Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills


2 Comments

Connect with Me on Pinterest! Tips for Writing a Great Intro to Your College Application Essay

Connect with me on Pinterest! I’ll be posting easy-to-follow tips on writing successful college application essays as well as grammar, funny bits to help you through the tough times, etc. Then create your own Pinterest board — repin my posts and find other inspiration to help you with your college application and essay writing. I’ll see you on Pinterest!

how to write a great introduction to your college application essay

related post on writing great college essay introductions:

How to Succeed with the Common App Essay 500 Word Limit: Essay Samples

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:

follow Sharon Epstein on Twitterfollow Sharon Epstein on pinterest

Leave a comment — let me know what you think!


Leave a comment

College Essay Topics: Try A “Mindful” Day

Today I found college essay writing inspiration in the New York Times ‘Dining & Wine’ section. The article is about Mindful Eating.

The idea, from Buddhist teachings, is to place a forkful of food in your mouth. Then put your fork down. Chew slowly. Take the time to experience the pleasure of what you’re eating. As the writer says, “the texture of the pasta, the flavor of the cheese, the bright color of the sauce in the bowl, the aroma of the rising steam.”

This is called mindful eating.

Most of us eat pretty mindlessly. We’ve got our hand in a bag of chips, or we’re snatching something off the counter or shoveling that next bite of food into our mouths. Before we know it, it’s been swallowed and forgotten. 

That got me thinking about the other mindless things that fill our lives.

What else do we do that’s mindless?

Plenty. I’m just as guilty as anyone, starting from getting up in the morning, to plowing through lunch, to surfing the internet and talking on the phone and watching tv all at the same time.

How about you? Do you text and talk and do homework and listen to music at the same time? Do you rush from home to school to sports to dinner? Do you really pay attention when you say hi to people? Or listen to what they say back?

What if you didn’t speed through your days?

What would you notice? What would you see or hear or taste or appreciate that you don’t even think about now?

Live a mindful day.

Try it. Slow down. Be mindful about what you’re doing and saying. What do you notice? What do you appreciate? How did you live this day differently? How might it change your future days?

The answers might just make a great college essay topic. If you stop and think about it.

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.

Leave a comment — let me know what you think.

related posts:
Looking For Ideas for Your College Application Essay? Look Behind You
Writing College Application Essays: How to Choose a Topic


2 Comments

Organize Your College Search: Try Evernote

Imagine This Scenario:

libe slope Cornell University

You’re visiting a college. You love the architecture. You snap a picture.
You see students playing Frisbee on the arts quad. You grab a video.
You use Dad’s iPad to get more info about that cool looking dorm you saw. You bookmark the page.
You’re home. Where’s your stuff?

Everywhere. Except on your own computer.

Try Evernote. It’s an app that lets you save to different computers, phones, mobile devices and tablets, and then access it anywhere. And it’s free.

I first heard about Evernote when it was mentioned as one of the best free apps around. So I tried it. It was good, but it really proved its usefulness after last August’s hurricane when we lost our power for six days. When my husband needed my laptop, I took my iPod to the nearest library and started writing a new blog. Later, I was able to access those notes on my laptop and keep right on writing.

Here’s how you can use Evernote to help organize your college search:

Create an account on Evernote (with parents’ permission if necessary).
Take pictures, videos, notes.
Create a “notebook” for each college. Drop each piece of information into the notebook.
You’re done.

The best part? Months later, when you begin applying to college and have to write that college application essay on “Why I want to go to _________ University, ” you won’t get stuck writing “It’s so pretty,” or “I love the atmosphere,” or “I just know it’s the school for me.” You’ll know the name of that dorm you loved, and what kind of architecture caught your eye.

You’ll be able to write a great college application essay because you can be specific about what you saw, learned, and heard.
Because you saved it all in one place.

Evernote

Try Evernote.

Sharon Epstein, FIrst Impressions College Consulting..Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting
I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone, and by computer. Visit my website  for more info.

Leave a comment — let me know what you think.

related posts:
College Essay Writing: Make it Easy! Keep a Journal


Leave a comment

Medical School Admission Essay How-To: From Ordinary to Extraordinary

CaduceusIf you’re applying to medical school, you may be wondering how to write a powerful personal essay.

One technique is to tell a story. Relating an event or experience that’s unique to you and which has shaped your decision to become a physician will help you stand out from the crowd.

Differentiate Yourself

The medical school personal essay (AMCAS calls it the Personal Comments essay) is your advertisement. The essay has to speak for you, differentiating you from other candidates and showcasing your strengths. It should illustrate not only your hard skills (specific, teachable abilities that can be defined and measured), but also your soft skills (self-management and people skills), such as a strong work ethic, positive attitude, and ability to work well under pressure.

If your essay does its job, the reader will feel that he or she knows you and understands the special strengths that will make you an excellent physician; someone who deserves a closer look by the admission committee.

So how do you stand out in a sea of applicants?

Create Instant Impact

Consider who is reading your essay. In a busy week, admission officers might read forty or fifty applications per day. Your goal is to get your medical school admission officer to take notice. Your goal is to draw him or her into your essay from the first sentence and maintain that interest until the last word.

Start with a Story

One of the best ways to differentiate yourself and create instant impact is to start your essay with a story.

A well-chosen, well-told story will establish a framework for your essay, and serve as an interesting place to start and engaging way to end. It will showcase your hard and soft skills, and create immediate and compelling interest.

Medical School Essay Example: From Boring to Extraordinary

Here’s an example of how a story transformed a medical school essay. I worked with a young man who planned to be an emergency room physician. This is how his essay began:

“When I was in high school I had the privilege to take an honors Emergency Medical Technician course as part of my regular course work. I had recently joined the fire department in town as part of my community volunteer service and was quickly thrust into the world of emergency medicine. Soon I gained my certification and began running calls to help protect my friends and neighbors: one of my first motor vehicle accidents involved a longtime friend and one of my first calls working a cardiac arrest was a close friend’s mother. Dealing on a daily basis with patients whose ailments range from psychiatric issues to severe traumas gave me a whole new perspective on life. Spending a considerable amount of time interfacing with nurses and physicians in the emergency rooms of local hospitals gave me firsthand experience in the world of emergency medicine, particularly trauma surgery.”

There are three major problems with this medical school essay:

1. It doesn’t grab the reader’s attention.
2. It’s too generic. No other student should be able to write your essay, especially the first sentence. How many medical school applicants can write that they took an EMT course? Plenty.
3. There’s no story.

For his second draft, I asked the student to think about an event that portrayed him at his best, one that compelled him to act in a way that showed he’d make an excellent physician and co-worker. I wanted the experience to have a powerful emotional connection for him, because that would generate greater interest for the reader. I also wanted him to use dialogue to bring his experience to life.

As we talked, he realized the story he wanted to tell was already in his essay. Its mention, however, was so fleeting that he hadn’t even given it a sentence: “…one of my first calls working a cardiac arrest was a close friend’s mother.”

With that story in mind, here’s how the student re-worked his essay:

“3:24 am. Drowsy, trying to wake up. Redding Ambulance for an unresponsive female… Adrenaline kicking in. EMS pants on… CPR in progress.
Damn.
For the past six years, I have immersed myself in the world of emergency medicine. When I was sixteen I joined the fire department in town and began running calls to help protect my friends and neighbors. Dealing on a daily basis with patients whose ailments range from psychiatric issues to severe traumas gave me a whole new perspective on life and spending time interfacing with nurses and physicians in the emergency rooms of local hospitals gave me firsthand experience in the world of emergency medicine, particularly trauma surgery. I was able to help my patients not only in the field but also in the critical early stages of emergency stabilization in the ER. My level of competence became extremely important to me as my patients lives depend on it. I enjoyed being able to help my neighbors and make a positive difference in their lives; something told me that this was the field I should be in.
3:31 am. Sirens. I recognize my friend’s house as soon as we arrive. I walk inside to find chaos: my friend’s mother on the ground, police performing CPR… struggling to untangle AED wires. I evaluate the officer’s compressions and prepare to drop an oropharyngeal airway. Stand clear.”

In the rest of his essay, the student intersperses more punches of time as he and the team try unsuccessfully to resuscitate his friend’s mother; until finally:

“3:38 am. My earlier drowsiness is long gone. I spike an IV bag while the paramedic searches for a vein. I pick epinephrine from his bag and hand it to him. No time to dwell on the tragedy at hand. The ambulance slams towards the hospital.”

Does the story grab you from the beginning? You bet. Specifics? No one else can tell this story. Emotion? We feel like we’re right there, experiencing the student’s compassion for his friend and his friend’s dying mother as he works with the other medics to save her life (examples of both soft and hard skills). More than one admission officer commented on this essay during the student’s interviews.

What’s Your Story?

What event made an impact on your life and your choice to be a physician? Tell it. Use your story to frame your essay. Incorporate detail that’s unique to you, and gives the reader an understanding of who you are, what you’ve been through, and what you’re capable of.

Don’t leave your medical school essay in need of CPR. Breathe life into it. Tell a story.

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 or blog for more info.

Leave a comment — let me know what you think.

related posts:
College Admission Essays: Finding Your Authentic Voice
Writing College Application Essays: 5 Editing Tips
links:
2012 AMCAS Instruction Manual


4 Comments

How to Succeed with the Common App Essay Word Limit: pt 4 (Ideas that Work)

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you’re on your way to succeeding with the Common App Essay’s 500 Word Limit.

So far in this 4 part series, I’ve given you 7 Important Tips to Remember, told you how to Think Small and Still Tell a Big Story, and showed you some Writing Samples.

Now, here’s how to find Ideas that Work:

1. Don’t Choose a Topic that’s Too Big

This is perhaps the most important thing to remember. If you write about your entire summer vacation, or an idea or event that’s going to take 3 paragraphs just to explain, you’re in trouble before you begin.

2. Write about a Moment in Time

If you can find a moment — something that happened in a brief period – you can be well on your way to tackling the 500 word limit.

For example, I had a student tell me about the time he spent playing catch with his brother. It started out helping him improve his baseball skills, but then he found it drew them together as brothers. He used that game of catch — that moment in time — to write about their friendship.

I also had a student write about babysitting for kids who played video games instead of using their imaginations, and she talked about how imagination was so important to her. She used that night of babysitting as her jumping off point to write her Common Application essay. It was her moment in time.

Remember, moments can be easily related in 500 words. If you want more examples,  I’ve written more about moments in an earlier blogpost.

3. Write about an Idea

What do you love? What is it about you that makes you different, interesting, or unique?

Let’s say you love music. Why? What does it do for you? How does it shape who you are or how you see yourself in the world?  Use the IDEA to craft an essay.

Connecticut College has a great page called “Essays that Worked.”  On it are different Common App essays from admitted students, including a couple of examples of how students write about an “idea.” One student writes about why she doesn’t watch television, another writes about why she’s so comfortable when she’s curled up. While these essays are over 500 words (they were submitted before the new limit), an idea can definitely be tackled in 500 words or less.

4. Leave time to Edit!

I can’t stress this enough — leave enough time to edit your work. If you’re long and you don’t know what to do, ask an adult who has good writing skills to help you. But you can’t finish at 11 pm before your deadline and expect to edit your essay.

Well-edited essays are stronger, clearer, and easier to read.
Editing shows you took the time to review and polish your work.

Impress your college reader. Edit.

5. Does the Common Application Essay Need to be 500 Words???

This is a great question, and one that’s being answered in different ways. The Common Application says it expects students to adhere to the limit. I’ve talked to admission counselors who say that going over a little isn’t going to hurt anyone. Others say if you’re over by a lot, it doesn’t say good things about you being able to follow instructions.

Here’s what I have to say:

1. If you want your Common Application essay to be more than a few words over the limit, contact the admissions counselors at the schools you’re applying to. They’re the only ones who can give you a definite answer.

2. Boring is boring, no matter how long or short it is. So be interesting, be yourself, and write a wonderful, 500 word essay.

related posts:
How to Succeed with the Common App Essay Word Limit: Pt 1 (7 Tips to Remember)
How to Succeed with the Common App Essay Word Limit: Pt 2 (Think Small and Still Tell a Big Story)
How to Succeed with the Common App Essay Word Limit: Pt 3 (Essay Samples )

Read Time.com on the Common App Essay Word Limit

Sharon Epstein, FIrst Impressions College Consulting..Sharon Epstein First Impressions College Consulting
Need help? Get in touch! I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone, and by computer. Visit my website for contact info.


Leave a comment

Join Me October 3rd at the Ridgefield Library: “The ABC’s of Writing A Great College Application Essay”

What do colleges look for in a great college application essay? That’s the question I’ll be answering at the Ridgefield Library on Monday, October 3 at 7pm.  I’ll be joined by Matthew Dempsey, Assistant Director of Admission at Fairfield University.

I’ll give an overview of the college essay writing process, discuss what colleges look for, how to choose a good topic, and give writing tips that will make every essay unique.

Matthew will share a first-hand account of the admission counselor’s role, give examples of essays that have and haven’t succeeded, and talk about how essays are viewed in the context of the entire application.

Bring your questions!

This program is for high school students and their families. Registration isn’t required. For more information visit http://www.ridgefieldlibrary.org or call 203-438-2282.

I hope to see you there!


7 Comments

How to Succeed with the Common App Essay 500 Word Limit: pt 3 (Essay Samples)

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you’re on your way to handling the Common App Essay’s 500 Word Limit.

In part 1 & part 2 of this series, I gave you 7 Important Tips to Remember, and told you how to Think Small And Still Tell a Big Story.

Here are 4 more writing tips, including before and after writing samples, so you can see how to pare down an essay without compromising your ideas:

1. Start In the Middle of Your Story. Begin right in the middle of things, where your action or conflict starts. You’ll not only save words, but also create excitement and immediately draw the reader into your story. Here are three examples of changing an opening line:

Example #1:

  • Before: “I spent my summer vacation interning in the emergency room of a hospital in Seattle.”
  • After: “The bloody gurney wheeled past me. I closed my eyes and prayed for the strength not to pass out.

Example #2:

  • Before: “I always wanted to climb a mountain, so that’s what I decided to do my freshman year.”
  • After: “‘Hurry up and get your rear in gear!’ my dad yelled, as I scrambled to collect myself for another day of mountain climbing.”

Example #3:

  • Before: “Last year was a rough time for me. My parents and I really didn’t get along.”
  • After: “I opened the letter, not knowing how angry my parents would be.”

Tip: If you’re not sure where your action should start, write your story from the beginning. You’ll probably find your action begins in the second or third paragraph.

2. Use Adjectives and Adverbs Wisely. Don’t be a word hog. If you’re over 500 words, start by eliminating some of your adjectives and adverbs. You probably won’t miss them.

Example #1:

  • Before: As he moved, his large legs made heavy, thumping sounds. He turned to stare at the amazing, dawning sunrise.
  • After: As he moved, his legs made heavy, thumping sounds, He turned to stare at the sunrise.
  • Why? 1. Size adjectives like “large” are often too general. Words like “heavy” and “thumping” are specific. 2. “Amazing” is an overused adjective. Try not to use it. 4. “Sunrise” is “dawn.” Look for these kinds of redundancies.

Example #2:

  • Before: “He walked convincingly.”
  • After: “He strode.” The writer condensed his words by choosing one word that conveyed the same idea.

3. Use Dialogue With Less Commentary. Dialogue works well in a college application essay. But when you need to pare down your words, go easy on the commentary — the words that explain the dialogue.

Example:
A father and son are climbing the face of a cliff.

  • Before:
    “I can’t reach it!” he yelled.
    “That’s okay, I’ve got you,” his father replied knowingly.
    “No, dad,” he said, scared.
    “You won’t fall, son,” his father coaxed. “Slide your hand up until you feel the ledge.”
    He stretched out his fingers and grasped the rock. “I’ve got it!”
  • After:
    “I can’t reach it!”
    “That’s okay, I’ve got you.”
    “No, dad.”
    “You won’t fall, son. Slide your hand up until you feel the ledge.”
    He stretched out his fingers and grasped the rock. “I’ve got it!”

Twelve words were cut. The dialogue is still effective (even better, actually, because the action is faster), and the commentary is minimal.

4. Have Someone Else Read Your College Application Essay. Sometimes, as writers, we’re just too close to our material, and it becomes difficult to know what to cut. Ask one or more people who know you to look at your essay and give suggestions.

Now you’re ready for part 4: Ideas that Work!

Read Time.com on the Common App Essay Word Limit

related posts:
How to Succeed with the Common App Essay Word Limit: Pt 1 (7 Tips to Remember)
How to Succeed with the Common App Essay Word Limit: Pt 2 (Think Small and Still Tell a Big Story)
How to Succeed with the Common App Essay Word Limit: Pt 4 (Ideas that Work)

Read Time.com on the Common App Essay Word Limit

Sharon Epstein, FIrst Impressions College Consulting..Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting
Need help? Get in touch! I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone, and by computer. Visit my website for more info.

Leave a comment — I’d like to know what you think.