Month: February 2016

College Applications – “Early” Is The New “Regular”

It is said that “the early bird catches the worm.” However, more often than not, the second mouse gets the cheese!” [Think about it…] As college-bound high school seniors seriously begin work on their college applications, two questions invariably arise: “What is the difference between ‘Early Decision’ and ‘Early Action,’ and should I apply to schools using one or the other or both?” EARLY DECISION = BINDING DECISION “Early Decision,” simply put, is binding. You will go to no other college. If they accept you, you must go. You can only apply “Early Decision” to ONE school. And if you do –  you, your parents, your high school and, in all likelihood, your pet iguana, must sign-on, agreeing that, should this one college accept you, all other applications will be withdrawn, all bets are off, a...

The Black Box Of College Admissions Cracked Open?

What goes on behind the closed doors of admissions offices has mystified students, parents, school counselors, and the media for years. The holistic process of college admissions is like a black box where applications go in and decisions come out, but many times there’s no rhyme or reason to the results. According to an article from The New York Times, a group of students at Stanford think they’ve cracked the code. Through the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), students have the right to access their educational records. An activist group, The Fountain Hopper, is encouraging Stanford students to request their files. Students making this request received many pages of records related to their courses and student life at Stanford, along with their admissions applications and ...

How to Parse the New Common App Essay Prompts

This is a guest blog entry by Kim Lifton, President and Co-Founder of Wow Writing Workshop.Kim is president of Wow Writing Workshop, which teaches students how to write compelling college admissions essays using a proprietary 10-step Wow Method. Check out Wow Online – College Essay to learn more about the first comprehensive and self-guided tutorial for college application writing. Wow also teaches ACT/SAT writing prep courses. Kim will parse each of the five new Common App prompts for the 2013-14 college admission cycle so you can better understand what you need to do to stand out from the crowd. Before you begin the application essay writing process, ask yourself, “What do I want the college to know about me beyond grades, activities and test scores?”  (This post focuses on Common App pr...

Use the Secrets of Screenwriting to Write Your College Essay 1apply, Essays

Summer is the perfect time for students to start writing college essays. It may sound like a broken record, but encouraging students to start early will give them time to reflect on their essays and time for revisions (which there will be many). We asked Ethan Sawyer, the College Essay Guy, to share his approach to helping students find their best story and tell it well. Ethan applies the techniques and strategies of screenwriting to writing college essays. Below is a summary of his very thorough video – Using the Secrets of Screenwriting to Write Your College Essay. In addition to reading Ethan’s comments below, view his video to get an even more thorough understanding of how to approach college essay writing from an expert’s perspective. What Do Screenwriting and College Essays Have In C...

The 13 Most Haunting College Admissions Errors

If you don’t have a senior applying early to college, Halloween may still feel like a fun, family holiday. But for those families dealing with early decision/early action applications, Halloween can feel like a nightmare. So if you’re in the former group, have sympathy for those students skipping Halloween to do last minute revisions and making sure nothing has been overlooked before pressing the submit button. For everyone else not dealing with early college admissions, the following list highlights application mistakes nightmares are made of, but boo-ti-filly, they are all avoidable. 1. Waiting until the deadline: Unseen spirits wreak havoc, computers and websites go down. Many students who wait for the last minute to submit their applications find that all their hard work is not receive...

Common College Essay Mistakes To Avoid Before Hitting Submit

Time is running out for students to finalize their college application essays. With the January 1 deadline looming, students are feeling the stress. And as a professional essay editor, I’m in crunch mode too, helping students avoid the common mistakes I see over and over again. These mistakes prevent essays from delivering powerful and impactful personal statements that can sometimes help tip decisions during the admissions review. Now is the time for students to review, edit, review, and edit again. So I’d like to share four important questions I ask myself when reviewing and editing clients’ college essays: 1. Does Your Essay Have a Central Theme or Focus? Often I read essays that include too much information. This results in a broad list of achievements and accomplishments with no centr...

Early Decision: Deferred But Not Deterred

Preparing college applications is an arduous and stressful process. Taking tests, writing essays and seeking letters of recommendation require months of preparation. Some students choose to apply early (early decision and/or early action) and may be rewarded with a decision of early admittance to a school of their top choice. If your student applied early that news is being delivered any day now. Unfortunately, even for many of the most talented students, the news from admissions officers may be one of deferral. What exactly is deferral and what is the best way to mange one? The admissions committee’s mandate is to put together a talented group of motivated and highly diverse young people who will contribute to campus life and ultimately be successful graduates. When deciding upon early ap...

Need Help Organizing Your College Essays?

From time to time we highlight apps and websites that can help students and families with college funding and the application process. We came across Zoomita and reached out to its founder, Alex Thaler, to help explain how Zoomita can help students keep themselves organized while writing college essays for applications.   Zoomita is a free site that collects all of the application essay prompts and delivers them to students, lickety-split. It also allows students to write their essays in the app, which automatically organizes all drafts without ever having to create a file or folder. Students can share drafts with whomever they like. Here’s how it works: 1. Create a college list. Zoomita will count the number of required and optional essays for each college. It will also calculate the...

What’s The Single Best Piece Of Essay Writing Advice?

It’s that time of year when everything seems to come crashing down on high school seniors applying to college – writing college essays, filling out applications, asking for teacher recommendations, requesting transcripts and maybe even retaking ACTs/SATs. And on top of that, there’s keeping up with school work for 1st semester grades that will be sent to colleges. We can’t eliminate all the stress, but thought we could help students writing essays by getting advice from an expert. Kim Lifton, of WOW Writing Workshop, has been working with students over the past 20 years, helping them craft their stories for colleges admissions officials to read. Here’s her single best piece of advice for writing a college admissions essay that stands out from the crowd……. Before you start writing the Commo...

10 Essay Topics That Don’t Work

A college essay can fail for a number of reasons. The writing can be atrocious, the theme can be predictable, the execution of the essay can simply flop, or the student’s personality doesn’t shine through. We’ve compiled a list of 10 essays topics that don’t work so try to avoid them. 1. The grandparent essay Why it doesn’t work: Everyone looks up to their grandparents, but unless your grandma is the one applying to college, chances are the admissions officer will not want to hear about all of her accomplishments. You want to show off your talents and personality, not your grandmother’s. 2. The death essay Why it doesn’t work: It is tempting to use death as a vehicle for discussing personal growth. I’m sorry you’ve experienced death—I truly am—and it would seem like bringing up death in a ...

43 Phrases You Should Never Use In a College Admission Essay

When most students are writing their college admission essay, they aren’t thinking about the Essay Readers at colleges whose entire job is to sort students’ essays into NO, MAYBE, and YES piles. As hard as you’ve worked on your essay, you may get exactly two minutes of a Reader’s time if he or she feels your writing is boring or unoriginal. Unfortunately, a huge percentage of essays fall into this category. On the other hand, the few essays that show clear, original thinking get promptly placed into the YES pile. The admission essay is one truly personal section of the college application; if your essay stands out, your chances of getting into your top choice school goes up dramatically. Therefore, take careful note of these 43 phrases. Using them might spell NO for your admission chances....

Passing On My Top Lessons To High School Freshmen

“If you could change one thing about your high school experience, what would it be?” I get this question more often than you might think, from parents and students looking to get some perspective on maximizing their child’s or their own success in the formative years between ninth and twelfth grade. Although I’m eternally grateful for those incredible four years, I came up with four things that I wish I could change.   Freshman year grades matter!   As a freshman entering high school, the college process seemed way too far away to think about. Being an anxious teenager fearful of stepping into a completely new environment, I was much more focused on finding new friends and having a good time than joining clubs, working hard, and challenging myself. Once I became more comfortable ...

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