Friday, April 8, 2016

College & Common Application Essays: A Coach Looks Forward & Back

As always, you can read my latest blog post here: 

As I mentioned earlier here, the Common Application essay prompts will be the same this coming year (2016-17) as they were this past year. I think it's great news, as the prompts have the power to elicit terrific essays. I spent some time exploring each of the prompts in my latest Huffington Post blog, College and Common Application Essays: A Coach Looks Forward and Back. Here's the opening, or you can click here to read the whole thing. 

"One frenzied application season is just over and another - take a deep breath - is about to begin.
"By March 31st, college applicants around the world had heard from the colleges of their dreams, their so-so’s and their safeties, including First Daughter, Malia Obama, who is said to be choosing from between Barnard (yay, my alma mater!) and NYU (another great NYC school). Most students have until May 1st to make up their minds, and then there’s the Slow Dance of the Waiting List that goes on through the summer.
"For high school juniors, the process is just beginning.
"In this sea of uncertainty, there’s one thing we know for sure now: the Common Application essay prompts from last year were so successful, they will be used this coming year. I couldn’t be happier, as I’ve seen these prompts elicit fascinating personal reflections that enable admissions officers to learn a great deal about the applicants and give students a chance to “explain” themselves the way they might in a leisurely interview.
"I was also delighted to see how popular the individual prompts are compared to one another. For the most part, the Common Application’s numbers jive with my experience. And please keep in mind: you choose only one of these prompts, with a word limit of 650." READ MORE
To read more about my services, visit my website: Don't Sweat the Essay. Shoot me an email. Give me a call. 1-855-99-ESSAY.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

College App Essays & Acceptances, Wait Lists & Malia Obama

You can always find my latest blog by clicking here

The drama is over: this past week marked the end of the Season of Applying, Worrying and Waiting for those eager to become class of 2020. For some, it's the Season of Waiting Lists. If you are on one and need advice for how to move up the list, shoot me an email: 

Major media report that First Daughter Malia Obama is busy choosing between NYU and Barnard. Who knows whether that's right, but she has two terrific choices. The rest of the applicants' choices will not, likely, end up on the nightly news, but they are just as important. 

I'm lucky enough to have a ringside seat to this complicated, nerve-wracking process, and to work with students around the world (thank you Skype, Facetime, and Google Docs for making it possible) on their essays and applications. It's an immense privilege to meet so many bright, ambitious students, with such clear ideas of what they want to do in this world - and what they've already done. It's just as interesting to work with those who don't know what direction they want to go in - but who are full of curiosity and wonder about the world. 

As a university creative writing professor for many decades, I've had the experience of getting to know wonderful students over the years. Working with college applicants is similar to this - and also different. The work we do is concentrated, practical, and highly goal-oriented. One of my goals is to help give students as many choices as possible. Yes, there are "dream schools," but there are plenty more colleges and universities than many of us know about, or can imagine, and it's always great to help students find these too.

Congratulations to all. This year, my clients have gotten acceptances to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Wellesley, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Harvey Mudd, NYU, Northwestern, Tufts, BU, USC, UCBerkeley, UCSB, University of Illinois, CUNY, St. John's (both Queens & Santa Fe), London School of Economics, University of Edinburgh, and many other fine schools. 

For more about what I do, please visit: Don't Sweat The Essay. Shoot me an email or call. 1-855-99-ESSAY.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Insider Advice: What College Admissions Officers Tell Their Own Kids

For my latest blog post, click here:

Insider info is ours! The New York Times has interviewed about ten college admissions officers - at MIT, Vanderbilt, UCLA, Kenyon and elsewhere - to find out what advice they give their own children about applying the college. The article - about college applications essays and much else - is well worth reading. Here's the opening or click here for the whole article.

"While most parents find the college process stressful and bewildering, we interviewed some who have a unique perspective: admissions officers who are also the parents of teenagers and college students themselves. They know that while parents can’t control where their child is admitted, they can influence whether their teenager views the college process as stressful and frustrating or as an exciting time filled with opportunity.
"These admissions officers tell their own children that high school is far more than just a pathway to college — it’s a time for maturation, self-discovery, learning and fun. They encourage their teens to embrace activities and courses that reflect who they genuinely are, not who they think colleges want them to be.
"We interviewed admissions officers at Allegheny College, Georgia Tech, Kenyon College, M.I.T., Penn State, Vanderbilt, U.C.L.A., U.N.C.-Chapel Hill and the University of Richmond. Every one of them emphasized the importance of their child finding a college that fits, not the other way around. READ MORE
For more about my college application essay and selection services, visit my website: Don't Sweat the Essay. Send me an email or call me:  1-855-99-ESSAY.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

College Application Essays and The Teenage Brain

I'm excited to be moderating a panel on The Teenage Brain: Planning for High School, College and Beyond, this week in Charlottesville, VA, at the Virginia Festival of the Book with two distinguished scholars. The date is Wednesday, March 16, at 6pm, in Charlottesville. Click here for details. 

If you're at the University of Virginia or you're anywhere nearby, please come hear this panel, ask a question, and introduce yourself. 

I'll be leading a conversation with a prominent neuroscientist, Dr. Frances Jensen, Professor and Chair of UPenn's Department of Neurology, and the author of The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide and Raising Adolescents and Young Adults (Harper Collins), as well as Dr. Granville Sawyer Jr., author of College in Four Years: Making Every Semester Count (Creative Cache). 

Hope to see you there!

If you can't make it and want to talk about college or graduate application essays, please visit my website, email me, or call me.  1-855-99-ESSAY.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Good News: No Change in Common Application Essays Prompts!

For my latest blog, ALWAYS CLICK HERE:

One less thing to worry about for high school juniors who are applying to college this summer and fall. The personal statement essay prompts will be the same as last year's. I'm thrilled, as I think the prompts are excellent and offer students many ways to convey who they are and what they want colleges to know about themselves.

According to the Common App website:
Among the more than 800,000 unique applicants who have submitted a Common App so far during the 2015-2016 application cycle, 47 percent have chosen to write about their background, identity, interest, or talent - making it the most frequently selected prompt; 22 percent have chosen to write about an accomplishment, 17 percent about a lesson or failure, 10 percent about a problem solved, and four percent about an idea challenged.  
2016-2017 Essay Prompts 
1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
 2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
For more about my services, click here.  For questions: Send me an email or call: 1-855-99-ESSAY.  

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Should You Worry Because of New SAT? NO!

Today's New York Times  headline - "New Reading Heavy SAT Has Students Worried" - is a catchy headline but I'm urging students (and their parents) NOT to worry!

Yes, there's a brand-new SAT in our midst and yes, no one knows how it will work, but students have many options besides taking this new test: 1. Take the ACT, which is now more popular than the SAT. In fact, the ACT's popularity is one of the reasons the SAT revised the test.  2.  Apply to test optional schools, of which there are about 800 (yes, all those zeroes!).  

You can see the list of test optional colleges/universities at the website for the National Center for Fair Testing. Please note: the list changes every year, and there may be limitations regarding scholarships at some schools when you don't submit test scores. Read the materials carefully.

As I stress to everyone I work with, most colleges look at the totality of the package of who you are when you apply, and high school grades remain at the top of the list of considerations. The test scores themselves will not make or a break an application, nor will essays themselves.  

Here's the opening of today's Times article. Useful info but don't be among the students who have something else to worry about. You don't. Skip the SAT, take the ACT, and/or look at options that don't require the tests.

BOSTON — For thousands of college hopefuls, the stressful college admissions season is about to become even more fraught. The College Board, which makes the SAT, is rolling out a new test — its biggest redesign in a decade, and one of the most substantial ever.
Chief among the changes, experts say: longer and harder reading passages and more words in math problems. The shift is leading some educators and college admissions officers to fear that the revised test will penalize students who have not been exposed to a lot of reading, or who speak a different language at home — like immigrants and the poor.
It has also led to a general sense that the new test is uncharted territory, leaving many students wondering whether they should take the SAT or its rival, the ACT. College admissions officers say they are waiting to see how the scores turn out before deciding how to weight the new test.

“It’s going to change who does well,” said Lee Weiss, the vice president of precollege programs at Kaplan Test Prep, one of the nation’s biggest test-preparation programs. “Before, if you were a student from a family where English was not the first language, you could really excel on the math side. It may be harder in the administration of this new test to decipher that, because there is so much text on both sides of the exam.” READ MORE 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Best & Worst College App Essay Prompts 2015-16

As college application essay writing season comes to a close, I do my mini version of a year-end list: my favorite college app essay prompts and supplements - and my one least favorite - on Huffington Post's College Page. Here's the opening.

"As the college application essay writing season draws to a close, with only a short time left before most regular applications are due, I'm looking back on some of the most interesting -- and most annoying -- essays prompts I've seen this year.
"I'm also taking a moment to marvel at how revealing the essay prompts are about what kind of students the colleges are looking for when they devise the questions that help them distinguish between tens of thousands of applicants. Precisely because there are so many hugely accomplished, talented students, and because the Common Application has devoted itself to making it easy to apply (and increasing its own coffers in the process, let's not forget), the essays are one of the tools used by the schools to make distinctions. And the essay questions, which vary enormously from institution to institution, tell us some of what each institution values in its applicants.
"The University of Chicago's famously demanding, quirky prompts are there to help them select the kind of students who would thrive in this highly cerebral atmosphere. By the same token, the essay prompts are information for the applicants, too. If you're not comfortable writing an essay inspired by this prompt: "Joan of Arkansas. Queen Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Babe Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Mash up a historical figure with a new time period, environment, location or occupation, and tell us their story," it's a safe bet that this isn't the right university for you. I frequently have clients who are eager to apply there, until they read the prompts. READ MORE
For help with college app essays, personal statements, and supplements, please shoot me at email: