Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills


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College Application Essay Tips for International Students

College Application Essay Tips for International StudentsFrom Greece to Vietnam, I hear from students who have questions about how to write college admissions essays and especially how to write the Common Application personal essay.

International students face unique challenges. Many aren’t writing in their native language. Others aren’t sure what colleges look for in an essay or if they’ve chosen the right story.

That’s why I’ve written Writing College Admissions Essays — An International Student’s Guide. I’m delighted that it has been published by both i-studentglobal and Magoosh.

Please visit these sites to read the article, or download a copy of it here. Enjoy!

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skills


Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, Sharon lectures extensively on essay writing. Sharon teaches students how to master interview skills, write killer resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit her website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.

 

 


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2015 Common Application – Your Essay May Be Optional!

Common App optional essay 2015

The Common Application just released this information:

“Starting with the 2015-2016 application year, Common Application Member colleges and universities will have the choice to require or not require the Common App Personal Essay.”

This change means that it is possible some students may not be required to write a Common App personal essay.

Do I hear cheering?

Hold on a sec…

The Common App also says that students will always have the option to submit the personal essay.  

So if you’re faced with the choice – to write or not to write – what do you do?

WRITE, of course!

The Common App essay gives you the chance to stand out. Schools get to know you apart from your test scores, grades, and activities list.

So, take the time. Write a story about yourself that highlights your unique qualities and shows how you’re growing into a mature young adult.

Give the schools another reason to know you’re the kind of student they can’t afford to be without. 

Find more information about the Common App’s new essay changes on their blog.
For a list of the 2015-2016 Common Application Essay Prompts, click here.

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skills


Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, Sharon lectures extensively on essay writing. Sharon teaches students how to master interview skills, write killer resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit her website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.


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2015-2016 Common Application Essay Prompts

2015-2016 Common Application Essay PromptsThe news is in!

The Common Application just announced The Common Application essay prompts for 2015-2016.

  • There are five questions to choose from.
  • The maximum essay length is 650 words.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing insights, question by question, to help students understand, think about, and write outstanding college application essays.  I have lots of ideas to pass along.  In the meantime —

Here are the 2015-2016 Common Application 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.

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skills


Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, Sharon lectures extensively on essay writing. Sharon teaches students how to master interview skills, write killer resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit her website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.



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4 Ways to Know if You’ve Written a Good College Essay

4 Ways to Know if You've Written a Good College Application EssayHow do you know if you’ve written a good college application essay?

Do you  just cross your fingers, hope for the best, and hit upload?

Wait! Don’t hit that send button yet!

Here are four ways to check if you’ve written a good college applications essay:

1. Put the essay away for a day or two. Then read it again.

Reading your essay with fresh eyes will help you be more objective about your writing. You should:

  • Make sure the essay flows well from one paragraph to the other.
  • Make sure it holds your interest from beginning to end.
  • Make sure it says positive things about you.
  • Make sure you’ve answered all parts of the question.
  • Make sure you still like it.

2. Read your essay out loud.

  • You shouldn’t stumble over words or phrases when you read your essay out loud.
  • If you do stumble, look at your sentence structure and word choices, and revise the bumpy places.
  • Read your essay out loud again to double-check it’s okay.

3. Ask yourself if your essay says everything you want it to say about you.

  • This is a very important question to ask. Why?

    • Sometimes college essays go through so many drafts and changes that ideas can actually get lost or buried along the way.
    • Sometimes an idea that you think is clear is actually not clear to the reader. Which means you have to go back and find a way to explain it better.
  • Tip: Make a list of the ideas or values you want the colleges to know about you when they’ve finished reading your essay. (For example: “I’m thoughtful and creative, and would go out of my way for a friend.”) Then ask one or two adults to read your essay and say whether or not they learned those things from your essay.  If they didn’t, go back to your essay and clarify those ideas.

4. Pretend you’re a college reader.

For the next few minutes we’re going to give you a promotion. For example’s sake, we’ll pretend you’re a college admissions officer named Dave. Dave doesn’t know you. Dave has already read 50 essays today, and some of them have been really boring. But, like every essay Dave reads, he hopes he’s going to like it.

Here is what you have to ask yourself:

  • When Dave starts to read my essay, will my introduction capture his attention?
  • Did I find an interesting way to tell my story, or will Dave think it’s a cliché he’s heard a hundred times? (“I’m so glad I won the big game.”)
  • Is this a story that only I can write?
  • Does my personality jump off the page?
  • Did I include interesting details?
  • Does it say good things about me?
  • What will Dave know about me when he’s finished with my essay? How would he describe me?
  • Will Dave think that I would be a good member of his college community?

Dave’s got a lot to think about when he reads your essay, and so do you. So before you hit that send button, take time to re-read your essay, make sure it says what you want it to say, and put yourself in your college reader’s shoes. 

Be sure your essay has done its job.  And then you can hit upload.

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skills

Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy nominee, Sharon teaches students how to write memorable college application essays, write outstanding resumes, and master interview skills. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit her website for more information and connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.


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Choosing the Right Words for Your Resume

Job vs. Work?

Experience vs. Skills?

How do you choose the best words to use on your resume?

Grammar checker Grammarly looked at 500 job postings, and then examined the language those companies used to express their hiring priorities. What did they learn?

The words that companies use in their job listings can convey the companies’ values and the type of employee they’re looking for.

Knowing that can be a big plus when you’re crafting your resume and cover letter.

Take a look at the infographic. You may find your resume is ready for an update.

Watch Your Words in the Job Search!

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skills

Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy nominee, Sharon teaches students how to write memorable college application essays, write outstanding resumes, and master interview skills. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit her website for more information and connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.


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How to Write 2014 Common Application Essay #5: Transition from Childhood to Adulthood

How to Write Common Application Essay 5: Transition from Childhood to AdulthoodThe Common Application essay prompts are out.

How do you choose which essay to write?

In this 5 part series I help you figure out which question on the 2014 Common Application essay is right for you.

We’re down to the last one. Whew!

Ready for #5?

Let’s do it!

Common Application Essay Prompt #5:

Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Is this Prompt for You? Look at the Keywords:

how to write 2013 common app essay

“Accomplishment or Event” … “Transition from Childhood to Adulthood” … “Culture, Community or Family”

What the Keywords Mean:

  • “Accomplishment or event” and “transition from childhood to adulthood” are two very broad phrases. That’s good—it means you can choose almost anything you’ve done, experienced or accomplished.
  • “Transition from childhood to adulthood.” Don’t feel quite like an adult yet? That’s okay—you can still answer the question. The Common App really wants to know how you’ve become more mature or responsible over time.  So ask yourself these questions: Have you taken on more responsibility? Do you make decisions in a more mature way? Are you more dependable? Do you teach younger students what you’ve been taught? There are many ways we grow into adulthood.

 

how to write 2013 common app essayPitfalls to Avoid:

  • Don’t forget to include a learning experience. Colleges want to know how you grew, what you learned, or why it’s important for you to tell this story.

Essay Topic Example 

A young woman began dancing before she could tie her shoes. The tradition at her dance studio was that the older dancers mentored the younger ones. As she grew older and became more accomplished, she started teaching the younger students. Now she helps them in the studio, and also with their problems outside of dance. She has learned what it takes to be a friend and mentor, and is helping continue her dance studio’s tradition.

Is this Example Successful? Yes.

  • All the keywords are addressed. 1. She writes about an accomplishment in her community. 2. Her transition from child to young adult is marked by taking on more responsibility and becoming a teacher and mentor to the younger dancers.
  • She learned from her experience. The student matured and became more responsible.

We’re done! We’ve covered all the prompts. You should be able to choose the right topic and write an essay that makes you shine. If you have any questions, drop me a line and let me know.

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skills

Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy nominee, Sharon teaches students how to write memorable college application essays, write outstanding resumes, and master interview skills. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit her website for more information and connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.


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How to Write Common App Essay Prompt #4: Place or Environment

How to Write Common App Prompt #4: Place or Environtment You're Perfectly ContentThe Common Application essay topics are out.

How do you choose which essay to write?

This 5 part series helps you figure out which question on the 2014 Common Application essay is right for you.

Ready for number 4? Let’s do it!

Common Application Essay Prompt #4:

 Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content.

  • What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

Is This Prompt for You?  Look at the Keywords:

how to write 2013 common app essay

“Place or environment”“Perfectly content“…“Experience”“Meaningful”

Why Choose This Prompt? 

  • You’ve found a place – real or imagined – where you are content.
  • You’re able to discuss in detail what you experience there and why it’s meaningful to you.

how to write 2013 common app essay

Pitfalls to Avoid:

  • It’s not just about the place. This essay is about your experience and its meaning.
  • If you can’t discuss why your experience is meaningful to you, don’t choose this essay.
  • You must ask yourself WHY. Schools care much less about where you like to spend time and much more about why. Asking yourself “why” will help you find the meaning to your essay.

Not Sure This Question Relates to You?
Here are 4 Scenarios to Think About:

  • Is the chess club, ski slope or band room the place where you feel most in your element?
  • Is there a room in your school where you grab some alone time?
  • Do you have a place where you meet friends to talk about things you might not discuss anywhere else? Or with anyone else?
  • Is there a place you’re alone with your thoughts? Your art? Your books? What do you think or dream about there?

How Asking “Why” Led to a Successful Essay:

A student told me she was happiest in her room, but she thought it would be boring to write about. So I asked her why she was happy there.

Without pausing she answered: Her room was where she liked to draw. She spoke in detail about her art, what kind of art she preferred, what artists she admired, and who her artistic influences were. Then she paused, and said that when she was drawing her room fell away, almost like it didn’t exist, and that’s why she was able to concentrate on her art.

This was her essay. Because she had asked herself why.

Tip:  An “experience” doesn’t have to last for an extended amount of time. For instance, the moment before you walk onstage for your dance recital may last only seconds, but writing about it might make a great essay.

For more information on the Common Application visit their website. They also have a very helpful Facebook page.

Next time: How to Write Common App prompt #5.

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skills

Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy nominee, Sharon teaches students how to write memorable college application essays, write outstanding resumes, and master interview skills. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit her website for more information and connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.