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?"

 

Early Application Deadlines Looming

The tension is mounting for tens of thousands of seniors applying early to their first-choice schools. November 1, a popular early deadline, is looming just around the corner, and students are scrambling to polish their essays and send off their applications. Other students are worrying about their test scores, and wondering whether or not they will be good enough.

The New York Times' Choice Blog is answering common questions about the application process this week, and regarding test scores, Kathryn Juric, vice president of the SAT program, advises, "The most important thing for students and families to keep in mind is that college entrance exams represent only one part of your overall college application." Jon Erickson, president of the educational division at the ACT, adds that in cases where a student feels that her scores are not reflective of the rest of her accomplishments, she can explore the following: "retaking the test, after more thorough academic preparation; highlighting other aspects of her academic profile (personal recommendations, course work, grades, other accomplishments); and, if the opportunity exists, meeting personally with an admission officer to demonstrate her personal qualities." We, at College Essay Organizer, also know that using your essays to show who you are can be the most important way to stand out even if your scores fall short.

For more questions and answers on the college admissions process, click here.



Grit Becoming a New Factor in College Admissions

Take those failures in stride. They're just stepping stones on the path to building true grit.

At a time when seniors are worrying about their test scores and grades, it may be refreshing to know that there is a quality superior to pulling off stellar numbers, which is slowly being recognized as a much more telling sign of future success--and some larger colleges are beginning to acknowledge this too! It has even become formal policy at universities such as DePaul, Tufts and Wake Forest.

In case you haven't yet heard the new buzz word, it's called "grit." Angela Duckworth, a University of Pennsylvania assistant professor of psychology, recently described grit as, "perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity and plateaus in progress. The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina. Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course."

So, for those who continue to be frustrated by the numbers side of the application process, be sure to take advantage of your interview and essays to highlight examples of the much more important quality of grit. To read more about grit in the admissions process, click here.

 

 

 

Free Student Webinar Tonight

Among the many essay questions colleges will ask, the most popular is, "Why are you applying here?" Students often drop the ball on this tremendously important question by falling into one of the most common traps. Learn how to answer this question in a truly compelling way that gets you accepted to your top-choice schools.  

Attend our first webinar of the school year with the founder of College Essay Organizer and get insider tips on writing this crucial essay type.

One lucky participant will be selected to receive personalized feedback on his/her essay.

The webinar will be held today (Thursday, September 6) at 8 pm EST. Click this link to reserve your spot (space is limited, so register now):

https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/184629798

If you work for a school or educational organization, feel free to attend our webinar and/or forward this invitation to seniors and their parents.

See you tonight!



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Nailing the “Why are you a good match” Question

Are you a good match for the colleges you are applying to?

It’s time to begin writing your supplemental essays for college! It is highly possible that at least one of your schools will ask the intimidating question, “Why are you a good match for our school?” Remembering these useful tips when confronted with a “Why are you a good match” question will both simplify the writing process and set your response apart from other applicants’:

  • Know the Department: Express precise knowledge about the department you are applying to, including specific professors and courses. The more precise your response, the more the admissions officers will think you are genuinely interested in the program.
  • Include the Mission Statement: Admissions officers are conscious of their school’s mission statement; integrating it into your essay will impress the reader of your essay.
  • Keep Up with the School: If political or social activity is buzzing on campus, include it in your essay; you will appear interested in both the academic and social scene of the school.
  • Be Yourself: Always keep your response idiosyncratic. Include fun anecdotes and remain passionate about the school throughout your response.

These tips will not only quicken the time it takes to write your response but will also help you write a concise, appropriate, acceptance-inducing essay.

Please see this article for more tips.

The College Essay is Your Chance to Tell a Story

Need some advice on the daunting college essay? The College Life Fair, held in Chicago on May 31, featured a Pulitzer Prize winner, an admissions officer at a highly prestigious college, and many other prominent individuals to do just that.

Jed Hoyer, a former admissions officer at Wesleyan University, stated the remark in the title. He also claimed: "Just make sure your story doesn’t have typos. Errors can give admissions officers a reason not to like you." Since the college essay is completely controlled by you before it reaches the hands of an admissions officer, always remember to perfect your grammar by double and triple checking your essay. And remember, a peer review always helps.

The prompt for the Common Application essay is entitled "Personal Statement." A personal statement can easily equate to a personal story. Everyone has a story to tell, whether uplifting or tragic, and each individual has a life story or experience to offer to the intellectual community of a college. So sit back, relax, and approach the college essay as a chance to tell a great story about yourself.

Click here to read the entire article.

Essay on Family Values

Colleges may ask you to describe your family, but what they are often trying to understand is the type of values your family hold. This student creatively responds to the question by not only talking about his family, but also his friends and the way he views others with an open mind. 

Every high school has its stereotypical cliques. The jocks, the nerds, the popular ones, and on and on. I have always found these labels so narrow-minded and unfair. I move comfortably from one group to another, always at ease with whom I am among. But some friends don’t understand this. Sometimes I am with a friend and am told that I can’t bring him to some get-together going on elsewhere. I either defend my friend or simply don’t meet up with the others, but I would never abandon him. Respect is the cornerstone of any true friendship, and I have always valued the differences that others embody.

Differences are what I am all about. My father is a French-Lebanese immigrant who moved to the United States in 1979, while my mother is a native Brazilian who came to the US in 1978. They both arrived in America eager to explore their new opportunities and discover different parts of their existing identities, and this hunger for adventure and possibility has been cultivated in me.

Their upbringings have created vast distinctions between my home life and that of my friends. My parents’ cultural backgrounds stress a greater emphasis on the family unit, whereas my friends tend to be pushed into more individualistic roles that prioritize the importance of doing things on their own.

Then there is also the matter of travel. I have visited many different countries and every vacation must be a family trip. We’re more travelers than tourists, looking to experience different nations and peoples from the inside perspective. I’m sure this is largely because of my experience going so often to Brazil. I travel there yearly, spending two or three months there each year. As a Brazilian citizen fluent in Portuguese, with family in Rio de Janeiro, I am able to mingle with the culture from the inside.

This diverse background, especially in the most multicultural city in the world, has given me a very unique perspective on life. When many people mention the term “diversity,” it is often just a concept or a word. It has little relevance to their actual lives. For me, diversity is my life, and this diversity of background has opened me to political movements, social ideas, and personal attitudes that more traditional Americans might not be receptive to. As a result, I am able to look beyond a limited perspective and consider issues in more global terms.

 

Three Ways to Make Your Application Essays Stand Out

Your excellent grades and SAT scores aren’t the only things you’ll need to get into the top school of your choice. You’ll also need application essays that reflect what an inquisitive and intelligent person you are. If you don’t spend much time on your essays, you can’t expect a college admissions board to spend much time considering your application, no matter how impressive your credentials are. Since application essays are kind of a big deal, writing them can be pretty nerve-wracking. We’d like to help decrease your stress levels by providing you with a little guidance when it comes to your essays. Here are three tips to help you write memorable, meaningful application essays that are sure to impress the bigwigs at your dream school:

1.  Give yourself a couple of days to think about an essay topic.

This will give you enough time to formulate exactly what you want to write about in your head. You may want to record ideas you have for essays in a notebook. Oftentimes, the best writing ideas won’t come to you when you’re sitting in front of the blank page on your computer screen. The best ideas may come to you when you’re eating breakfast or brushing your teeth before bed. If you spend a couple of days contemplating a topic and coming up with ideas, you’ll be prepared to write the best essay possible.

2. Avoid writing what you think people want to hear.

Your college application essays shouldn’t be anything like the papers you write for history class. There’s no right or wrong answer to an application essay question. It’s important to be yourself and express your independent ideas in your essays. Your essays are an opportunity for you to let college admissions boards know who you are. So, show off your personality and unique beliefs. Just remember to keep your essays appropriate and on topic.

3. Have someone you trust proofread your finished essays.

You could ask a friend, older sibling, or parent to take a look at your essays. You want the grammar and spelling in your essays to be perfect, and another person can help you catch any and all writing mistakes and errors.

College application essays are important, but you should do everything you can to stay calm while writing them. Take deep breaths if you need to, and don’t be afraid to express yourself!

About the Author: Carolyn Knight is a professional writer and guest blogger who writes about the higher education industry, registered nursing schools, and time management skills for students.

More Thoughts on Your Essays

Today's blog post is from Kathryn Miller, an independent educational consultant based in Englewood , CO,  who specializes in the college search and application process. A graduate of Northwestern University, Miller also received  a certificate in Educational Consulting from the University of California. You can learn more about Kathryn and her services at www.millereduconsulting.com
Kathryn Miller

Kathryn Miller

Colleges want to get to know you as a person, in addition to your grades, test scores and activities. Essay writing, along with the entire college search process, is a time for self-discovery and reflection. It isn’t always easy to think about yourself in this way, but it can help you define what you are looking for in a school and what you will bring to a college community. Your essay is your opportunity to tell YOUR STORY. It lets them understand who you are, what you care about, and what is truly unique about YOU. Here are 10 more essay tips to keep in mind:

1. Write about what you know. Your topic may not be unique, but your approach and understanding of it is all your own.

2. Write about what you love. What motivates you? You are not just your resume. You have chosen to participate in activities or to learn new things for a reason.

3. Begin with the end in mind. Steven Covey coined this phrase in his popular book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”  Why are you telling this story? When someone reads your essay, what will they have learned about you?

4. Get their attention. Admissions people read hundreds, even thousands, of essays every year. They may be reading yours late at night after a long day of traveling. Grab the reader’s attention right away so that they want to know more about you.

5. Be honest. You may feel vulnerable by disclosing a characteristic or situation that was uncomfortable or you may want to embellish the truth. You need to be admitted to a college for who you are, so don’t be tempted to change that.

6. Answer the question. The Common Application’s Personal Essay gives you six choices, including “topic of your choice” to write about. The Short Answer gives you the opportunity to elaborate on your activities or work. The individual college supplements may challenge you with different questions, so read them thoughtfully before you write.

7. Read your essay out loud. Your essay should demonstrate your Own Voice. Does it really sound like you and who you really are? If you are funny, does that come across? If you aren’t funny, are you trying too hard?

8. Write.  Read.  Edit.  Repeat. If you are reading this, you are starting your essay in plenty of time to find the best topic and write about it in a way that really stands out. Don’t rush the process. It will take time, but you will be happier with the results!

9. Get help when you need it. Early in the process, you may want to ask your family and friends for stories about you or observations they may have. After you have worked on writing what you know is a good essay, ask your parent or teacher to read it for feedback only if you are willing to accept constructive criticism.

10. And, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you to…. Keep word or character limits under control (more is not better); spell check; grammar check; quote check; fact check; college name check; and don’t use too many semi-colons!