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Transcript of College Essays
need to know:
The Common App
Over 700 schools now use the
The Common App Now Has 7 Prompts
Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
What to do
What to do
Keep your focus narrow
The essay should prove a single point
The reader must be able to find your main idea and follow it from the beginning to end
Keep it personal (let your voice shine!)
The college wants to learn more about you, not one of your friends or one of your relatives
It should be your story that can come from ONLY you
Don't pretend to be someone you're not (or mold yourself into someone you think the college or university desires)
“SOMETIMES WE LET STUDENTS WRITE THEMSELVES IN.”-
DEAN OF ADMISSION, SARAH LAWRENCE COLLEGE
“THE ESSAY GIVES US SOMETHING THE NUMBERS DON’T REVEAL.”
- DIRECTOR OF ADMISSION, GORDON COLLEGE
“THE ESSAY CAN BE A POWERFUL ‘TIPPER’ IN CLOSE CASES.”
- DIRECTOR OF ADMISSION, BATES COLLEGE
one thing the application readers
look at is:
They are also looking at
Topics to Avoid (if you choose CA Prompt #7):
*Your relationship with your girlfriend or your boyfriend (or, for God's sake, how you lost your virginity--seriously, admission officers admit they get more of these than they would like to see!)
*Your trip overseas, unless truly worthy.
*"The Best Game of My Life" or other athletic incidents lacking any real substance--you're not Rudy or that "Blindside" guy.
*Your college entrance exam (ACT or SAT) scores.
*Your drug use (really, don't use this one!)
*Your political views.
*Your religious views.
*Big, vague topics such as how you plan to contribute to world peace.
*Dead pet stories; also be very careful with dead relative stories.
It is a personal essay and you should be "selling" yourself, but if it comes across as TOO
exceptional, college admission readers will
doubt its authenticity!
Exaggeration of Your Accomplishments
You Have Someone Else Write the Essay
*Admission essay readers are experts in spotting the "DBD" essay--"Done by Daddy".
*Also have become good at spotting (and finding) sample essays from the Internet.
You Use Gimmicks to Get the Reader's Attention
*Do not send your essay folded into origami.
*Do not glue words to a Scrabble board trumpeting your attributes (although the girl who did this did get accepted).
*Do not cut up your essay into jigsaw pieces with an attachment announcing: "Your school is where I fit in!" (or send in one of your sneakers with a note that says "Hope this helps me get my shoe in the door.").
*Do not send in Hitler-themed artwork as your essay (Good God--especially NOW!)
*Do not do this as your essay:
Avoid Bad First Sentences/Openings
*This is the very first impression the admission readers will get of you. Don't immediately doom your essay from the very start!
*“SURE, LOTS OF KIDS LIKE TO START FIRES, BUT HOW MANY OF THEM HAVE A PROPANE TORCH, GALLONS OF ACCELERANTS, AND A BASKET OF DRY RAGS?”
*“I WANT TO BE A PEDIATRIC MARINE BIOLOGIST BECAUSE I LIKE THE OCEAN, SMALL THINGS, AND ANIMALS :)!”—YES, SHE REALLY USED AN EMOJI!
* "Sometimes, I wish I could just go onto a roof with a sniper rifle..."
PROOFREAD! PROOFREAD! PROOFREAD!
THERE IS SIMPLY NO EXCUSE FOR STUPID ERRORS. CIRCULATE A DRAFT OF YOUR ESSAY AROUND FOR MISTAKES TO BE SPOTTED.
Victims of NOT Proofreading:
“I would love to attend a college where the foundation was built upon women.”
“Playing the saxophone lets me develop technique and skill which will help me in the future, since I would like to become a doctor.”
“I look at each stage as a challenge, and an adventure, and as another experience on my step ladder of life.”
“I enjoyed my bondage with the family and especially with their mule, Jake.”
The Most Bizarre College Essay Topics I've Seen:
Just for Fun
“What is square one, and can you actually go back to it?” (University of Chicago, 2016)
How High Schoolers Imagine the College Admissions Process
*"I would like to attend this school because my parents are forcing me to write this essay. They’re literally breathing down my neck as we speak. Please send help."
If you could choose to be raised by robots, dinosaurs, or aliens, who would you pick and why? (Brandeis University, 2010)
Tell us about
Give us your top ten list. (Wake Forest, 2009)
There are 27 amendments to the Constitution of the US. What should be the 28th? (UNC-Chapel Hill, 2016)
But does that mean that they KNOW who you are?
One of the best ways that college/university admission departments can get a truer sense of who YOU are is through the college application essay/personal statement.
Here is a link to the list of colleges & universities that use the Common App in 2018-2019:
"I’ve been a strong advocate of the abomination of drunk driving."
Are we alone? (Tufts University, 2011
One important thing that you MUST realize before embarking on this journey of the college essay is that colleges and universities are not in the habit of admitting students who appear to be shallow and vacuous, but rather ones who are deep and filled with a passion for learning and exploration. And the BEST way to show this to them is through the application essay/personal statement!
WHAT IS THE AVERAGE % OF TIME AN ADMISSION OFFICER SPENDS ON THE ESSAY PORTION OF YOUR COLLEGE APPLICATION?
What to Do
Develop your main idea with vivid and specific facts, events, and examples
Boring and Generic:
"I like to be surrounded by people with a variety of backgrounds and interests."
"During that night, I sang the theme song from Casablanca with a baseball coach who thinks he's Bogie, discussed Marxism with a little old lady, and heard more than I ever wanted to know about some woman's gall bladder operation."
What to Do
Avoid clichéd, generic, and predictable writing by using vivid and specific details
Boring and Generic:
"I want to help people. I have gotten so much out of life through the love and guidance of my family. I feel that many individuals have not been as fortunate; therefore, I would like to expand the lives of others."
"My Mom and Dad stood on plenty of sidelines 'til their shoes filled with water or their fingers turned white, or somebody's golden retriever signed his name on their coats in mud. That kind of commitment is what I'd like to bring to working with fourth-graders."
What to Do (THE BIG ONE!)
SHOW don't TELL!
A GOOD example:
“When night fell upon the summit, I stared at the slowly appearing stars until they completely filled the night sky. Despite the windy conditions and below freezing temperatures, I could not tear myself away.”
us how the author feels and thinks, more so than if the author had spelled it out for us