarship questions, etc). Plus, now that we've added an essay-sharing platform to the RoadMap to make communication between you and your students even easier, College Essay Organizer has become a one-stop shop for the college essay writing process. We see the RoadMap as the core of that experience. The overwhelmingly positive feedback regarding the RoadMap, as well as the upgrades that make the RoadMap even easier to interpret now, makes clear that this is the best approach for our users. Most skeptics, after using the RoadMap, realize that the Essay Questions page is simply the ingredients, whereas the RoadMap is the ingredients plus the crucial recipe.

17. I'm more interested in helping my students find scholarship money for college.

Our extensive database of scholarship essays is delivered along with your regular essay questions at no extra cost! This is especially helpful with large state schools. With so many programs and special departments, these universities provide a multitude of chances at scholarship money, but most students don’t know where to find it. These include merit-based, need-based, and demographic-based scholarships. Your clients will greatly appreciate that you pointed these out for them.

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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.


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.


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.


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 Welcomes Stuyvesant's Rising Seniors

Stuyvesant High SchoolWe are excited to provide ALL Stuyvesant students with FREE College Essay Organizer accounts for this year's rising seniors.

College Essay Organizer is a groundbreaking website that instantly streamlines the college essay process in a way no other company or product does. Simply select your colleges and College Essay Organizer will list all your essay questions in one clear document (including supplemental, program-specific, and scholarship questions that are hard to find) and will generate a personalized essay writing plan so you can work smarter.

Let College Essay Organizer instantly save you hours of time, eliminate your procrastination and anxiety, and let you write better essays!

Here's how to get your FREE College Essay Organizer account

  1. Click here and create your Student account. It takes just a few seconds.
  2. Fill in your information and select "Essay RoadMap" under "Choose Your Services"
  3. Enter promo code stuy2011 (all lowercase letters) and press the tab key. You will NOT have to enter any credit card info.

This offer expires June 30. If you have any questions, call 646-448-4927 or email [email protected].

Create your account today to become eligible for a FREE college essay consultation.

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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:

Follow Maureen Price Tillman on Twitter:

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