Sunday, July 27, 2014

College App Essay Makes Doonesbury

I've been saying for some time that the college application essay genre is becoming the most popular in the country. Today, it's the subject of a Doonesbury cartoon. The issue - what happens when Mom helps write the essay for her daughter.... What could possibly go wrong? Have a look here. And enjoy. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Correct Info About College App Essays on Universal Application

The Universal Application is a newcomer to the electronic college application field that got an unexpected boost last year, when the Common Application introduced a new system that had "issues" for many months. Because all the application eggs had been put into that one basket, thousands of students and universities were scrambling for alternatives, and the Universal App provided them with a different application. It was not identical to the Common App, and one way it was different was that it required a 500-word essay - instead of the 650-word essay that many students had prepared, intending to use it for the Common App.

This year, The Universal Application has upped their game with a 650-word essay on any topic - so the Common App essay can also be used here too. This will make it all the easier to use for those applying to any of the 50 +/- schools in this list, including Harvard, Princeton, University of Chicago, Brandeis, Johns Hopkins, and many others - click here for the list. 

Yet in recent days and weeks, I have been surprised by several websites and tweeters who should know better who are passing on incorrect information about the essay component of the Universal Application. As I read the Universal Application - and you can read it here too - an essay of up to 650 words is indeed required. 

For help with your essay at any stage of the process, please shoot me an email or call me:  1-855-99-ESSAY.

For more on my services, visit my website and my blog:
Don't Sweat The Essay
Don't Sweat The Essay Blog

Sunday, July 20, 2014

UPDATE! 10 Tips 4 Staying Sane While Applying to College & Writing College App Essays

For those who couldn't make it to my talk at the Oak Bluff's public library in Massachusetts, here's the hand-out I distributed at the talk.

1. Bear in mind: It's normal to feel like you are going crazy. The process creates that, and the current atmosphere contributes. You have lots of company. It's not you, it's today's system. 

2.  Bear in mind: There is an end date to the crazy. It won't go on forever, even though it feels like it will. 

3.  Don't Pull an All-Nighter the Night Before - AKA: Start Early
Whether it's your search for the right college, your contacting teachers for letters of recommendation or writing your application essays (yes, often it's more than one essay), give yourself plenty of time. What's the right timetable? It's ideal to have your list of colleges by summer before application, with all the requirements and required essays spelled out; to have a good draft of the Common App essay by the time you return to school in the fall. If you're applying to schools with many supplementary essays, be sure to understand that early and plan accordingly. If you have a very busy school-year schedule and many essays, use your time in the summer to do them.

4. Submit Your Applications Some Time Before the Due Dates. 
Last year, the Common Application organization had massive computer problems, and many thousands of students, teachers, and colleges had to work around them, under tremendous stress. This is a useful lesson: If you wait until the last days, you will be pressing SEND with HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of other students. Website crashes happen. 

Make a Chart. Share it with Your Parents. Keep it visible. 
As soon as you can, make a chart on paper (print it out) of all your schools, application due dates, requirements (recommendations, SAT subject tests, etc.), ESSAY REQUIREMENTS (with topics and word counts), and share it with your parents, so you can work to block out time to do everything in a timely way.

6.  Diversify, diversity, diversify. 
Pick schools smartly and pick a range. Just as financial counselors tell people to diversify their investments to spread the risk of losing money, make sure your list includes reaches, targets and safeties. It's not wise to have, say, 8 reaches and 1 safety. Research the schools and make sure your grades, scores and interests match up. Some students apply to many Ivy League and other top schools without understanding the differences between them in terms of curriculum, expectations, and atmosphere, and without understanding what the schools are looking for. Find out whether Top Dog University is the right school for you by reading about it in the resource books below and on College Prowler (  

7.  Consult resource books:
~ The Insider's Guide to the Colleges (published every year), edited by the Yale Daily News (student takes on their colleges, written by students, for students, in a lively voice).  
~ The Best 378 Colleges by the Princeton Review, new edition every year
~ K& +W Guide to College Programs & Services for Students with Learning Disabilities or AD/HD

8.  If you need financial aid, make sure you apply to schools where it would be available to you. 
Many colleges have a “Calculator” you can plug in your numbers to and learn how much aid you might qualify for. State universities, including Michigan and U California, do not generally offer scholarships to out of state students, though you may be eligible for loans.

8. Whether you're a Parent or a Student, it's Not Necessary to Share Details with Friends. 
Applying to college is a touchy subject. Who's applying where, who gets in where, and who is upset about not getting in - all add to the ordinary stresses. It may be less stressful not to share. It’s fine to say: “I think I’d rather not talk about all of this yet.” Or: “Son/daughter doesn’t want me to talk about this.”
9.  Visit the schools. Ideally, visit when school is in session.
If you are applying Early Decision (BINDING), visit the school so you can report you have visited on the application AND you can include reflections of your visit in your essay if you have to write about why you want to attend that school.

10.  Consider applying Early Decision and/or Early Action (binding vs. non-binding), so that your worries might be over by mid-December, instead of March or April. Consult each school's website to find out if they do ED or EA. 
Upside: You might have decisions by mid-December.  Downside: If you're rejected or deferred in mid-December, you have to submit applications afterwards, usually with Jan. 1 or Jan. 15 deadlines.  It's wise to do as much work as you can before mid-December.  1-855-99-ESSAY

If you can't make it to the library, please email or phone for individual support, on-island or anywhere around the world (I have worked with clients in Hong Kong, Cairo, Alaska, and Chagrin Falls, Ohio).

Monday, June 30, 2014

5 Pieces of Good News From a College Admissions Application Essay Counselor

Quick, think of five pieces of good news about college application essays. Here's my list of five from my latest Huffington Post blog, "5 Pieces of Good News from a College Admissions Application Essay Counselor." Here's #1: 

1. The good news is that there's plenty of time, but -- as Albert Einstein taught us (see "Theory of Relativity"), there are many definitions of time, depending on where you are and where you want to end up. If you have a summer crammed with work or adventure, with sports camp, math camp, internships on Capitol Hill, and/or a job scooping ice cream at the beach, you may not be able to devote many days or weeks to getting a head start on the essays -- but you can and should put your downtime to good use.
"If you're not going to tackle any of the essays, make a chart of the schools you plan to apply to and the essay prompts required at each, with the number of words and the due dates.
"Will you have to write three essays beyond the Common App essay? Will you have closer to thirteen? Can you use the same material for some essays? Are all the schools you're applying to on the Common App? To date, a few schools have revealed their supplementary essays; most should be available by August 1, when the Common Application goes live. The university synonymous with quirky essays, the University of Chicago, has posted its upcoming essays. You might enjoy the prompts even if you have no plans to apply. (Prompt #1: "What's so odd about odd numbers?")
"Once you have your preliminary list, you might see that you have less time than you imagined you did." READ MORE 
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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Get the Common App Essay Over with on Martha's Vineyard in July

Why not get the essay over with early in the summer? There's so much anxiety around the Common Application essay that getting it over with earlier rather than later can be a huge relief. And a learning experience. If you're applying to schools that require supplementary essays too, and many do, working with me on the Common App essay is a great way to get your writing muscles into shape and get the hang of these often challenging essays.  If you sign up with me to do your essays, I will give you a free copy of "the hippest grammar book ever written," Sin and Syntax, by Constance Hale.  She's funny, smart, and breaks down the elements of good writing with uncommon wisdom and insight. And did I mention that she's funny?

Click on my website and the Martha's Vineyard link to my July workshops. Sign up for a workshop or for private sessions - on the island and around the world via Skype and Google Docs.

To visit my website: Don't Sweat the Essay
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To call me: 1-855-99-ESSAY

Thursday, June 19, 2014

JFK, Kwasi Enin and the College Admissions Application Essays

I've been thinking hard about Kwasi Enin, JFK, and the evolution of the college application essay - and what selective schools really want to know about applicants - for the last few months. Here's a snippet of my latest Huffington Post College blog - just out.

"Students applying to selective schools in 2014 face a barrage of essays that would challenge the literary chops of Mark Twain. The Common Application essay -- most famous, most feared -- has become a genre of its own, with a contest that started this May, and a $5000 prize, inviting students to enter the essays they submitted for admission earlier in the year. And scores of schools require additional essays of every imaginable variety, asking students to design a course (Colorado College), comment on a quotation (Princeton), write a letter to a prospective roommate (Stanford), and to say what makes them happy (Tufts).

"Welcome to the boutiqueification of higher education. In other countries, college applicants may have to take entrance exams that last up to three days, and judgments are based only the results of those tests. Here we judge kids on their grades, tests scores, extra curricular activities, and through a raft of essays that probe their feelings, their writing skills and, to some extent, their intellects. The exotic essay questions enchant, amuse (a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down), distinguish schools and students from one another, and perhaps keep some students from making frivolous applications to colleges that they have no interest in attending, now that the Common Application has made applying easier than live streaming a season of Breaking Bad." READ MORE

To view my website, click here: Don't Sweat the Essay
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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Rape Charge in College Application Admissions Essay?

This New York Times piece is probably the most disturbing story I've ever read about the abuse of the college application essay. It will no doubt get a lot more attention in the coming days. Without knowing anymore than is in this story, I would have to say that a college application essay is not the place to disclose to your mother that you were the victim of a crime. It is tragic if this young woman felt this was the only way she could convey this information to her mother - especially almost a decade after the events were said to occur. 

There may be no simple takeaway from this sad story. Let's call it a reminder to parents to find a way to look at their children's college application essays if possible, at the very least to make sure they are appropriate, and a reminder to students to use their essays to convey relevant information about who they are as students, college applicants, and young adults. 

"NEW YORK — A jury on Wednesday deliberated the fate of a New York man on trial for rape after his stepdaughter wrote in her college application essay about being sexually abused by him as a child.

"Albert Tarrats, 62, of Brooklyn faces a 25-year prison sentence if he is convicted by the jury in State Supreme Court in the borough, court officials said.

"Tarrats was arrested on rape charges in 2012, soon after his stepdaughter, now 18, wrote to college admission officers that Tarrats sexually abused her repeatedly over several months when she was 8 years old, according to prosecutors.

"Her mother read the essay and contacted a rape hot line, which put her in touch with police," Kings County District Attorney spokeswoman Helen Peterson said." READ MORE

To view my website click here: Don't Sweat the Essay
To email me:
To call me: 1-855-99-ESSAY