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Tagged: Essays

Summer is the right time to tackle the Common Application and main essay

July 9th, 2019

We have officially entered into the “dog days of summer,” typically the most sweltering stretch of this season. For high school seniors, this is the perfect opportunity to spend a few hours in air conditioning and get a head start on college applications.

Don’t wait until school starts, when you’ll be overwhelmed with new classes and activities. Follow the steps below to get a jump start on college applications now.

  • If you haven’t yet done so, set up your account(s) at www.commonapp.org and/or http://www.coalitionforcollegeaccess.org/
    • Be generous with details as you list and describe activities, work experiences and academic honors.
    • If space in Activities and Honors sections seems insufficient to explain fully, the “Additional Information” portion of the writing section is a great place for supporting details.
    • Everything you’ve put time and energy into during your high school years, summers included, is worth describing.
  • Your main essay should provide insight into who you are and complement the balance of your application
    • Think of yourself as a Hollywood screenwriter telling a story packed with vivid details!  The story should help readers understand how you think, and what makes you tick.
    • Brainstorm topics and make notes about how best to develop ideas before beginning to draft prose.
  • Caution:  supplements currently showing up in Common App are for the admission cycle just completed, so should not be tackled; after the Common App refreshes August 1, new supplements for your application cycle will begin to appear
    • In the meantime, some college admission websites will feature their essay and short answer questions for the upcoming cycle’s supplement, so you may have a chance to begin work on these.
    • When responding to supplement questions asking, “Why this college?” respond with concrete details demonstrating your depth of knowledge and understanding about the institution.  Discuss areas of study, down to course names and faculty research interests.  Mention extracurricular organizations by name.  Show colleges where you’ll plug in, where you’ll make a difference.  One more tip: avoid references to reputation, beauty of campus, special shops nearby since these are widely understood as mere space-fillers.

Rising seniors will start the academic year right if their Common Application (and/or others they’re submitting) are largely complete by the start of fall term.  Use the summer to move application and essay work forward, and we promise you’ll be glad you did.

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Summer splash: diving into college applications

June 25th, 2018

In the world of college admissions, all summers are important for high school students but we see a special opportunity for rising seniors.  In between your structured activities, summer is the perfect time to make major progress on your college applications.  And for rising juniors, setting up a Common App account now gives you the opportunity to add activities and honors over time.

As you approach the Common App with great thoughtfulness, you really want to consider what the reader wants to know. When I sat on college admission committees, the applications that stood out most gave me a sense that the student was sitting right next to me and I could engage in conversation with him or her.  The way you describe yourself should be compelling, while giving an accurate description of your interests and accomplishments.  I encourage all students to approach their work in this way.

A few things to consider when composing your application…

  • Sometimes the activities line does not give you enough space; use the “additional information” portion of the writing section to add important details.
  • The essay prompts used for fall 2018 entry will remain the same for students beginning their applications now.  The choice of which prompt to address is less important than the story to tell – the essay should provide a window into your life.
  • The Common App will be offline from July 27 (midday) to July 31 in preparation to launch the 2018-2019 application on August 1.
    During this time, colleges’ questions are updated and the previous year’s applicants are stored.

    • Account Rollover retains an active applicant’s college list and the seven sections of the ‘Common App’ tab: Profile, Family, Education, Testing, Activities, Writing, and Courses & Grades.
    • After August 1, students may log on with the same username and password, respond to a few questions and find their previous work intact.
    • College supplements, however, will be refreshed and any work on those would be deleted – so while it is okay to peek at last year’s questions, do not tackle college supplements in your Common App until after the Rollover period.
      • Some colleges will place new essay and short answer prompts on their admission sites ahead of the Rollover so it can be wise to check each college’s website for a head-start on institution-specific questions.

Many of our students already have opened their Common App accounts.  If not, please go to www.commonapp.org to get started today!

 

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The Purpose Challenge – scholarship competition and toolkit

October 16th, 2017

Have you ever thought about your purpose in life? Studies have shown that defining your purpose can lead to a happier and more thoughtful way of living.  What exactly does this mean?  Novelist/humorist Leo Rosten defined it like this:

“I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be ‘happy.’  I think the purpose of life is

  • To be useful
  • To be responsible
  • To be compassionate.

It is, above all

  • To matter
  • To count
  • To stand for something
  • To have made some difference that you lived at all.”

I recently came across The Purpose Challenge and thought it was worth sharing.  The essay portion of this challenge is meant specifically for seniors working on applications – you could earn a scholarship with your purpose-driven essay!  However, this is a good read for all and the site offers a toolkit that has value for high school students of all ages.  I think it can help you find that inner motivation to live each day to the fullest.

 

Read more at The Purpose Challenge >>

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How to conquer the admissions essay

August 7th, 2017

We’ve shared several articles in the past weeks relating to essay questions, and many of our rising seniors have made good progress.  With the first day of school right around the corner, now’s the time to get serious about this part of your application if you haven’t yet done so.  In the article shared below, creative writer Rachel Toor gives great insight into what really goes on behind closed doors during admissions reviews.  

Toor gives specific examples of topics that work and some that don’t, with a great list of of things students should avoid.  The most significant piece of advice throughout this article is to make your essay personal and help the readers understand who you are through your writing.  

Many students have heard me reminisce about my years on admission committees at Tufts, Brandeis and Washington universities.  The best essays that I read during that time made me feel the student was right across the desk from me, ready to talk and answer questions.  Let your personality and voice shine through!

Article published below by New York Times

Picture this before you plop yourself down in front of your computer to compose your college application essay: A winter-lit room is crammed with admissions professionals and harried faculty members who sit around a big table covered with files. The admissions people, often young and underpaid, buzz with enthusiasm; the professors frequently pause to take off their glasses and rub their eyes.

These exhausted folks, hopped up from eating too many cookies and brownies, have been sitting in committee meetings for days after spending a couple of months reading applications, most of which look pretty similar: baseball = life, or debate = life, or “I went to a developing country and discovered poor people can be happy.”

Read more at New York Times >>

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