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B16: Five College Essay Questions Every Counselor Should Be Able to Answer (aka 112 College Essay Resources) NACAC Version

For more: www.collegeessayguy.com
by

Ethan Sawyer

on 15 September 2017

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Transcript of B16: Five College Essay Questions Every Counselor Should Be Able to Answer (aka 112 College Essay Resources) NACAC Version

info@collegeessayguy.com
Getting Acquainted vs. Getting Real

Four Conversation Starters That Are Better Than “How are you?”

1. Celebrations
2. If you really knew me...
3. Gratitude Exchange
4. Check-in
“Um, this is pretty touchy-feely, Ethan.”
My Core Counseling Values
Listening

"Being listened to is so close to being loved
that most people can’t tell the difference.”
- David Augsberg
Unconditional positive regard
Accurate empathy
Yes, and
Student-Centered Counseling
Taking Risks
Silence
How to Work With a Student Who Comes in With Nothing
(aka: Starting from Scratch)
Some things to do in the first half hour:
Improvise
Try the “Getting real” games (above)
Talk about Essence Objects or Values Exercise. Ask "Why?"
Create a Timeline of Your Life, a “21 Details” List, a “Stuff You Should Know About Me” List (See Session 2)
Ask questions: What was the toughest thing you’ve ever had to deal with? What makes you feel safe? Be creative.
Get curious.
Stumped? Google: "College Essay Guy's 100 Brave and Interesting Questions."
Some things to do at the halfway point:
Check-in. How's it going? (You can actually ask this aloud.)
Then perhaps:
a. Keep doing what you’re doing.
b. Do something completely different.
or:
c. Brainstorm a Type B essay outline.
Some ways to end the session:
Check-in. “How was this for you?”
Track the session.
Discuss next steps.
Have student set deadline for action item(s).
Email deadline then and there (so you don't forget).
How to work with a student who comes in with
something...
“Tell me your essay.”
Why I love this exercise:
Hearing something is different from reading it.
(See: Chekhov)
It’s a second draft.
Chance to ask:
Is this the right clay?
Read the essay aloud.
How to Set Someone (More) at Ease with Reading a First Draft Aloud
It doesn’t have to be perfect. This is the “before” shot.
Listen from the perspective of an admissions officer.
Ask simply: Does
the essay
answer the question? (Note the phrasing.)
After reading the essay aloud, ask:
1. Does the essay answer the prompt?
2. What do you like about the essay?
3. What do you think needs work?
4. Make a list of Pros and Cons
Bullet point the list
Ask: Anything else?
Why I love this method:
1. It's a chance to gather more information.
2. It gives me time to process my thoughts.
3. Most students know what’s wrong with their essay.
4. I want my students to learn to do this for themselves.
Revising the First Draft
First ask...

Are we molding with the right clay?
If not...
If so...
How to Revise a First Draft in Five Steps
Look at the first lines of each paragraph from:
Example Essay A (On Debate) or
Example Essay B (Endodontics)

...notice anything?
How can this help you write a better essay?
Like this...
1. Go through the essay and highlight
the first lines of each paragraph in bold.

Then...
2. Read these bolded lines aloud.
3. Write a new outline in which
all the lines flow together.
Note: the lines can be
aspirational
.
4. Rewrite your paragraphs so that each paragraph expands upon the new bolded (topic) sentences.
*Frankenstein warning.
5. Step away from the essay for at least 30 minutes.
A Quick Note on How to Receive Feedback




• Any physical or learning disabilities (diagnosed by a health professional; specify what and how long)
• Any potential "red flags" on application, including low grades, classes or activities dropped, important school changes
• Single-parent household
• Significant work hours while in HS, particularly if student contributed to family income to help pay bills
• Extraordinary extracurricular accomplishments on state or national level
• Any research involvement, particularly if student was published
• Low income family or large family with many dependents, which strains family income
• If student is first generation in family to attend college
• Parents’ disability or unemployment (specify what and how long)
• Language spoken at home if other than English, or if any portion of student’s high school career was taken outside of US
(adapted from a list created with a friend and colleague who reads for the UCs)
If none...
First, check out this list of...

Things Students Should Probably Write About
HW (before next session):
1. Meet with your writing or mentor to discuss your essay draft.
1 hr session is good. If helping each other, decide if you'll do:
(1) 2-hr session or
(2) separate 1-hr sessions (recommended)
2. Set action items and a deadline for the next draft:
What will you send and by when?
If you feel the essay isn't revealing much about the student, ask:

What do you learn about the author from the essay?
Examples of essay foci that don't reveal much:
(history) "Basketball is a sport that was invented in 1891 by Dr. James Naismith in Springfield, MA..."

(someone else) "My grandfather came to this country with only $20 in his pocket and a dream to make a better life for himself and his family. He worked in a factory..."

(abstract idea) "Many people believe that intelligence is ineffable and that attempts to describe it are futile. But here's my attempt..." (Exception: supplemental essays)
The solution?

Make it
personal
.

(It is, after all, a
personal
statement.)
While student is saying what s/he thinks about the essay...
Ask: do they flow together?
Important: do this from scratch*.
Then come back and read it aloud.
Mirroring
What if you feel the essay isn't revealing much about the author?
The "Endodontics" or "Machines" Essay (Type B)

As a kid I was always curious.
I was unafraid to ask questions and didn’t worry how dumb they would make me sound. In second grade I enrolled in a summer science program and built a solar-powered oven that baked real cookies. I remember obsessing over the smallest details: Should I paint the oven black to absorb more heat? What about its shape? A spherical shape would allow for more volume, but would it trap heat as well as conventional rectangular ovens? Even then I was obsessed with the details of design.

And it didn’t stop in second grade.

A few years later I designed my first pair of shoes, working for hours to perfect each detail, including whether the laces should be mineral white or diamond white.
Even then I sensed that minor differences in tonality could make a huge impact and that different colors could evoke different responses.

In high school I moved on to more advanced projects, teaching myself how to take apart, repair, and customize cell phones.
Whether I was adjusting the flex cords that connect the IPS LCD to the iPhone motherboard, or replacing the vibrator motor, I loved discovering the many engineering feats Apple overcame in its efforts to combine form with function.

And once I obtained my driver’s license, I began working on cars.
Many nights you’ll find me in the garage replacing standard chrome trim with an elegant piano black finish or changing the threads on the stitching of the seats to add a personal touch, as I believe a few small changes can transform a generic product into a personalized work of art.

My love of details applies to my schoolwork too.

I’m the math geek who marvels at the fundamental theorems of Calculus, or who sees beauty in A=(s(s-a)(s-b)(s-c))^(1/2).
Again, it’s in the details: one bracket off or one digit missing and the whole equation collapses. And details are more than details, they can mean the difference between negative and positive infinity, an impossible range of solutions.

I also love sharing this appreciation with others and have taken it upon myself to personally eradicate mathonumophobiconfundosis, my Calculus teacher’s term for “extreme fear of Math.”
A small group of other students and I have devoted our after-school time to tutoring our peers in everything from Pre-Algebra to AP Calculus B/C and I believe my fluency in Hebrew and Farsi has helped me connect with some of my school’s Israeli and Iranian students. There’s nothing better than seeing a student solve a difficult problem without me saying anything.

You probably think I want to be a designer. Or perhaps an engineer?

Wrong. Well, kind of.

Actually, I want to study Endodontics, which is (I’ll save you the Wikipedia look-up) a branch of dentistry that deals with the tooth pulp and the tissues surrounding the root of a tooth
. As an Endodontist, I’ll be working to repair damaged teeth by performing precision root canals and implementing dental crowns. Sound exciting? It is to me.

The fact is, it’s not unlike the work I’ve been doing repairing cellphone circuits and modifying cars, though there is one small difference
. In the future I’ll still be working to repair machines, but this machine is one of the most sophisticated machines ever created: the human body. Here, my obsession with details will be as crucial as ever. A one millimeter difference can mean the difference between a successful root canal and a lawsuit.

The question is: will the toothbrushes I hand out be mineral white or diamond white?
If you're still struggling to find your topic...
Guided Meditation: Finding Your Essay Topic
Some more ideas:
Morning Pages (Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way)
Tried brainstorming with a partner yet? Try it.
Didn’t work? Try someone else.
Pick something and start writing.
100 Brave and Interesting Questions -- Google it
Got your topic, but unsure of the structure or flow?
Do the "How to Revise Your Essay in 5 Steps" exercise from Session 3
Next, get feedback from someone else. Didn’t help? Try someone else.
Keep revising! Fourth draft. Fifth draft. You'll get there.
Once you’ve tried these things (and you must promise you have) you might try uploading your fourth or fifth draft to a Google doc and sharing it with me, Ethan, via email. I’ll email you back. Really.
I will email you a PDF:

How to Write Each of the Four Types of Essays:
A Step-by-Step Guide
Five Ways to Bring Your College Essay to Life:
Mediocre Advice Made Better
Mediocre Piece of Advice #1:
"Choose a great opening!"
Better Advice:
Begin with
A Problem that Must Be Solved
Example 1: The Porcelain God Essay

"Bowing down to the porcelain god, I emptied the contents of my stomach. Foaming at the mouth, I was ready to pass out. My body couldn’t stop shaking as I gasped for air, and the room started spinning."
Example 2: The "I Shot My Brother" Essay

From page 54 of the maroon notebook sitting on my mahogany desk:

“Then Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth and whoever finds me will kill me.”
-Genesis 4:13

Here is a secret that no one in my family knows: I shot my brother when I was six. Luckily, it was a BB gun. But to this day, my older brother Jonathan does not know who shot him. And I have finally promised myself to confess this eleven year old secret to him after I write this essay.
The "Rock, Paper, Scissors" Essay
Prompt:
Dear Christian, the admissions staff at the University of Chicago would like to inform you that your application has been “put on the line.” We have one spot left and can’t decide if we should admit you or another equally qualified applicant. To resolve the matter, please choose one of the following:

Rock, paper, or scissors.

You will be notified of our decision shortly.

Response:
Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, and paper beats rock. Wait... paper beats rock? Since when has a sheet of loose leaf paper ever defeated a solid block of granite? Do we assume that the paper wraps around the rock, smothering the rock into submission? When exposed to paper, is rock somehow immobilized, unable to fulfill its primary function of smashing scissors? What constitutes defeat between two inanimate objects?
Mediocre Piece of Advice #2:
"Show, don't tell."
Better advice:

Show first,
then
tell.
Example of a nice "show"

Many nights you’ll find me in the garage replacing a car’s standard chrome trim with an elegant piano black finish or changing the threads on the stitching of the seats to add a personal touch.
Example of "show" followed by "tell":

Many nights you’ll find me in the garage replacing standard chrome trim with an elegant piano black finish or changing the threads on the stitching of the seats to add a personal touch,
as I believe a few small changes can transform a generic product into a personalized work of art.
The “show” demonstrates you’re a talented writer.
The “tell” demonstrates you’re a critical thinker.
Be both.
The value of show before tell:

Version A:
Many nights you’ll find me in the garage replacing standard chrome trim with an elegant piano black finish or changing the threads on the stitching of the seats to add a personal touch,
as I believe a few small changes can transform a generic product into a personalized work of art.

Version B:
I believe a few small changes can transform a generic product into a personalized work of art
which is why many nights you’ll find me in the garage replacing standard chrome trim with an elegant piano black finish or changing the threads on the stitching of the seats to add a personal touch.
Mediocre Piece of Advice #3:
"Write what you know."
Better advice:

Use
geeky language
.
Example 1:
The first project that I was involved with investigated the extraintestinal manifestations of IBD. Patients who suffer from IBD often have diseases called extraintestinal manifestations that also affect multiple other organ systems and can be just as, if not more debilitating than the intestinal inflammation itself. My contribution involved examining data in Dr. Shih's clinical database, which led me to discover that the skin is one of the most commonly affected organ systems in patients who suffer from IBD. I contributed to Dr. Shih’s review article to give an overview of the types of skin diseases typically seen with IBD and their respective pathogenesis, proposed mechanisms, and treatments, and my contributions were significant enough to earn recognition as a second author.
Example 2:
Through switch-side policy debate I not only discuss a multitude of competing ideas, but also argue from both sides of widely disputed issues. By equipping me with Protagoras’ antilogic and Dissoi Logoi, switch-side policy debate has provided me with a forum to cultivate a diversity of intellectual perspectives that has informed my own intellectual growth.
Example 3:
I’m the math geek who marvels at the fundamental theorems of Calculus, or who sees beauty in A=(s(s-a)(s-b)(s-c))^(1/2). Again, it’s in the details: one bracket off or one digit missing and the whole equation collapses. And details are more than details, they can mean the difference between negative and positive infinity, an impossible range of solutions.
Mediocre Piece of Advice #4:
"Use lots of details."
Better advice:

"Use the
right
details."
But wait:
Which are the right details?
Those that in the larger context of the story illustrate a paragraph's essential point
How to determine a paragraph's essential point?
First, use the "Revising Your Essay in 5 Steps" Exercise
Then decide which detail(s) will work best
Beware of spending time perfecting the
wrong
details
What makes a detail “wrong”?
It illustrates a minor or tangential point that will eventually get cut, or
It illustrates a point that could be stronger and will eventually get cut
Example 1:
A detail illustrating a minor or tangential point that will eventually get cut

“I learned the importance of teamwork in elementary school when I worked with my friends to do a parody of Pokemon.”
Before asking: “
Which
detail should I use?”
Ask: “Why am I choosing
this
detail?”
Example 2:
A detail illustrating a point that could be stronger and will eventually get cut

"Drops of sweat roll down our faces like glass beads as Nicole accuses Allison for the third time in a row. Without missing a beat, Ally retorts: “Believe me Nicole, if I was Mafia, you’d be dead by now.” All eyes turn to Nicole running with suspicion; she knew she was in peril now. This… is Mafia."
Mediocre Piece of Advice #5:
"Finish strong!"
Better advice:

Aim for an ending that’s
surprising, but inevitable
.
The "I Shot My Brother" Essay

From page 54 of the maroon notebook sitting on my mahogany desk:

“Then Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth and whoever finds me will kill me.” - Genesis 4:13

Here is a secret that no one in my family knows: I shot my brother when I was six. Luckily, it was a BB gun. But to this day, my older brother Jonathan does not know who shot him. And I have finally promised myself to confess this eleven year old secret to him after I write this essay.

The truth is, I was always jealous of my brother. Our grandparents, with whom we lived as children in Daegu, a rural city in South Korea, showered my brother with endless accolades: he was bright, athletic, and charismatic.

“Why can’t you be more like Jon?” my grandmother used to nag, pointing at me with a carrot stick. To me, Jon was just cocky. He would scoff at me when he would beat me in basketball, and when he brought home his painting of Bambi with the teacher’s sticker “Awesome!” on top, he would make several copies of it and showcase them on the refrigerator door. But I retreated to my desk where a pile of “Please draw this again and bring it to me tomorrow” papers lay, desperate for immediate treatment. Later, I even refused to attend the same elementary school and wouldn’t even eat meals with him.

Deep down I knew I had to get the chip off my shoulder. But I didn’t know how.

That is, until March 11th, 2001.

That day around six o’clock, juvenile combatants appeared in Kyung Mountain for their weekly battle, with cheeks smeared in mud and empty BB guns in their hands. The Korean War game was simple: to kill your opponent you had to shout “pow!” before he did. Once we situated ourselves, our captain blew the pinkie whistle and the war began. My friend Min-young and I hid behind a willow tree, eagerly awaiting our orders.

Beside us, our comrades were dying, each falling to the ground crying in “agony,” their hands clasping their “wounds.” Suddenly a wish for heroism surged within me: I grabbed Min-young’s arms and rushed towards the enemies’ headquarters, disobeying our orders to remain sentry duty. To tip the tide of the war, I had to kill their captain. We infiltrated the enemy lines, narrowly dodging each attack. We then cleared the pillars of asparagus ferns until the Captain’s lair came into view. I quickly pulled my clueless friend back into the bush.

Hearing us, the alarmed captain turned around: It was my brother.

He saw Min-young’s right arm sticking out from the bush and hurled a “grenade,” (a rock), bruising his arm.

“That’s not fair!” I roared in the loudest and most unrecognizable voice I could manage.

Startled, the Captain and his generals abandoned their post. Vengeance replaced my wish for heroism and I took off after the fleeing perpetrator. Streams of sweat ran down my face and I pursued him for several minutes until suddenly I was arrested by a small, yellow sign that read in Korean: DO NOT TRESPASS: Boar Traps Ahead. (Two summers ago, my five year old cousin, who insisted on joining the ranks, had wandered off-course during the battle; we found him at the bottom of a 20 ft deep pit with a deep gash in his forehead and shirt soaked in blood) “Hey, stop!” I shouted, heart pounding. “STOP!” My mind froze. My eyes just gazed at the fleeing object; what should I do?

I looked on as my shivering hand reached for the canister of BBs. The next second, I heard two shots followed by a cry. I opened my eyes just enough to see two village men carrying my brother away from the warning sign. I turned around, hurled my BB gun into the nearby Kyung Creek and ran home as fast as I could.

* * *

Days passed. My brother and I did not talk about the incident.

‘Maybe he knew it was me,’ I thought in fear as I tried to eavesdrop on his conversation with grandpa one day. When the door suddenly opened, I blurted, “Is anything wrong?”

“Nothing,” he said pushing past me, “Just a rough sleep.”

But in the next few weeks, something was happening inside me.

All the jealousy and anger I’d once felt had been replaced by a new feeling: guilt.

That night when my brother was gone I went to a local store and bought a piece of chocolate taffy, his favorite. I returned home and placed it on my brother’s bed with a note attached: “Love, Grandma.”

Several days later, I secretly went into his room and folded his unkempt pajamas.

Then, other things began to change. We began sharing clothes (something we had never done), started watching Pokémon episodes together, and then, on his ninth birthday, I did something with Jon that I hadn’t done in six years: I ate dinner with him. I even ate fishcakes, which he loved but I hated. And I didn’t complain.

Today, my brother is one of my closest friends. Every week I accompany him to Carlson Hospital where he receives treatment for his obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia. While in the waiting room, we play a noisy game of Zenga, comment on the Lakers’ performance or listen to the radio on the registrar’s desk.

Then, the door to the doctor’s office opens.

“Jonathan Lee, please come in.”

I tap his shoulder and whisper, “Rock it, bro.”

After he leaves, I take out my notebook and begin writing where I left off.

Beside me, the receptionist’s fingers hover over the radio in search of a new station, eventually settling on one. I hear LeAnn Rimes singing “Amazing Grace.” Her voice slowly rises over the noise of the bustling room.

“’Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear. And Grace, my fears relieved...”

Smiling, I open Jon’s Jansport backpack and neatly place this essay inside and a chocolate taffy with a note attached.

Twenty minutes have passed when the door abruptly opens.

“Guess what the doctor just said?” my brother cries, unable to hide his exhilaration.

I look up and I smile too.
Four Qualities of an Amazing Essay
1. The story is unusual in either content, structure or both
2. A “wow” moment
3. The ending is both surprising and inevitable
4. The ending makes the reader do a little bit of work
The "Dead Bird" Essay
Smeared blood, shredded feathers. Clearly, the bird was dead. But wait, the slight fluctuation of its chest, the slow blinking of its shiny black eyes. No, it was alive.
I had been typing an English essay when I heard my cat's loud meows and the flutter of wings. I had turned slightly at the noise and had found the barely breathing bird in front of me.
The shock came first. Mind racing, heart beating faster, blood draining from my face. I instinctively reached out my hand to hold it, like a long-lost keepsake from my youth. But then I remembered that birds had life, flesh, blood.
Death. Dare I say it out loud? Here, in my own home?
Within seconds, my reflexes kicked in. Get over the shock. Gloves, napkins, towels. Band-aid? How does one heal a bird? I rummaged through the house, keeping a wary eye on my cat. Donning yellow rubber gloves, I tentatively picked up the bird. Never mind the cat's hissing and protesting scratches, you need to save the bird. You need to ease its pain.
But my mind was blank. I stroked the bird with a paper towel to clear away the blood, see the wound. The wings were crumpled, the feet mangled. A large gash extended close to its jugular rendering its breathing shallow, unsteady. The rising and falling of its small breast slowed. Was the bird dying? No, please, not yet.
Why was this feeling so familiar, so tangible?
Oh. Yes. The long drive, the green hills, the white church, the funeral. The Chinese mass, the resounding amens, the flower arrangements. Me, crying silently, huddled in the corner. The Hsieh family huddled around the casket. Apologies. So many apologies. Finally, the body lowered to rest. The body. Kari Hsieh. Still familiar, still tangible.
Hugging Mrs. Hsieh, I was a ghost, a statue. My brain and my body competed. Emotion wrestled with fact. Kari Hsieh, aged 17, my friend of four years, had died in the Chatsworth Metrolink Crash on Sep. 12, 2008. Kari was dead, I thought. Dead.
But I could still save the bird.
My frantic actions heightened my senses, mobilized my spirit. Cupping the bird, I ran outside, hoping the cool air outdoors would suture every wound, cause the bird to miraculously fly away. Yet there lay the bird in my hands, still gasping, still dying. Bird, human, human, bird. What was the difference? Both were the same. Mortal.
But couldn't I do something? Hold the bird longer, de-claw the cat? I wanted to go to my bedroom, confine myself to tears, replay my memories, never come out.
The bird's warmth faded away. Its heartbeat slowed along with its breath. For a long time, I stared thoughtlessly at it, so still in my hands.
Slowly, I dug a small hole in the black earth. As it disappeared under handfuls of dirt, my own heart grew stronger, my own breath more steady.
The wind, the sky, the dampness of the soil on my hands whispered to me, “The bird is dead. Kari has passed. But you are alive.” My breath, my heartbeat, my sweat sighed back, “I am alive. I am alive. I am alive.”
Q: When is it okay to scrap what you have and start over?
A: Whenever you want.
"Sacrifice the essay of yesterday to the essay of tomorrow."
- Me
Need more inspiration?
Check out the "Get inspired" page:





HW:
In the next 72 hrs: meet to discuss the second draft
In that session: set an action item and a deadline
Before next webinar: email the third draft
Email me (Ethan) with particular questions and issues
The value of show before tell: Example 2

My grandmother’s house is a traditional Korean Giwa House. It has a tiled roof that resembles the glossy scales of a serpent and the wing-shaped ridges of the house make it look as if it will fly away at any time. It is renowned in its town because it is one of the few remaining from the Chosun Dynasty. In fact, people travel from other parts of her town just to see it. They have always appreciated it for its beauty, but many have marveled at certain mysteries. For example, how can such a heavy roof be supported when there are no extra columns inside its living space?
Two years ago, when I began studying Applied Math, I began to understand some of these mysteries when I studied Roman arches. I learned how weight can be distributed in an extremely efficient way and, just as the spine and rib bones protect our vital organs from outside pressure, the girder in my grandmother’s house works like a key stone to support the weight of the roof.
Understanding its structural design gave me a deeper appreciation for its aesthetic beauty.
“There are three things to remember when teaching: know your stuff; know whom you are stuffing; and then stuff them elegantly.”
- Lola May
Five Questions I Get All the Time
1. How do I figure out what to write about?
2. How do I structure my essay?
3. How do I outline my essay?
4. How do I revise my essay?
5. How do I bring my essay to life?
(aka: How do I make it not-boring?)
Describe the
world
you come from and tell us how your world has shaped your
dreams and aspirations
.
Resource #5
141 College Essay Resources
A question I love:
Is this my
deepest
story?
Resource #9
Narrative Structure vs. Montage Structure
Narrative Structure: causal connections
Montage Structure: thematic connections
Narrative Structure Example: The “With Debate” Essay*
Status Quo
: I was really shy.
Raising of the Stakes
: I needed to get over it not just for my own sake, but for my parents'. I tried lots of other things and failed.
Inciting Incident
: I joined a Debate Club.
Dénouement
: By high school, I joined the school debate team, began socializing, and was even elected to head several clubs. I developed critical and analytical thinking skills, and learned how to think and speak spontaneously.
New Status Quo
: Four years with debate, now I’m the kid up at the white board; the kid leading discussions; and the kid standing up for her beliefs.
*For the whole essay, Google "With Debate Essay" or see PDF handout that I'll email you.
Montage Structure Example: The “Endodontics” Essay
I’ve always been curious.
I’ve been working with my hands for years.
I’ve always been obsessed with details.
I’m a math geek.
I love sharing my knowledge with others.
All these qualities will serve me well in my career as--not an engineer, but--an endodontist (dentist).
*For the whole essay, see PDF handout I'll email you.
3. How do I outline my essay?
Step 1: Decide on the big chunks.


The six-minute version
Four Challenges and Four Secrets for
Outlining Most Any College Essay:
The Challenge: How do you connect your challenges (past) to your career (future)?
The Secret: Through your
values.
The Challenge:
How do you demonstrate that you have what it takes to be an excellent [name your career]?
Here's one way:
Reverse engineer your essay by beginning with the end (your career) in mind. How?

Like this: Brainstorm the qualities of an excellent person in your future career (right column). Then describe how you’ve developed these qualities (left column).










I believe a good college essay should either...

1. Go
deep
, discussing one moment that fundamentally changed your life, or
2. Go
wide
, discussing many different elements of your life.

Narrative Structure
can help you go
deep
.
Montage Structure
can help you go
wide
.
For more, Google: “
College Essay Guy Example B

The Challenge: Once you talk about overcoming your challenges, how do you end the essay?
Secret #1: Again, look to your values
.*

*For an 18-minute video on this, Google:
significant challenges college essay guy video
The Challenge: How do you describe who you are and
what you’ll contribute to a college campus
in an interesting and cohesive way?
...despite the fact you've had no challenges and no particular career in mind?
Option 1: Find a placeholder using
Do What You Are...

...then write a Type B outline (i.e. reverse engineer it).
A few options
Option 2: Find a framing device based on something you love.
Option 3:







First, decide which qualities you’d like to show.
Then, instead of ending with your future career, end by naming values that will be important to you no matter what career you choose.*
4. How do I revise my essay?
5. How do I bring my essay to life?
(aka: How do I make it not-boring?)
Examples:
I love scrapbooking, so essay might be
The Scrapbook of My Life
I love applied math, so essay might be
How I See the World Through Applied Math
I love traveling and language so essay might be about
How Traveling and Language Have Shaped My Life
5. How do I bring my essay to life?
(aka: How do I make it not-boring?)
Framing Device:

Mediocre Advice Made Better
Mediocre Piece of Advice #1:
"Choose a great opening!"
Better Advice:
Begin with
A Problem that Must Be Solved
Example: The "I Shot My Brother" Essay

Here is a secret that no one in my family knows: I shot my brother when I was six. Luckily, it was a BB gun. But to this day, my older brother Jonathan does not know who shot him. And I have finally promised myself to confess this eleven year old secret to him after I write this essay.
Better advice:
Mediocre Piece of Advice #2:
"Show, don't tell."
Example of a nice "show"

Many nights you’ll find me in the garage replacing a car’s standard chrome trim with an elegant piano black finish or changing the threads on the stitching of the seats to add a personal touch.
Example of "show" followed by "tell":

Many nights you’ll find me in the garage replacing standard chrome trim with an elegant piano black finish or changing the threads on the stitching of the seats to add a personal touch,
as I believe a few small changes can transform a generic product into a personalized work of art.
The “show” demonstrates you’re a talented writer.
The “tell” demonstrates you’re a critical thinker.
Be both.
Example of the value of "show" before "tell"

The "Applied Math" Essay

My grandmother’s house is a traditional Korean Giwa House. It has a tiled roof that resembles the glossy scales of a serpent and the wing-shaped ridges of the house make it look as if it will fly away at any time. It is renowned in its town because it is one of the few remaining from the Chosun Dynasty. In fact, people travel from other parts of her town just to see it. They have always appreciated it for its beauty, but many have marveled at certain mysteries. For example, how can such a heavy roof be supported when there are no extra columns inside its living space?

Two years ago, when I began studying Applied Math, I began to understand some of these mysteries when I studied Roman arches. I learned how weight can be distributed in an extremely efficient way and, just as the spine and rib bones protect our vital organs from outside pressure, the girder in my grandmother’s house works like a key stone to support the weight of the roof.
Understanding its structural design gave me a deeper appreciation for its aesthetic beauty.
Mediocre Piece of Advice #3:
"Write what you know."
Better advice:
Example from the "Machines" Essay:

I’m the math geek who marvels at the fundamental theorems of Calculus, or who sees beauty in A=(s(s-a)(s-b)(s-c))^(1/2). Again, it’s in the details: one bracket off or one digit missing and the whole equation collapses. And details are more than details, they can mean the difference between negative and positive infinity, an impossible range of solutions.
Want more resources?
More brainstorming ideas?
Want more help?
100 Brave and Interesting Questions
Google:
College Essay Guy Objects Exercise
The Values Exercise
157
The Bellagio
Las Vegas, NV
My favorite prompt:
A: Either can work.
Step 2: Depends on the Essay Type
How to Outline
Any
Essay
*They're with you no matter what career you choose.
Secret #2: Use this three-part structure*
1. Challenges (~25%)
2. What I did about it (~50%)
3. What I learned (~25%)
*For an example, Google "Scrapbook essay"
Use
geeky language
.
Session 1: How to Find Your Deepest Story
Session 2: How to Outline the Essay in One Hour
Session 3: How to Give Feedback & How to Revise in 5 Steps
Session 4: Bringing the Essay to Life (or) When to Scrap What You Have and Start Over
Session 5: How to Write the Four Types of Essays (Step-by-Step)
Session 6: Advanced Screenwriting Secrets & Three of My Favorite Essays Ever
If Aristotle taught third grade.
Show first,
then
tell.
Resource #4
www.collegeessayguy.com
Google: "interesting questions"
Six hours step-by-step instructional videos led by me, Ethan Sawyer, the College Essay Guy
130+ pages PDF curriculum
Mp3s, so you can listen/work from anywhere
Work at your own pace
Watch as many times as you want
Student and Counselor Versions
Includes:
Want to watch the first session for free?
Five-Week Online Workshop
Dates: March 15, 22, 29, April 4, 12
BS: Northwestern, Performance Studies
MFA: UC Irvine, Acting
Counseling Certificates: Interchange Counseling Institute, UC Irvine
13+ years: Teaching, Training Instructors & Counselors, Counseling and College Essay Advising, Writing Curriculum
Certified in MBTI & Hypnotherapy
College Essay Guy
Dropping Keys

The small man
builds cages for everyone
he
knows.

While the sage,
who has to duck his head
when the moon is low,
keeps dropping keys all night long
for the
beautiful
rowdy
prisoners.

- Hafiz
Want to connect?


Download it.
Print it.
After this session, I'll send you:
College Essay Guy's Guide to Brainstorming PDF
5 Resources That Will Save You $3,480
Second resource for making your essay, like, "deep":
The "Feelings and Needs" Exercise (also in your handout)
Bonus Question #2: How do I make my essay, like,
deep
?
Resource 1: Set up a Want vs. Need dynamic
For examples: See "With Debate" and "Burying Grandma" essays in PDF version of handout.
The "Feelings and Needs" Exercise
Choose Your Own Adventure Moment

Q&A
(on anything you like)

or

The Great College Essay Test
(aka How to Make Sure Your Essay Is Doing Its Job)
What
is
the job of the college essay?
IMHO: The college essay should demonstrate how a student will make valuable contributions on a college campus and beyond.
But...
What qualities demonstrate this?
And how in the world would we test for this?
For fun (3-min. exercise):
If, God forbid, you were in charge of creating a rubric for scoring college essays what 3-5 elements would you look for?
"Chunks" for the "With Debate" essay:

I was shy.
I joined debate.
I came out of my shell. (Oh, and I developed all these awesome values and qualities that will serve me in my career as X.)
"Chunks" for the Endodontics Essay:
Curiosity
Good with hands
Meticulous
Helping others
Why Dentist
Break time.
Just 7 minutes, please!

During the break: If you can, please pull up a draft of an essay that a student of yours is currently working on.
For more, Google:
"College Essay Guy How to Revise Essay in 5 Steps"
A useful exercise for those who have experienced challenges:
The "Feelings and Needs" Exercise
...search that career on www.onetonline.com.
30 Second Exercise: Highlight the first sentence of each paragraph of your student's essay in bold. Then read only those aloud.
How to Revise an Essay in 5 Steps
Ethan Sawyer
www.onetonline.org
#goldmine
*If you don't have one at hand, try it with the sample essays in the handout.
Want to partner?
www.collegeessayguy.com/free


In this lesson:
Sample Application: How Doing a Thorough Job on the Brainstorming Activities Can Set You Up for a Great Application
A Relatively Quick and Totally Free Way to Figure Out Which of Your Essay Topics Overlap
The Overlapping Game (or) How Doubling--or Tripling, or Quadrupling!--Your Essays for Multiple Prompts Can Yield a “Super Essay”
Sample Super Essay
How You Can Write a Super Essay
Q&A
A Relatively Quick and Totally Free Way to Figure Out Which of Your Essay Topics Overlap

1. Create your Essay Tracker w/all prompts for all schools (see pre-work for how to do this).

2. From your Activities List and Brainstorming Activities, select 2-4 rockstar achievements/passion projects to serve as potential "Super Topics"

3. Note on the Essay Tracker which topic might work for multiple prompts

To see how Adrian did this:
http://tinyurl.com/adrianessaytracker
Example Activities:
football (played backup quarterback, team made county finals)
robotics club (Co-Founder)
recorded a CD and sold it; proceeds went to Alzheimer’s research
working part-time at a video store
1. Which works best for this prompt?
Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences

2. What about this one?
“Stanford students possess an intellectual vitality. Reflect on an idea or experience that has been important to your intellectual development.”
The Overlapping Game
Three Ways to Find Your Potential
“Super” Topics

Option 1. Look to your Activities List.

(In fact, go there right now.)
Ask: Which have you spent the most time on?
Option 2. Find inspiration using the UC Personal Insight Question prompts:

1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.
2. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.
3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?
4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
5. Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?
6. Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.
7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
8. Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?
Some examples of the four potential "super topics” (i.e. topics) from 10 past students:

Adrian chose: Overcoming the challenge of being undocumented, Math (academic side), California Scholarship Federation (leadership), Working construction (hard-working + differentiator)
Surfing, overcoming challenges related to dad’s cancer, Red Cross volunteering, love of reading
Officer Cadet School, computer programming, overcoming challenge of being overweight, internship at Accenture
Robotics Club, drumming, developing an app, gardening
English tutoring, working professionally as an actor, love of Chemistry, working in a restaurant as a server
Model United Nations, Leadership class, spreading awareness about disaster preparedness, experiencing three very different educational systems
Science Olympiad, how art has shaped me, taking care of brother, love of Biology
Volunteering for American Youth Soccer Organization, fashion, love of History & Film, relationship with mother
Improv comedy, ice skating, teaching science to middle schoolers, being an amazing cook
Being vegetarian, internship at local hospital, acapella singing, advocating for worker’s rights
Love of writing, professional voiceover work, experiences attending 13 different schools, lessons from leading a camp at Burning Man for the past few years
More questions to consider:
What’s the most responsibility you’ve ever had?
What activity do you do that makes you feel most like yourself?
What is your actual superpower? How and where do you express it?
What’s the toughest decision you’ve ever made?
What’s a rockstar accomplishment you’ve had--either in or out of school?
What are your “two truths and a lie”?
Brainstorming Exercises* (15-20 min. each)

1. Essence Objects and Values Exercises
2. 21 Details
3. Everything I Want Colleges to Know About Me
4. The Feelings and Needs Exercise
5. Essay Tracker
*This is the pre-work you've (hopefully) completed for this course
Personal Statement
(aka your "main essay")

What it's good for: Demonstrating
who you are


Tone: Vibrant, insightful, creative, vulnerable

Space allowed on the Common App: 650 words
Activities & Awards List

What it's good for: demonstrating
what you've done

Tone: succinct, factual, like a resume

Space allowed by Common App:
10 Activities
50 character titles
150 character descriptions
5 Awards/Honors
50 characters
Additional Information

What it's good for: important stuff that didn't anywhere else.

Tone: Straightforward, informational

Space allowed by Common App: 650 words
Supplemental Essay #1
What it's good for: will vary based on school and essay

Tone: From vibrant/creative/personal to
straightforward/succinct/factual, depending on school

Word limit range: 50-650 words
Supplemental Essay #2
What it's good for: again, varies based on school and essay

Tone: Vibrant/creative/personal or straightforward/succinct/factual, depending on school

Word limit range: 50-650 words
Short Answers & Additional Questions

What it's good for: will vary based on school (and some schools will not require these)

Tone: From vibrant/creative/personal to straightforward/succinct/factual, depending

Word limit range: 50-650 words
Video

What it's good for: will vary based on school and essay

Tone: Typically vibrant and personal (like a creative supplemental essay or a mini personal statement)

Length: Usually short (1-3 minutes)
Follow me to this link:
http://tinyurl.com/adrianapp
Two reasons this is a good idea:
1. It'll save you tons of time.

2. It'll make your essays better.
Example: Adrian had 15 different prompts, but essentially wrote 4 "super" essays.
Example: Adrian's "Construction" essay initially was pretty straightforward, but after applying it to Stanford's "What matters to you and why?" prompt, another dimension emerged.
How do you do this?
1. Identify your 2-4 potential "Super" Topics.
2. Play the Overlapping Game.
3. Brainstorm and write a "Super" Essay.
Tip: apply these Q to your Activities List!
Task: Spend 2-4 min. identifying your 2-4 potential "super topics"
Note: If you'd like to see the UC Personal Insight Questions or the Other Questions to Consider, scroll down to the bottom of the "Adrian Application" doc
Once you have a few potential topics picked out--and by the way it could even be just one topic!--let's go back to your Essay Tracker and play...
For this, let's look at a new tracker:
http://tinyurl.com/davidessaytracker
The Overlapping Game
Possible topic: hiking
Game: How many prompts could one topic work for?
Sample Prompts:
Georgetown Short Essay: In the space available discuss the significance to you of the school or summer activity in which you have been most involved. (1/2 page)
USC students are known to be involved. Briefly describe a non-academic pursuit (such as service to community or family, a club or sport, or work, etc.,) that best illustrates who you are, and why it is important to you. (250 words)
Harvard: Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences (150 words)
Michigan: Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by (among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, ideology, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you belong, and describe that community and your place within it. (250 words)
Duke University seeks a talented, engaged student body that embodies the wide range of human experience; we believe that the diversity of our students makes our community stronger. If you'd like to share a perspective you bring or experiences you've had to help us understand you better... we encourage you to do so. (250 words)
A: It works for them all, of course.

To read the hiking essay, go to:
http://tinyurl.com/thehikingessay
What we've learned so far:

1. You are a complex, human being with many quirks and quiddities (see brainstorming exercises).

2. Colleges expect you to squish your complexity into their tiny grey boxes. And each school has different grey boxes (requirements)!

3. You can save yourself a ton of time, PLUS bring lots of color/depth/variety to those grey boxes by writing 3-4 "super essays" (i.e. essays that work for multiple prompts).

Here are the next steps, and incidentally, your homework to complete before Session 2...
Quick re-cap of what we've covered so far and where we are in the process...
Day 1: Preliminary Sort +
The Super Essay
Coming up tomorrow:
How to Up-Level Your Activities and Awards List
How to Write Your Additional Information Section (and How It Might Make the Difference in Your Application)
How to Write the “Why us” Essay

HW before Session 2:
Play the Overlapping Game (10 min.)
If the topic you picked will work for several topics, great! If not, try doing the BEABIES for whichever other topics might work (10-30 min.)
Read the Complete Guide to the “Why us” Essay PDF (15-20 min.)
"The scariest moment is always just before you start."

- Stephen King
Happy starting!
Q&A



In this session we'll cover:

Activities & Awards List
5 Tips for Your Activities & Awards List
The Difference Between an Amazing Activities and Awards List and a Really Good One
Activities You May Not Have Considered Including—But That Count!
“Stretching the Truth” on your Activities List: A Cautionary Tale
How to Up-Level Your Activities and Awards List in Three Steps

Additional Information Section
What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Include in Your Add’l Info Section
How an Add’l Info Section Could Make the Difference in the Application

The "Why Us" Essay
Quick Review of the Complete Guide to the "Why us" Essay
3 Great "Why Us" Essays You've Never Read
Reviewing your "Why Us" Essays
Q&A: Anything you want to discuss
Five Tips for the Activities & Awards List
1. Use active verbs to explain what you actually did.

Rather than: Worked at a clinic doing different things

Try: Organized patient diagnosis notes, sterilized tools for surgeries, assisted with x-ray analysis

Or:
Measure
d
vitals, made health recommendations, prescribed medicine for treatable ailments, provided medical services for a Parkinson’s patient
3.

Emphasize (and quantify) tangible, measurable impact.

Whom did your activity help? How many people? How much money did you raise?

Rather than:
Raised money for children in Africa.

Try:
Raised $3,000 to provide 18 uniforms & 6 scholarships for students at Joseph Waweru Home School (Nakuru, Kenya).
2. And make sure the verbs aren’t redundant.

Rather than:
Instructing, helping, and teaching children tennis (how are these three different?)

Try:
Instructed tennis students in proper technique, while imparting lessons in sportsmanship, health and integrity.

Tip: Aim for variety.
4. If your role is simply “member” or “participant,” it’s okay to just list the activity.

So instead of writing:
"Member, National Honors Society"
“Participant, Cesar Chavez Day of Service"
you can just write
"National Honors Society"
“Cesar Chavez Day of Service”
5. Don't try to do everything in 150 characters.
Make selective use of the additional info section.

There’s no way this student, for example, could fit all the info for this example into his Activities List:

Creator of three different tech prototypes
Researched, brainstormed and created three prototypes of a water-cleaning boat. Recognized statewide. See Additional Info for more.
Note that I said “selective use."
Don’t go crazy with this on your Additional Info section.
- I'll share some examples of what not to do shortly...
The Difference Between an Amazing Activities and Awards List and a Really Good One

Compare the following:

Three activities and two awards from
a really good
list:

Peer Tutor for AP Biology Teacher
Selected by AP Biology teacher to assist peers with difficult biology concepts; provided feedback with student free-response questions

Member, JV Swim Team
Participate in practices and meets; assist in recruiting new members; help raise funds for travel; swim anchor on 4X100m relay.

Mentor for Girl Scouts Troop #4321
Mentored 10 young girls in arts and crafts; spearheaded troop exhibit representing Italy at cultural community fair; brainstormed troop activities
AP Scholar Award
Granted to students who receive an average score of at least 3.25 on all AP Exams taken, and scores of 3 or higher on four or more of these exams

Superior at Miami-Dade Jazz Festival
Received full marks from the judges based on style and interpretation, note accuracy, and creativity.
Here are three activities and two awards from an amazing list:

Inventor, Drone X2
Patent No. US 8,382,029 B2 was granted to me, the inventor and applicant, Sarah Morrison after a year designing & testing prototypes. See Add’l Info.

Professional Wildlife Photographer
Worked with int’l award-winning filmmaker; designed and sold calendar to raise funds for nearby school; developed prototype for improved lens.
Lead Programmer, Alphabots

Designed and programmed original video game, to be published this fall. Quickly learned new programming language (C#, Unity IDE). Demoed game at ComicCon
Soloed at Carnegie Hall as Winner of American Protégé Int’l Music Competition

Top 10 Nationally and 2-time New York Champion in Policy Debate; Academic All-American
See the difference?

If not, it’s this:
A very good Activities and Awards List includes
very good
achievements told in a well-crafted way.
An amazing Activities and Awards List includes
extraordinary
achievements told in a well-crafted way
My point: If you've participated in activities that might qualify as extraordinary on a national or international level, you have the potential to write an amazing activities list. Otherwise, your activities list is likely to cap out at “really good.”
But I have some good news...
Job shadowing, building your own projects, being the go-to tech person or social media expert for family/neighborhood/organization/school, starting and running own small businesses (lawn mowing, tutoring, power washing, baked goods, children's party planner), photography, writing, playing instruments, ventriloquism, self-taught language courses like Duolingo, taking MOOCs to learn coding, composing EDM, selling stuff on eBay, arts & crafts, fashion blogging, beekeeping, glass-blowing, scuba diving certification, EMT...
Credit: Blog post inspired by contributions from my Counselor Colleagues in my College Essay Forum for Counselors
Taking a part-time job to help with family expenses, academic enrichment (summer program, online class certificate, etc.), training pet goats, dogs, parrots to become therapy animals and getting them certified to visit senior living facilities, cleaning out grandma's attic stuff collected over the years, selling it on EBay, then saving that money to buy a car, maintenance or set-up for high school sporting events (baseball field prep, setting up the timing equipment for swim meets or track meets), juggling or unicycling, yoga, mountain-biking, bird watching, sport refereeing (not in their primary sport), Book Club (outside of school), cosplay + designing costumes, Fantasy football statistician, manager, recruiter, webmaster, or listing all the books you've ever read...
“Stretching the Truth” on your Activities List:
A Cautionary Tale
1. BEABIES









Spend 5-10 min. answering the BEABIES questions and you'll have plenty to write about in the descriptions.
A Three-Step Process for Up-Leveling Your Activities List
2. Use better verbs in your descriptions.
Why do verbs matter? Compare these two examples:

Tutored students in English to help them with their writing
vs.
Created exercises to teach fundamental reading & writing skills; designed core curriculum based on my progress assessments; engaged students w/humor
You're welcome:
http://tinyurl.com/CEGEpicVerbsList
Wouldn't it be awesome if you just had like this mega awesome epic list of verbs for your Activities List?
3. The Values Scan

Ask:
Which values are clearly being revealed in the description?
Which values are kind of being revealed, but could probably be revealed more clearly in the description?
Which values are not in the description at all yet, but perhaps could be included?
Example description:

Responsible for taking minutes, updating calendar and active member list, communicating with advisors, acting as liaison to our local chapter.
Goal: Can you include 2-3 values per activity?
Activities List FAQ
Q: What if I didn’t do much for the activity and I don’t have much to say? Is it better to have a few really strong activities (less is more) or should I list everything I’ve done (more is more)?
A: There are at least two schools of thought on this. Here’s a quick comparison chart:
Q: What if my activity is so huge that there’s just no way I can fit it into 150 characters?
A: Write a short description in the Activities List, then put additional information in the... Additional Information section (that redundancy was on purpose).

How do you do this? That's next...
Some Things You *Might* Include in the Additional Info Section
Remember: You do not
have
to include anything here.
But many students are often baffled by what to do with this section, so here are five things you might include...
1.

Important details about your activities that wouldn’t fit in your activities list.


Warning: This is not for everyone. But if your Activities List is bursting at the seams (like the prototype guy I mentioned earlier), you might consider expanding. How? Like this...
Additional Details for My Tech Prototypes:

1. Wave Machine
- Prototype that creates transverse waves of high magnitude in the water.
- First use: These waves can be used in the generation of electricity.
- Second use: Deflection of waves (created by wave machine) can be used in the detection of tsunamis.
- Lions Club Science Expo- 2nd Runner up award.

2. Water Wave
- A water cleaning boat that incorporates a vacuum pump to collect waste, infrared sensor to detect obstructions, crusher to disintegrate the waste collected and wheels to make the boat amphibious.
- Collaborating with a software company called ‘Neeti Solutions’ (Neetisolutions.com) to create of an app based on Water Wave that will educate the public about climate change and water pollution. App to be released this February on the App Store and Google Play.
- Awards won:
1) Muktangan Science Exploratory Competition, 2nd Place
2) Innovators Conclave, Certificate of Appreciation

Ethan’s note: Note the bullet points and factual nature. Make it truly additional information (keyword: information).
3. IB Extended Essay abstracts.
Example:

For my IB extended-essay requirement, I wrote a 4,000 word thesis and calculated the negative externalities of land reclamation, the act of creating new land in the ocean, in Bahrain on native fishermen. As a small archipelago, Bahrain resorted to reclaiming land in the vast waters around it to support the financial and tourism sectors of Bahrain. My research attempts to quantify the opportunity cost fishermen have to endure due to these expansions in land. These include: fishing for longer periods of time, going farther away to catch fish, and using more fuel to reach these far places.
4. Potential red flags (dropped sport, limited extracurricular involvement, etc.)

Why? It could make the difference in your application.

Example: Adrian's application

Here are five items included in his Add'l Info section...
(11) Could not finish wrestling season.
- Mom and older brother were in car accident
- Responsibilities at home stacked up and I was also working at the time to pay bills, so I was unable to stay for practice
(11-12) Summer Courses
- Tried to take college courses during the summer but I could not afford the classes and there was an issue regarding my residency
Calculus BC Explanation
After taking Calculus AB in my Junior year I wanted to take Calculus BC in my senior year. Unfortunately, my teacher felt he wouldn’t be able to teach the class, since he lacked the knowledge/training to teach it. Instead I took up a second science, AP Physics II, during my senior year. I am one of the first students to take this course at my school.
Highest SAT Score in My Class
Scored a 1910 on old SAT (570 CR, 730 Math, 610 WR), which was the highest overall score in my grade.
AP Physics
I was the first student at my school to ever pass the AP Physics I exam (scored a 3).
Ethan’s question: Did these details make the difference?

Here's some context:
GPA: 3.6
(Old) SAT: 1910
Dream school: Stanford
Why include this?
1) Few students do high-level research and write 15-page papers.
2) Gives a window into your academic soul.

Tip: Keep it to 75-100 words
...And he got in.

#Classof2021
#ICriedWhenIFoundOut
2. Health stuff.

Example:
Note on dropping volleyball
I decided not to continue volleyball senior year due to chronic back problems.

Ethan's notes:
1. See how simply put?
2. Can't figure out how to work something into your main statement? Put it here.
5. Additional Awards

Example:

Additional Awards
AP Scholar with Distinction
MVP Award for The Mirror Newspaper
“Best Color” Award at Chicago Chalk Dust Festival
1st Place “Reading is so Delicious” Chicago Bookmark Contest
2nd Place “Dream Big, Read” Chicago Bookmark Contest
Featured Artist in Alzheimer's Family Services Center Newsletter
George Washington High School UN General Assembly Commendation
Duke UN Environmental Program Research Award
Duke Historical Committee Research Award
George Washington High School Advisory Committee Commendation
For 8 other important uses for the Additional Info section, please see link shared in pre-work and in Course Guide.
Five Important Misuses of the
Common App Additional Info Section
1. A second personal statement
2. Details showing you might be overly obsessed with academic perfection

Example: "I received a B+ in Chemistry because..."
3. Excuses

If you can’t give a good explanation for something (i.e. you got a bad grade in math because you didn’t like your teacher, or you dropped football because you wanted to chill all summer), maybe don't mention it at all.
4. An overly complex abstract from a scientific paper

Yulia Korovikov from Tufts University writes, “Telling me you cured ICD9 140-239 doesn’t mean much to me--sorry, I'm not a PhD in Chemistry. If you’re going to talk about it, simplify it. Using common language shows a much greater depth of understanding than copying and pasting an unnecessarily complex research proposal.”
5. Pasting a resume that repeats everything you’ve already said in your Activities List

Why is this bad?
1. It’s redundant.
2. Admissions readers are reading SO much and this is a waste of their time.
3. It looks insecure. Like you’re saying, “See what I did! I know, but look again! No, really look!”
4. It’s redundant.
Additional Information FAQ

Q: What if I feel like I’m struggling to come up with stuff to add?
A: Stop. Take a breath. Remember: you do not have to use the Additional Info section.
Q: Have you read it yet?
If not, why not?

Kidding. Read it tonight.

FYI: Inside, you'll find...
Great, now follow me here:

http://tinyurl.com/3CEGWhyUsExamples
HW:
Up-level your Activities List using the three exercises we covered (30 min.)
Research the longest “Why us” essay you’ve got and do the “Why us” chart in Part 2 of your pre-work (30-60 min.)
(If time) Write a first draft of your “Why us” essay, as I’ll review "Why us" essays live tomorrow

If you haven't already...
Read the "Why us" guide
Complete the BEABIES exercise for 1-3 potential “super" topics (yesterday's HW), as I’ll share Secret #2 for creating a “super essay” in Session 3
HW tonight: Complete this chart for your longest "Why us" essay...
...It's explained in the Complete Guide.
A List of Activities You May Not Have Considered Including—But That Count!
Q&A


In this session we'll cover:

The Difference Between a Regular and a “Super” Extracurricular Essay
Four Qualities of a Mediocre Extracurricular Essay
Four Qualities of an Amazing Extracurricular Essay
Eight Mistakes Students Make on Their Extracurricular Essays... And How to Fix Each One
A Three-Step Process to Help You Avoid All Those Mistakes
BEABIES: Are You on Board Yet or What?
How to Write an Amazing Narrative Extracurricular Essay: The Elon Musk Exercise
How to Write an Amazing Montage Extracurricular Essay: The UC Exercise
Zooming Back and Re-Examine the Big Picture
Upgrading Your Overlapping Game… Game
How You Can Apply This Approach to Almost Any Supplemental Essay
Coming Up in Session 3


The Extracurricular Essay
Applying This Approach to Particular Supplemental Essays:
How to Write a Great "Community" Essay
Three Great Sample “Community” Essays

Q&A
Anything you want to discuss
The Difference Between a Regular and a “Super” Extracurricular Essay

One way to tell:

A regular extracurricular essay…
tends to work for one topic

A “super” extracurricular essay…
often works for several topics (see: Hiking, plus examples today)

But perhaps a better distinction is this…
A regular extracurricular essay sounds like this…

I’ve spent a good deal of my time playing basketball. As starting point guard, I’ve seen how hard work and discipline can pay off, I have made great connections with my teammates and seen firsthand how teamwork really does make the dream work. Working out together in the gym and getting up at 6am for conditioning has really shown me the importance of perseverance and grit and giving it all you got… (you get the idea so we’ll stop here)
A “super” extracurricular essay sounds more like this…

I’ve devoted thousands of hours to playing the santur, a classical Persian instrument that originated in the Middle East. Some think I'm strange: a Persian redheaded Jewish teenager obsessed with an ancient musical instrument. But many don’t see what I see. My santur is King David’s lyre: it can soothe, enrapture, mesmerize. It’s also a tool for social change: many view Iran as a land of terrorists, but when I play, if just for a moment, the barrier is broken and the innocent of Iran, the educated, the artists, the innovators, come to life. The santur is also my way of connecting to my Persian grandfather, who was afflicted with Alzheimer’s. In December I’ll be releasing my first album and donating the proceeds to Alzheimer’s research, doing my part to help eradicate the disease and preserve the voice of the santur so that it shall never be forgotten.
What sets these two essays apart? This… (you might want to write this down):

A regular extracurricular essay:
Common topic, Common achievements, Common connections, Common language

Example: basketball, starting point guard, hard work + discipline + teamwork, that is why I love basketball

A “super” extracurricular essay:
Uncommon topic, Uncommon achievements, Uncommon connections, Uncommon language

Example: santur, releasing my first album and donating the proceeds to Alzheimer’s research, social change + heritage + family + social change, King David’s lyre
A Word of Advice to Students Who Don’t Play the Santur (i.e. Who Have No Uncommon Topic)
Eight Mistakes Students Make on Their Extracurricular Essays... And How to Fix Each One
Mistake #1: Choosing an extracurricular essay topic that overlaps too much with the main statement topic

Example: Main topic and main supplemental essay are both on interest in theater (or basketball, or debate, etc.)

Potential cost: Student appears one-dimensional.

Two potential fixes:
1) (Obvs) choose another topic for either the extracurricular essay or main topic, or
2) Focus on such different values for each essay that it’s hardly recognizable as the same activity.
Mistake #2: Writing about something you haven’t done yet (or plan to do in 12th grade)

Potential cost: You could end up with one of those hypothetical “I plan to” essays, which don’t tend to make a huge difference in your chances of acceptance

Fix: Don’t do that.

But okay, if you do do this (and it's a bit tricky, so I don’t recommend it often)...
During the summer, make a clear plan for the fall on what you will get done, how it will get done, and what impact it will have. Then:
Bust your butt to do it all before apps are due.
How? Consider writing an “aspirational” essay during the summer
Mistake #3: Leaving money on the table (i.e. forgetting a potential differentiator)
Example: The Patent that Tom Forgot
Another example: I Was a Hard Workin’ [Young] Man (Adrian’s Construction Essay)

Cost: The school never learns about the thing that could have made the difference in your application and you don’t get into your top choice and die sad and alone I’M KIDDING. But just kidding about the last part (the first part is true).

Fix: Ask five people who are close to you this question: What’s something impressive I’ve done that I’d be stupid not to include somewhere in my college application? Then just listen.
Mistake #4: Choosing the wrong structure (and by “wrong” I mean one that limits the potential of the topic)

Potential cost: Can limit how much insight and variety a student can demonstrate through their activity, so reader won’t get the full impact it had on you or that you had through it.

Example: Santur Narrative vs. Santur Montage

Fix: In a few minutes I'll show you how to pick.
Mistake #5: They choose a common topic (but that's not the mistake!) and then they don't go to great enough lengths to differentiate that topic from the many other essays on that topic.

Potential cost: That extracurricular essay blends blends blends in with all the rest rest rest and the student misses an opportunity to stand out out out. #gratuitousechoes

Fix: Today I’ll teach you how to predict what other students are likely to write about, then how to make sure your essay doesn’t blend in.
Mistake #6: They don’t think as creatively as they can when determining how “elastic” a topic might be (which is to say how many prompts it could actually work for).

Potential cost: Their essay might be more one-dimensional (read: boring) PLUS it may not answer as many prompts as it could, so that student may have to write more essays (read: less time for Netflix).

Two fixes:
1) We’re about to cover three exercises to help you creatively expand how you’re thinking about your topic, plus

2) We’ll revisit the Overlapping Game and discuss Upgrading Your Overlapping Game… Game.
Mistake #7: Focus on the wrong details in their extracurricular essay, or forgetting important details altogether.

Potential: An otherwise amazing extracurricular activity can sound mundane, or could blend in.

Fix: The three exercises I just mentioned that we’re about to do--and we’re almost there, I swear, hang on!
Mistake #8: Spending all their time on the main essay and not much on the supplemental extracurricular essay because hey it’s not that important, right?

Wrong. The extracurricular essay can be a difference maker in the application.

Potential cost: Missing a nice opportunity to show other dimensions/skills/qualities/values.

Fix: Everything I’m about to teach you...
A Four-Step Process to Help You Avoid All These Mistakes

1. Do the BEABIES exercise but like for real this time
2. Pick a structure: Narrative or Montage
If Narrative, try... The Elon Musk Exercise
If Montage, try... The UC Game
3. Zoom back and check for different potential overlapping opportunities
4. Write the darn thing
Step 1: BEABIES: Are You on Board Yet or What?

“Man, just doing this for like 20 minutes improves an extracurricular essay by like 200%. Seriously.”
- Actual email my actual brother Devon sent to me about the BEABIES exercise
Maybe you’re wondering: which activity will this exercise will work for? The answer:

THIS WILL WORK FOR ANY ACTIVITY
QUESTIONS TO UP-LEVEL YOUR BEABIES COLUMNS

What I did:
Did you list all your tasks, or just a few? What’d you forget? Go back and check.
Did you also list all of the things you did that might have been out of the scope of your responsibilities?

Problems I solved:
Did you consider the internal problems you solved and challenges you overcame for yourself?
Did you consider the external problems you solved? For your friends? Family? School? Community?
Were you also tackling a much larger (perhaps global) problem, or one that had the potential for much larger effects or repercussions?

Skills I gained / Lessons I learned
What skills did you develop and lessons did you learn that will make you a better X? (Rower, debater, volunteer, programmer, fill in the blan.)

Impact:
Did you consider the impact this had on your family? Friends? School?
And don’t just think about impact you had on others; Did you consider the impact this had on you personally?
How did you change?

Applications to other parts of school/life:
What skills did you develop and lessons did you learn that will help you beyond the scope of being a violinist/?
Step 2: Pick a structure: Narrative or Montage
Consider that there are two types of activities you’re writing about:

1. Activities in which you were solving a problem/overcoming a challenge/answering a question, and
2. Those in which you weren’t.
If you were solving a problem or overcoming a challenge, you might consider doing…
The Elon Musk Exercise

If you were not, you might consider…
The UC Game

Let’s look at how each one works...
Especially great for:
Volunteer or Community Service Essay
The Elon Musk Exercise
#1: Name the enemy
#2: Answer “Why now?”
#3: Show the promised land before explaining how you’ll get there
#4: Identify obstacles—then explain how you’ll overcome them
#5: Present evidence that you’re not just blowing hot air”

The Elon Musk Exercise
(a.k.a. – How to Write an Amazing Community Service/Volunteer Essay)

Here’s how to outline your essay on a community service or volunteer project:

1. Identify the problem
2. Raise the stakes (and perhaps answer, “Why now?”)
3. Articulate the vision: show the promised land before explaining how you got there
4. Describe what you did
5. Clarify your role: Why were (or are) you crucial to the project/club’s success?
6. Impact you had, lessons learned, or values gained
“But wait!” I hear you say. “That’s way too much to squeeze into 350 words.”

Are you sure?

Behold:

The “C3” Example Essay

I live in the suburb of Los Angeles, California, known to its residents as the bubble. It has the perfect weather, location, and schools. As amazing as it sounds, however, growing up in La Cañada Flintridge has its drawbacks: the community pressures adolescents to achieve success through mainly academic means. While this approach isn’t necessarily wrong, it can be difficult, particularly in my high school, to thrive in a creative and imaginative way.

Sophomore year, my friends and I began to wonder, What if the teenagers of La Cañada had greater opportunities to express themselves. To pursue their creativity. To follow their dreams.
That’s when we decided to start the Catalyzing Creativity Club.

Founded in 2012, the Catalyzing Creativity Club (C3, for short), provides students the opportunity to pursue their passion and aspirations outside the classroom.

Some of our opportunities include: a yearly music festival for our community’s young aspiring musicians that showcases local talent to the masses and scouts; a technology expo, which allows students to be rewarded with funding and demonstrate their coding abilities to prospective companies; recording sessions for aspiring musicians, photo-publishing competitions, and a variety of guest speakers ranging from nineteen-year-old college seniors to millionaire entrepreneurs. In addition, we have a blog for aspiring writers to publish their work and are holding a shoe drive for underprivileged athletes.

As vice president of finances for C3, I work to ensure we can fund these activities. I handle our bank account, fundraising, and organize the event planning. Moreover, I make sure that C3’s activities and finances are approved by and follow the guidelines of my high school. This role is crucial, as we work to achieve non-profit status.

Even though C3 is only a few years old, I believe it is already making an impact in the community. As we grow and the opportunities we provide become more popular, our hope is to inspire our peers to follow their dreams and burst the La Cañada Flintridge bubble.

Sample Community Service Essay #2: Earthquakes

In November of 2015, nearly 600 earthquakes hit my hometown of San Ramon in a ‘swarm’. Although the magnitudes of these quakes ranged from 2.5 to 3.7, the constant fear and anxiety of impending doom rose in the community. A disaster is unprecedented and unpredictable and in the small suburban bubble of San Ramon, we always acknowledged their occurrence elsewhere but never fully admitted that a large-scale catastrophe may happen at our doorsteps.
Recognizing this unspoken apathy, I decided to take a step beyond my school club and get involved in the community chapter of the East Bay Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services team. As I was learning the basics of preparedness i.e, general earthquake and fire safety drills, I realized that if disaster were to strike, the majority of people in my community could not confidently say that they are prepared. As part of the DCS committee, it is my goal to increase the confidence of as many youth and families as possible.
During my training, I accompanied volunteers during the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign, where we installed and updated smoke alarms and detectors in over thirty low income households in the Oakland area, free of charge. I began teaching the “Pillowcase Project” in local elementary schools, leading workshops in and instilling the importance of disaster preparedness for the youngest of children.
Representing DCS on the Youth Executive Board for the East Bay Area Chapter, I also led a Youth in Disaster Services Seminar, where we trained young adults in CPR Certification as well as basic Shelter Fundamentals.
Through my work with the Red Cross, and in my interactions with survivors and rescuers who assisted during Hurricane Katrina, I’ve come to discover how teaching even just small preparedness procedures to individuals can help save entire communities.
The impact of disaster services reverberates throughout our communities, both at home and internationally. It is a selfless, necessary job in which youth, as the future generation of an ever-changing disaster prone world, must take urgent action.

The UC* Game
*Uncommon Connections
First, we need a cliche topic. The more cliche the better.
Step 1: Brainstorm the cliche version of your essay.
First, tell me what the typical football or mission trip essay will focus on. How? Take a look at that Values Exercise (I know that again) and list some cliche values that you think the typical violin essay would focus on.
A cliche connection for [football] would be [teamwork, responsibility, hard work, etc.]
A cliche connection for a [mission trip] would be [helping others, hard work, passion, etc.].
Step 2: Come up with 3-4 uncommon values.
Now I want you to think about values that might not normally be associated with football or a mission trip.

Examples:
An uncommon connection to [football] might be [resourcefulness, healthy boundaries, critical thinking, etc.].
An uncommon connection to [a mission trip] might be [serenity, accountability, practicality, etc.].
Fun fact: If you’d like to see how to play this game in a group, click here: https://tinyurl.com/y9pxkjtp
Step 3: Tie the value to a specific example from your life.
Example: Football has made me a better reader

As a cornerback, I meticulously and systematically scan the offense, looking for nuances in formation before the quarterback snaps the ball, all in a matter of seconds. It’s not unlike annotating a novel. Finding the subtle complexities in my rival teams’ spread offense has not only led me to intercepting a pass, but has given me the skills to fully digest, for example, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, where the smallest, and at first glance, almost unnoticeable details, add to an intricate story that I wouldn’t appreciate in the same way had I not been able to notice those details in the first place.

See how that makes for a more interesting football essay?

uncommon value (critical thinking) + application elsewhere (English class) = win
Step 4: Decide on an order for your details.
I recommend chronological order, as it’ll make transitions easier.
Sample Extracurricular Essay #1: Santur

Do re fa mi, re do fa mi, re do sol fa mi re mi re. Have I completely lost it? Should I be locked up in a mental hospital chained to a chair? No. Then what are these utterances coming from my mouth? Music.

I have devoted thousands of hours of my life to playing the santur, a classical Persian instrument that originated in the Middle East. Some people think I'm strange: a Persian redheaded Jewish teenager obsessed with an ancient musical instrument. But they don’t see what I see. My santur is King David’s lyre: it can soothe, enrapture, mesmerize.

The santur also allows me to connect to my culture and Persian heritage, and to visit Iran of the past, a culture rich in artistic tradition. Sometimes I imagine performing for the king in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the santur sounds echoing through the Seven Hills of Jerusalem.

Today, some Americans view Iran as a land of terrorists, but when I play the innocent of Iran, the educated, the artists, the innovators, come to life. Iran is not a country of savages; it’s Kubla Khan’s fountain, an abundant source of knowledge and creativity.

Finally, the santur represents one of my remaining links to my grandfather. In the last few years of his life, Baba Joon did not know me as his grandson. Alzheimer’s slowly took over his brain, and eventually he could not recognize me. Baba Joon grew up with the music of the santur and my father plays it in his car every day, so when I play, the music connects all three generations.

In December I’ll be releasing my first album, a collection of classical Persian pieces. Proceeds from the album will go toward Alzheimer's research, as I hope to play some small part in finding a cure for the disease. My teacher is one of only a handful of santur teachers from Iran, and I sometimes wonder if the santur will soon become extinct, like the seven thousand endangered languages which may soon be gone.

Not if I have anything to say about it. (350 words)
Sample Extracurricular Essay #2: Switch-Side Policy Debate

Through switch-side policy debate I not only discuss a multitude of competing ideas, but also argue from both sides of widely disputed issues. By equipping me with Protagoras’ antilogic and Dissoi Logoi, switch-side policy debate has provided me with a forum to cultivate a diversity of intellectual perspectives that has informed my own intellectual growth.

I strive to give others the same opportunity for intellectual stimulation. Over the past two years, I have helped expand my debate team from a struggling club of 15 to a force of over 100 debaters, leading my team to place first in our debate league. As team President, I teach new debaters fundamentals in communication theory while facilitating formal and informal debates. Playing a dual role as instructor and competitor has allowed me to establish debate as a lasting forum for discussing ideas at my school.

The lessons I learned as both a leader and debater have helped me to succeed beyond my debate circles. Inside the classroom, I possess the openness to consider the views of others and the courage to voice my own opinions. Having been elected to student office four times, I have used these skills to sell my ideas to the student body and earn its vote. More importantly, debate has taught me how to transform these ideas into concrete actions. As the current ASB Vice President, I have used the managerial and communication skills I developed as a debater to spearhead a school wide sustainability campaign that spanned issues concerning water scarcity, ecology, and campus beautification.

Similarly, the lessons I learned in debate will be instrumental in my future work as an entrepreneur and engineer, both of which require the capacity to approach problems critically and clearly articulate complex ideas. Continuing to develop these skills will be crucial if I am to become a competitive member in the future marketplace of ideas. (313 words)

Five ways the UC Game might help you write a better essay:
1. If you’re tempted to write about the same activity for main and supplemental essay, this exercise can help you see other dimensions
2. If Narrative Structure wasn’t working out for you (maybe you found that your challenge/problem/question wasn’t that compelling) and your activity was kind of falling flat, the Montage Structure can allow for more variety. Note that the example I gave above was that awesome santur montage essay that shows all those values… it would’ve been much more boring, perhaps, as a narrative “How I learned to play the santur” essay.
3. If your activity essay was feeling cliche and you were worried it would blend in, this is the key to helping it stand out. Remember:
A boring extracurricular essay…
Common
topic, achievements, connections, language
A stand out essay…
Uncommon
topic, achievements, connections, language
4. If you were having trouble seeing how this topic could connect to other prompts, this essay could help turn a previously one-dimensional topic into a potential “super” topic.
Step 3: Zoom back and check for different potential overlapping opportunities
How? By playing the Overlapping Game once more.
Upgrading Your Overlapping Game... Game
Warm-Up
Pick a super topic you may write on. Now see how fast you can match it to one of Tufts’ essays for 2018:

*GO*

There is a Quaker saying: “Let your life speak.” Describe the environment in which you were raised – your family, home, neighborhood, or community – and how it influenced the person you are today. (200–250 words)

We’d like to know a little bit more about you. Please respond to one of the following six questions (200-250 words):
A. It's cool to be smart. Tell us about the subjects or ideas that excite your intellectual curiosity.
B. In a time when we’re always plugged in (and sometimes tuned out), tell us about a time when you listened, truly listened, to a person or a cause. How did that moment change you?
C. Celebrate the role of sports in your life.
D. Whether you've built blanket forts or circuit boards, produced community theater or mixed media art installations, tell us: what have you invented, engineered, created, or designed? Or what do you hope to?
E. What makes you happy? Why?
F. Artist Bruce Nauman once said: "One of the factors that still keeps me in the studio is that every so often I have to more or less start all over." Everyone deals with failure differently; for most artists failure is an opportunity to start something new. Tell us about a time when you have failed and how that has influenced your art practice.
Okay, here’s the competition. See if you find a topic (any one of your topics) that works for not only one of Tufts’ prompts, but also for all three of the other schools listed on this spreadsheet (https://tinyurl.com/yavng8x7). First 10 people to type an answer (plus corresponding prompts) into the chat box win the game.
How to Write Your First Super Essay:
1. (5-10 min) Using your own Essay Tracker, find a topic that will work for several prompts.
2. (2 min.) Copy and paste all the prompts it could work for at the top of the doc.
3. (25 min.) Decide on a structure--Narrative or Montage--and complete either the Elon Musk or UC Game.
4. (25-50 min.) Write the darn essay.
The Community Essay
First, here are two typical prompts for this essay type:

Duke: Duke University seeks a talented, engaged student body that embodies the wide range of human experience; we believe that the diversity of our students makes our community stronger. If you'd like to share a perspective you bring or experiences you've had to help us understand you better-perhaps related to a community you belong to, your sexual orientation or gender identity, or your family or cultural background-we encourage you to do so. Real people are reading your application, and we want to do our best to understand and appreciate the real people applying to Duke. (250 words)

Univ. of Michigan: Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by (among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, ideology, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you belong, and describe that community and your place within it. (250 words)
Sample Community Essay #1: East Meets West (Narrative)

I look around my room, dimly lit by an orange light. On my desk, a framed picture of an Asian family beaming their smiles, buried among US history textbooks and The Great Gatsby. A Korean ballad streams from two tiny computer speakers. Pamphlets of American colleges scattered on the floor. A cold December wind wafts a strange infusion of ramen and leftover pizza. On the wall in the far back, a Korean flag hangs besides a Led Zeppelin poster.
Do I consider myself Korean or American?
A few years back, I would have replied: “Neither.” The frustrating moments of miscommunication, the stifling homesickness, and the impossible dilemma of deciding between the Korean or American table in the dining hall, all fueled my identity crisis.
Standing in the “Foreign Passports” section at JFK, I have always felt out of place. Sure, I held a Korean passport in my hands, and I loved kimchi and Yuna Kim and knew the Korean Anthem by heart. But I also loved macaroni and cheese and LeBron. Deep inside, I feared I’d labeled by my airport customs category: a foreigner everywhere.
This ambiguity, however, has granted me the opportunity to absorb the best of both worlds. Look at my dorm room. This mélange of cultures in my East-meets-West room embodies the diversity that characterizes my international student life.
I’ve learned to accept my “ambiguity” as “diversity,” as a third-culture student embracing both identities.
Do I consider myself Korean or American?
Now, I can proudly answer: “Both.” (250 words)
Notes from Ethan:
Notice how clearly he sets-up the challenge/problem/question:
Do I consider myself Korean or American
? And as the essay progresses he goes from being conflicted (“neither”) to finding peace (“both”).

This next essay, which I referenced earlier, explores a variety of values (she completed it after doing the UC Game) and has no conflict. And that’s totally okay.
Sample Community Essay #2: Storytellers (Montage)

I belong to a community of storytellers. Throughout my childhood, my mother and I spent countless hours immersed in the magical land of bedtime stories. We took daring adventures and explored far away lands. Imagination ran wild, characters came to life, and I became acquainted with heroes and lessons that continue to inspire me today. It was a ritual that I will never forget.
In school I met many other storytellers­­­­—teachers, coaches, and fellow students whose stories taught me valuable lessons and enabled me to share stories of my own. My stories took shape through my involvement with theatre. I have learned that telling stories can be just as powerful as hearing them.
When I tell a story, I can shape the world I live in and share my deepest emotions with the audience. This is exactly why I love theatre so much. The audience can relate to the story in many of the same powerful ways that I do.
I love to perform with my theatre class to entertain and educate young audiences throughout my community. To tell our stories, we travel to elementary and middle schools performing plays that help educate younger students of the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and bullying. As storytellers, we aim to touch lives and better the world around us through our stories.
Notes from Ethan:
What values do you spot? I see… adventure, imagination, ritual, connection, vulnerability, autonomy, helping others/social change. #Nice

The next essay is my favorite “Community” example and represents a combination of the Montage and Narrative structure.

What do I mean?
The essay begins and ends with some core values (montage style) but has a challenge in the middle (narrative style).

Check it out:
Sample Community Essay #3: The Pumpkin House (Montage/Narrative Combo)

I was raised in “The Pumpkin House.” Every Autumn, on the lawn between the sidewalk and the road, grows our pumpkin. Every summer, we procure seeds from giant pumpkins and plant them in this strip of land. Every fall, the pumpkin grows to be giant. This annual ritual became well known in the community and became the defining feature of our already quirky house.
The pumpkin was not just a pumpkin, but is a catalyst to creating interactions and community. Conversations often start with “aren’t you the girl in the pumpkin house?” My English teacher knew about our pumpkin and our chickens. His curiosity and weekly updates about the pumpkin helped us connect.
One year, we found our pumpkin splattered across the street. We were devastated; the pumpkin was part of our identity. Word spread, and people came to our house to share in our dismay. Clearly, that pumpkin enriched our life and the entire neighborhoods’.
The next morning, our patch contained twelve new pumpkins. Anonymous neighbors left these, plus, a truly gigantic 200lb pumpkin on our doorstep.
Growing up, the pumpkin challenged me as I wasn’t always comfortable being the center of attention.
But in retrospect, I realize that there’s a bit of magic in growing something from a seed and tending it in public. I witnessed how this act of sharing creates authentic community spirit. I wouldn’t be surprised if some day I started my own form of quirky pumpkin growing and reap the benefit of true community. (250 words)
Also, note that all three of these topics could double with these prompts:

(Tufts) “There is a Quaker saying: “Let your life speak.” Describe the environment in which you were raised – your family, home, neighborhood, or community – and how it influenced the person you are today. (200–250 words)”
(MIT) Describe the world you come from; for example, your family, clubs, school, community, city, or town. How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations? (200-250)
(UT-Austin) Topic A (required) What was the environment in which you were raised? Describe your family, home, neighborhood or community, and explain how it has shaped you as a person.
HW: Write Your First Super Essay! How?
1. (5-10 min) Using your own Essay Tracker, find a topic that will work for several prompts.
2. (2 min.) Copy and paste all the prompts it could work for at the top of the doc.
3. (25 min.) Decide on a structure--Narrative or Montage--and complete either the Elon Musk or UC Game.
4. (25-50 min.) Write the darn essay.
5. (10 min.) Read the (4) Great “U of Chicago” Essays in your Course Guide








Sample essay:

Everybody has peculiarities that most people don’t know about. For example, I have a habit of pinching ear lobes. I also pour milk into my cereal, only to drain it out after soaking the cereal for a bit. Is that strange? Well, there’s more:

I have -2.75 vision but I hate wearing glasses because I feel confined and limited in my freedom to think. So you’ll see me squint quite often, trying to overcome my astigmatism--it’s not a death glare, I promise.

I’m also extremely tactile. I like to run my fingers over laser printing because I am amazed by my fingers’ ability to detect subtle impressions. This is why I hate wearing socks on carpet: my feet lose sensitivity. So I hope you don’t mind bare feet.

I have a fetish for things that smell nice, so I like to bury myself under fresh laundry just wheeled back from laundry room 8 (the one closest to our unit). I also alternate between three different shampoos just for the smell of it. So don’t be surprised if I ask to share our toiletry items; I’m just looking for variety.

Driving calms my nerves. Sometimes, my family and I go on midnight highway cruises during which we discuss weighty issues such as the reason people in our society can so adamantly advertise items like Snuggies. So I apologize if I keep you up late at night asking you to ponder the complex mysteries of our world.

Also, in my home, we have an open door policy--literally. Every door, excluding those of an occupied bathroom and the fridge, is always open. I hope you and I will be comfortable enough with each other--and with those around us--that we feel no need to hide behind bedroom doors.

Finally, I love shelves. They organize many different items under a unified structure and I find value in this kind of integrated diversity. And I love them as a metaphor: there is a place for everything, including even the quirkiest of our traits. That’s why no one should feel left out no matter how strange or odd they might think they are.

So, what are you like?
Five Tips for Writing This Essay

1. Begin with chaos.

How? Complete the 21 Details exercise.

Variation: “I love/I hate” (from Jean Pierre Jeunet's “Amelie”)
2. Create some order.

How? Group the most revealing gems into short paragraphs.
Keeps things organized.

...How do you decide which are the most "revealing"?
3. Prefer "gems" that reveal deeper values.

Examples from the essay just shared:
The "open door policy" = “no need to hide”
The "shelf" metaphor = “a place for everything… even our quirkiest traits.”
4. Delete repetitive details.

How do you know which are repetitive?
Ask: what quality/values does each detail reveal?
If it repeats something another detail already reveals, maybe
cut one.

Example: If author of above essay had included a detail revealing "open-mindedness" or being "well-organized," these may repeat.
5. Do not use more than two exclamation points.
Unless you are being ironic.
1. How to Write the Roommate Essay
Sample Prompt: Virtually all of [Stanford's] undergraduates live on campus. Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate -- and us -- know you better.
For: Stanford, Harvard, Pepperdine, others
For Pomona, Richmond, Emory, others
Sample Prompt: [Pomona's] Critical Inquiry course is required of all first-year students, and is designed to be highly interdisciplinary and engaging. Recent class titles include: 'Molecules of the Mind', 'The Economics of Sin', and 'Punk: Poets, Politics and Provocation'. Imagine you were hired to design and teach a Critical Inquiry course. Describe the title of the class, its contents, and why you chose it.
Sample Essay:

Great American Leaders: A Historical, Sociological, and Political Perspective on How to Get Things Done

Course Description:

Throughout history, many American leaders have been good, but what has made the most famous ones
great
?

In this course we will explore and apply the techniques of effective and highly regarded American leaders who have forever left their mark on our nation’s society. From President Lyndon Johnson’s use of “the lean” for physical intimidation to pass landmark legislation, to Martin Luther King Jr.’s use of the Old Testament to bring together Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish leaders during the civil rights movement, to Eleanor Roosevelt’s ability to command respect and influence at a time when women’s voices were rarely heard, we will analyze the tactics that have led to lasting change. As we study the strategies pioneered by these great leaders, we will simultaneously work to find ways to apply them in the present day.
Sample lectures:

Connections During the Civil Rights Movement: A Sociological Look at the Unity of Leaders, Cultures and Religions in Common Cause

Required readings: A Letter from a Birmingham Jail - Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I Speak to You as an American Jew” - Dr. Joachim Prinz, March on Washington

The 100 Days: FDR’s Spectacular Entry into the Office of the Presidency, and his Leadership of a Congress of Action

Required readings: The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope - Jonathan Alter
Roosevelt’s First Fireside Chat- March 12, 1933

Seneca Falls: The Leaders of the Women’s Suffrage Movement and their Convention that Changed Women’s Rights Forever

Required readings: Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women's Rights Movement - Sally G. McMillen
Elizabeth Cady Stanton: Seneca Falls Keynote Address

At a time of ineffectiveness and gridlock, it is imperative that we study what makes a great leader and attempt to find applications of their work in the modern day, for our country and our world.

Five Things I Love About This Essay
1. He gave the course a sexy title.




Tip: Use a colon. Why?
1) So you can make the title super long, and
2) So you can make part of it clever and the other part serious.
2. He asked smart questions in the course description.


Smart questions not only give us a sense of what ideas will be explored in the class, but that you also know your stuff*.
3. He pitched the course.


As in: He made it super fun.
I tell students: "Imagine a freshman skimming your course description. Design the class you'd actually want to take."
4.
Required reading.


So necessary. Offers another chance to show your mad research skills, plus feels much more like an actual course description. #verisimilitude
5. He used sexy titles on the sample lectures too.

Again, imagine creating classes you’d like to take yourself.
How to Write the “Design Your Own College Course” Essay
*The difference between knowing and not knowing your stuff
may just be a little research.
Great American Leaders: A Historical, Sociological, and Political Perspective on How to Get Things Done
And, if you haven’t already…
Read the "How to Write Your Activities List" post in Course Guide and create your preliminary Activities List (10-15 min.)
Read the "Brief Guide to the Additional Info Section" post in Course Guide and create your preliminary Additional Info section (5-20 min.)
Develop your preliminary college list using the resources shared in the pre-work email (and Course Guide) and create your Essay Tracker spreadsheet with all your supplemental essays

FYI...
All these details will be emailed to you PLUS they are at the bottom of The Hiking Essay doc from earlier.
Note: The "Values Scan" is definitely worth 30 minutes of your time.
Session 3 of 6
The Extracurricular Essay
Day 3: The Extracurricular Essay
Day 2: The Activities List, Add'l Info
& "Why us" Essay



Today’s Session Will Cover:
How to Write the Stanford “Intellectual Idea” Essay
Where to Find a Bazillion Intellectual Ideas
The One Question the “Intellectual Idea” Essay Must (Must) Answer
How to Write the Stanford “Roommate” Essay
Finding the Right Balance Between Chaos and Order in 250 Words
How to Write the Stanford “What Matters” Essay
Three Ways to Increase the Impact of Your “What Matters” Essay
How to Write the "Create Your Own Class" Essay
Four Tips for the Quotation Essay
Why This Essay Isn't Really About the Quote At All
The U Chicago Extended Essay: How to pick a topic
The three qualities U of Chicago is looking for IMHO
Day 4: The Stanford, U of Chicago, Create Your Own Class and Quotation Essays



This Session Will Cover:
Six Techniques for Writing the 150-Word Extracurricular Essay
Three More 150-Word E
Full transcript