Last-Minute Essay Writing Tips

Despite our pleas to students to start their essays early, even during the summer before their senior year, there are always students who for whatever reason are unable to get a head start, or even a timely start. And here we are, entering the final week before the January 1 deadline, and students are continuing to upgrade their College Essay Organizer accounts in order to seek out some last-minute advice on how to write a standout essay, and more importantly, on how to get started writing.

The New York Times Choice Blog is also dishing out advice for late-blooming applicants. Definitely refer to this post by Daniel Grayson, associate director of undergraduate admissions at Tufts University, if you fall into that category. We've included a few highlights to help inspire and motivate you to put your best foot forward.  After all, you haven't worked this hard for the last four years to fizzle out so close to the finish line.

  • Don't be afraid to be different: "Being honest and forceful about yourself may make some adults around you nervous; it’s not “safe.” They will worry that you are being too controversial or informal. You should listen carefully and try to see your writing from their perspective. But you should feel comfortable ignoring advice that does not feel right."
  • Think from the point of view of the college: "We want to fill our seats with students who have things to say, who will challenge conventions and advance conversations, who will learn from each other."
  • Stand up for what you believe in: "You need to be confident and proud enough to stand behind those ideas because if you won’t, why would an admissions officer choose to stand behind you?"


College Application Essays: Pacing Yourself This Fall

Will you take a risk when you write your essays?

Chances are, your days are already pretty packed: classes, extracurriculars, seeing friends, spending time with family… and now applying to college on top of that. Senior year can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to writing your personal essays. And while you’ve certainly written essays on the Civil War, Einstein, or plant biology, a personal essay is a different animal. It can be time consuming and even emotionally draining, depending on your choice of topic. Make sure to pace yourself accordingly and keep that pile of college essay assignments manageable.

Make sure to set aside a little bit of time every day to work on your essay. It’s better to spend 20 minutes on it daily than 10 hours right before it’s due. You’ll find that visiting it every day will help your ideas flow and connect better, give you perspective on what you’ve already written, and reduce the chances of sloppy mistakes.

As for topic selection, instead of trying to brainstorm an essay that matches an existing question from your school of choice, try working backward. Think of a personal experience that moved you or changed you, then tailor that to answer the question. Let’s say you want to write about your experience playing the flute for the first time with a large orchestra. This story answers a lot of possible essay questions: what was a personal activity of special significance, or an accomplishment you are proud of—even an adversity you have dealt with. This one story can be tweaked into the many essays your colleges require.

It’s great to get feedback from a friend or a teacher on a draft you’ve written, but don’t overdo it. A common mistake is an essay written “by committee” – too many people have read it and the writer is trying to please too many different opinions. In the end, you’re left with an essay with all the life sucked out of it. Find one person you trust—preferably not a family member or friend—and let that individual be your sounding board.

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Word Limits on the Common Application

Each year we're asked about how to most effectively cut the word count of college essays down to the limits the schools assign for them. The first piece of advice we always give is to check and see if you actually have to hit that limit - in many cases, you don't, thanks to the "Upload Document" feature that's become so common on college applications.

The large majority of schools now require (or at least prefer) that you use an online application, either the Common App or the school's own application. If the school has an upload document feature instead of a text box that the essay needs to be pasted into, you can upload a file with an essay that goes over the word count. In many instances, this is to your benefit, because you can include the details that you feel are most significant to your application, without compromising the overall flow of the piece. We recommend that you not get crazy with your essay length, but if an essay is limited to, say, 500 words, it's not unreasonable to push it over 700 or even to 800 words.

Remember that the biggest priority for your college admissions essays is that it be good. Good is more important than short, and good is certainly more important than just "being done with it already." This writing is something you should put a lot of time into, and you may find that the college essay is the piece of writing you've revised most in your life. It is not uncommon to do five to ten drafts of each piece you submit. Writing can always be better! So work it as best you can and make it shine.

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International Universities on College Essay Organizer

McGill UniversityIn recent years, we here at College Essay Organizer have developed our pool of international universities around our user base and the specific groups of schools our applicants have sought out. A number of them are quite popular - McGill University in Canada especially - though many of them are more targeted. We look forward to developing our international user base in the coming application seasons, not just for Americans looking to apply outside of their country, but for people outside America looking to come here.

College Essay Organizer is a great tool for counselors from countries in Europe and Asia who traditionally send a significant portion of their applicants to America. The database here can help make a confusing and overwhelming process much more efficient and direct, and the research staff at CEO digs up as many requirements as possible in places others don't necessarily know to look. It's a time-consuming job but worth doing, as it saves our thousands of users countless hours, the world over.

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Does Commitment (to a college) Thrill Or Chill You?

Are you ready to commit?

As you anxiously await to hear back from colleges, you might still be daydreaming about your top choice. Perhaps you have gotten deferred from your early decision option, or you made a late decision on which college you really want to attend. Either way, wouldn’t it be wonderful to channel that energy into something tangible that could actually increase your chances of getting in?

Experts suggest that writing a Commitment Letter will not only help reduce your stress but might also be just what the college needs to tip the balance in your favor.

As the end of February nears and March approaches, college admissions officers are at their desks struggling to determine how many students will accept their offers. After all, they don't want to accept students that are not likely going to actually attend. A Commitment Letter lets the college know that you are passionate about enrolling, and that if admitted, you would definitely accept the offer. This love letter should demonstrate your enthusiasm for the school and important updates on your academic and extracurricular life. There's no need to repeat what you've already told them - this should be new info, along with the heartfelt expression of hope that you'll be accepted. Don’t you want your favorite school to know that you’re still working hard on your AP courses, and have now become president of the chess team, or whatever else you might be up to these days - and that all the while you’re dreaming of the day when you can pack up your things, leave home, and finally be on their campus?

Now is the time to write this one last college essay, and after this one, you really can relax knowing you’ve done all you can to get into your dream college. But beware not to be unfaithful. Committing to a school and not attending can reflect negatively on your high school, affecting future students’ chances. Also, colleges sometimes share notes on applicants, and if they realize that they have all gotten the same Commitment Letter, it might hurt you. No one wants a player.

Try to get your Commitment Letter out before the end of February.

Expect to Write More College Essays When Applying to College Next Year

Will this be you next fall?

For all the juniors out there who are starting to quiver in their boots in anticipation of applying to colleges in the fall, you might just

have something to worry about. Most of you have heard the stories from your older friends and siblings of how many essays there are to write when applying to college. Well, expect even more essays next season.

As top schools get inundated with college applications -- thousands more than in previous years for the same number of spots -- discussions are forming on how admissions officers can abate surging numbers of applicants coupled with plunging admissions statistics. In a recent article in the Harvard Crimson, Justin Worland writes that Don McMillan, president of a Boston-based educational consulting firm, believes that the Common App is the main force in the rapid growth of college applications.

However, McMillan claims that the Common App supplemental essays (for each individual college) deter some students from submitting additional applications: “The main thing that is keeping kids from increasing the number of applications from 6 to 11 is the supplement. One way [colleges] will be able to moderate [the increase in applications] is by requiring additional supplementary essays or campus visits.”

CEO was created with this very point in mind. We agree that the number of essays are on the rise. But because of the overlapping themes among essay questions, as the number of essays increase the number of original essays that you write doesn’t have to.

See what we mean here? It'll take you just ten seconds to discover how CEO can save you hours and allow you to apply to all the colleges you want without any additional essay writing.

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