Writing Commitment Letters to Colleges And Universities

Commitment. It's a big thing.

This time of year is stressful for high school seniors for many reasons, not least of which is the early decision or early action notification. Though your chances of attending your top choice are higher if you apply early, acceptance is never a sure thing.

If you've been deferred by your early decision option, or you made a late decision on which college you really want to attend, there are ways to channel that anxious energy into something tangible that can actually increase your chances of getting in.

Experts suggest that writing a Commitment Letter will not only help reduce your stress but might also be just what the college needs to tip the balance in your favor.

When the regular decision process unwinds, college admissions officers will be at their desks struggling to determine how many students will accept their offers. After all, they don't want to accept students that are not likely to actually attend. A commitment letter lets the college know that you are passionate about enrolling, and that if admitted, you would definitely accept the offer.

This love letter should demonstrate your enthusiasm for the school and include important updates on your academic and extracurricular life. There's no need to repeat what you've already told them - this should be new info, along with the heartfelt expression of hope that you'll be accepted. Don’t you want your favorite school to know that you’re still working hard on your AP courses, and have now become president of the chess team, or whatever else you might be up to these days - and that all the while you’re dreaming of the day when you can pack up your things, leave home, and finally be on their campus?

Consider this to be one last college essay, just make sure not to be unfaithful. Committing to a school and not attending can reflect negatively on your high school, affecting future students’ chances. Also, colleges sometimes share notes on applicants, and if they realize that they have all gotten the same commitment letter, it might hurt you. No one wants a player.

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Getting Your Recommendations In

Common App LogoAt this time of year, with certain Early Action and all Regular Decision applications getting close to the deadline, it can be important to revisit some of the basics to avoid last-minute... how do we put this delicately... freak-outs.

Students should remind their counselors and teachers that any forms sent by mail should be addressed to the admission office of each college to which they are applying. This certainly sounds basic, but the good people at the Common App remind us with their helpful Facebook updates that these kinds of errors are anything but uncommon.

For teachers and counselors, please do not send anything to the Common Application offices. Though they will (thoughtfully!) post it return to sender, these kinds of mistakes, if made at the last minute, can weigh heavily on students. And if you know of people who are confused about where to send their recommendations, be sure to point them here.

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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.

State University of New York (SUNY) 2011 Essay Requirements

SUNY SealThough Binghamton and Purchase are still yet to release their Common App Supplements, the other State University of New York (SUNY) schools are now fully updated in the College Essay Organizer database. And there's plenty of them! Have a look:

  • State University of New York at Stony Brook
  • State University of New York at Oneonta
  • State University of New York at Buffalo State College
  • State University of New York - College at Brockport
  • State University of New York at Old Westbury
  • State University of New York at New Paltz
  • State University of New York at Potsdam
  • State University of New York at Cortland
  • State University of New York - University at Buffalo
  • State University of New York at Albany
  • State University of New York at Geneseo
  • State University of New York at Fredonia
  • State University of New York at Oswego
  • State University of New York at Plattsburgh

These schools have many overlaps but are not identical by any stretch. Be sure to explore their departmental and scholarship options if these schools find their way onto your list.

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Champlain College Game Design Program 2011 Requirement

One of our favorite new requirements we've seen at College Essay Organizer comes from Champlain College's Game Design department. Have fun with it, game designers:

Challenge: Modify one of the games listed below and create a new and improved experience. The modifications should be creative, innovative and clearly communicated. As an example, you might modify Pac-Man and change the objectives from gobbling up points to teaching individuals how to save money.

Choose from one of these three games:

A) Pac-Man

B) Break-Out

C) Donkey Kong

Using any of the tools or medium listed at the bottom of this page, demonstrate the modifications of your new game by addressing the following questions. It is recommended that you copy the questions into a word processor and prepare your answers before copying them into the final submission.

  • What is the new theme of your game?
  • Describe the game environment and/or narrative associated with the game.
  • Describe the player's goals in gameplay.
  • Describe how you will challenge the players to meet those goals. What obstacles must they overcome?
  • Describe how the game is organized. Are there levels? What defines progress?
  • How does the player win?
  • How does the player lose?
  • Describe who you think would like to play this game? Who is the player?
  • Describe what interests you about Champlain College's Game Design program.
  • Describe what areas of game design you have explored (e.g. writing game narratives, creating mods, critiquing games, designing and building your own games, etc.)
  • List any technologies you have used (e.g. GameMaker, Flash, Adobe Photoshop, any modding environment, 3DS Max, Blender, etc.)
  • Any additional comments or materials?

We are always on the lookout for department-specific questions, whether or not they appear on the Common App!

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University of Kentucky 2011 Essay Prompts

University of KentuckyThe University of Kentucky pushes for a record by logging 26 essay requirements this year. Its enormous number is thanks to a load of school-specific, departmental, optional, honors, and scholarship requirements. Kentucky has a lot of each of them.

Kentucky also accepts the Common App this year, so College Essay Organizer users will see more than twenty essay requirements through their RoadMaps and QuickFinders that don't appear on the Common App site. College Essay Organizer does this for all schools, providing you a direct look at what's really out there.

Using the Common App alone can often leave you with only a partial look at what's really expected of you. Head over to our Common App page to read more about this.

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College of William And Mary 2011 Essay Requirements

The College of William and Mary

Campus of The College of William and Mary

In addition to the Common App's basic essay requirements, The College of William and Mary asks students to respond to an optional prompt that's wide open:

Beyond your impressive academic credentials and extracurricular accomplishments, what else makes you unique and colorful?

We know that nobody fits neatly into 500 words or less, but you can provide us with some suggestion of the type of person you are. Anything goes! Inspire us, impress us or just make us laugh. Think of this optional opportunity as show and tell by proxy and with an attitude, but please restrict your submission to what will fit on one sheet of paper.

These kinds of prompts should always be taken advantage of. Remember that the college essay is a vital opportunity to let the school know specific details about your background that the application itself won't reveal. You have precious few chances to let the school know about your side of "the deal" - those qualities you have that the school wants in its student body. Make sure to take them!

Even if you feel like you don't have a special extra curricular or professional experience that makes you stand out from the crowd, choose to focus on the things you love, and your passion for those subjects will shine through. Anything that improves the chances of the admission officer remembering you and your application is worth the effort.

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Lake Forest College 2011 Essay Requirements

Lake Forest CollegeThis year Lake Forest College outdoes itself with 15 essay requirements, many of which are multi-part and multi-page.

For example, the requirement for the Buchanan Social Justice Scholarship requires applicants to address all of these points:

  • What social justice issues are of concern to you and how you are personally involved in addressing those concerns?
  • What leadership position have you held within a social justice organization?
  • Have you attended a local, national, or international conference focused on a social justice issue? If yes, please share more about what you experienced.
  • Have you received any awards or recognition relative to your involvement in social justice issues?
  • Student leaders at Lake Forest often effect change and leave a legacy from their contribution to the College community. As you look forward to your educational experience at Lake Forest, what social justice issue will you champion and how will you effect change within our community or the world at large?

It might look like a lot of work at first, but using College Essay Organizer can be a shortcut to money you didn't know was there.

Each year we comb school websites not just for primary application requirements, but also for optional, department-specific, honors, and scholarship essays. Your College Essay Organizer Essay RoadMap can be your map to extra achievement, not to mention cold hard cash.

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Tulane University 2011 Essay Requirements

Tulane University has eleven essay requirements this year in the College Essay Organizer database. This year they made a significant change in their application scheme - last year some requirements appeared on the paper application but not the online app, and the school has made the wise decision to change that for 2011. Here are a few of the questions that were not consistent across the two formats last year:

  • Have you ever participated in a community service project abroad? Please explain your experience.
  • Have you ever studied abroad? Please explain your experience.
  • Have you ever been involved in a community service project other than one required by your school or another organization?  Please explain your experience.

These are the kinds of questions that give applicants an opportunity to stand apart from the pack a little bit, so Tulane's decision to present these questions to all applicants was the right choice. It works in the applicants' favor as well as the school's - after all, they want their student body to be as strong and diverse as possible, so no need to make it difficult on people who have these kinds of exciting elements to their backgrounds.

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Common Application Changes Word Count for 2011 Short Essay

Common App LogoJust a few days ago we blogged about the slight disparity in the Common App's word count versus character count limits for the short answer essay requirement. The difference was slight but significant - 150 words (in theory) was actually 750 characters (a hard limit), which meant for the potential of an ugly cut-off if your 150 words happened to be particularly long words.

The Common App has responded to this issue and changed its short answer requirement from 750 characters to 1,000 characters. We have updated our Common App settings at College Essay Organizer and adjusted the Essay RoadMap readouts to reflect this change.

It should also be noted that the Common App did not post an official notice of this fairly crucial change (they've increased the length requirement by a third without saying so!), but College Essay Organizer is on the case as usual.

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