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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...

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...

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 ...

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 ...

5 Things To Say When Your Child Doesn’t Make the Cut

Since many of your kids are in the thick of this, we need to have a good conversation about it sooner rather than later. I’m talking about one of the most stressful aspects of going back to or starting high school. So let’s all say it out loud once and for all — #TRYOUTS. Your sons and daughters are trying out for sports teams and feel like the world might end if they don’t make the team. In fact, in their worlds making or not making a team is a major part of their adolescent lives. Consider an incoming freshman boy who has been playing soccer since he was 5 years old. Now here he is going through four days of being evaluated to maintain that part of his life and identity. And, he’s being evaluated publicly in front of new coaches and peers. He may or may not make the team. His responses c...

Parents of 12th Graders

Academic and Extra Curriculum Suggestions: First thing to do senior year – ask teachers for recommendations.Many students may ask the same teacher and the earlier you approach him/her, the better chance you have of them accepting to write a recommendation and having the time to do it.   Discuss with your student if they would like to apply Early Decision. Remember, if your student is accepted, Early Decision is a binding commitment that he/she cannot back out of (except under extenuating circumstances related to financial aid).   Create a list of all application due dates (Early Decision, Early Action, Early Decision II, Regular Decision, Rolling). Even if you are applying Early Decision, take advantage of any school on your list that accepts Early Action or Rolling decisions. Ha...

Parents of 11th Graders

Academic and Extra Curriculum Suggestions: This is the year to start really talking about college with your student.   Make sure your student takes the most rigorous classes possible. Grades and course rigor are important to admissions officers.   Continue pursuing extra curriculum interests, whether at school or in the community. Pursue an interest in-depth that reflects something you are passionate about. According to independent college counselor Lisa Bleich, colleges no longer want “well-rounded” students, but rather are looking for students who are unique, focused, and angular in their interests.   Create a test prep plan for taking your first SAT and/or ACT.  Take the PSAT and PLAN. Review the year’s scheduled dates for SATs, ACTs, and SAT subject tests. Depending on y...

Insightful Questions To Ask An Admissions Officer

Insightful Questions To Ask An Admissions Officer In a previous post, we gave advice on “gut check” questions students should ask themselves as they tour colleges. Here’s more advice on questions you can ask an admissions officer, as well as questions for your tour guide or any other students you meet on campus. This advice is provided by Anna Seltz, the owner of Higher Ed U, College Admissions Consulting located in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania. Prior to opening her own consulting business, Anna spent 13 years working in Admissions for American University in Washington, DC and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. She can be reached at Annaseltz71@gmail.com. Check out Higher Ed U’s facebook page too. Don’t be shy! This is your chance to get as much information as possible. Many times, yo...

College essays that work and why

College Essays That Work And Why When writing college essays some people debate whether it’s helpful or not to read other students’ essays for inspiration. When it comes to college admissions essays, we think it’s worthwhile ONLY if there is a critique of what worked or didn’t work in the essay. Otherwise, reading other students’ essays can be confusing, not knowing if their style, topic, or approach worked with admissions officers. Here’s a collection of some of the best advice we found online for writing college essays. In particular, we’re huge fans of Johns Hopkins articles on “Essays That Worked” since admissions officers detail why they thought the example essays were effective. Also included is some general advice on answering the “Why This College,” essay, as it is an important ess...

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