Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills

How to Prepare for a Scholarship Interview


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How to Prepare for a Scholarship Interview

How to Prepare for a Scholarship Interview

Have you been asked to interview for a scholarship? Congratulations! Scholarships can help pay your tuition, or perhaps even give you a free ride. First, though, you may  have to get through at least one, and maybe more, interviews.

How Do You Prepare for a Scholarship Interview?

1. Know the Type of Interview

  • Single Interviewer: At times, one person will interview you.
  • Panel: For certain scholarships, you’ll be talking to more than one interviewer at a time, perhaps three or four. Often, the panel consists of different school representatives. For instance, you might be interviewed by an admissions officer, a faculty member, a student, and an alum.
  • Day or Half Day: Some programs will ask you to participate in a series of interviews throughout the day. In this case, you’ll have two or more interviews. 
  • Phone or Video: Sometimes you’ll have a phone or video interview. This can be with one or more people. 
  • Group: Sometimes you might interview as part of a group of candidates. In this case, the interviewers are observing how you interact with your peers as well as listening to how you answer the questions.

Usually, you’ll be told the type of interview to expect. Read the information carefully, and if you still have questions give them a call. 

2. Know About the Scholarship

You’ll be expected to know everything you can about the scholarship. So read the website and do your research.

  • Know who or what it’s named for and what it provides.
  • Know its goals, mission statement and values, and be able to explain how you reflect those values.
  • Look for people who have received the scholarship and see what they’re doing now. 

3. Understand the Industry

If the scholarship is connected to an industry, learn about that industry. For example, The Wilson College of Textiles at North Carolina State University provides undergraduate scholarships to students due to the support of the North Carolina Textile Foundation. So knowing about the textile industry is a key component of being successful in their interviews. 

4. Master Interview Basics

Start by preparing like you would for a regular college interview. You’ll need to be able to talk about what you’re interested in studying, why you want to go to this school, and your positive qualities and strengths. You should also have an example ready for each of these:

  • Your ability to lead
  • Your ability to work as part of a team
  • Your ability to overcome obstacles
  • Your ability to problem solve

Because it’s a scholarship interview, I would also add examples of scholarship, service, and character.

(Need more basic interview prep? Check out my post Top Interview Tips for Teens)

5. Master Scholarship-Related Interview Questions

In addition to knowing about the scholarship itself, you should be able tell them why you deserve this scholarship, how you reflect its goals and values, and how you will contribute to their program, now and in the future. 

Here Are Some Common Scholarship Interview Questions:

Tell me about yourself.

What is your greatest strength and greatest weakness?

How have you been a leader or displayed leadership?

What are you interested in studying?

Which service project are you most proud of?

Give me an example of a time you overcame an obstacle.

How would your friends/teachers describe you?

What is your favorite book?

What current events interest you?

What do you do for fun?

What do you know about this scholarship, or who/what it’s named after?

What can you tell me about the type of program you’d be admitted to?

How will you contribute to our school/to the scholarship program?

How do you reflect our scholarship’s values/mission?

Why do you deserve this scholarship?

Why should we choose you over someone else?

Where do you see yourself in five/ten years?

Do you have questions for me?

6. Anticipate Questions You Haven’t Prepared For

You can’t anticipate every question. Questions like “What’s your spirit animal” and “What three people, living or dead, would you invite to dinner?” are meant to make you think. Don’t be thrown if you get one. Take a deep breath, pause, and think for a moment, and answer in a way that best reflects you and your interests.

7. Ending the Interview

When the interview is over, shake everyone’s hand. Look each person in the eye, smile, say thank you and tell them that you enjoyed the experience. 

Get everyone’s contact information and send a thank you note afterwards. If you want to be even more impressive, add a personal touch—I tell my students to bring note cards to their interviews and leave hand written thank you notes at the desk before they leave.

sharon-epstein-7-2012Sharon Epstein is a Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, teaching students around the world how to master interview skills, write resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. I work with students in-person, by phone, FaceTime, Skype and email. Visit my website for more info. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Do you have questions or want to schedule a personal tutoring session? Contact me, I’d love to hear from you.

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Talking College Essays in Danbury

I had lots of fun last night at the Danbury College Fair. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to chat about writing college application essays!

How to Write College Essays 6 Grammar Rules You Should Break


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6 Grammar Rules You Should Break When You’re Writing Your College Essay

How to Write College Essays 6 Grammar Rules You Should BreakThe other day I told one of my students she could use contractions in her college application essay.

“You can do that?” she asked. “I’ve always been told not to use contractions.”

Like my student, you’ve probably been given a list of grammar rules to follow when you’re writing an English paper. But here’s the catch:

Your college essay isn’t an English paper. You’re telling a story. You’re writing in your own voice. You’ve got creative leeway.

Now to be fair, grammar rules are important. They help us clearly express what we want to say. They allow us to reach our reader in an effective way.

But it’s a big, creative world out there.

Look at me, for example. I wrote dialogue for soap operas. My characters didn’t avoid slang or contractions. If I wanted them to say, “Are you friggin’ kidding me, Alice? I’m outta here! I’m getting a divorce!”—they said that. I love how words sound and how I can combine them to make an impact. This is my style. The college essay is your style.

College Essay Writing Help 5 Grammar Rules You Should BreakSo welcome, creative traveler! You’ve landed in the territory of self-expression. This is where you get to tell your story. And to do that, I’m going to suggest you break a few rules.

6 Grammar Rules You Can Break While You’re Writing a Great College Essay:

1. Don’t  Use Contractions. Your essay should sound like you’re telling a story. It should be in a conversational tone. We all speak in contractions, so go ahead and use them. (Although, I avoid “would’ve” and “should’ve” because I think they’re too casual for college essays.)

2. Don’t  Use Sentence Fragments. Surprise! You might actually want to use a sentence fragment in your essay. A sentence fragment is short, so it’s like putting an exclamation mark on an idea. Think about using one when you want to emphasize a point. Here are three examples of sentence fragments:

I needed to find a new way to study. Because mine wasn’t working out.

The mountain was the tallest I’d ever seen. Which is why I knew I had to climb it

I finally remembered the answer. After the test had ended.

3. Don’t You Can Start Sentences With And, But and OrWant to start a sentence with a conjunction? Go ahead. In fact, you’ll be in good company. Here’s a quote from the Chicago Manual of Style, a guide that’s widely used in publishing:

“There is a widespread belief—one with no historical or grammatical foundation—that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction such as and, but or so. In fact, a substantial percentage (often as many as 10 percent) of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions. It has been so for centuries, and even the most conservative grammarians have followed this practice.”

4. Don’t End sentences with a preposition. We’ve been taught not to end sentences with prepositions, so we re-write our ideas to conform to this rule. For instance, when we want to say, “What space did you park the car in?” we change it to, “In which space did you park the car?”

This type of change often makes a sentence sound more formal. College application essays, though, should be more conversational, and that’s why ending sentences with prepositions is okay.

5. Don’t Use I. You probably know you should use “I” when you write your college essays. But it’s not always easy to write in the first person, especially if you’ve been taught not to voice your personal opinion. It can feel uncomfortable to make that transition.

How to write college application essay use I Are there places you disappear from your story?

You can disappear from your story if you write in the third person. For example, if you write, “A change in study habits was needed,” you’ve taken yourself out of the sentence. It feels like you’re a distant commentator, the outsider looking in. Put yourself back in your story. Use I. Instead, of saying, “A change in study habits was needed,” say, “I decided that I needed to change my study habits.” And don’t be haunted by the third person.

6. No one-sentence paragraphs. One-sentence paragraphs can be amazing.

Toss the notion that all your paragraphs have to be at least three to five sentences. Sure, some paragraphs will be that long. But if a one-sentence paragraph will make your point, provide a transition, or be part of your creative flow, go for it. Don’t go overboard—you’re not writing a poem—but if it works with the rest of your essay, one-sentence paragraphs can do amazing things.

So, traveler, you’ve arrived in the territory of self-expression. You’ve traveled here to tell your story. You’ll still follow some important grammar rules: you’ll use descriptive words, choose the active voice, and make sure your subject agrees with your verb. But it’s time to stretch those creative limbs. And if you’re still not sure breaking these grammar rules is the right way to go, just open up one of your favorite books, by any good author, and read a few paragraphs. Some grammar rules are meant to be broken. So go right ahead.

Did you enjoy this post? Like my Facebook page or leave a comment for me here.

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon Epstein is a Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, teaching students around the world how to master interview skills, write resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. I work with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, FaceTime, Skype and email. Visit my website for more info. Connect with me on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.

 

How to Write Common Application Essays 1-7


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How to Write the Common Application Essay Prompts 1-7

How to Write Common Application Essays 1-7Looking for expert guidance on how to write your Common Application essay?

Need help choosing a prompt, or knowing that the prompt you’ve chosen is right for you?

Then read on!

This is my 2018 series on How to Write the Common Application Essays.  In it, you’ll find professional guidance, tips and techniques to write your best Common Application Essay. I include examples of successful essay topics, too.

My goal is to help you find YOUR story. Because everyone has a story to tell.

Let’s Start with Common Application Essay Basics:

  • The 2018 Common Application has seven prompts. You answer one of them.
  • The Common App essay must be between 250-650 words.
  • You can’t upload more than 650 words.
  • Not every school accepts the Common Application, so check every college on your list for its essay requirements.
  • Click here for the entire list of 2018 Common App essay prompts.

“Ugh. Why Do I Have To Write This Essay???”

Common Application essay instructionsGreat Question. Your essay tells the schools something you want them to know about you apart from your courses, grades, and test scores. It’s your opportunity to write about something you care about and has meaning to you. It establishes a personal connection and helps you stand out from the crowd.

Below Are The Links to The Entire “How to Write” Series. You’ll see I’ve written individual posts for each Common App prompt. In each post, you’ll learn about that particular prompt and the keywords, the “do’s and don’ts” of writing that essay, and reasons for why that prompt might be right for you. I also analyze essays written by students so you can see what succeeds (or doesn’t). Here are the links:

Remember—my goal is to help you find YOUR story. Because you’ve got a story to tell.

I hope you’ll like my Facebook page or leave a comment for me here. I love inspiration!

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon Epstein is a Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, teaching students around the world how to master interview skills, write resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. I work with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, FaceTime, Skype and email. Visit my website for more info. Connect with me on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.

How to Write Common Application Essay 7 topic of your choice


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How to Write 2018 Common Application Essay 7: Topic of Your Choice

How to Write Common Application Essay 7 topic of your choiceWhich Common Application prompt should you choose? In this seven-part series I’ve been helping you answer that question. We’ve come to the final prompt. (Phew!)

For the complete list of 2018 Common Application essay questions click here.

Ready for #7? Let’s do it!

Common Application Essay Prompt #7

Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Is this Prompt for You? Answer Yes IF:

  • The other prompts don’t speak to you.
  • You’re inspired by another school’s prompt.
  • You want to ask and answer your own question.
  • You’ve already written an essay that showcases you as an excellent college candidate.

how to write 2013 common app essay

Pitfalls to Avoid

  • Don’t Stress Over this Prompt. This prompt is meant to reduce your stress, not add to it, says Scott Anderson at The Common Application. Anderson adds, “Topic of your choice doesn’t mean default choice.” If the prompt feels too unstructured use one of the other prompts.
  • Don’t Submit Less Than Your Best. If you’re submitting an essay you’ve already written, make sure it’s well written and showcases you as an excellent potential college student.
  • Don’t Forget the Fundamentals. Prompt #7 doesn’t provide as much guidance as some of the other prompts. So this a good time to recap what schools look for in a Common Application essay:
    • Your writing skills
    • Your ability to communicate your ideas.
    • Your personality – what makes you laugh, think, hope, dream, care. In other words, what’s meaningful to you and why.
    • Schools like to see how you think, so show them that process.
    • Most of the best essays don’t have nice, easy stories. They’ve got an obstacle thrown in your path, a problem you need to solve, a decision you have to make, a realization you came to, or some other circumstance that’s helped shape you into who you are.
    • Essays include reflection—you need to be able to take a step back from your experience to understand how it’s shaped you and/or your goals.

Example of Successful Essay Topic

I had a student, James, who loved the novel The Stranger, by Albert Camus. The title character, Meursault, is estranged from the world, indifferent to society and unaffected by feelings.

So James wrote an essay in which he has a conversation with Meursault. In it, he counters Meursault’s view on the world. Instead of being unaffected, James tells Meursault that he attempts to live a purposeful life. He tries things for pleasure, like teaching himself to cook, because trying and learning give him a better understanding of the world. He tells Meursault about the joy of learning music. He talks about how he designed his own science experiments, and how he learned that, if you soak chicken bones in hydrochloric acid, they’ll bend at 45 degrees without breaking. No information is useless, James stresses to Meursault. At the end of the essay, he tells Meursault that he will always be glad he’s forged his own path and that (unlike Meursault) he has lived life to the fullest.

Why Does this Essay Succeed?

This topic didn’t fit into any of the other prompts, so prompt #7 was the natural choice.

James uses the conversation to show how he’s the opposite of Meursault—he cares, he’s involved, he’s eclectic, he’s engaged. The reader gets a clear sense of his personality, his intellectual curiosity, and his zest for life. It’s creative and original. These are all qualities colleges will like to see.

A Word in Support of Some of My Favorite Prompts from the University of Chicago:

If you’re still looking for essay inspiration, check out the University of Chicago’s essay prompts. UChicago prides itself on uncommon, fun essay questions. They encourage thought and reflection. And they always bring to light interesting aspects of the writer that might otherwise remain hidden. You might decide to answer one for the Common App or invent one of your own. Read the ones I’ve listed below to see how, with a little imagination, you can create your own question and let your imagination and personality fly.

A Sampling of UChicago prompts:

  • Joan of Arkansas. Queen Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Babe Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Mash up a historical figure with a new time period, environment, location, or occupation, and tell us their story.
  • History and art are full of heroes and their enemies. Tell us about the relationship between you and your arch-nemesis (either real or imagined).
  • How did you get caught? (Or not caught, as the case may be.)
  • Chicago author Nelson Algren said, “A writer does well if in his whole life he can tell the story of one street.”…Tell us the story of a street, path, road—real or imagined or metaphorical.
  • “Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.”—Miles Davis (1926–91)
  • Susan Sontag said, “The only interesting answers are those that destroy the questions.” We all have heard serious questions, absurd questions, and seriously absurd questions, some of which cannot be answered without obliterating the very question. Destroy a question with your answer.
  • Click here to read more UChicago prompts.

If you enjoyed this post, I hope you’ll like my Facebook page

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon Epstein is a Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, teaching students around the world how to master interview skills, write resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into creative and memorable college application essays. I work with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, FaceTime, Skype and email. Visit my website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.

Read the entire “How to Write” series:
How to Write Common App Prompt #1: Background, Talent, Identity, or Interest
How to Write Common App Prompt #2: The Lessons We Take From Obstacles
How to Write Common App Prompt #3: Challenged a Belief or Idea
How to Write Common App Prompt #4: A Problem You’ve Solved or Would Like to Solve
How to Write Common App Prompt #5: An Accomplishment, Event, or Realization
How to Write Common App Prompt #6: Topic, Idea or Concept that Makes You Lose Track of Time
How to Write Common App Prompt #7: Topic of Your Choice

How to Write Common Application Essay 6 what makes you lose track of time


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How to Write 2018 Common Application Essay 6: Makes You Lose All Track of Time

How to Write Common Application Essay 6 what makes you lose track of time

You’re writing a Common Application essay.

Which prompt do you answer?

In this 7-part series I’m helping you discover which Common Application essay prompt is right for you.

For the complete list of 2018 Common App essay questions click here.

Ready for #6? Let’s do it!

Common Application Essay Prompt #6:

Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

Is this Prompt for You? Look at the Keywords:

how to write 2013 common app essay

“Topic, Idea or Concept”…”Lose All Track of Time”…”Why”…”What or Who Do You Turn To”

Do the Keywords Apply to You?

  • “Topic, Idea, or Concept” is a very broad phrase. That’s good! It means you can choose almost anything, large or small.
  • “Lose All Track of Time” is self-explanatory. You’ve found yourself so engrossed in something that you didn’t realize how much time had passed.
  • “Why Does it Captivate You?” The key word here is why. You need to figure out why this topic is so engaging, exciting, or thought provoking for you.
  • “What or Who Do You Turn To When You Want to Learn More?” This refers to your independent learning—the times you collect information on your own. You might have asked a teacher, searched Google, read books, watched videos, etc.

What Can Colleges Learn About You From This Question?

  • You’re curious. When something intrigues you, you don’t just sit there—you do something.
  • You’re resourceful. You seek out new sources of information.
  • You’re independent. You’ve directed your own learning.
  • Colleges can picture you being an independent, curious learner at college.
  • Colleges can learn about something that’s meaningful to you.

how to write 2013 common app essay

Pitfalls to Avoid

  • This Question Has 3 Parts—Don’t Leave Any Out. They are: 1. Topic, idea, or concept; 2. Why it captivates you; 3. Who or what you turn to when you want to learn more.
  • Don’t Shortchange “Why.” Discussing “why” is one of the most important things you can do in an essay. Through why, schools learn about you. They see how you think, what you care about, or what concerns you. After you’ve written your draft, read it again and ask yourself if you’ve explored all the reasons “why.”
  • Avoid the Boring Trap!

how to write Common App essay 6To me, this essay prompt is missing something — it doesn’t ask you to look for that little bit of grit in your story. Most of the best essays have some grit – they’ve got an obstacle thrown in someone’s path, a problem to solve, a decision that must be made. Grit makes your story more interesting. It uncovers more of you.

So when you’re writing this essay, find that time you had to think a little harder, become a little more self-reliant, make a decision, or solve a problem. You’ll make your essay more interesting, and avoid the boring trap.

Example of Successful Essay Topic

“The Artist”

Joanne is a an artist. She drew before she could talk. When she’s painting, Joanna loses all track of time. Art gives Joanne an expressive outlet for her thoughts and imagination and it’s helped her develop her sense of personal expression. She tries to interpret her world through her choice of colors, shapes, and setting.

In elementary school, Joanne’s teacher didn’t like her drawings of people and told her she had to draw them with the right number of fingers and toes. For a while, she did it the teacher’s way. But then she decided she didn’t have to be like anyone else and she’s been drawing her way ever since.

In her essay, Joanne wrote that she’s been influenced by two painters who use color and shapes in different ways: Grandma Moses and Georgia O’Keefe. She looks carefully at how they portray their worlds. That gives Joanne ideas about how she can find original ways to interpret hers.

Whenever she can, Joanne takes art classes at the Art Barn down the street. She reads about her favorite painters and she’s learning about new ones. Next, Joanne says, she’s going to experiment with clay. She’s not sure what she’ll be creating or what she’ll learn about herself in the process, but she can’t wait to get started.

Why This Topic Succeeds

  • All the keywords are addressed. She identifies what makes her lose track of time, discusses why it captivates her, and says what she does when she wants to learn more. 
  • She doesn’t shortchange “why.” She digs deep to say why art captivates her.
  • She avoids the boring trap. Joanne’s elementary school story is important because it was a roadblock. It made her look inward and examine her relationship to art, something she continues to do. By including this story, Joanne added that little bit of grit—this is a young lady who decided at an early age that she’s going to follow her own path.

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Next: How to Write Common App Prompt #7

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon Epstein is a Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, teaching students around the world how to master interview skills, write resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into creative and memorable college application essays. I work with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, FaceTime, Skype and email. Visit my website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.

Read the entire “How To Write” series:
How to Write Common App Prompt #1: Background, Talent, Identity, or Interest
How to Write Common App Prompt #2: The Lessons We Take From Obstacles
How to Write Common App Prompt #3: Questioned or Challenged a Belief or Idea
How to Write Common App Prompt #4: A Problem You’ve Solved or Would Like to Solve
How to Write Common App Prompt #5: An Accomplishment, Event, or Realization
How to Write Common App Prompt #6: Topic, Idea or Concept that Makes You Lose Track of Time
How to Write Common App Prompt #7: Topic of Your Choice