Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Should You Ask For Help: College & Grad School Essays:

I'm the first to admit that the college application essay culture has gotten out of hand.
The purpose of the Common Application was to streamline the procedure, make less work for students and schools, not more. The idea of having two required essays - the 500-worder that stresses everyone out and a shorter one on a job or after-school activity - was that it would give the school a more personal look at the student; a gander beyond grades and SATs. A great idea, until many schools started adding additional essays to their applications. The result? Instead of writing two essays, depending on where students apply, they could end up having to write five, eight or ten of them. It seems like every bit of a student's free time is eaten up writing application essays. But often students ask me what the purpose of all the essays is, and I know there may be a method to the madness. The schools use the additional essays to help them distinguish further between candidates - and to cut down on applications. Only those who are serious about a school will go to the trouble of crafting essay after essay, especially when the essays ask you create courses or to hold forth on obscure quotations. Putting up another roadblock for admission may be the best way for the school to measure a student's interest in the institution. If you're applying to college or graduate school, and you need some help with these essays, please give me a call or email me. I have a sliding fee scale, and am eager to help. 1-855-99-ESSAY I look forward to hearing from you~~ ~~ Liz

Friday, October 5, 2012

Stuck on Your Essay? Write to Your Roommate

Here's some good advice from the informative New York Times College Blog - something more to help generate essay ideas.

Should You Mention Harry Potter in Your College App Essays?

Please take a look at my latest Huffington Post blog on what to do and what not to do, including a tip about whether or not to mention Harry Potter in your College application essays.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

7 1/2 Tips for Your College Application Essay

My latest blog on writing your college application essays - just published on Huffington Post's College Page. For more information, email me:

Friday, August 17, 2012

What Makes a Good Essay?

Many high school students take exotic trips to far-flung places for education, enlightenment, and sometimes to find "good" subjects for their college application essays. It's fine to do that, but it's by no means necessary. A week in Machu Picchu is not required to write a terrific essay.
What's required is an essay in the student's own voice, a genuine sense of his or her world view, an exploration of something that really mattered, whether it's a job at a summer camp, a family crisis that changed lives, or a book that opened up a new world. Last year, one of my students - who got into all but one of her first-choice colleges - wrote about losing her cell phone and then deciding not to get another. It was about the wonders of being unconnected in our hyper-connected world. Another wrote about how spending a week working in her aunt's natural food restaurant had introduced her to the world of healthy eating, and changed her family's entire perspective on food and nutrition. They went from eating frozen dinners to shopping at the farmers' market.
Colleges want to see how students understand and learn from their experiences.
If you're considering what to write for your Common Application essay, one way to start is to make a list of the events in your life that have mattered most and see which one makes your heart beat faster when you write it down. Sounds corny, but this could give you a hint about what direction to go in.
Let me know if you have questions.... ~~Liz

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In today's New York Times....

I'm starting to get more inquiries about high school and college students who need help writing college and grad school application essays. This article in today's New York Times reminds me what a competitive culture this is, and how hard it is for today's young folks to make their way. Though the article focuses on children of privilege in the Hamptons, I work with students from all backgrounds and welcome your emails. Please send any questions to Thanks. ~~ Liz

Monday, July 30, 2012

Raising Children...

Judith Warner reviews an important book in the Sunday New York Times about the mania for perfection that pervades so much childrearing in these times. It will require a paradigm shift for real change to take place. In the meantime, as this relates to your son's or daughter's college application essays, I want parents to know that when I work with students, the essays come from them, not me. I help them find their voices; I don't loan them mine. I've had decades of training in this, teaching fiction writing and creative nonfiction writing, which is all about helping writers find their authentic voices. If you have questions or concerns, drop me a line. Thanks. ~ Liz

Saturday, July 28, 2012

ABC News: Fake College Application Essays from China!?

Last winter, I heard from several friends who teach in US universities that their classes are suddenly full of students from Asian who barely speak English. This has led the professors to the admissions office, to check the applications and conclude that their application essays were clearly written by someone other than the students. The problem seems to be rampant in China, where affluent parents are determined to send their children abroad for college, and they will pay dearly for it. Read the story on ABC News.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Crafting a College Application Essay that Pops

I'll be posting useful links to writing the college application essay as I find them. Here's a piece from The New York Times that has some good advice. Oftentimes, the reader comments at the end of these articles are as useful as the articles themselves. Take a look, see what you think. Drop me a line. ~~ Liz

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Let the blogging begin...

If you've found yourself here, it's probably because you or a family member needs help with college or grad school application essays. You've come to the right place if you have questions or concerns on what's become a very complicated endeavor.

If you went to college fifteen or twenty or more years ago, you've probably said to yourself, "It wasn't like this when I applied to college. I hand-wrote my essays, and I don't even remember what they were about." Those carefree days of E-Z essays are over, and applicants to college need more guidance than many guidance counselors have the time to provide, and than many parents know how to navigate.

If you're looking for a place to begin thinking about your college essays, or your son's or daughter's essays, please take a look at my Huffington Post piece on my website, "Zen and the Art of the College Application Essay." In many circles, students and parents are led to believe that writing about exotic travel or about far-flung destinations where students have gone to work or study are essential to writing a good essay. Such places may be good material, but they are by no means essential, as I discuss in my article.

There is no magic bullet for what makes a good essay, no formula, no one-size-fits-all answer. The central Common Application essay - 500 words - is a kind of interview with the student. It's a way for colleges to get a personal picture of who the applicant is beyond grades and SAT/ACT scores. It's a personal statement of what matters to students, how they make sense of an important experience, make sense of the world around them, or describe a key moment, a pivotal book, or a particular obstacle they overcame.

While the essays do not need to focus specifically on academic achievements, it's important to keep in mind that colleges are educational institutions, and admissions officers want to know that students are intellectually curious, academically focused, and applying to college to take advantage of educational opportunities, not merely the proximity to great skiing or the college's social scene. The essays should be personal, but they should not focus on emotional material unless it also reveals how the emotional material has influenced the student's academic development.

If you are applying to graduate school, the purpose of an essay is somewhat different, and depending on the type of grad school, it serves different purposes. For most programs, the purpose of the essay is to show the admissions office that you are serious, focused, and have had some relevant experience in the field you are pursuing. If you're applying to medical school, any experience you've had as en EMT or volunteering at a hospital or laboratory is important to describe. Summer internships and/or jobs during college and exposure to a subject are important to convey.

If you have specific questions, please write to me directly ( or through my Don't Sweat the Essay website. I look forward to hearing from you.