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.

Finding Your Authentic Voice (With Some Help From Your Fan Club)

Avery Educational Resources

Today's post comes courtesy
Erin Avery at Avery Educational Resources

Today's blog post is from Erin Avery, an independent educational consultant based in Fair Haven, New Jersey, who specializes in the college and boarding school search and application process. A graduate of Oxford and Yale, Avery is a Certified Educational Planner and creator of CollegeApp, available on the App Store. You can learn more about her and her services at averyeducation.com.

Ed. Consultant Erin Avery: “So, where geographically are you considering attending college?”
Son: “I don’t know…I was thinking of maybe an island.”
Father: “Yeah, Long Island.”

Yesterday, I sat beside a father and son duo, not unlike many cradled in the inner sanctum of my office’s worn leather armchairs. Often, as depicted above, parent and child come with divergent perspectives: rightfully so based on their respective worldviews and life experiences.

This is why I always welcome parents, guardians or other loving stakeholders to participate in the all-important Essay Brainstorming Session. The results are phenomenal. The invited “guests” act as time capsules, jogging the student’s memory of past notable examples of characteristics demonstrated, or character embodied. They may recall that precise anecdote that illustrates the quintessence of the student. Ultimately, if it is conducted properly, the essay brainstorming session is akin to a love-fest wherein the student hears and has mirrored back to him or her a chorus of voices affirming his or her unique gifts to the world.

In my role as an educational consultant, I have to admit, I am always scanning my conversations with you, my client, for “essay-worthy” content. I simply can’t help it. I have met myriad teens in my near decade of private practice. By employing my strength-based methodology, I passionately echo back to each student how incredible I find him or her. High school students never cease to astound me! While peers and society attempt to smother teens with the gag order of conformity, I bathe you in affirmation for your daily courage to choose to be yourself.

I have seen my share of Eagle Scouts, Congressional Medalists, National Merit Finalists, Point and Figure Charting experts, even oyster gardeners, and the accolades continue. Yet be mindful that the most profound essay topics need not be the most cataclysmic. At a symposium last spring, the New Jersey reader from GW shared, as she welled up with tears, that her favorite essay amid her applicant pool was written by a student portraying the profound impact on him of his parents’ 25-year marriage. (Her second favorite essay topic was on the sneaker-odor of the applicant’s car.) Your story can (and often must) be drawn from the quotidian, everyday seventeen year-old lived experience. Do not grant one instant to counterproductive feelings of inadequacy if you have not yet discovered a cure for cancer (but get on that, would you?). Rather, own who you are and where you are. If you are presently staring at a blank screen, go grab a decaf frappuccino with someone who loves you and if you are too embarrassed to ask them blatantly to sing your praises, ask him or her what s/he would say at your funeral (morbid, yes, but effective!). Still stumped? Google and read “The Desiderata”. Works like a charm.

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More Writing Help For College Admissions Essays

Everything Is Interesting

Yeah... but maybe not.

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.

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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.

The Bergen Record Features CEO's President Daniel Stern

Daniel Stern, President of College Essay Organizer

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.

Save Time On College Essays And Applications With College Essay Organizer

50% off all Essay QuickFinder and Essay RoadMap

accounts for individuals during the month of December!

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!

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.

Bad College Essay Topics For Your Applications

Sometimes knowing what not to do can be as useful as knowing what you ought to do. There are many essay topics that spring to mind quickly. These ideas can be enticing, too - in many cases they seem to almost write themselves... until you realize that they don't paint a particularly flattering portrait of you, or that the reason they sprung to mind so easily is that you've read essays just like them several times before.

Always look out for cliche! Avoid it like the plague, as well as essay topics that center themselves around your faults or around things that you are not, rather than things that you are.

Any advice about what not to do, of course, always comes with a grain of salt. There are always exceptions, so use this only as a guide. Just make sure that if you cover one of the following topics, you do so in a unique way that highlights your strengths:

  • Crime you've committed
  • Character flaws
  • Excuses for your shortcomings
  • The "Big Game"

This last one might surprise you - the big success at a sporting event is a common topic, and it talks about a positive, emotional event. So why not use it?

It often leads you down very well-worn paths without necessarily telling us much about what you will be able to bring to an academic or social environment. More often than not, these essays focus on one-off events that don't translate to your everyday life. But worse, they aren't memorable.

Picture an admissions officer reading through five hundred essays. Five. Hundred. Essays. How many of these feel the same? How many are about a success in a sporting event? Push further, past cliche and into the elements of who you are that are specific to you and what you do. Things no one else in your school can say.

There are many, many more. Take a look at CEO's list of college essay topics to avoid.

If you have more suggestions of good essay topics (or bad ones), we look forward to seeing them in the comments!

Good College Essay Topics For Your Applications

As students head back to school and the application season starts to really heat up, we thought we'd take this week to focus on things you can do to hone your work and make your writing more memorable to those overworked admissions officers.

One of the most obvious things you can do to make your writing stand out is to choose an exciting, accessible topic for your essay. Of course, many of the prompts will be decided for you, but that doesn't mean the topic is. College applications are known for their broad, interpretable questions that have a surprising amount of flexibility to them if you think about it for a bit.

Here are a few good places to start:

  • What are your favorite activities and hobbies? Why?
  • What are your talents/skills? How did you develop them? Who helped you?
  • Who have been the most influential people in your life?
  • What was your most memorable experience? Best? Worst?
  • How have you changed in the past four years?

We've got more good essay topics for you here. Remember to not always choose the first thing that comes to mind. It's much more important to have a good piece of writing than to just get it over with.