Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills


Leave a comment

Writing College Essays: Silly Grammar Mistakes

funny grammar mistakesNo college admissions officer wants to read a college application essay full of spelling and grammar mistakes — and you can be sure it won’t reflect well on you.

But there’s also another problem you can run into — you want to be sure that you say what you mean.

Take a look at the graphic – It seems like the police are getting quite an eyeful peering through that nudist camp wall, doesn’t it? Of course, the person who wrote it probably meant the cops were down at the police station filling out boring paperwork. But that’s not how it reads, and it’s a silly mistake.

Here’s another example of a silly mistake – in this case one missing comma changes the entire meaning of a sentence:

  • “Let’s eat, Grandpa.”
  • “Let’s eat Grandpa.”

In number one, Grandpa is being called for dinner. In number two, Grandpa is dinner (uh oh).

So remember – always check your spelling, punctuation, and grammar – and make sure that you say what you mean — or  you might end up eating Grandpa for dinner.

links:
15 Grammar Goofs that Can Make You Look Silly
Four Grammar Mistakes You’re Probably Making


Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment — let me know what you think!


Leave a comment

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.
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!


6 Comments

College Essay 500 Word Limit: 5 Simple Ways to Pare it Down

college-essay-500-word-limitMany college essays, including the essay for The Common Application, limit you to 500 words.

It can be tough to write an interesting, creative essay and keep it short, but if you know a few simple tips you can deliver an essay that will impress.

Here are 5 Ways to Succeed with the 500 Word Limit:

1. Think Small Instead of Big. Don’t try to tackle a big topic like world peace or what you did for your entire summer vacation. Choose a shorter span of time and a topic that’s not too broad.

2. Write About a Moment. A moment is a brief period of time when you learned something meaningful to you. Moments can make powerful essays.

Here’s an Example of a Moment:

  • A student working in a store noticed that a customer had dropped some change. It wasn’t a lot and he almost didn’t stop to pick it up, but then he did. The customer was extremely grateful and told him she was counting on that money. The student wrote about how he’d never forget that something insignificant to him could make such a big difference to someone else.

3. Begin in the Middle of Your Story, Where the Action or Conflict Starts. This technique will not only save you words but it’s also a great way to draw the reader into your story. Here are two examples of introductions that were changed to start with action:

Example #1:
Before:
“I spent my summer vacation interning in the emergency room of a hospital.”
Changed: “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.”
Changed: “Hurry up!” my dad yelled, as I scrambled to collect myself for another day of mountain climbing.

4. Use Adjectives and Adverbs Wisely. If your essay is too long try to edit out some of your adjectives and adverbs. Here are two examples of edits and the reasons behind them:

Example #1:
Before: As Andrew walked his large legs made heavy, thumping sounds. He turned to stare at the dawning sunrise.
Changed: As Andrew walked his legs made heavy, thumping sounds. He turned to stare at the sunrise.
Why the Change? 1. Size adjectives, like “large,” are often too general. “Heavy” and “thumping” are specific and convey the idea of being large. 2. “Sunrise” is dawn. Look for these kinds of redundancies.

Example #2:
Before: “He walked convincingly.
After: “He strode.”
Why the Change? One word conveys the same idea.

5. Edit Your Essay. Here are 4 ways to eliminate words:

  1. Eliminate any details or explanations that don’t move you toward your conclusion.
  2. Don’t repeat your ideas.
  3. Pare down adjectives and adverbs (see tip #4).
  4. Ask someone else to read you essay. Sometimes, as writers, we get attached to our material and it becomes difficult to know what to cut. Ask one or more people who know you to give you suggestions.

Can you submit an essay that’s over the limit? Check with the admissions office at the college(s). They’ll be able to guide you.

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 )
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-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting, and is the recipient of a Writers Guild Award and two Emmy nominations for her work in television. I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone, and by computer. Connect with me on Google+, Twitter and Pinterest:
follow Sharon Epstein on pinterestfollow Sharon Epstein on Twitter


1 Comment

Attend an April College Fair in Your Area

This a partial list of the April college fairs sponsored by National College Fairs. I encourage you to go if there’s one in your area.

Click on the name of each city for more info. Find the complete list at National College Fairs.

Hartford College Fair
Tuesday, April 3
9:00a.m. – 11:30a.m.
6:30p.m. – 8:30p.m.
Wednesday, April 4
9:00a.m. – 11:30a.m.
Connecticut Convention Center
Hartford, CT


Buffalo College Fair

Tuesday, April 3
9:00a.m. – 12:00p.m.
6:00p.m. – 8:30p.m.
Wednesday, April 4
9:00a.m. – 12:00p.m.
Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, Buffalo, NY


Dallas/Fort Worth College Fair

Monday, April 9
4:00p.m. – 8:00p.m.
Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas, Irving, TX


Houston College Fair

Thursday, April 12
12:30p.m. – 2:30p.m.
6:00p.m. – 8:00p.m.
Reliant Center, Houston, TX


San Francisco College Fair

Saturday, April 21
1:30p.m. – 4:30p.m.
Concourse Exhibition Center, San Francisco, CA


Cleveland College Fair

Sunday, April 22
1:00p.m. – 4:00p.m.
Wolstein Center at Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH


New York College Fair

Sunday, April 22
11:00a.m. – 4:00p.m.
Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York, NY


Orange County College Fair

Sunday, April 22
1:30p.m. – 4:30p.m.
Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, CA


New Jersey College Fair

Wednesday, April 25
9:00a.m. – 12:00p.m.
6:00p.m. – 9:00p.m.
Thursday, April 26
9:00a.m. – 12:00p.m.
New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center, Edison, NJ

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!


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

Explaining a Bad Grade in a College Application Essay

I worked with a young woman who’d missed a good chunk of  her junior and senior years due to illness. Even though she tried to make up the work, her grades suffered. When I asked if she was going to explain her illness in her college application, she said no, she didn’t think an excuse would help her chances.

In fact, the opposite is true.

First, let’s be clear about the difference between an excuse and a reason.  Getting marked down because you did the work but couldn’t get out of bed early enough to show up for attendance is an excuse. But if you have a good reason – illness, family problems, etc., you owe it to yourself and to the college to let them know.

Here’s a real-life scenario from an article about admissions at Butler University:

The admissions committee received an application from a student who had gotten straight As freshman and sophomore year. Then his grades tanked.

“In his junior year, F,F,D,D,D,” said Chris Potts, Associate Director of Admissions… “No explanation anywhere, nothing – straight As, and then just bites it junior year.”

What happened? Turned out his dad died, and he was left without a father and having to support his mother.

Problem was, that information wasn’t in the application

Wendy Livingston, Senior Assistant Dean of Admission at The College of William & Mary, says on their blog, “…everything about your application is considered in context (school, regional, experiential, personal…you name the context.) That’s what holistic review is all about. You’re not considered in a vacuum; you’re considered based on who you are, where you’ve been and what type of application you put forward.

So if your transcript has bumps and there’s a valid reason, let the admissions committee know. You can include it in your college application essay or elsewhere in your college application. But give them the whole picture. Your chances will be better for 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. Connect with me on Google+.

Leave a comment — let me know what you think!


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


6 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.


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.