Thursday, November 27, 2014

College App Essays--Trimming Your College List

If you haven't finished your college application essays and you have a long list of colleges, this weekend might be a good time to finish the essays for the schools you are most interested in - and trim your list down to the colleges you actually want to go to.

As Frank Bruni explains, in his recent Times op-ed, "Promiscuous College Come-ons," colleges are marketing to entice students to apply, merely to increase their applicant pool so they appear to be more selective. Bruni's piece expands on the piece I penned for Huffington Post last week, "How Many College Apps Are Too Many?" which includes one website and two great books you can use to learn more about colleges. The website is College Prowler.

Take a read. If you have questions about the process, and the essays in particular, drop me a line:

"BETWEEN the last application season and the current one, Swarthmore College, a school nationally renowned for its academic rigor, changed the requirements for students vying to be admitted into its next freshman class

"It made filling out the proper forms easier.

"A year ago, applicants were asked to write two 500-word essays as supplements to the standard one that’s part of the Common Application, an electronic form that Swarthmore and hundreds of small colleges and big universities accept. This was slightly more material than Swarthmore had previously requested, and it was more than many other highly selective schools demanded.

"Not coincidentally, the number of applicants to the college dropped, and its acceptance rate in turn climbed, to 17 from 14 percent, making Swarthmore seem less selective." READ MORE

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How Many College Apps Are Too Many!?!?

There is no magic number, but I'd say that 20 and 30 are too darn many. Consider the costs, the time, the stress, and all those essays that need to be written. Here are my latest thoughts on this trend from Huffington Post:
"A recent piece in The New York Times"What is the Perfect Number of College Applications to Send?" has tapped into a disturbing trend in college applications that I've seen in my business: students applying to dozens - and dozens - of colleges. Last year, I worked with two families whose children applied to 18 colleges each, despite my encouraging them to narrow the list and conserve their resources. Resources include time, money, and emotional health.
"Each application costs money, and so does sending SAT/ACT results to each college. And many schools these days require supplementary essays. It's not just a matter of pressing SEND along with your credit card information.
"One issue that the article does not address is the application essays that accompany these dozens of applications. Because schools now receive such a flood of applications, they need more ways to distinguish between students - and ways to read between the lines to see how serious students are about attending their school. Enter the supplementary essays. Some schools ask for just one; other schools, including Tufts, Brown, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and Wake Forest, ask for upwards of three, four and sometimes six additional pieces of writing." READ MORE
Thanks for reading. To read more about my work, please visit my website: Don't Sweat the Essay or send me an email: 

Monday, September 22, 2014

College App Essays Run Amok: A Coach's Advice & a Word About Spiders

My latest thoughts on Huffington Post - some practical advice, a little history, and a little kvetching - about where we are in college application essay land this fall: 
"I know, I'm a coach. I'm supposed to do the coach thing: cheerlead, encourage, help high school students brainstorm, find great essay topics and figure out what about their interests, experiences and passions would work best on the page. In other words, help them stand out in the piles of dazzling applicants to the highly competitive University of Fill in the Blank.
"This is what I do 99 percent of the time. But there are some days and weeks when I encounter articles and trends that make me cynical about what's expected of students, what's expected of parents and where we as a country are headed. Last week was one of those weeks.
"While most of my time was spent answering questions about which prompt might work best to discuss a life-changing experience living in the woods for three months, or how to do the research to tell a college why it's your first choice, I encountered a number of disturbing news items that gave me pause about the extreme nature of the game that college admissions has become. READ MORE 
For a consultation, please contact me: or 1-855-99-ESSAY. Visit my website: Don't Sweat the Essay. And please repost this if you wish.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Missing Supplements-Yes, There ARE Essays!

Thanks to consultant Jeannie Borin for her very useful information about this year's Common Application.  Among her two most salient pieces of information are these: 

When you look for the essay supplements for many schools on the Common App, you may not easily find them, but they are often there under the drop down menu under the "questions" tab.  And: you may only submit three different versions of your Common App essay. In order to make changes, you must "unlock" your application. As she says, "You cannot make any changes to an essay once it is submitted."  Here's more! 

• "The most confusing change this year is that although many colleges look like they don't have a writing supplement on the College Tab, they do! That writing supplement can now be found under that college's drop down menu under the questions tab. It is essential to comb the application thoroughly and look at every drop down menu, as some essay prompts may be more difficult to find. This could be overlooked if students are not aware."

• "The essay can be revised twice for no more than three revisions. This is a crucial point and one that often gets missed by students. In order to make changes to an essay after you submit an application to a college, students will need to unlock their applications. Students cannot make any changes to an essay once it is submitted to a college. You can unlock again up to a maximum of three revisions. Any remaining colleges would receive your last essay version." READ MORE

Need help with your college application essays? Common App, supplements, state university personal statements. Please send me an email or call me:  or 1-855-99-ESSAY.  And visit my website: Don't Sweat the Essay.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Step 1- Common App - Let the Popcorn Fly

When you start writing your college application essays, don't censor yourself. Choose a topic that really interests you, make a loose outline (a 4 or 5 paragraph essay), and then just write, so you can find out what your material is without inhibition. Think of it as making popcorn without a lid. Once the material is down on the screen/page, look for the best stuff - the smartest points, the best writing, the most revealing insights - and start to edit - AKA cleaning up the popcorn. Expect to do three or four drafts. Check back later this week for more tips. UPDATE: Here's a revised post about the Common App prompts that I promised. Hope it's useful.

Which colleges have done most to support low-income students?

A breakdown of which colleges have made the most serious efforts to make admission possible for low and lower-income students .... Worth reading this Times article and studying the numbers...

"Over the last decade, dozens of colleges have proclaimed that recruiting a more economically diverse student body was a top priority. Many of those colleges have not matched their words with actions. But some have.

"These colleges have changed policies and made compromises elsewhere to recruit the kind of talented poor students who have traditionally excelled in high school but not gone to top colleges. A surprising number of such students never graduate from any college.

"This education gap is a problem not only for the teenagers on the wrong end of it. It’s a problem for the American economy. The economic differences between college graduates and everyone else have reached record levels. Yet for many low-income children – even many who get A’s in high school and do well on the SAT – college remains out of reach. No wonder that upward mobility is less common in the United States than in many other rich countries.  READ MORE

Need help with your college application essays? Common App, supplements, state university personal statements. Please send me an email or call me:  or 1-855-99-ESSAY.  And visit my website: Don't Sweat the Essay.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Live Q/A College Applications & Essays~Wed. Aug. 20~Cambridge, MA

Rising seniors. Frantic parents. 'Tis the season.... I'm excited to speak on Wed. Aug. 20 - 7PM - at one of my favorite bookstores, Porter Square Books at Porter Square, Cambridge, MA, about how to approach applying to college in 2014, with a few favorite books to help out. Bring a parent, bring a son or daughter, a notebook (or phone or iPad), and your questions. Please join me for this free event. For details, CLICK HERE

From the bookstore's description of the event: 

"Everyone says so: Back in the day, applying to college was so much easier. These days, it can be like mounting a presidential campaign. Many factors have contributed to the madness, but once families understand the different components of the process, it is more manageable. Noted author Elizabeth Benedict and her company Don't Sweat the Essay specialize in helping students create application essays that work, whether students need help only with the Common Application essay or a dozen or more that are sometimes required, depending on each school's requirements. 

"Elizabeth will share her wisdom in a lively 45-minute discussion, with plenty of time for questions and answers. She will offer books to consult and practical tips for parents and students. She writes about these issues frequently for Huffington Post. Please visit her website for more information:"

Need help with your college application essays? Common App, supplements, state university personal statements. Please send me an email or call me:  or 1-855-99-ESSAY.  And visit my website: Don't Sweat the Essay