Killer Essays Has MOVED!

4 Jun

Hi,

Please click HERE to go to my new, improved blog on writing killer essays. It’s now called Essay Hell.

See you there!!

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Are Any of These Top 16 Colleges on Your List?

24 Apr


As we head into the new college search season, I thought you might find this article from The Huffington Post of interest. I know not everyone is shooting this high, or needs to, but it is loaded with great information and tips.

Click HERE to read the entire article, see the top 16 colleges they picked, and listen to helpful videos on how to get in!

The 16 Most Selective Colleges In The Country

The Huffington Post teamed up with the Princeton Review, one of the nation’s leading education-services companies, to present this special feature on the nation’s most selective colleges — and how to get in to them.

The goal of our “America’s Most Selective Colleges” project is to give college-bound students and their parents straight-on information about these challenging schools’ acceptance rates and truly savvy tips for applicants.

To that end, we asked the Princeton Review to shares its list of the 16 colleges in its flagship book,The Best 376 Colleges (published August 2011) that earned a 99 -– the highest possible score — on the Company’s unique “Admissions Selectivity Rating.” Presented in alphabetical order, this list is based on the Princeton Review’s analysis of data it exclusively gathers from its institutional and student surveys.

We also asked the Princeton Review’s Senior VP/Publisher, Rob Franek, to offer his expert advice on how to gain acceptance into these outstanding schools. Having also been a college-admissions officer, he knows this side of the admissions scene well. His seven short videos are packed with insights on what admissions officers are looking for, plus need-to-know tips for earning high test scores, writing stellar college essays and winning financial aid. All are sure to be useful in your college applications.

The Princeton Review publishes college information, admissions data, and application guidance on its website and Facebook.

Join us in the conversation that will lead you to the best-fit school for you!

THE FIRST ONE: Amherst College
Location: Amherst, MA
ASR: 99
Average HS GPA: NR
ACT Range: 30-34
SAT Critical Reading: 670-770
SAT Math: 670-770
SAT Writing: 680-770
% accepted: 15
Total undergrad enrollment: 1,795
Professor interesting rating: 87
Professor accessible rating: 93
Rankings/Lists: Dorms Like Palaces
Photo Credit: David Emmerman
Click HERE to read the entire article and see their top 16 schools.
Make sure to watch the video where the college counselor man gives his sage advice!!!

Should You Include an Activity Sheet? Quite possibly, YES!

19 Jan

What’s an Activity Sheet? Well, on The Common Application, you are given the opportunity to include “Additional Information” about yourself in the form of an Activity Sheet. This is in addition to the activity listing, where you have a dozen spaces to list extracurricular activities. The Activity Sheet is a page or more that you can format and write, and then upload directly under where you send in your core essay on the Common App.

The idea is that you can provide more details about your activities beyond those you listed in the extracurricular box. There’s considerable debate in the college counseling community as to whether you should include anything, such as an Activity Sheet or resume, and if so, how you should present it and what it should include. In a nutshell, the best advice I’ve seen is that it’s a good idea to include the Activity Sheet only if you have a specialty you want to showcase, and/or if you feel the listing of activities did not accurately represent all your interests and passions. If you do decide to include an Activity Sheet, most experts agreed on these points:

1. Don’t just duplicate what you already listed and explained in the extracurricular activities listing section. No laundry lists, please. (I would include a resume only if it doesn’t repeat what you already submitted.)

2. Keep the Activity Sheet short–one or two pages at the most.

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The Most Common Supplement Question: Why College X?

6 Jan

Most of you will write one or two “core” essays for your college applications. These essays will focus on revealing who you are and why you are unique. But you will also write numerous supplemental (shorter) essays. The good news is that many of these “supps” ask similar questions. So if you are smart, you will find ways to re-use parts of your answers and streamline the process. At the same time, you also will hone, sharpen and improve your answers.

Here are some examples of typical sup questions that are looking for similar answers:

  • Why do you want to go to OUR UNIVERSITY?
  • Why are you a “good match” for OUR UNIVERSITY?
  • What is it that you like the best about OUR UNIVERSITY?
  • How will you contribute to OUR UNIVERSITY?

Basically, there are two parts to these prompts. One: Why YOU? Two: Why COLLEGE X? Your job is show how and why they fit together. Here is a short guide on how  to do this:

1. State your main goal for your education at your target schools. To be an engineer? To get a liberal arts education? To play waterpolo? To become a filmmaker? To earn a pre-med degree? To figure out what you want to do in the future?

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Five Ways to Bump Up a Dull Essay

28 Dec

So you have a rough draft for one of your college essays. You answered the prompt, read it many times and believe it’s a solid piece of writing. And you may be right. But even a solid essay can have one fatal flaw–it’s boring. The last thing you want is for the admissions person to toss your well-written essay in the “read later” pile. Here are a couple tips on how to bump it up:

1: Your introduction is the most important part of the essay, since it will either grab the reader or not. Often, writers start by providing background on their topic and then get to the good stuff. Try to take out the first sentence, or two, and see if you can start farther into your story. You might have to rewrite it a bit, but often you just don’t need that general background right at the beginning. It’s best to switch it up and get right to your best example or point, and then provide the background later. If you can start with your most interesting examples or points, you will grab your reader all the faster, and that’s exactly what you want.

EXAMPLE: “When I was in high school, I played the violin in the school band. It was my favorite activity and I never missed a practice or performance. But one day, to my horror, I left my thousand-dollar violin on the school bus…” You are building up to something exciting here. Try to start right at the heart of the action, the moment you left the violin and your reaction: “As I stepped off the bus, I had the vague feeling I was missing something. But I was late for my orthodontist appointment, and ran to meet my friends. It was only later that night that it hit me: I left my thousand-dollar violin under the seat.” (And then you can go on to background your history playing the violin, etc.)

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Essay Karma

17 Dec

This fall, one of my tutoring students taught me a lesson about how cheating on these essays can backfire–even if you don’t get caught. He wanted to write his essay for the Common App on a trip he took to Guatamala to work with poor children. At one point, he confessed that he had not gone on that trip, but that his father had gone. When I looked at him as though I thought he was nuts, he told me, in his defense, “I helped him pack!”

What? Are you kidding me? This student kept insisting that he had no other interesting experiences that he could write about. (If you have read anything on my blog, you know that everyone has umpteen topic possibilities, and that you don’t need to travel the globe to have them.) I gave him a brief lecture about how this was completely unethical, but he only smiled and told me that “all my friends are doing this.” (If this situation weren’t more complicated than I’m describing here, I would have booted him out on the spot.)

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How Far Will You Go for A Great Essay Topic?

4 Nov

 

I just read an interesting article in the New York Times about how high school students are seeking out exotic trips, usually to foreign countries, mainly so they will have an intriguing topic for their college essays.  (Article copied below)  I think these trips can be amazing, and that students learn a lot about other places, cultures and themselves. Yes, GO!!  But if you are lucky enough to take one of these trips, the last thing I would do is plan it so you can write a snazzy college admissions essay. I actually believe this approach can backfire. An instant turn-off to essay readers is a student who is trying to impress them.

To avoid sounding over-privileged, students should look for essay topics that focus on everyday subjects, often called “mundane topics.” Every time, the essay about a summer job where a student flipped pancakes at IHOP or washed dishes or sold shoes turned out so much better than the one where they went to Africa and lived in mud huts or helped farmers in Guatamala pull weeds. For some reason, the more basic topics feel more authentic and are naturally more interesting. And the writer comes across more humble, and likable, even.

That’s not to say that you can’t write a fine essay about a cool trip abroad. My advice is that in your search for a topic, don’t consider the trip itself the topic. Instead, focus on one thing that happened on that trip. Focus your essay on a specific experience, and just let the trip to the cool place be the background. That way, the college folks see how adventuresome you are, but you can focus your essay on something more specific and meaningful. College folks want to learn about how you think and what you value. So it’s not so much where you were or did something, but what happened, how you handled it and what you learned in the process. That’s why scooping gelato, parking cars or walking dogs can make more interesting topics than your travels around Timbuktu.

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