Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills


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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.

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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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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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2014-2015 Common Application Essay Prompts

2014-2015 Common Application essay prompts

The news is in!

The Common Application just announced that The Common Application essay prompts for 2014-15 will be the same as last year.

The essay length will continue to be capped at 650 words.

Last year, nearly 70 percent of Common Application member colleges and 90 percent of school counselors said that the prompts were effective in helping students represent themselves to colleges. So they’re doing it again.

That’s good news. Last year my students wrote terrific essays using these prompts. And in the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing what I learned, and writing about how students can answer them.  I have lots of ideas to pass along.

In the meantime, here is the list:

The 2014-2015 Common Application Essay Prompts:

  • Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure.  How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
  • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea.  What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  • Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content.  What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
  • 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-skillsSharon 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 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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Best Ways to Begin and End College Interviews

Best Ways to Begin and End College Interviews

How you begin and end your college interview makes a difference.

Your college interview begins even before you say hello. It starts when the interviewer sees you for the first time and notices how you hold yourself, how you dress, if you smile.

Make a great impression: know how to begin and end your college interviews.

  • Be the First to Offer a Handshake. When you meet your interviewer, make eye contact, smile and hold out your hand. The interviewer will see someone who’s enthusiastic, confident and mature.

    Ace your college interview - handshakes
  • Greet the Interviewer by Name. “It’s nice to meet you, Mr./Mrs./Dean _______.  Thanks for taking the time to see me.”
    • Wait! Do you even know the interviewer’s name?? If you’re meeting an alum and you were contacted by email, check there. If you’ve made an appointment to see an admissions officer during a college visit, either ask for the name when you make the appointment or ask politely at the desk when you arrive.
    • Use the interviewer’s correct title, such as “Dean Johnson.”
    • What if the name is difficult to pronounce? Here’s what to say:  “It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Dzubak. Did I get the pronunciation right?” Give yourself triple bonus points for trying – because most students probably won’t.
    • Want to remember your interviewer’s name? Take a notepad with you and write it down before you go.

  • Confidence Counts. I’ve answered my door to many students who look like they want to disappear into the woodwork. But it’s the student who stands tall and greets me with enthusiasm that has a head start. That’s the student who appears ready for college.
    • You can be one of those students – all it takes is practice.
    • Practice having an adult greet you. Work on your confidence level and greeting skills until you’re comfortable enough to handle the real thing.
  • When It’s Over, Say Thank You. You’d be surprised how many students (and adults) miss this important step.how to write collehow to write college interview thank you note
  • You Can Also Say:
    • “I really appreciate the opportunity to meet with you.”
    • “I learned a lot today – it’s made me even more interested in attending.”
    • “I really enjoyed talking with you. I appreciate the time.”
    • “Would it be okay to get in touch if I have any more questions?”

These sentences are courteous and thoughtful. You’re letting the interviewer know that you’re aware he or she made time for you. When you appreciate that effort out loud, you make a good impression.

  • Send a Thank You Note.
    • Send an email thank you right away. Follow up with a snail mail thank you within a week.
    • In your note, mention something that you spoke about during the interview. For instance:

“Dear Dean Hart, Thank you for taking the time to speak with me last week. After we spoke, I researched the study abroad program you suggested and I agree with you—it looks like it could be an excellent match with my major.”

When you mention what you spoke about in the interview, or even include additional material that relates to your discussion, you’re creating a good impression. Your interviewer will take note, and that’s the way you start to build a relationship. Relationships can make a difference when colleges decide which students to admit.

Begin and end your college interview by using these steps. Your interviewer will be impressed.

Related blog posts:
5 Best Tips for College Interview Success
College Interview Tips: Is it Okay to Ask for Something to Drink?
College Interview Tips: How to Interview with an Alum
College Interview Tips: Combatting Nerves
Interview Tips: How to Interview with a College Sports Coach

Other helpful links:
From Go See Campus: Make A Great Impression In Your College Interviews
From Princeton Review: College Interviews

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon 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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Read My New Interview on i-Student Global

I just finished an interview with i-student global:A Cup of Tea with Sharon Epstein.” (Yes, I’ve been outed – tea is my drink of choice.) It gives an overview of college essay writing from my point of view. 

If you haven’t heard of it, i-student global is an in-depth resource for students who want to study abroad. For the past several years, I’ve been a contributor to i-student global. The site’s packed full of information, resources, college scholarships, student blogs, and expert advice from college counselors.

Even if you’re not a prospective international student, you’ll find loads of college admissions resources that can be helpful in your own college application process.

While you’re there, check out the articles I’ve written for the site: “7 Tips for a Great ‘Why This School’ Essay,”10 Tips for Writing a Successful College Application EssayandWriting Personal Essays in 500 Words or Less.”

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon 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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Jump-Start Your College Interview: Bring Photos

lJump-start your College Interview - Bring Photos

Want to jump-start your college interview?

Bring Photos. Why?

  • Photos can be great conversation starters.
    • Imagine being able to say, “I’ve got some pictures of the play I starred in.” The conversation is off and running.
  • Sharing photos can put you at ease.
    • Are you on the shy side? Pull out your photos. It will relax the conversation right away.
  • Photos help when something’s hard to explain.
    • One of my students from Wilton, Connecticut, starred in a lot of plays. Instead of trying to describe the roles he played, he brought photos. The photos filled in the details so he didn’t have to describe each role, plus they showed him doing what he loved.

Ace Your College Interview - Bring PhotosWhat kind of photos should you bring?

  • Anything visual. If you’ve been in a dance recital, concert, or marching band—if you’ve built a tree house, gone with your sports team to the state championship, or just come back from an experience you want to share—almost anything you’ve done can be a shared in a photo.

Avoid These Photo Pitfalls:

  • Too many photos! Edit your photos before you share them. Don’t bring a dozen when two or three will do.
  • Don’t make your interviewer wait while you thumb through a hundred photos. Find the photos you need beforehand. The object is to get the conversation started, not bring it to a grinding halt.

Above All: Everything you bring should represent you at your best. If you think a photo is too goofy, silly, or perhaps even inappropriate for an interviewer, don’t bring it.  If you’re not sure, ask an adult.

Then share your photos and enjoy the conversation.

Helpful links:
5 Best Tips for College Interview Success
College Interview Tips: Is it Okay to Ask for Something to Drink?
College Interview Tips: How to Interview with an Alum
College Interview Tips: Combatting Nerves
Interview Tips: How to Interview with a College Sports Coach

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon 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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Danbury College High School Fair Tonight

Screen shot 2013-10-21 at 9.47.01 AM
Join me at the Danbury College & Vocational Fair tonight
– Monday, October 21.

5 – 8:30 pm at the Danbury Fair Mall.

This is a HUGE college fair! Hundreds of colleges are represented. If you’re looking for a college, this is the place for you.

You’ll have the chance to talk to representatives and learn about the schools. You can pick up information, and ask questions.

Look for me when you come. I hope you’ll bring your questions about your college essays!

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, 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.