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Tagged: Essays

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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Common Application’s new and revised essay prompts

May 30th, 2017

The school year has ended for some and is near for others!  

While seniors have made college enrollment choices, juniors are just beginning to ramp up for the excitement of application season. For students still intent on final exams, it is most important to finish the year with a flourish.  But as the academic year finishes, juniors can begin letting essay ideas flow.

The new essay prompts from the Common Application have been revised and improved through the guidance of teachers, students and school counselors.  The goal of the edits is to give students more room to express themselves freely.  Along with two new prompts, three of the essay prompts have been revised to reflect the suggestions of members and constituents.

2017-2018 Common Application Essay Prompts

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. [No change]

2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? [Revised]

3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? [Revised]

4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. [No change]

5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. [Revised]

6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? [New]

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. [New]

We expect these topics will spark many ideas about great stories to tell and look forward to reading our rising seniors’ essays in the weeks and months ahead.

Read more at The Common Application >>

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Stop the Hate

January 30th, 2017

Students bullied because they look or act different … students discriminated against because of race or religion … students who know misery because of peers’ unkind words and actions … I’ve been immersed in essays about such things as a reviewer for an essay contest sponsored by the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Ohio.  My heart has been wrenched by vivid, distressing details and then uplifted as students described resolution and positive action taken.

The name of the contest drew me in:  Stop the Hate.  When a colleague put out word that the Museum needed readers, I signed up immediately.  Like many of you, I’ve been especially troubled by the vitriol of the election season, by the fact that people with differing opinions no longer seem willing to hear one another, let alone show kindness to one another.  Sadly, The New York Times has even seen fit to start a weekly series called, “This Week in Hate.”

Our actions in matters large and small can either push back against what we feel to be wrong, reflect complacency or, worse still, feed the hate. I choose the first.  Reading essays for the “Stop the Hate” contest isn’t a big step but a first step for me; in my interactions with advisees and in volunteer mode, I hope to have an impact on people’s ability and willingness to understand one another.  As a reader for the essay contest, I hoped to be inspired by the next generation and I wasn’t disappointed.  Perhaps my own words and actions can stir others.

There’s no time like the present to think about what matters to us and what we can do to further causes that we believe in.  What are you doing to make the world what you’d like it to be?  We’ll welcome responses from students and parents alike and may share a compilation of replies in a future blog post.

“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.” – Confucius


End note:  the essay contest is for students residing in counties in and around Cleveland, Ohio and the deadline has passed for this year’s competition.

Read more at >>

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Class of 2017, College Essays Await!

May 31st, 2016

The Common Application and the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success have both released their essay topics for next year.  Now is when the fun starts! Brainstorming, daydreaming, identifying the best parts of who you are to share through your prose with admission committees can be a wonderful exercise.  Become a playwright or a screenwriter; think of vibrant details that can come alive through story-telling, giving readers a wonderful sense of your voice and personality.

We’re often conflicted about offering examples of essays past, as it’s so important that students’ essays be authentic and very much their own.  Some colleges, however, have done us the favor of posting “essays that worked” so new applicants can have some useful context.

Whether or not you’re applying to either college, the sites are well worth exploring as they offer excellent tips and examples.


On a more concrete level, here’s what you need to know about the Common Application and Coalition essays.

The Common App has been around for a long time and has over 600 college and university members at this time.  Their essay topics sometimes change from year to year but for the 2016-2017 year they will offer the same five questions as last year. You’ll choose one essay prompt out of the five given, with a recommended 650 word limit.  To find the essay prompts for the Common App, follow the link below.

Read more at Common Application>>

The Class of 2017 will be the first to have the option of applying through the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success if they wish.  This application currently serves about 90 college and university members, many of which overlap with the Common Application membership.  The Coalition’s essay prompts have themes similar to those from the Common App, with the exception of the last, “topic of your choice.”  As with the Common App, applicants will choose one of the five essay prompts, each with a recommended word limit of 550 words.  To find the essay prompts for the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success, follow the link below.

Read more at Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success>>

We look forward to brainstorming with our Comprehensive advisees who are rising seniors, and reading everyone’s essays when ready for review in the months to come. Summer is a great time for many things, including tackling college essays and applications.

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