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.
As students are narrowing down their list of colleges, and trying to come up with their top choices, it’s important to keep in mind the significance of applying early. Here are some statistics for popular schools which clearly show the benefits of being proactive with applying to your dream colleges.
|College or University||Early Admissions (2011)||Overall Acceptance (2010)|
|University of Pennsylvania||26%||14%|
Whether you are undertaking the somewhat treacherous admissions path on your own or with a consultant to help lead the way, make sure not to overlook the importance of applying early decision. This article by Steve Cohen, which appeared recently in The Daily Beast, demonstrates how this will benefit students looking for the best way to beat the odds this season, and Cohen has the numbers to prove it.
The statistics clearly illustrate that applying early decision will maximize your chances of getting in. Brown University, one of the country’s most selective colleges, admitted only 7.5% of its regular decision applicants, while 20% of early decision applicants got the green light. So if you want to reach for your dream college, do it early decision, but don’t put off writing the rest of your essays till you find out if you’re accepted. This will leave you only a few short weeks to pull together several more applications. Make sure to plan ahead, and write your essays as early as possible, making your senior year less stressful and more organized.
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.
The college admissions essay is in many ways its own form. You are both writing about something else and trying to sell yourself as a person to someone you don't know all that well - the college admissions officer.
Your biggest challenge is to be engaging and original in a way that doesn't alienate your reader. The best way to achieve this is to write about something that you believe in wholeheartedly. Write about something you’re interested in, not something you think will interest an admissions officer. Make sure the story belongs wholly to you.
Now write the first draft with your heart, not with your head. Try a free-writing exercise. Set a timer for 20 minutes and start thinking about your topic. Once your timer starts, start typing away and don’t stop until the full 20 minutes have passed. Even if you have to write the same word over and over again to keep the momentum going, an exercise like this will free up your mind and yield some surprisingly original ideas. This is the material from which you can craft a more precise essay, but the exercise is vital - it will give you concepts and experiences you hadn't thought of, or wouldn't have been able to plan from a more rigorous outline.
Once you’re ready to try a more fully developed draft, stick to writing that is descriptive. Show, don’t tell. Don’t write “I got wet in the rain” when you can be “weighed down with a waterlogged sweater.” This kind of evocative, sensory language can paint a picture of you for a stranger, or better yet, a college admissions officer. It’s something the reader can remember you by when the time comes to make an admissions decision.
When you’ve finished, read it aloud to yourself to get a good sense of its rhythm. Are all the sentences too short, or too long? Does it feel like it drags? Or does it sound animated or energetic? Try it. Because if you don’t like the sound of your own essay, no one else is going to either.
Above all, don't be afraid to throw away what you've written and start again. You will have learned immensely about what you are trying to say just from having done the first draft. This essay should not be something you write once. Ideally, it should be the first piece of writing you do ten drafts of. You will be amazed how much you can improve on your first draft once you've identified what it is you're really trying to say.
Then say it in as few words as possible.
So you’ve done all the research. You now know where you’re applying, your SAT scores are stellar, and your list of extracurriculars is a mile long. But how do you make yourself stand out amongst the thousands of other students all fighting for the same spot at your top choice school?
We know that writing a strong college essay is the best way to ensure that admissions officers see the student behind the numbers. So don’t hide who you are, and use these tips to make sure your true colors come through:
1. Choose a topic that is specific to you.
Students often make the mistake of choosing a topic that is too broad or overused. For example, a vague recollection of some sports-related memory or a generally clichéd observation on life lessons learned while volunteering at a homeless shelter. Ask yourself this: What is a story only I can tell? That’s the one they want to hear.
2. Have a trusted educator read a draft.
The pressures of applications can make students feel like they have to sound “smart,” but once the thesaurus comes out for those four-syllable zingers, your personality can easily disappear. “If it sounds like a Ph.D thesis, it’s probably not their voice, the voice we’re looking for,” says Parke Muthe, the associate dean of admissions at the University of Virginia. Having a teacher or guidance counselor you respect read a draft can ensure the words are truly yours.
3. Be concise.
Most essay requirements cap the word count at 500, so make every word purposeful. Cut anything that is superfluous or repetitive. Each sentence should reveal a little more information about you: the way you think, the way you act, and the way you see the world. That way, admissions officers can walk away from your essay with a sense of who you are and hopefully, remember you. That said, going a bit over the word limit is not going to hurt your chances – and it might even help if those additional words convey a great deal more about you.
Another way of thinking about this is don't write for length. Your high school teachers often do you a disservice by assigning a paper as a "two page assignment." Think about the content first, not how long it needs to be. You want this piece of writing packed with specific, memorable content, rather than words just for words' sake. Revise and edit! This means writing a lot more than you think you have to, then cutting it down for the material that matters.
With early decision deadlines surrounding us this week, we'd like to point you to this classic article over at the Wall Street Journal that reminds us just how difficult it really is to write a college application essay.
We'd like to emphasize the thought these college and university presidents gave to the topics of their essays. Selecting your topic and point of view carefully is a fundamental part of writing the admission essay (not to mention all writing in general). Are you writing about yourself in the present? About yourself in the recent past? Are you writing about yourself before you had a change in opinion or experience?
The people the Journal write about here might seem different from typical college applicants in that they are older and more experienced than those applying now, but in reality, writing their essays is not so different from writing yours. You need to intelligently choose your subject matter, making it something that is distinctive, personal, memorable, and accessible.
Near the end of the article, one writer considers, but then avoids, writing about her morning workout routine. The reasons she cites are good - it's boring and self-congratulatory - but the more important reason not to choose such a topic is that it tells us little about the writer's life outside of the gym. These essays want to be more than a story of what you do. They can address who you are, and implicitly, they should be about what you can bring to a university, be it in the classroom or the campus at large.
Don't shy away from topics that feel overly emotional, just make sure not to convey them in tired, cliched ideas. One essay cited in the Journal article, about a sibling that had died before the author was born, used a topic that was full of emotional pitfalls, but if the writer is willing to be honest and talk about how that living condition affected him as a person without using cookie-cutter descriptions, then there stands to be an enormous amount gained by the reader.
This article is a strong reminder that writing is difficult, and being interesting while avoiding cliche takes effort. Put your time in now - get started early - and remember that the college essay ought to be the piece of writing you do more revision on than anything you've ever written.
With most schools' early decision and early action admission deadlines fast approaching, we at CEO want to drop a little wisdom on you:
Don't wait until you hear back to get
started on the rest of your applications.
We see it year in and year out - students put all their eggs in the basket of their dreams, and are then left with a pile of writing to do in a very short window when they receive the dreaded thin envelope.
Remember that college applications, even if you're using the Common Application, are usually made up of several essays, both long and short. And when you're applying to six, eight, ten or even more universities, the amount of writing you may need to do can easily get out of hand.
Head on over to our Essay RoadMap preview and see - for FREE - how many essays your schools will require. Then get started ahead of time and make sure you're using your time wisely while writing as few essays as possible for all your questions.
We're looking to save you time and effort, so get started now. You can thank us later.
Our President and CEO Daniel Stern was featured in the Bergen Record (in New Jersey) yesterday talking about the Common App and the many misconceptions students and counselors have about it.
Dan spoke about the surprising number of essays students face after they've completed their required Common App essays - namely the many supplemental, department-specific, and scholarship questions that pop up for any student applying to multiple colleges.
On top of that, he spoke about the importance of understanding the prompt. When a college asks you why you're interested, remember that it's not advisable to just repeat the guidebook back to them. They know you want to be there - that's why you're applying. What they really want to learn about is you and what you're going to bring to the campus.
Above all, Dan talked about what we're all about here at CEO - simplifying the essay and application process in easy and inexpensive ways so that you can focus your time on your best writing without spreading yourself too thin.
Make sure that you know ahead of time how many essays your colleges require so you don't have any rude surprises in the fall. Getting out ahead of things now will make the rest of the way smooth sailing for sure.
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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.
- 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!
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