Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills


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How to Write 2016 Common Application Essay #3: Reflect On a Time When You Challenged a Belief or Idea

How to write 2016 Common App essay prompt 3 reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea Hooray! You’re applying to college!

How do you choose which Common Application essay to write?

In this 5-part series I help you figure out which 2016 Common Application question is right for you.

  • For the entire list of 2016 Common Application essay prompts click here.

Ready for number 3? Let’s do it!

Common Application Essay Prompt #3:

Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

Is This Prompt for You?  Look at the Keywords:

how to write 2013 common app essay

“Challenged a belief or idea” “Prompted you to act”…”Would you make the same decision again?”

When Should You Choose This Essay?

Answer this question ONLY IF:

  • You were confronted with a belief or idea which you felt compelled to challenge or change.

What are Colleges Looking For?

Colleges are looking for your critical thinking skills. Show them your thought process (the steps you took to make your decision) and then reflect on your experience (which will show them maturity and insight).

how to write 2013 common app essay

Pitfalls to Avoid: 

  • Understand the keywords. “Challenged a belief or idea” means that you took some kind of action either on your own behalf or on the behalf of someone or something else.
  • This question has THREE parts—don’t leave one out. Discuss what prompted you to act, then reflect on your decision and say whether you’d do it again.
  • Don’t forget to include a learning experience. What did you learn? How did you grow?
  • Caution: You never want to offend your reader. Remember that a belief or idea you disagree with could be one that your reader accepts, so always watch your tone and be respectful when needed.

Not Sure this Question Relates to You?
Here are 3 ways you might answer this question:

  • Were you told by an adult that you wouldn’t be successful in an activity, but you chose to pursue it anyway?
  • Did you challenge what a group of friends told you to do because you thought they were wrong?
  • Did you see someone being treated unfairly (perhaps even yourself) and attempt to rectify it?

What Other Kinds of Beliefs or Ideas Can You Consider?

  • It can be a belief or idea held by others (including friends, schoolmates and family).
  • It can be a belief or idea you’ve been taught (including your attitude or action toward others, or how something should or shouldn’t be done).
  • It can also be your own belief—something that’s unique to you. What if you thought your sister came from Mars? (Okay, that’s silly.) But sometimes we have our own ideas: Consider the student who thinks being loudest is the best way to gain attention, or the girl who thinks she’s happiest being alone. What if the student realized he’d rather have friends than negative attention, or the girl pushed herself out of her comfort zone to find out she enjoyed being a leader at school? Think about what you believed when you were younger, and if your ideas changed, why. If your experience is meaningful and says positive things about you (and answers the question), this prompt could be for you.

Which brings me to:

Should you write about religion? You can. I’ve had students who’ve written about different aspects of their spiritual journey, whether it was trying to conform to their parents’ religion or searching for their own truth. But remember the caution: You don’t want to offend your reader. So along with topic choice, consider the tone of your writing. For instance, it’s a lot different to say you felt a need to find your own spiritual path than to say you hated a specific religion and couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Tip from College Admissions Officers: Some admissions officers tell me that many essays about spiritual journeys are starting to sound very similar to them. So if you want to write about your spiritual journey, find an original approach that makes your essay stands out. If it starts to feel generic, dig deeper into who you are and how this topic reflects your values, your ability to problem solve, or your goals. (Give the colleges good reasons to want to admit you.) If you’re not sure it will stand out, switch topics.

Example of a Successful Essay Topic:

A student’s elementary school teacher wasn’t a kind woman and picked on many of the children in her class. As a result, the student’s self-esteem suffered and her grades dropped. It took a long time for the student to learn to stand up for herself, but when she finally did she started to excel. In high school, she became a leader and mentor and spoke to teens about how to combat bullying. She taught them the harmful power of words, and how to use words in a positive way.  In her essay she explained why she would make the same decision again: “My passion for making a difference stems from my own experiences where negative criticism created a lasting effect on me…Becoming emotionally and physically independent and having the confidence to challenge social norms have become the most powerful tools in my possession.”

Is This Topic Successful? Yes.

  • All the keywords are addressed. The student told her story, described what prompted her to act, and explained why she would make the same decision again.
  • She included a learning experience. Once she learned to stand up for herself, the student took on the role of a mentor and leader, and worked to combat bullying.
  • She conveyed positive qualities. This student exhibited personal strength and moral character. She was able to pull herself out of a difficult situation to personally excel and to help others.
  • She gave colleges excellent reasons to admit her: She was a leader, a compassionate human being, and someone with high standards who wanted to make a difference.

Reasons Essay Prompt #3 Can Work for You: 

  • You can communicate your level of maturity.
  • You can highlight your critical thinking skills.
  • You can demonstrate that you’re open-minded and have respect for the beliefs and ideas of others.
  • You can show that your choices or ideas had an impact.
  • Interesting Fact: Last year, this was the least-answered Common App essay prompt. Since admissions officers won’t read as many of these essay answers, your topic could have a better chance of standing out.

Tip: It’s okay to say you wouldn’t make the same decision again. Colleges want to see that you have the maturity and perspective to understand your actions.  Just remember—by the end of the essay you should be saying positive things about yourself.

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 #4.

Also in this series:
For the entire list of 2016 Common App essay prompts click here.

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


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

 

 

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Should I Disclose a Learning Difference in My College Essay?

Guest blogger: Joanna NovinsShould I disclose a learning difference in my college essay?

To Disclose or Not to Disclose?

As I a writer, I’ll admit, I’m a bit fixated on essays. So naturally, I wondered whether college application essays are the appropriate place for a student to disclose that he or she has learning differences.

When I asked, admissions officers and college disability professionals all gave me the same answer: it’s not necessary. Although, as one administrator noted, “A lot of students don’t disclose because they have decent grades, but if you’ve had a bad year, you should address it. Parents should call and shop around,” she said, adding, “I don’t want kids to come here and flounder.”

Colleges want to know that the students they admit will be able to work independently—which is why essays are so focused on learning about how students problem solve and how they’ve overcome personal challenges. They’re aware that LD students will be in need of some form of support, such as additional time taking tests or organizational strategies, so LD students also need to show that in addition to meeting this criteria, they’re resilient and know how to successfully self-advocate.

If you do decide to disclose in your application essays, consider the following:

  • A story about how you’ve learned to work with your disability or overcome prejudices could be a compelling Common Application essay.
  • An explanation of how your disability has affected your grades in a specific area of study might be worth addressing in a supplemental essay.
  • Whether you disclose in the Common Application essay or a supplemental essay, your focus should be on what you’ve learned from the experience about working more effectively.

Note: If you decide the essay isn’t the right place for you to disclose a learning difference but you want to address it, use the additional information portion of the Common Application. You don’t need to write an essay for this section; a well-written, straightforward paragraph or two will give the admissions committee the information it needs to fully understand your transcript and background.

For more information read the related post:
Questions to Ask About College Services for Learning Differences

Joanna NovinsJoanna Novins is a professional writer and analyst by training, but the challenges facing students with learning differences is a topic that is near and dear to her heart. She teaches writing to students with learning differences and is the proud parent of a smart, successful, and highly independent college student with a learning difference.  Joanna holds a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a bachelor’s degree with honors in history from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. She is an independent writing consultant for First Impressions College Consulting, teaching college essay writing to students of all abilities.

 

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Junior Year Checklist: 10-Step Action Plan to Prepare for College

Copy of Junior Year Checklist 10-Step Action Plan to Prepare for CollegeThe other day I was at lunch with two of my favorite college counselors, Betsy Bell (in Wilton, Connecticut) and Jennifer Soodek, owner of Head 4 Success in Westport, Connecticut, when we started talking about what high school juniors can be doing now to start planning for college.

The answer is plenty.

Junior Year Checklist: An Action Plan to Prepare for College

 

1.  Create a Common Application account. When you create your account, you have a choice of checking “applicant planning to enroll in the next 12 months” or “other.” Check “other.” (Although, Betsy and Jennifer assured me that if you check “applicant planning to enroll in the next 12 months” you’ll be fine—this is only for Common App record keeping, so it’s not a problem if you don’t click “other.”)

2. Fill Out Your Application. After you create a Common Application account, you can fill out most of the application. You can’t enter your GPA or your senior classes yet, but you can fill out the rest.

Tip: When you’re filling out your activities, remember to pretend that it’s September and that you’re filling them out as a senior, not as a junior.

3. Brainstorm Topics for Your Common Application Essay. If you have time, you can start writing your Common App essay now. Otherwise, start writing when school ends and aim to finish before senior year starts. You can find all the Common Application essay prompts here.

4. Get to Know Your Essay Supplements. In the Dashboard section of the Common App, enter the colleges you’re interested in and look at last year’s supplemental essay questions. (Most colleges haven’t published their new supplemental questions yet, but many keep the same questions.) If you visit, ask about the current questions. If you’re not visiting and want to know, call the admissions office.

5. Visit Colleges. Schedule a tour and an on-campus interview. (Even if it’s just informational, you want to make contact with a college rep and start to let them get to know you.) Walk around (take time by yourself if you can manage it) and imagine yourself as a freshman on campus. Say hi to students on campus and ask them what they like about the school and what surprised them when they arrived on campus. Get a feel for the atmosphere, the culture and the students. Take notes about what you like and don’t like and collect the business cards of all the people you talk to on your trips—you may want to contact them later if you have more questions.

6. Email Your Schools. Begin to contact all the colleges you’re interested in. Contact them through Naviance or email them from each college’s web site. If you work with Naviance, it makes it very easy to do.

When you send your email, introduce yourself and ask questions that will require an admissions person to answer, so you don’t get an auto reply response. You can ask questions such as: Will you be the reader of my application? If I submit my application early, will it be read early and will I receive a decision notification early? I want to get a head start on my supplements, so could you tell me if your supplemental questions will be the same for my class as they were for the previous year? Will you be visiting my high school in the fall? If you will be visiting could you please email me your visiting date?

Tip: Include your email, cell number, phone number and address in the body of the email so the school has all your contact information and they know how to reach you.

7. Get Your Testing Done by the End of Junior Year. Leave the fall for any additional testing you want to do. Plan to take each test twice.

8. Arrange for Recommendations. Decide which teachers you want to ask for recommendations and ask if they’d be willing. Your recommendations should come from teachers in your sophomore or junior year academic classes—these will be the teachers who know you. 

Ask your teachers now, in the spring. Set up an appointment to talk to each teacher; it’s not only polite, but it will also give you the chance to tell the teacher what you’re like outside of class.

Do you need your recommendations early? If that’s the case, ask your teachers about their time frame and if they would be willing to write a recommendation over the summer. You’ll need them early if colleges have rolling admissions or if you’re applying certain places early decision. For instance, Wake Forest is rolling ED, so if you send in an application July 1 you’ll learn by August if you’re admitted.

9. Know if You Have Extra Application Requirements. If you’re an athlete or an artist, be aware that there are additional levels of preparation necessary to apply to college. Actors and musicians may need to schedule auditions, athletes may need to meet with coaches, and artists may need to submit portfolios. Know how that will affect your time frame for preparation. Also make sure to know exactly what’s required—for instance, if you need to submit a portfolio, ask what that portfolio should contain.

10. Finish Junior Year Strong. Colleges will be looking at your success (or lack of success) junior year. Don’t give them anything to dock you for, especially a poor marking period. Finish strong.

Related post:
4 College Admissions Myths Debunked
Why It’s Important to Know Your College Rep

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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. First Impressions College Consulting teaches students how to master interview skills, write killer resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. We work with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit our website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.


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Questions to Ask About College Services for Learning Differences

Guest blogger: Joanna NovinsQuestions to Ask About Colleges' Disability Services

I’m a professional writer and analyst by training, but the challenges facing students with learning differences is a topic that is near and dear to my heart; I teach writing to students with learning differences and I am the proud parent of a smart, successful, and highly independent college student with a learning difference.

The information contained in this article is derived from interviews with administrators and disabilities professionals from a range of colleges including Union College, Williams College, Adelphi University, University of Connecticut, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI); and with LD students.

Students with Learning Differences – What You Should Know (Or Ask) When Applying to Colleges

Applying to colleges involves a lot of research, and questions like the kinds of programs a school offers, its academic philosophy or mission, its academic and social reputation, and the size and location, culture and feel, to name but a few. But if you’re a student with learning differences, or the parent of a student with learning differences, there are even more questions you should be asking.

First, Know Your Rights.

Students with learning differences are protected against discrimination in colleges and universities by the Americans with Disabilities Act and its subsequent amendments. The law requires that an LD student’s accommodation’s file be reviewed and that professors be informed that they have a student requiring accommodations in their class. When applying to college, it’s important to understand how different schools handle this process.

Whom Should You Talk To?

While the admissions officers I spoke to were eager to help, I found the majority weren’t particularly well-informed about disability services and often immediately routed me to a college disabilities office or center. (In one instance I was routed to an administrator who no longer worked at the school.)

Your best bet is to check the campus website for an office providing disability or student support services and start your research there. For the best response, I’d advise against calling during lunch time…

Be sure and ask about the background of the person you’re speaking with; just because a school has an office or center for disability support services, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s staffed by professionals (you may be talking to a student) or by people with a background in special education.

Who Should Call (Or, When is it Okay to be a Helicopter Parent)?

In general, when applying to colleges, admissions officers prefer that students make the call because they want to know it’s the student who is interested in their school, not the parent, and because they want to know that they’re dealing with a student who is able to operate independently.

In the case of disability programs, however, I found that while college disability professionals were delighted to speak with students, they preferred to speak with the parents. As one noted, “I’m impressed when students call, but they don’t always know what information to ask for.” Parents are usually better informed about their student’s learning differences and current accommodations and know what support services to ask about.

When It’s Not Okay to Be a Helicopter Parent.

Bear in mind, that after a student is admitted to a college or university and is registered as having a disability that requires accommodations, it’s up to the student to self-identify and ensure that appropriate accommodations are in place. (If a student doesn’t come in to the disabilities office and ask for the accommodations, nothing happens.) This is a point administrators repeated and that I’ll repeat throughout this blog. Most colleges cannot, or will not, speak to parents about academic issues or problems with accommodations; indeed, the University of Connecticut requires students create a list of people the school is permitted to disclose information to—it’s up to the students to put one, or both parents on the list. [1]

What Should You Ask? (Or, What I Asked)

I started by asking administrators how many LD students they had registered. I found that not every school had that information easily at hand, but when they, did roughly 10% of the student body was registered. Shelly Shinebarger, a disabilities professional and Director of the Accommodative Services Office at Union College, estimated that 200 of the college’s 2000+ students are registered as learning disabled. A staff member at UConn’s Center for Students with Disabilities estimated that 3000 of their over 30,000 students are registered, noting that the number is “increasing dramatically every year.” A staff member at Adelphi University estimated that about 400 of their 5000+ member student body were registered. Williams College’s Director of Accessible Education, G.L.M. Wallace, had no solid numbers, but also estimated that 10% of the college’s 2000 students have learning differences.

However, when I asked how many of their registered students were self-identified, the numbers dropped precipitously. Shelly Shinebarger said, “This year I have about 35 students, of them about 20 or 25 have contacted me.” UConn’s representative said, “We have some students who are registered but who’ve never used the accommodations, others who register and seek regular support.”

Both administrators stressed that the level of support a school provides depends on how actively the student seeks it out.  

I’d add, however, that the level of support a school provides also depends on the school’s willingness and ability to commit resources. As Shelly Shinebarger pointed out, “It does make a difference what school you apply to—private schools are smaller and more personal, but have fewer resources. Larger schools have more resources, but you may be just a number to them.”

Ask About Numbers and Do the Math:

Shinebarger said that she has one part-time social worker and a part-time resident director (a young professional who works about 10 hours a week), as well as one or two seniors who typically have learning disabilities. Shinebarger matches the seniors with the students and then encourages them to meet weekly (basically executive function coaching). (Remember, that’s for roughly 200 registered students, 25-35 self-identified.) Williams College, which is in the process of revamping its program, employs a director, an assistant, and two students.

In contrast, a student employee who described UConn’s Center for Students with Disabilities said that the center has six case managers, professional staff members, a project manager, office manager, exams coordinator (all students requiring extended time on exams take them at the Center, unless they negotiate different accommodations with their professors), a technology manager, interpreter coordinator, as well as strategy instructors tailored to each student’s needs. (Basically, that’s 6 case managers for 3000 students; assuming 300 self-identify, that’s 6 for 300.) She encouraged me to check out the Center’s website, which is impressive. UConn is less expensive than a private school like Union, but if you look at the Center’s website, some of the services, such as strategy instructors, require additional fees.

Every LD student is different, so be sure to ask about specific services, including:

  • What mechanisms the college uses to determine appropriate accommodations
  • What means they have of providing these accommodations
  • What mechanisms they provide the student to keep professors informed of his/her accommodations
  • Whether the accommodation letter system is online or manual, and if is there a “reminder system” for students

Helpful Links for Services for Students with Learning Disabilities:

Rensselaer Disability Services for Students (DSS)
Union College Accommodative Services Office
Adelphi University Disability Support Services
Williams College Disability Support Services
UConn Center for Students with Disabilities

[1] For more information about student and parental rights, look into The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99). FERPA is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.

Joanna NovinsJoanna Novins holds a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a bachelor’s degree with honors in history from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. She is an independent writing consultant for First Impressions College Consulting, teaching college essay writing to students of all abilities.

 

 

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Applying to College: Why It’s Important to Know Your College Rep

Why Its Important to Know Your College RepThe parents of a student just called me. Their son was accepted to most of the colleges he applied to, even one of his reach schools. The problem? He was wait listed at a college they thought would be an easy acceptance and now it’s THE place he wants to go.

I was asked to read his letter of continued interest. (A letter of continued interest tells the school you still want to attend and why.) The letter was addressed “Dear Admissions Committee.”

I asked them to address the letter to their local admissions counselor. They didn’t know who that was.

So I asked if the student had interviewed when he visited.

“The school said the interview was only informational,” said his dad. “So we just took the tour and went home.”

By never contacting his admissions representative, the student missed a big opportunity.

Imagine if, in his letter, the student could have mentioned how he had enjoyed his interview or reminded the rep about something interesting they’d talked about. Instead, he hadn’t made a connection at all.

Your local college admissions counselor is the person who will read your application and recommend whether or not to accept you. This is the person who will fight for you (or not fight for you) when the admissions committee discusses your future.

Developing a relationship with your local college admissions representative is one of the easiest things you can do when you’re applying to college.

HERE ARE THREE WAYS TO GET TO KNOW YOUR LOCAL COLLEGE REP:

1. Attend College Fairs. If a college fair is held in your area or at your school, make plans to go.

Tips for making a good impression at a college fair:

  • Dress nicely.
  • Arrive early to avoid long lines.
  • Be mature. Go up to the admissions counselor and introduce yourself. Make eye contact and be the first to offer a handshake. Let him or her know that you’re interested in their school.
  • Be prepared with a few questions. (Do they offer the courses you’re interested in, what majors are most popular at their school, student life, athletics, etc.)
  • Ask for the representative’s business card or contact information. Go home and write a brief thank you note. You will be noticed and remembered.

2. Call or Email Your Local Rep. If you have specific questions during your application process, he or she will be glad to answer. Even if you don’t have questions, send your rep a short email saying hello and that you’re excited about the idea of attending. College reps don’t bite – they’re there to help you through all the stages of your application. Talk to them.

Tip: You can find the name of your local admissions representative on the school’s website or by calling or emailing the admissions office.

3. Schedule an On-Campus Interview. There are several different kinds of on-campus interviews:

  • Required.
  • Evaluative: These interviews aren’t required, but the thoughts and impressions of the person who interviews you will be included as part of the admissions process.
  • Non-evaluative/informational: These interviews aren’t considered in the decision-making process. They provide the school an opportunity to get to know you and answer your questions. (Occasionally, these interviews are conducted by students.)

Tip: If your local rep is busy or interviewing another student, you’ll meet with a different admissions counselor for your interview. Don’t worry — your interviewer will share his or her notes so that your local rep has all the information.

THE BENEFITS OF GETTING TO KNOW YOUR COLLEGE REP:

1. You Demonstrate Interest.  Sacred Heart University is a perfect example of how demonstrating interest is valuable. Christina Hamilton, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, says that while Sacred Heart doesn’t offer evaluative interviews, they strongly encourage students to interview.  She says, “We really value the demonstrated interest at Sacred Heart. We’re always encouraging students to be in touch with our staff and admission counselors. We are out in our area doing interviews or on campus hoping to be able to meet with them. The student-counselor relationship is something we definitely like to emphasize. “

2. You Put a Face to Your College Application (hopefully a smiling one).  When you can meet someone face-to-face, or send an email or a thank you note, you add a dimension to your application that isn’t already there.

3. You Give your College Rep Another Reason to Advocate for You. It takes maturity and initiative to say hello at a college fair, to pick up the phone, or to ask intelligent questions. Your rep will appreciate that when it comes time to advocate for you at the admissions table.

4. You Create a Relationship. Valuable from start to end.

So, if you’re applying to college, say hello to your college rep. Develop a relationship (don’t stalk), schedule an interview if you can, and send a thank you note. Even if you do ONE of these things you will give yourself an advantage. And if you are wait listed, you will have that relationship to draw on.

It’s good information to know.

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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, Facetime, Google Hangouts and email. Visit her website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.

 

 


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Common App 500 Word Limit: What Colleges Think

The Common Application sets a 500 word limit on its personal statement (the long essay). Except there’s no limit on the number of words you can upload.

Confused? You’re not alone.

So I asked four college admissions officers for help, and it turns out that while there are different degrees of flexibility, none of them set the limit at 500 words.

What can you learn? Going a little over is okay (50-100 words), but be careful of being too wordy. And, as always, if you aren’t sure contact the schools – they’ll have your best, and safest, answer.

Here’s what the admissions officers said:

uconn husky

Nathan Fuerst, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, University of Connecticut:

A: We do have some amount of flexibility. We want students to express themselves as best they can. If that means that they go a few words over — about 100 — that’s okay. But we also want the student to be cognizant of the Common Application’s 500 word limit because some students can carry on for a while.  I’d say to students write your college application essay as briefly and succinctly as you can, but don’t feel like you need to leave out any major pieces, either.

sacred heart pioneers

Ken Higgins, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Sacred Heart University:

A: Students will often inquire about the word limit for the College Essay, and how they should approach it.  My best suggestion to them is to use enough words to get your point across, and tell your story thoroughly, but yet succinctly.  It may sound counter-intuitive, but those 500 words run out relatively quickly, so typing a good draft that may go FAR over the limit, and then “trimming” could be useful.  Generally speaking, I do not worry too much about the word limit of the essay (I’ve never actually counted), however if it is exceedingly long (or too short), it may raise a (slight) red flag during the application review process.  If it takes 650 words to get the core of the story in, then so be it, just as long as it’s not 6,500 words.

Quinnipiac Unversity logo

Joanne Robertson, Assistant Director of Admissions and Transcript Evaluator, Quinnipiac University:

A: What we usually tell students is to write as many words as it takes to tell the story.  It is important that they have it reviewed by an English teacher if possible for grammar and composition.  If not, then read it out loud to a parent or older sibling.  If they find that it is too wordy or doesn’t make sense, go back and revise. It’s fine to go over if you need more words to give us a complete picture of how an event or person impacted  your life.  Just don’t embellish too much, use words just because you can or the worst thing of all, send the wrong essay to the wrong school.  And, spell check is not fool-proof, use a dictionary if you are unsure of a spelling or meaning.

ithaca bombers logo

Ithaca College Director of Admission, Gerard Turbide:

A: I would advise students to start by writing a first draft without thinking about length.  Choose a topic you care about, and write with your own “voice”.  Once you have your ideas assembled, you can refine and edit.  For each applicant, I’m interested in reading a compelling statement that effectively conveys something about that studentI’ve never counted the words used.

related posts
Common App Essay 500 Word Limit: 5 Simple Ways to Pare it Down
How To Succeed with the Common App Essay Word Limit pt.1
How To Succeed with the Common App Essay Word Limit pt.2
How To Succeed with the Common App Essay Word Limit pt.3
How To Succeed with the Common App Essay Word Limit pt.4

links
Collegemapper: How strict is the Common App’s 500 word limit 20 colleges weigh in
Collegemapper: The Common App 500 word limit 21 more colleges weigh in

Gelblog: 500 Words

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skills..Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting and is the recipient of a Writers Guild Award and two Emmy nominations for her writing.
Need help? I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone and by computer. Visit her website for more info.  Connect with Sharon on Google+, Twitter and Pinterest:

follow Sharon Epstein on Twitterfollow Sharon Epstein on pinterest

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Writing the College Application Essay: Advice from Yale

Yale-essay-writing-adviceIf you want excellent advice on how to write the college application essay, listen to what Marcia Landesman, Admissions Officer at Yale University, has to say.

You don’t have to be applying to an Ivy — this advice is for everyone. The only difference might be that Yale requires two 500 word essays and you may be writing one.

Here’s Yale’s advice:

“…Write about something that matters to you. Use your own voice. Do not worry about making a special effort to include impressive vocabulary words or overly complex sentences. If you sound like yourself and discuss something you care about, your essay will be more effective.

” We know that no one can fit an entire life story into two 500 word essays, and we don’t expect you to try. Pick two topics that will give us an idea of who you are.  It doesn’t matter which topics you choose, as long as they are meaningful to you. We have read wonderful essays on common topics and weak essays on highly unusual ones. Your perspective – the lens through which you view your topic – is far more important than the specific topic itself. In the past, students have written about family situations, ethnicity or culture, school or community events to which they have had strong reactions, people who have influenced them, significant experiences, intellectual interests, personal aspirations, or – more generally – topics that spring from the life of the imagination.

“Finally: proofread, proofread, proofread! Share your essays with at least one or two people who know you well – such as a parent, teacher, counselor, or friend – and ask for feedback. Remember that you ultimately have control over your essays, and your essays should retain your own voice, but others may be able to catch mistakes that you missed and help suggest areas to cut if you are over the word limit.”

Good advice.

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skills..Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting and is the recipient of a Writers Guild Award and two Emmy nominations for her writing.
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