Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills


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Advice for Graduating High School Students: The View from My Inbox

Advice for graduating high school seniors

This is an interesting time of year for me.

In my email I find notes from students excitedly telling me where they’ll be headed in the fall.  I’m also hearing from new students, often apprehensive about the college process, needing to figure it out.

The intersection of two worlds.

It’s a year-long cycle. Head down, one foot in front of the other, schools visited, essays written, applications completed, interviews done, flying toward something new and oh-so-fabulous.

At times it can be tough to see through the slog, but it’s inevitable: After June comes November. After November comes acceptances. After acceptances, graduation.

So, for my 2013 graduates – here’s to you. You did it. And as you leave for adventures yet to be imagined, remember:

Be joyful.
Try new things.
Speak up.
Take risks.
Never lose sight of your dreams.

In a few years I look forward to discovering more notes from my students, excitedly telling me their post-college plans: internships, grad school, work, family, adventures yet to be imagined. And then I’ll turn to the other emails in my inbox, the ones from my new students, and assure them it can all work out.

Graduating this year? Here are helpful links and good advice:
Credit Card Insider: College and Your Credit
5 Pieces of Advice Every High School Graduate Should Get
The Best High School Graduation Advice No One Ever Told Me

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 nominee, Sharon teaches students how to master interview skills 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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Free College Prep Program in Ridgefield May 9

Ridgefield Parks and Recreation College Program

Are you a member of a college-bound family?

Come to my final college prep program of the spring (and it’s free!):

“Less Stress, More Success”
May 9
7pm
Ridgefield Parks and Recreation
Ridgefield, Connecticut

I’ll be joined by Jennifer Soodek, an independent educational consultant and founder of Head4Success career and college counseling in Ridgefield and Westport. Jennifer and I spoke at ProAccess, the teen center in Bethel, and had a terrific time working together.

We’ve teamed up to help students and their families:

  • Navigate the college admissions process
  • Learn how to write memorable college application essays
  • Take that stress level down a notch (or more)

Jennifer will talk about the application process, from college visits to SAT and ACT testing to creating the right college list.

I’ll teach students how to write great application essays.

You’ll leave knowing what colleges look for and how essays can go from boring and bland to unique and interesting.

Bring your questions and learn from the experts.

This is a great program for high school students and their families.

More info: Ridgefield Parks and Rec. I hope to see you on May 9!

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 nominee for her work in television, she teaches students how to master interview skills and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. Sharon 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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Common Application Essay and Writing Changes 2013-14

2013 Common App Essay and Writing Changes

There are changes coming to the writing portions of the 2013-14 Common Application. Here’s an overview that The Common App released today:

1. What writing opportunities are available in the 2013-14 Common Application?

The Essay. Required of all applicants.
Additional Information. Optional for applicants who wish to report circumstances or
qualifications not reflected elsewhere in the application.
Required Explanations. Conditionally required for applicants based on responses to
application questions about school discipline, criminal history, military discharge, or an
interrupted education.

2. What is changing about writing in the Common Application?

•  There are 5 new essay prompts.
• Each writing section will have an enforced 650 word limit. The essay will not allow a
response shorter than 250 words.
• The extracurricular short answer question will be part of supplemental essay requirements for schools that want to ask this question.
Uploaded documents will be replaced by text-entry. Students can compose their
responses directly in the application or cut-and-paste a response drafted in another word
processing program.

3. Can students format their writing?

Yes. Basic formatting (bold, italics, underline, and accented characters) will be available. In
addition, text pasted from a word processing program will typically retain these styles of
formatting.

4. Will students have other opportunities to share more writing or additional submissions?

Yes. Through supplemental essays, if colleges wish to ask for them. Also, colleges may be willing to receive uploaded documents such as resumes, research papers, or graded assignments. (Make sure to find out if individual schools accept these kinds of submissions.)

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut.
Need help? I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone, Skype, and by email. Visit my website for more info. Connect with me on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter:

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Common App 2013 Essay Prompts

Common Application essay prompts 2013

The 2013-2014 Common Application won’t formally launch until August 1, but  the Common Application essay prompts are already out.

There are changes from last year:

650 word limit (up from 500)
All-new prompts
No “topic of your choice”

Here are the 2013 Common Application Essay Prompts with Instructions:

Instructions: The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and
helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to
know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you
answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and
structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don’t feel obligated to do so. (The application won’t accept a response shorter than 250 words.)

  1. 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.
  2. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
  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 place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
  5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

In future posts I’ll give you easy-to-follow tips on writing your 2013 College Application essay.

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut.
Need help? I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone, and by email. Visit my website for more info. Connect with me on Google+, Twitter and Pinterest:

follow Sharon Epstein on Twitterfollow Sharon Epstein on pinterest


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Writing College Essays: 3 Words to Ditch

college essay writing: 3 weak wordsSome words shouldn’t find their way into college application essays. I’m not talking about words that make you sound like a thesaurus (I’ll get to that at a later date) – I’m talking about words that are weak.

Weak words are like limp handshakes – a little damp, a little icky – you wish the person shaking your hand had the confidence to do it right. Maybe nobody told them. Which is why I’m telling you.

3 of the Weakest Words in College Essays:

1. Things
2. Get
3. This

What Makes These Words Weak?
They’re all vague. (What “things” are you talking about, anyway?) They’re also BORING.
Please, don’t bore your college reader (zzzzzzzz).

How Do You Get Rid of Weak Words?
Easy. Learn to recognize them, and then substitute stronger, more interesting words. Interesting words are often more specific words.

Here are examples of how to change weak words to strong:

1. Things

Weak: “I enjoy learning about certain things on my own.”
Strong: “I enjoy learning about science and math on my own.”
Weak: “I frequently hear things like, “Hey Smart Girl, I bet you know everything.”
Strong: “I frequently hear comments like, “Hey Smart Girl, I bet you know everything.”

2. Get

Weak: “The day after getting the ping-pong table, I asked my dad to play with me.”
Strong: “The day after the store delivered the ping-pong table, I asked my dad to play with me.”
Weak: “If snow was predicted, I’d head out in the middle of a storm to get the driveway cleared.”
Strong:If snow was predicted, I’d head out in the middle of a storm to clear the driveway.”

3. This

Weak: “I’ve been working on this since last summer.”
Strong: “I’ve been working on my carpentry skills since last summer.”
Weak: “I didn’t pursue this expecting to become a professional.”
Strong: “I didn’t pursue dance expecting to become a professional.”

Find the weak words in your essays and substitute stronger ones. You’ll show off your writing skills, and impress your college reader.

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting
Need help? I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone, and by computer. Visit my website for more info. Connect with me on Google+, Twitter and Pinterest:

follow Sharon Epstein on Twitterfollow Sharon Epstein on pinterest
Leave a comment — let me know what you think!


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College Essay Writing Workshops in August

Do you have a student who needs to learn how to write a memorable college application essay? Sign up for one of my intensive four-day college essay writing workshops in August and let an award-winning writer guide your student toward success.

Students will learn:

  • What colleges want
  • What types of essays are successful
  • How to choose the right topic
  • How to write a great introduction
  • How to transform their life experiences into an interesting and memorable story that’s unique to them

 

It won’t be like pulling teeth, either, because I believe writing should be fun. I’ll share my stories as a professional television writer for ABC, CBS and NBC, and teach “insider” writing techniques that can make college essays stand out and get noticed.

Students will leave with a rough draft of their college application essay (the long essay on the Common Application).

Students and parents will have less stress come application deadline time.

The workshop will be held August 13 – 16 and again August 20 – 23 at the Redding Community Center, Redding, Connecticut, from 6:30 to 8:30pm. Each session is limited to 6 students so there will be lots of individual attention and feedback.

The fee is $400 and the deadline to sign up is two weeks before the first session. Bring your laptop. Minimum 3 students per class. For more information call 203-938-9199 or email info@u-can-write.com.

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut, and is the recipient of a Writers Guild Award and two Emmy nominations for her work in television. She works with students everywhere. Connect on Twitter and Pinterest:

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10 Tips for Students to Reduce College Application Stress

10 ways to reduce college application stress

Aarrgh! It’s creeping up on you…you can feel it…it’s reaching out to grab you like a thousand spindly fingers…it’s COLLEGE APPLICATION TIME!

Send that Stress Packing! Here’s how:

1.Get OrganizedStart by:

A. Writing Everything Down

Deadlines.
Dates of tests.
Application due dates for each school.
Any other paperwork you’ll need or deadlines you’ll have to meet (financial aid, etc).
Letters of recommendation you’ll need and who you’ll ask.
The number of supplemental essays required by each school and each essay prompt (write down these prompts exactly as they’re given to you). Then:

B. Make a Calendar

Work backwards from each deadline or task and decide when each one needs to be completed.
**IMPORTANT: Give yourself twice the amount of time you think you’ll need. Trust me on this – everything will take longer than you think.

C. Set up a Filing System

You’ll need both a virtual and real filing system for each school (for email and snail mail).
You might also want to try Evernote, which is an easy way to access photos, documents and notes from any computer you’re on (it’s free).

Don’t want your parents bugging you? Take the initiative and stick to your schedule.

2.Pick a Range of Colleges You Like and Will Like You. Be realistic when you’re putting together your college list. It’s great to have one or two reach schools, but make sure to include schools that you like and that are likely to admit you.

3.Look for Schools that are Test Optional. ACT and SAT scores not your thing? Over 850 colleges are test optional. These schools believe that a combination of grades, recommendations and extra-curricular activities will give them a better picture of how you’ll do in college. For a complete list of schools that are test-optional, go to FairTest.org.

4.Don’t Wait Until School Starts to Write Your Essays. You’ll have homework, homecoming, applications and activities —  how are you going to have time for all those essays? (No, you can’t write well without sleep.)  Start your college application essays during the summer, when you have time to think and write. This goes double if you’re applying early — you may have several supplemental essays due November 1. Plan ahead and put those deadlines on your calendar!

5.Don’t Talk to Other Students About Your College Applications. This is a MAJOR stressor. Your friends come up to you and want to know what your essay topic is, or where you’re applying, or why you haven’t heard yet since theyve all heard. It’s easy to compare yourself to other students, but DON’T GO THERE. Enjoy the search and be confident that you’re applying to the schools that are right for you. When friends ask if your application’s in or your essays are done just say, “It’s coming along, thanks.” Then change the subject. Eventually they’ll get the idea and stop asking.

6.Get Moving. Ride a bike, go for a run, take the dog for a hike. Spend a few hours not thinking or talking about college. You’ll think better and you’ll feel better, too.

7.It’s YOUR College Tour. Enjoy! You’re on a shopping trip. Keep your eyes off your texts and on the sights. Talk to the tour guide and the students you meet –  ask them what they’re studying and what they love about their school. Then try to imagine yourself as a freshman on campus heading to class, the dorm or to dinner. See if your gut says you want to spend the next four years there.

8.Remember That Your Parents Want the Best for You: Your parents helped get you this far in life and they’re probably going to be a bit protective. It might scare them to think that you’re leaving home or even make them sad. So if they hover over you or ask tour guides embarrassing questions, take a deep breath and remember that they just want what’s best for you.

9. Don’t Narrow Your Options Too Quickly. (The College Helper suggested this tip when they commented on my last post, “7 Tips for Parents to Reduce College Application Stress.”) Some students get focused on attending a particular type of university – a large state school, for example – and never look at private universities or other schools that are outside of what they ‘think’ they want. Take time to explore – you can’t really be certain about what you want until you know what the other types of colleges are all about.

10. If You’re Overwhelmed, Ask for Help. Never be embarrassed to ask for help. Guidance counselors, teachers and private professionals can answer questions, guide you through the application process, provide feedback on your essays, and work with you on achieving your deadlines. Help is out there – you just have to ask for it.

related posts:
7 Tips for Parents to Reduce College Application Stress
Organize Your College Search: Try Evernote

links
Dealing with the Stress of College Applications
Peterson’s: Reducing Stress About College Admission Requirements
New York Times: The Burden of the College Admissions Process (students write about their college application experiences)

Sharon Epstein, FIrst Impressions College Consulting..Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting
Need help? I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone, and by computer. Visit my website for more info.
Connect with me on Google+, Twitter and Pinterest:

follow Sharon Epstein on Twitterfollow Sharon Epstein on pinterest

Leave a comment — let me know what you think!