Monday, September 23, 2013

Lacy Crawford Talks About Moms, Essays & Early Decision

Reporter Mary MacVean does a 39 minute interview with Lacy Crawford, former-essay-coach and author of the new novel, EARLY DECISION, in the LA Times.

"Lacy Crawford’s novel of college application frenzy, “Early Decision,” has plenty of rich people behaving badly. It also has plenty of young people trying to find their way in the fray of deciding the next chapter of their lives.
"The stories came from her life as a college application counselor, and she talked to us for a 4Moms chat about college applications, and the anxiety of the personal essay – just as the application season heats up.
"A former high school English teacher, Crawford found that her “brilliant” students had written college essays that were “not very good,” she says. The reason was straight-forward: They had never been taught to write personal essays." READ AND LISTEN ~ 

Friday, September 20, 2013

An Unusual Message for a College Essay Blog

I haven't ever posted anything like this on my blog, but I just saw the ad to take the pledge, and I think it's a good one. Click here. Make it to college. Make it through college. And beyond. Don't. Text. And. Drive. Ever. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Students and Parents Aren't the Only Ones Angry at the Common App Folks...

Even as we speak, a gathering in Toronto is taking place of member schools of the Common Application. I've recently been reading the Common App's Facebook page to get a sense of the problems plaguing students, parents, and recommenders, but this article, from the Chronicle of Higher Education, reveals how frustrated the colleges themselves are with a seemingly endless number of glitches in the Common App system, at all levels.

"On Thursday, Rob Killion, the Common Application’s executive director, acknowledged members’ concerns. Delays in the development process, he said, had “big ripple effects down the road.” The organization should have relayed those problems to member colleges more quickly, he said: “We fell down on communication in many respects.” Mr. Killion vowed that the organization would resolve the problems so that all member colleges, even those with November 1 deadlines, would be able to process all of their applications on time.
"That message didn’t seem to convince some people in the audience. One dean complained that she had waited more than two months for Common Application officials to answer her questions about the technical problems her office had experienced. “This goes beyond substandard communication,” she said. “The core issue, at least in my opinion, is responsiveness.” READ MORE

Teens Create Portrait of the US with Their Photos

Take a break from the rigors of writing your college essays and filling out the !@#$% Common App - courtesy of The New York Times.  UPDATE: I had a chance to look at all 145 photos posted, and they are really spectacular. You won't be disappointed.

What would happen if you asked high school students to help create a 21st-century portrait of the country by turning their cameras on their neighborhoods, families, friends and schools?
You would have “My Hometown” — a vibrant document of 4,289 images submitted by teenagers in school- or community-based photography programs across the United States, including rural villages and urban neighborhoods, wealthy suburbs and blue-collar Rust Belt towns.
While participants only photographed their own communities, together, the images create an important and lasting document of America today as seen by teenagers. They are published today in an interactive feature that opens with a selection of 145 photographs and is also searchable by state and by photographer. Many of the images will be archived at the Library of Congress in the Prints and Photographs Division.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Confessions of a College Application Essay Coach

My latest piece on Huffington Post just went up - my confessions. Here's an excerpt:

"Confession No. 1. No one has ever asked me to write an essay for her child. Nor has anyone even hinted that this is what she wanted. The students I work with want to write their own essays, and parents often want, not a ghostwriter, but a buffer, someone outside the family to impose some structure and discipline on the process of getting the essays done. You may have heard: children-on-the-verge-of-adulthood usually don't want to spend any more time with their parents than necessary, especially when there is a risk of "nagging."
"Parents often say to me, "There is absolutely no way I can work with my son/daughter on these essays." What follows is one of these lines: "Our relationship is frayed enough. This would be impossible." Or -- a brighter narrative: "My son and I have a great relationship, and I don't want to ruin it." READ MORE 

Friday, September 13, 2013

The YOLO Kerfuffle-What Does it Mean to YOU?

On this Friday the 13th, here's some news on the lighter side: What's now become Tufts University's' "YOLO" kerfuffle, kerfuffle being "chiefly British" and meaning "a noisy disturbance or commotion." 

The YOLO question on Tufts' supplementary application - in which students are asked what #YOLO means to them - has been in the news since the essay topic was revealed this summer. For those not in the know, YOLO = You Only Live Once, and it's from a song, "The Motto," by the hip-hop artist Drake. The idea itself goes back to two Latin words -- carpe diem (trans. seize the day) -- that used to trip off the tongues of the cognescenti. 

Seems the prompt has created ripples, and those ripples have created ripples. To some the prompt seems like pandering to the applicants. To others it's evidence of the decline of the academy. And some are ticked off about what they feel is the University's attitude about race matters once students get there. It's certainly brought attention to Tufts this fall! It'll be interesting to see whether their applicant pool expands this year. Stay tuned. And READ MORE.  

Some Advice for International Students - and Others

This article by Mai-Linh Bui, a Vietnamese student now at Drexel University, has a tip or two specifically for those whose first language isn't English, and several tips for anyone writing a college application essay
"Take a break from writing the application essay and refresh your brain by looking at an English-language children's book or by translating a short journal paragraph from English to your native language. 
"You can also try translating the piece of the application essay you have so far to your native tongue. I did that and then discussed it with my sister, who always makes funny comments about what I write. The ultimate goal is for you to feel comfortable writing and to allow yourself to think creatively. 
"Remember that the first sentence does not have to be written first: Students are often taught to make an outline, with the introduction first, then the body of the essay and the conclusion last, step by step. 
"Sometimes, the first sentence of the essay can block your inspiration, no matter how fantastic your outline. If this is where you struggle, just leave the first sentence or paragraph blank. 
"Start from anywhere in the essay. Do not be afraid to ramble about a small idea that just popped up in your head. You never know where a small idea could lead you, or more importantly, how it will inspire the flow of your writing. READ MORE 

Don't Hit the SEND Button So Fast

After all the feverish excitement of the Aug. 1st Common Application launch, at least one college counselor is urging students to wait a bit before pushing the SEND button on the whole shebang. Make that two counselors - I second her suggestion. Take a look: 

"The Common Application went live Aug. 1, and some very eager students have already submitted their applications.
"Not so fast. Early may not be better. There is applying before the deadline and then there is the crazed family, most typically a parent, who is intent on submitting all the college applications in August.
"While students can make changes once applications are submitted, it can be anxiety-provoking and time-consuming. It is far better to complete the applications, wait a bit and let the whole process marinate just a little. Ideally, students have worked on their essay(s) over the summer. Their best bet would be to finalize them, put them away for a few weeks, then reread them and perhaps make a final edit. READ MORE 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

"How I Got Into College" on This American Life

I can't wait to hear Ira Glass's This American Life report called "How I Got into College," which includes a piece from the great journalist Michael Lewis. Here's the link and here's a teaser: 

"Students all over are starting college this month, and some of them still have a nagging question: what, exactly, got me in? An admissions officer tells us the most wrongheaded things applicants try. And Michael Lewis has the incredible story of how a stolen library book got one man — Emir Kamenica — into his dream school."

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Hidden Essays at Cornell, Emory, UVa and Other Schools

This just in: a number of universities have supplementary essays that students don't find out about until they are far along in completing the Common Application. For most schools, there are no "hidden" essays but, according to the article, students need to click through the entire application for an individual school in order to learn about these "stealth" essays. For example:

"Cornell is one of many Common Application member colleges with 'stealth' essays that don’t appear until college-specific questions have been fully completed. And 'undecided' is not an option when it comes to selecting one of Cornell’s colleges or schools. You have to answer all the questions to submit the application. And once you answer the college/school question, an essay will be “unlocked.” READ MORE 

If you come upon surprising new essays as you apply, please post here and let us know the schools where special attention must be paid. Thanks!