Live Webcast Tonight, Aug 5 - 'College Essays Done Right'

Most high school students struggle with writing. And even those who are strong writers don't always know the difference between a great essay and a great admissions essay. Dan Stern, founder of College Essay Organizer, has helped tens of thousands of students write their way into their #1 choice colleges. Join this webcast to get insider tips you won't learn anywhere else so that you can have the competitive edge.

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WHEN: Tuesday, Aug 5 @ 8pm ET

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Writing a Great College Essay: Opening Lines, Humor, and Adjectives

Stop thinking and start writing!

College admissions officers read thousands upon thousands of college essays each year. Memorable? Not always. But yours can be! If you’re lacking an incredible, life-altering experience to impress the admissions officers, not to worry. Remember: everyone’s life is unique and filled with anecdotal treasures and moments that are bound to tickle a curious admissions officer. Colorful language and style can enliven anyone’s personal experience. Enticing opening lines, humor, and adjectives are three techniques to keep in mind when writing an essay.

  • Opening Lines: Nothing grabs a reader quite like the opening line of an essay. Open with a thought-provoking question, an exciting exclamation, or an enlightening description. The admissions officer will want to continue reading your essay if the first line is intriguing.
  • Humor: Approach with caution! Remember: you are not writing a comedy sketch for a light-hearted audience; these officers mean business! But splashes of humor here and there, in, say, a description or personal reaction, can add color to an essay.
  • Adjectives: To be added gingerly! Do not fill your essay with ostentatious adjectives (think supercalafragalistic…) but do add appropriate, zesty adjectives where necessary. It may bring a smile to an officer’s face!

For more great tips, see this blog by Lynn O’Shaughnessy.

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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.

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Essay on a Personal Value

Personal values are qualities that represent your priorities and highest motivations. Asking about personal values allows colleges to gain insight into the traits that students hold dear. This student wrote the essay below when colleges asked him to describe one of his personal values. He also used it in modified form to address such essay topics as adversity, personal trait/identity, community, diversity, social issue, and greatest accomplishment, among others. The key is to interpret the questions creatively and apply them to your own personal characteristics.

Grapes, box scores, and musical fugues – not a list of things commonly associated with one another but, in my life, these items are forever linked.

One day, as I was sitting in my highchair, pretending to be king of all babies perched on my throne, my parents decided to interrupt my fantasy for a meal. A bowl of voluptuous grapes was placed before me. "How many grapes are there, Joshie?" my mom asked. "Ten!" When she took three away, I counted seven. And with that, my passion for numbers took its alpha step into what would become a lifelong pursuit of numerical wisdom, a love I have always referred to as The Grapes Of Math.

The eminent physicist Richard Feynman once remarked that, in order to do multiplication, all one needs is to know how to count. I proved this concept a few years later. My dad, recognizing my early proficiency for addition and subtraction, and my early passion for all things athletic, decided to test my knack for multiplication with batting averages and box scores in the New York Times.

Perhaps the only other activity in my life that conjures up such passion for me is music. From the age of three, I sang the concluding prayers at my synagogue. Congregants would tell me what a beautiful voice I had, but I never believed them. As I got older, my confidence as a singer began to grow and I joined a small choral group in fourth grade. Unfortunately, by fifth grade, my voice experienced that inevitable adolescent mutiny and I became embarrassed to continue in the chorus.

Last year, several juniors at my school performed at Fugue Night to an audience of peers and parents. I composed a fugue and helped perform another. Our music teacher, who happened also to be the chorus director, heard me sing and told me that I had an amazing ear and great voice. At her urging, I auditioned for chorus, and, with her support, I became one of 15 students chosen for the school’s prestigious chamber choir.

Just as my “grapes of math” have aged, so too has my passion for math. As I have learned more, math has become more exquisite and flavorful to me. Similarly, musical tastes change with age, and my musical development has seen me evolve from a carefree singer, to an insecure one, to a skilled one, to an educational one. For a while, music represented a suppression of a love, for which I struggled internally with self-doubt. But it always remained inside me; a true passion, after all, cannot be kept silent for long.

Essay on a Personal Goal

Colleges want to know your passions and what drives you, and asking to describe a personal goal is one way of exploring those topics. Below is how one student responded when a college asked her to discuss a significant personal goal she achieved. She also used it in modified form to address similar essay topics addressing personal value, intellectual interests, adversity, a personal activity, among others:

The room resonates with the sound of the last note. The echo hovers softly above the crowd until it fades into the applause of a packed auditorium. My heart races, still feeling the excitement of the piece pulsating in my blood. The entire orchestra stands up for a bow. For a second, it seems like all eyes are on just me. Now I was the Concert Master I had admired three years ago.

I switch hands into a non-dominant cradle and whip my lacrosse stick toward a fleeting opening I see in the goal. I look over to the sideline and my coach is smiling at me—a rare sign of emotion. I feel the momentum build within myself and my teammates; although we are down by two and time is winding down, there is a newly inspired hope.

After reading Albert Camus’s The Stranger, translated into English, I understand the basic plot, but the allegedly philosophical power of this novel continues to elude me. I now realize how much is really “lost in translation,” as words that technically mean the same thing in English don’t make the same impression on me as they do in their original French. I am suddenly closer to Camus and his ideas.

Existentialism itself captivated me immediately, and not merely because of Camus’s brilliant prose. I was drawn to the whole idea that a person’s existence is determined by that person’s own choices in life, that there is a freedom to one’s actions. I have made various sacrifices in my life, forgoing short-term gratification in order to strive toward long-term goals, and I used to resent these sacrifices.

But these efforts were, in the end, what mattered. Success is only as gratifying as it is because of the struggle and energy it entails. If success came gift-wrapped in a box waiting for me at my front door, it would not mean as much to me. That violin note, that lacrosse goal, that linguistic epiphany—each is beautiful to me because of what came before it. The memory of those private struggles is, in truth, what I experience most intensely during my moments of glory.

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Sample Essay on Why You Are Interested in Applying

Colleges always want to know why you are interested in attending their school. Unfortunately, students often mistake this as a call to repeat what they have read in the college brochure. Colleges really want to hear what the student is passionate about and how the school fits into those desires. Below is a sample essay from a successful applicant who was able to describe her own goals and aspirations in order to show how the college was the ideal place for her:

Performing is the one thing I never tire of, and seeing others perform is like settling into a second home. I always look forward to diving headfirst into a new play or learning a new song and, quite often, it is the one thing that will get me out of bed in the morning after a long week.

Northwestern University’s Music Theater Certificate Program is outstanding and hardly rivaled in its comprehensiveness and intensity. What is most exciting is a student’s ability to participate in many shows throughout the year, from Main Stage extravaganzas to small student-directed plays to the lively Children's Theatre Tour. Combining the voice and opera program with the theater program assures that a Musical Theater student would be able to participate in a wide array of performance activities, from Shakespeare to Sondheim. In my ambitious theater fantasies, I’m playing Fanny Brice in Funny Girl and belting out D’s, and next Vivie in Mrs. Warren’s Profession. Northwestern’s program encourages students to explore every facet of theater, promoting the importance of being not only knowledgeable, but also exceptionally competent in every aspect as well.

As someone who has been dancing since before she could pronounce en pointe, I know how important it is to experience a wide range of dance classes, and I feel a surge of excitement at the idea of taking courses that range from modern to tap to ballet. Such a wide spectrum is present in the acting curriculum, as well, with classes spanning from Shakespeare to Modern Drama.

What is also thrilling is that, because this is not a conservatory, I would also have the ability to explore my other passion, psychology. My interest in psychology was piqued in middle school, as I wondered how the brain could be powerful enough to orchestrate the functions of the entire body. But what came to intrigue me more was discovering what happens when the brain does not work perfectly. I can list the treatments and drugs used in asylums during almost any century. My friends find it terribly bizarre, but I someday hope to thrive in courses on clinical psychology and psychopathology.

At Northwestern, I would strive to become even more multifaceted and knowledgeable. In very few places can one encounter a program that focuses on all these facets, from singing to Shakespeare to psychosis. I can imagine myself thriving at Northwestern, knee-deep in coursework and loving every minute of it.

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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.

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