Why Do You Want To Attend This College?

The most frequently-asked-about piece of advice at College Essay Organizer revolves around how to tell a school that you want to attend. Surely they're not just looking for you to write about what makes them great, right? They already wrote their own guidebooks. They should know what makes them great.

And you're right. The purpose of these essays is not to talk about them but to talk about you. Your job in all of your college essay writing is to convince the reader that you're an interesting person who belongs in their highly-selective class. You're trying to get them to choose you instead of someone else.

Easier said than done, indeed. So today we direct you to a post written last year that has gotten a lot of traffic: How to tell a college that you're interested.

Always keep in mind that your job is to express what you have that they want. It's already implied that they have what you want - a great education and a raft of opportunities for your future, whatever that may be. Do this by identifying your own intellectual interests and developing them from a personal standpoint.

The Common App for 2011/2012 is Live

That's right. The wait is over.

The Common App went live yesterday officially beginning the application process for the class of 2016. The Common App, now totaling 456 schools, has added 45 new members this year, including Caldwell College, Howard University, and St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

College Essay Organizer is now in the thick of the updating process, keeping track of all the new changes and supplemental essay questions for you. Expect hundreds of updates by the end of the week!

We continue to receive feedback on how College Essay Organizer is the perfect partner for using the Common App. It instantly delivers not only the supplemental essay questions, but also the department-specific questions and scholarship questions, which are often not included in the Common App. Check here for some great tips on how to use College Essay Organizer and the Common App to write winning essays.

CEO Now Used By Stuyvesant High School in New York

Stuyvesant High School in New York has set up CEO accounts for its entire senior class.

Stuyvesant High School, the prestigious public high school in Manhattan, has adopted College Essay Organizer for use by all of its seniors - 786 of them to be exact.

While many state and small local colleges have numerous essay requirements, the top colleges in the country typically require the greatest number of essays - after all, applicants to top schools typically have very similar GPA and SAT numbers and thus need something to distinguish themselves from the masses. The essays accomplish this goal.

We've seen again and again that students seeking this kind of competitive edge use CEO to make the most of their valuable time, especially when they're trying to balance their SAT or ACT prep, college application forms, teacher recs, extracurricular activities, and homework ... oh, and be a happy teenager who can hang out with friends, too.

Students are often surprised to learn that even if they use the Common App, there is typically a multitude of supplemental, program-specific, and scholarship essay questions, many of which are NOT found on the Common App. Only CEO can provide them for you in one place -- instantly!

Here are a couple of recent testimonials from Stuyvesant folk who've experienced the power of CEO's technology:

"I felt it was really important that I devote my time and energy to actually writing my essays as opposed to just trying to find and organize all the different questions and figure out which essays overlapped. The huge number of essays seemed overwhelming, but CEO whittled down the topics and gave me a clear plan. Planning in advance has always been so important to me. Without this amazing site, the time needed to complete the application process would have doubled or tripled."

- Robert Hess
Graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 2010; Accepted to Yale University
Chess Grandmaster, Ranked #1 in the US (21 and under)

"Applying to selective colleges can be a formidable undertaking for even the best students, and I know well the importance of strong essays in gaining admission. CEO simplifies the essay process by allowing students to navigate the requirements for each college more efficiently, thus providing more time to focus on writing the best essays possible. I highly recommend CEO for all college-bound students."

- Florri Levy
Chair of the College Committee of the Stuyvesant High School Parents' Association,
2006-2009 (New York, NY)

Have a look for yourself to see why the best and the brightest are taking advantage of CEO. Click here to check for FREE how many essays your colleges require and how CEO can deliver them all to you instantly.

Save Time On College Essays And Applications With College Essay Organizer

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Simply enter the promo code senior9 when you purchase your account.

Many students think that by using the Common Application, they only need to write two essays. But in addition to the Common Application’s basic essays, most schools require multiple supplemental admission essays. Some applicants have never even heard of supplemental essays – which can make for a pretty rude awakening as deadlines approach.

The facts:

  • Submitting 7 college applications often requires more than 15 different admission essays.
  • Just finding and organizing your college essay questions can take several hours.
  • Many admission questions are hard to find, and some are not even located on the Common Application, especially the program-specific and scholarship questions.

CEO provides your essay questions in one place, instantly. We save you hours of work, keep you organized, and make sure you never overlook any essay questions.

We've put together a page explaining what Common App supplements are, and have provided a few examples of colleges that have them. For example, Yale has 2 required supplemental essays along with 5 short-answer essays. Some schools that have gone completely overboard: NYU has 3 required essays and as many as 27 program-specific essays.

With our FREE Essay RoadMap Preview page, you can discover how many essays your schools require.


Ready to get started? Click here to get your essay questions now for as little as $2!

Use the promo code senior9 for a 50% discount this month only!



SAT Essay Prompts: What They Look Like And How To Approach Them

Alex Khurgin from Knewton Advises on the SAT Essay

This week brings another guest post from our friends at Knewton - this time from essay expert Alex Khurgin.

First on the list of Cailey Hall’s recent post, Top 10 SAT Essay Do’s and Don’ts: Take the time to read the essay prompt and make sure you understand what it’s asking. Knewton recommends that you devote a full minute of your total 25 to reading and thinking carefully about the prompt before deciding on an answer to the question.

A minute might not seem like a long time, but if you’re familiar in advance with the types of prompts you’ll see on the test, it should be all you need.

Every SAT essay prompt begins with a short paragraph, 50-80 words long, that touches on an issue of broad relevance to the studies and experiences of a typical high school student. About half of the prompts will be adapted excerpts from books. For example:

Information is now so cheap and abundant that it floods over us from calendar pages, tea bags, bottle caps, and mass e-mail messages from well-meaning friends. We are in a way like residents of Borges’s Library of Babel—an infinite library whose books contain every possible string of letters and, therefore, somewhere an explanation of why the library exists and how to use it. But Borges’s librarians suspect that they will never find that book amid the miles of nonsense.

- Adapted from Jonathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis

…and half will be passages written especially for the test by the College Board. For example:

Of all the millions of children in the United States today who play and show an interest in athletics only a few thousand of them will ever become professional athletes and of that number only a handful will become truly successful at the top level of their respective sports. The same goes for virtually any pursuit. Rather than succumbing to long odds one would be better off setting more realistic goals.

The issues presented in the passages above —how technology affects access to information, and how the unlikelihood of achieving a goal should affects its pursuit—will be familiar to most test takers and not just because of their studies. It’s hard to be alive and not sometimes feel bombarded by information or frustrated by a seemingly unachievable goal. Other favorite topics for SAT essays include courage, honesty, independent thought, and facing adversity—emotionally charged words for many high schoolers.

If after reading a passage, you don’t have a perfect grasp of the issue it presents, the question that follows will lay it out clearly. For the two sample passages above, the assignment might read:

(1) Is it true that the more information people have access to, the less knowledge they can obtain from it?

(2) Is an unrealistic goal worth pursuing?

As with all SAT essay assignments, the questions above can be answered with a “yes” or a “no.” You may notice that the authors of the two sample passages seem to be leaning one way or another; Jonathan Haidt would probably answer “yes” to the first question and the author of the unrealistic goals passage would probably answer “no” to the second question. Or maybe, in response to such broad questions, both authors would answer “it depends on the context.” However, since you, the test taker, only have 25 minutes to write an entire four- or five-paragraph essay, save the nuanced “depends-on-the-context” responses for your school assignments. On the SAT, pick a side and stick to it. And remember: you don’t have to agree with the passage.

Practice the first step of writing an SAT essay with the five examples below:

Traditionally, the term “originality” has been applied to those who are the first to see or discover something new. But one of the most original things you can do is to see as new what is old and long familiar, to re-imagine something that has been overlooked by everybody. The discoverer who can only see new things is too common of a creature, lacking spirit and addicted to accidents.

- Adapted from a philosopher’s Mixed Opinions and Maxims

Is “originality” better defined as discovering new things or discovering something new in the old?

The more we are aware that we are lost and confused, the more eager we are to be guided and told; so authority is built up in the name of the State, in the name of religion, in the name of a Master or party leader. Authority is the great limiter of personal freedom, because it places an intermediary between you and reality.

- Adapted from J. Krishnamurti, Commentaries on Living

Does obeying authority always limit personal freedom?

Thoughts are like friends for most of us: close, constant, intimate as breathing. Why not, then, choose good ones instead of bad? If we torment ourselves, sooner or later we torment others; family, friends, neighbors, other nations. It is inner war, that inner conflict of all the judgmental, nagging, angry voices in our heads that eventually explodes in outer war, as we take our anger out on others.

- Adapted from Dale Carlson, Who Said What?

Are external conflicts caused by negative thinking?

The term “beautiful” is used by surgeons to describe operations which their patients describe as horrific, by physicists to describe methods of measurement which leave romantic people cold, by lawyers to describe cases which ruin all parties involved, and by lovers to describe the objects of their love, however unattractive they may appear to the unaffected spectator.

- Adapted from George Bernard Shaw

Can something be considered beautiful by everyone?

As awful as it may seem when young people around the world are asked what freedom means most of them say the freedom to buy what you want, when you want it, and to use it how you want. Although we don’t usually admit it, this was at the heart of our American Revolution. Recall the Boston Tea Party. We did not like to be told what to buy and how much to pay for it.

- From James B. Twitchell, 20 Ads That Shook The World

Does freedom mean the freedom to be a consumer?

For even more practice, check out the four essay prompts from the most recent batch of SATs (June ’10).

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How To Tell A College That You're Interested

So, so interested.

When you're answering why you're so interested, try not to say, "because it's shiny."

Why are you interested in our college?

This kind of prompt is common, of course, and it seems easy enough at first – you’re applying to the school, aren’t you? You’re interested in it. But now what? Your first instinct might be to repeat what’s in the guidebook, or just talk about what you heard on the informational tour. You might want to act like you need to sell the school back to itself.

But don’t. Essays like these need to be interpreted as what they are – essays about you and your skills. In the broad scheme of things, this is what you might want to call an “Intellectual Interest” essay.

What you want to do with an Intellectual Interest essay is make yourself look good to the school. You don’t need to fill the page with a series of meaningless and optionally funny anecdotes from your summer trip to Lake George with your uncle that one time when he fell off the boat and everyone laughed. What you’re really trying to communicate with this is something about who you are and what you can bring to the school that no one else can. Those are your Intellectual Interests.

It wants to be an essay about the time you demonstrated your love of Steinbeck’s writing to make a point about modern America, or the time you used your knowledge of physics to bond with a carpenter about his work you saw at a fair. Something specific, but tied to your love of academics.

In writing an essay like this, you need to focus your argument or story all around you and what you are capable of. If you want to structure it as an autobiographical episode, make sure the episode is about something specific, namely your interests or skills, and why those are important to have at a university like the one you’re applying to.

You can, of course, talk about your personal experiences visiting the college or about student clubs or opportunities unique to the school, but if you do, make sure that these examples are more about your personal interests than about the school itself.

When broad, vague, or even crazy prompts pop up, give them some thought about how they can be used to reflect something unique about you that the rest of your application doesn’t allow for. Then tell that story in terms of the wacked out prompt the school threw at you.

Using CEO to Find Scholarships And Departments For College

One of the hidden benefits (which we've tried here on CEO blog to keep not-so-hidden) is that the Essay QuickFinder and Essay RoadMap tools will help you find department-specific and scholarship essays you didn't even know existed.

If we take a look at this simple example, the Essay RoadMap finds 9 requirements that can be answered with just 3 pieces of writing. But if you read on, you'll see that even this small selection of colleges brings with it 49 departmental and scholarship essay prompts. 49! And almost none of these questions appear on the Common App.

Searching For Free Money With CEO

Seeing these prompts will doubtlessly set you off towards programs and, in many cases, opportunities for free money that you might have overlooked.

How to Write Fewer Essays for College with CEO's Essay RoadMap

CEO's Essay RoadMap is designed to take any list of universities and find the fewest number of essays that can satisfy all your requirements. We've cooked up a sample here for you to see just how much work it can save you.

Twelve turns into Four!

The schools that appear in the checklist below have 12 required questions among them, and CEO's Essay RoadMap shows you how to answer those 12 questions using just 4 pieces of original writing.

It's also worth noting that there are 19 (count them!) optional, department-specific, and special applicant questions that may or may not apply to every applicant. These can include specific programs within the universities, scholarships, or certain majors that have their own application requirements. These questions are rarely located on the Common App and take hours to locate on the schools' own applications (if you even know to look for them).

The Essay RoadMap is flexible, too. Each check box next to a school's name can be deselected and the RoadMap can be regenerated using the modified list of schools.

Try it yourself with our free Essay RoadMap preview tool!

What to Avoid in Your Application Essays

Yesterday we touched on some basic tips for improving your writing and making a lasting impression on over-worked admissions officers. Today we'd like to flip the script a bit and show you what not to do in your application essays.

These errors are all too common, and they're the kinds of things that can sink an application for good. Letting yourself be sloppy, cliched, repetitive, or negative won't just make your essays forgettable, they can even actively work against you, ruining whatever goodwill the rest of your application has engendered with the person reading it.

So without further adieu, make sure you never make these common mistakes:

  • Don't litter your essay with quotes from others
  • Don't go thesaurus-happy
  • Don't generalize or stereotype
  • Don’t use profanity or crass humor
  • Don't use stuffy language

Take a look at our more comprehensive list of writing styles to avoid and see what other kinds of common errors you can be sure to look out for.

Tips for Personal Statement and College Essay Writing

Now that we've talked a bit about the essay topics you should consider and those you should avoid, let's talk about your actual writing, and how to easily improve the impression you're making on the admissions officers who will see your pieces.

After a cliched topic, the biggest problem you'll want to avoid is writing in generalities. This note applies to many elements of an essay, but overall, it means that you should identify something that is of importance to you and to talk about it with commitment. Make sure that you are addressing the most specific elements of it that you understand, and that you're focusing on the decisions and actions you made during the event you're writing about.

Avoid phrases like "she's always there for me" or "looking around the room, I realized..." Avoid phrasings that don't tell us what someone is actually doing, saying, or feeling.

Here's a short list of writing suggestions to improve others' sense of your writing:

  • Take a risk
  • Show, don't tell
  • Use specific details
    • General: My uncle Mike has been a huge influence in my life.
    • Specific: My uncle Mike was the man who told me my brother had broken both his legs skiing in the Alps. Mike was the man who took me to the father-son picnic when my dad was ill. And when I found myself in need of help that late Friday night that would forever change my life, it was Mike’s number I dialed.

There are a whole lot more here at CEO's guide for what to do in a college essay.

We would love to hear your ideas or other good examples in the comments.

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