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What Should I Write About For My College Admissions Essay?

Posted by Manuel Fabriquer on Tue, Sep 1, 2015 @ 10:08 AM
what to write

There are many facets to a successful college application. Grades and test scores, recommendation letters, and interview are only a few of the elements taken into consideration by admissions committees. There is also another important part, and it is one that gives you a chance to share who you are: the admission essay.

High school seniors often panic about writing the essay. With word limits to think about and admissions officers to impress, the essay can seem like it may make or break your admission decision. While a poor essay won’t necessarily ruin your chances of getting into your dream school, it is definitely one aspect that can give you a much-needed edge. So what should you write about? In the end, it’s less about what you write than about how you write it, and even more importantly, who shines through the essay: you!

Get (Kinda) Personal

An admissions essay is not like a research paper or book report. Instead, it is a story. The admission committee wants to read your words and immediately know who you are and what you’d bring to their campus. The more personal you can be, the better. This demonstrates you as a likeable, open, authentic, and genuine person; one who will be an asset to their institution. Your story should be personal and meaningful to you, but it shouldn’t delve into territory that is too uncomfortable. You want to make the readers feel moved, but not put them off with oversharing.

Stand Out

Admissions teams are tired of reading the same old essay over and over again. Many topics are overdone (sports championships, cliche volunteer stories). Consider something fresh, but something that is unique and truly you. If the university offers a prompt for the essay, you’ve already won half the battle. Now, spend some time and come up with a great answer, perhaps one with an innovative perspective that they won’t expect.

Write in Your Own Voice

The admissions essay is not your opportunity to impress (well, maybe a little). It should be clear that you can communicate well with the written word and that you can easily share your views. But leave the “showing off” for other areas of your application such as academic transcripts and lists of achievements. The essay should delve into who you truly are. One of the best ways to do this is to write in your own voice. Avoid slangs and colloquialisms, but try and write in a way that’s similar to how you speak. Don’t bother filling your essay with lengthy vocabulary words you would never use in everyday life. This comes across and disingenuous and most likely doesn’t reflect who you are as a high school student. 

Write About Something That Matters to You

If you only had a few minutes to tell an admissions committee about yourself, what would you say? What story would you tell? The answer to that question may reveal the ideal topic for your essay. A strong essay should have a beginning, middle, and end, and ideally include a conflict or struggle. Showing how you dealt with a challenge in your life is always a great starting point, as is writing about a significant life event that shaped you or changed you. 

Tags: college planning abc, college consulting, college planning, college applications, Manuel Fabriquer, College Admissions, college admission essay, admission essays

The SAT: Out with the Old and In with the New

Posted by Manuel Fabriquer on Fri, May 9, 2014 @ 7:33 PM
Redesigning the SAT CollegeBoardRecently, the College Board announced that a new and redesigned version of the SAT exam would go into effect in 2016. In an attempt to level, what some had argued, an unfair playing field, the new exam will do away with certain components. This includes:
  • Essay: The new exam will include an essay section that is purely optional. While most students are used to the required essay that is timed at 25 minutes, the new essay will clock in at 50 minutes. The designers are hoping that this change will give students ample time to analyze the structure and content of a written work. The optional essay will also mean that the grading scale will change from 0-2400 to 0-1600.
  • Redesigning the SATObscure Vocabulary: The old test was replete with words like ‘tergiversate’ and ‘phlegmatic,’ leading many long-suffering high school students to memorize words that they would never use in any practical context. The revamped exam promises to test students on vocabulary that would be widely used in college and beyond.
  • Selective Use of a Calculator: While the calculator was always a welcome presence during the math section, the new exam will only allow the use of a calculator for certain subsections. In doing so, the test will measure the student’s mathematical fluency without the added support that calculators often provide.
  • Fill in the Blank: Also known as “sentence completion,” will be dropped in lieu of more textual analysis on subjects such as science, history and social studies. The texts will often be authored by important historical figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln. This section will focus more on the student’s ability to analyze different styles of writing and to pinpoint the author’s intent.
Like it or not, change is on its way, and it is important for parents of high school freshmen or longer to be prepared for the new testing format. Although it remains to be seen as to whether the new exam will spur greater accessibility to higher education, the benchmark status of the SAT and ACT is here to stay.

Tags: strategies for college, college applications, SATs, college admission essay, admission essays, High school sophomores

College Planning ABC Shows How To Write Great Opening Lines

Posted by Manuel Fabriquer on Mon, Jul 23, 2012 @ 6:20 PM
University Corridor
One of the most important and frustrating parts of the admission process is the writing of the college admission essay.  I can understand that all too well because staring at a blank sheet of paper or empty screen trying to think about what to write can be very frustrating.This process then gets even worse when you understand there is a lot riding on what is actually written.

What To Write About

The most common complaint I hear from many students is they feel there is nothing really special or interesting they have to write about. 

Students often ask me:  How can they write an essay that will help them stand out from the crowd?  What are the admission officers looking for in their background that will have them stop and consider me?

These are really important questions to ask and write about. After all these admission officers are reading a lot of essays during the processing season.  For example, at a typical Ivy League university there may be around 20 staffers each reading 50 essays, per day, six days a week.

That is a lot of reading and this means your student’s essay only has a few seconds to grab the attention of that staff member.  These staff members move quickly and there is no time for a second look.  Either you student's essay got their attention or it is put in the rejection pile.

The Power of a Headline

All this means that the opening line of the essay must grab the attention of the reader as soon as they look at the paper.  The opening sentence must be able to convey what is important and special about your student in one sentence.   Simply put there is no time for these readers to go over the entire essay hoping to gleam some insight into what the student has to offer. 

Recently, Stanford Admissions released a sample of some of the opening lines from the various essays they received.  Here is a quick look at what caught the eyes of Stanford’s admission officers (in no particular order):

  • I almost didn’t live through September 11th 2001
  • When I was in the eighth grade I couldn’t read
  • I have been surfing Lake Michigan since I was three years old.
  • I had never seen anyone get so excited about mitochondria
  • I have old hands
  • While traveling through the daily path of life, have you ever stumbled upon a hidden pocket of the universe?

As you can see these opening lines are captivating and persuade the reader to read more. The idea is to not sound boring or disingenuous, but rather intrigue and entice the admission officers to take notice and want to learn more about the applicant.

My clients have told me that one of the best services college planning ABC provides them is the ability to assist each of them in developing thought provoking college admission essays.  

Typically, within the first hour of talking with a student I can provide them with a series of potential opening sentences as well as interesting topics that are specifically suited to their personality and life experiences.  Over the years I have developed a formal interviewing process that allows me to pull the most tantalizing facts from any student.  Then with proper coaching these students can develop a winning essay that is truly their own.

My goal is to help each student find their unique qualities in such a way that the admission officer reading their essay will want to move their application forward.   

Although, admission personnel can change over time, each school has certain qualities and characteristics they seek out in applicants.  This means that the essay should be tailor fit to meet those characteristics as well as engage the reader.

The College Planning ABC Advantage

I have been able to guide students over the years because of my firsthand knowledge that I have acquired from working with various universities over the many years. This experience along with my interviewing skills provides each student with the killer essay that will get read.

Want to learn more? Come to one of my College Planning Workshops. Click me

Tags: college planning abc, college applications, Manuel Fabriquer, college admission essay, admission essays