Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills


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Organize Your College Search: Try Evernote

Imagine This Scenario:

libe slope Cornell University

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

Everywhere. Except on your own computer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evernote

Try Evernote.

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

Leave a comment — let me know what you think.

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


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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


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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.


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

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

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

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

Bring your questions!

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

I hope to see you there!


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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.


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Interviews with College Admissions Counselors: Housatonic Community College

Have You Considered a Community College?

If you haven’t, you might want to think again. More higher-achieving students are opting for two-year community colleges as a less expensive way to start their four-year degrees.

In an earlier blog, I focused on Connecticut’s Dual Admission program, which lets students complete two years at a community college and then automatically transfer to either a state school or UConn. In this post, I’ll focus on the specifics of attending a community college, including admission, quality of education, and financial aid.

For answers, I spoke to Earl Graham, Assistant Director of Admission at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport. Let’s learn about Housatonic:
Located in Bridgeport, Housatonic Community College is one of 12 community colleges in Connecticut. The school offers Associate Degree programs in preparation for transfer to four-year schools, as well as occupationally-oriented Associate Degree and Certificate programs.

Facts:

Tuition: Approximately $3,500 (in-state)
Student enrollment: 6200
Students receiving financial aid: 90-95%
Admission: Open

ADMISSIONS QUESTIONS

Q: Earl, tell us about Housatonic Community College.

A: We’re an open admission, higher education institution. We admit all students regardless of race, creed or color. We have opportunities not only for students to get college level credits, but we also have a wide variety of non-credit programs through our Continuing Education and Business & Industry department.

Housatonic Community College

Applying

Q: What is an open admission policy?

A: An open admission policy simply means that graduation from a secondary program is all that’s needed for admission.  We don’t look at GPA or SAT or ACT scores. Almost all community colleges in the country work this way.

Q: What kind of students choose community college?

A: In the past it was the traditional age student who didn’t achieve the highest grades, as well as older students who wanted to wrap up a degree or get into continuing ed. programs. But now we’re finding more and more 18 year olds who’ve done really well in high school who are looking at us.

Q: Why do you think you’re attracting higher-achieving students?

A: Four main reasons. 1. Our tuition. For 2011-2012 it’s about $3,500 for the year. 2. We have good relationships with the state schools and UConn. 3. Our credits transfer to just about anywhere in the country, like Sacred Heart, Fairfield University, Connecticut College, and Sarah Lawrence. 4. We have really good relationships with Fairfield, Stratford, and Bridgeport high schools, and those counselors are recommending us.

Transferring to Four-Year Schools

Q: Explain the transfer agreements you have for students to transfer to four-year state schools.

A: Connecticut’s community colleges recently signed an agreement with the state’s four-year programs (Central, Southern, Eastern and Western Connecticut State University) called the Dual Admission Program. What it means is that students come to a community college, and within the first fifteen credits complete an application to their desired four-year program. So let’s say they want to go to Central Connecticut State. They come here and within the first fifteen credits they complete an application. Then their counselor, our counselor, and the student work together to ensure that the classes they’re taking will all transfer. All that’s needed is a 2.0 GPA, and they’re automatically admitted as juniors after they’ve graduated from us.

Q: Do you have the same transfer agreement with UConn?

A: Yes. The criterion is a 3.0 GPA.

Q: Does Housatonic have agreements for students to transfer to other schools?

A: Yes. We have an agreement with the University of New Haven, where there’s also a reduction in the cost of attending. There are also transfer agreements for graduates in certain programs, such as education (NYU and Wheaton), and engineering (Fairfield University). Many schools come to our campus and recruit. (Note: Each community college has different transfer agreements with private colleges, so check their websites.)

Q: That says a lot about the level of education at Housatonic.

A: I talk all the time about one of our famous grads who came out of Central High School, graduating 297 or so out of 300, at the very bottom. He went on to Fairfield University, Temple Law, and is now a superior court judge in the City of Bridgeport.

These schools wouldn’t be coming back every year if the students who matriculated weren’t performing. Students are leaving here well-educated and well-situated to excel at the schools that they go to for their bachelor degrees.

Support Services for Students

Q: What kind of support do you offer students?

A: We have excellent support services. We’ve always been there for the students who need us the most; students who struggle, who may need some more guidance and assistance.

We have a very small student-teacher ratio and small classes. Most classrooms are capped at 22 or 25 students. As you get into the 200 level courses, they’re down to about 10 or fewer students,  so there’s a one-on-one relationship that takes place automatically.

We have a tutoring center that’s available to all of our students completely free of charge. It’s staffed by upper level students and staff as well as by faculty, adjuncts, and full professors. There are full-time staff who will assist in writing and mathematics. We have something called “mega math” which is all-day math tutoring on Fridays. We have another program called “e Tutoring,” which is the assistance of tutors online, pretty much 24-7. You submit work and get feedback almost immediately, or at least within a day.

An important part of our success is correct placement. Unless they’ve scored 500 on the math and 450 on the verbal, all students must take a placement test. That test determines what classes they start with. They may start off in some pre-college courses, which gives them the footing to be successful. In some of those pre-college courses the tutoring center is required. They must attend a couple of hours a week and learn how to use the center.

Financial Aid

Q: What kind of financial aid is available?

A: What’s great about attending a community college is, let’s say you get $5,500 from a Pell grant. Our tuition is about $3,500, so it leaves the student about $2,000. They can use that $2,000 for books and other things, and any money that’s left over is given to the student. So a student can come to a community college and have tuition paid for, books paid for, and may even have a couple of bucks left in their pocket at the end of the day.

Q: Does a Pell grant always take care of tuition?

A: If it doesn’t, we have a scholarship office for students who may need other funds to further their education.

Q: Has the recession affected admissions?

A: Yes. In the past it’s been the students who didn’t achieve the highest marks in high school who’ve come to a community college, but it’s shifting because of the financial situation in the state. We’re attracting more and more traditional age students (18-19 year olds).

Finally…

Q: What part of the community college experience most is misunderstood?

A: We can do everything in the first two years that any school can do. We are a real college with real professors and real classes. We’ll get you going, we’ll move you on to the next level. We don’t compete with any four-year school. We want you to graduate from any one of those schools; we just want you to start with us. The reciprocal agreement, the level of education, our campus  – we’re right off the highway, the bus runs right in front of our campus, we’re right next to the train station. We’ve got to say to folks we’re just as valid as the first two years in any four-year program.

To contact Housatonic Community College:

900 Lafayette Blvd.
Bridgeport, CT 06604
203-332-5000
www.hcc.commnet.edu

Connecticut’s community colleges:

Asnuntuck (Enfield) www.acc.commnet.edu
Capital (Hartford) www.ccc.commnet.edu
Gateway (North Haven) www.gwcc.commnet.edu
Housatonic (Bridgeport) www.hcc.commnet.edu
Manchester (Manchester) www.mcc.commnet.edu
Middlesex (Middletown) www.mxcc.commnet.edu
Naugatuck Valley (Waterbury) www.nvcc.commnet.edu
Northwestern Connecticut (Winstead) www.nwcc.commnet.edu
Norwalk (Norwalk) www.nwcc.commnet.edu
Quinebaug (Willimantic) www.qvcc.commnet.edu
Three Rivers (Norwich) www.trcc.commnet.edu
Tunxis (Farmington) www.tunxis.commnet.edu

other posts in this series:

Ithaca College
Quinnipiac University
Sacred Heart University
University of Bridgeport

University of Connecticut

 

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


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How to Succeed with the Common App Essay Word Limit: pt 2 (Think Small and Still Tell a Big Story)

Welcome! If you’re reading this you’re on your way to success with the Common Application Essay’s 500 Word Limit!

In part 1 of this 4 part series, I gave you 7 Important Tips to Remember. Now I’m going to give you 5 Ways to Think Small And Still Be Able to Tell a Big Story.

One concern I hear from students is that they can’t tell their story in 500 words. After all, this essay has to pack a big punch; it has to say good things about you, show the college why you’re unique, what kind of learning experiences you’ve had, and why you’d make a good addition to the campus community. How can you fit that all into 500 words?

Here’s how:

1. Start by Knowing What a 500 Word Essay Looks Like

  • 500 words is one page and about five paragraphs.
  • Take a look at the handout I give my students, It will give you a visualization illustration of 500 words.
  • Surprised? Now that you know, you can start to plan.

2. Choose a Smaller Topic, Instead of Big

  • Don’t try to tackle a big topic like world peace or what you did on your entire summer vacation, you don’t have the space. Choose a shorter experience or a moment in time that was meaningful to you and reflects something positive about you.  
  • Moments are a great way to “think small” and still be able to tell a big story
  • Here’s an example of writing about a moment: Alan worked at the checkout counter of a store. One day a customer didn’t notice she’d dropped some change, and Alan picked it up and returned it. The customer was extremely grateful, and Alan said he’d never forget the moment he understood that even a small amount of change could make a big difference to someone.

This moment happened in a matter of seconds, but had a major impact on Alan and was a growing experience for him and was a good choice to write about.

3. Never Lose Track of Your Point

  • Know the point of your essay. You should be able to write it down in one sentence. For example: “I learned to trust my parents, and that every argument has two points of view.”
  • Every paragraph should direct the reader to your point. It’s like pouring water into a funnel. If the top of the funnel is your introduction and the spout is your conclusion, all the ideas guide the reader in that direction.
  • Eliminate ideas that don’t direct the reader to your point

Here’s an Example

  • Remember Alan? What if Alan thought he should describe how funny his co-worker Alice was because she couldn’t eat peanut butter and jelly without getting jelly all over the cash register?  Interesting? Maybe. Does it get to his point? No.
  • Think of it like climbing a tree. Your essay is the trunk of the tree. Sliding off onto a branch might give you a different view, but you only have time to climb the trunk. Alan’s tree trunk was the customer, the dropped change, and his realization.

4. Edit! Even if it hurts.

  • Edit out any ideas, details, or explanations that don’t move you toward your point. (See #3)
  • Don’t repeat your ideas.
  • Pare down your adjectives.
  • Get rid of extraneous words.

5. Don’t Wait Until the Last Draft to Count your Words

For your first draft or freewrite, let your imagination go. Then do a word count after that. You’ll be more in control and spend less time figuring out what to cut.

To summarize: Moments are a great way to “think small” and still be able to tell a big story. Keep to your point and you can write an effective, memorable, and short Common Application personal essay. Edit and keep track of your word count.

Now you’re ready for Part 3: Essay Samples!

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

for more info: 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 want to know what you think.


1 Comment

Community College: Good Educational $ense?

Have You Considered Community College?

As tuition rises and the economy rattles, more students are opting for two-year community colleges as a less expensive way to start their four-year degrees.

Put your assumptions aside — this isn’t the community college of the ’80’s or ’90’s. Increasingly, community colleges are vibrant places with excellent faculty and good educational opportunities.

Earl Graham, Assistant Director of Admission at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, Connecticut says, “We can do everything in the first two years that any school can do. We are a real college with real professors and real classes. We’ll get you going, we’ll move you on to the next level. We don’t compete with four-year schools – we just want you to start with us.”

Easy Transfer to 4-Year Schools

Connecticut has made it easy to transfer to a four-year school. The program – called Dual Admission – enables students with a 2.0 GPA to automatically transfer to one of the four state schools after graduation (Central, Eastern, Western and Southern Connecticut State University). UConn has a similar program, requiring a 3.0 GPA.

Individual schools have other transfer agreements, so check them out. Housatonic has a transfer agreement with the University of New Haven that includes a reduction in tuition. It also has transfer agreements with NYU and Wheaton for students graduating in education, and for engineering grads who want to transfer to Fairfield University.

Low Cost

In-state tuition for community colleges in Connecticut is about $3,500 for 2011-2012. Add that up and a student can save up to $80,000 for a four-year degree.

“In the past it’s been the students who didn’t achieve the highest marks in high school who’ve come to a community college,” Earl says, “but that balance is shifting because of the financial situation in the state. We’re finding more and more 18 year olds who’ve done really well in high school who are looking at us.”
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Look for an in-depth interview with Earl Graham about Housatonic Community College in an upcoming post.
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Connecticut’s Community Colleges:

Asnuntuck (Enfield) www.acc.commnet.edu
Capital (Hartford) www.ccc.commnet.edu
Gateway (North Haven) www.gwcc.commnet.edu
Housatonic (Bridgeport) www.hcc.commnet.edu
Manchester (Manchester) www.mcc.commnet.edu
Middlesex (Middletown) www.mxcc.commnet.edu
Naugatuck Valley (Waterbury) www.nvcc.commnet.edu
Northwestern Connecticut (Winstead) www.nwcc.commnet.edu
Norwalk (Norwalk) www.ncc.commnet.edu
Quinebaug (Willimantic) www.qvcc.commnet.edu
Three Rivers (Norwich) www.trcc.commnet.edu
Tunxis (Farmington) www.tunxis.commnet.edu


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College Application Essays: You Don’t Need to Go on An “Adventure” to Write A Great Essay

“For a Standout College Essay, Applicants Fill Their Summers” is a title of an article in the New York Times today. It’s about the extraordinary things high school students are doing to find interesting topics for their college application essays, including traveling to China and studying health care in Rwanda.

Parents send their students on these expensive adventures in the hope that it will “put them in the spotlight” when they apply to college, especially when it comes to competitive schools.

A friend of mine said, “As a mom, I think it is bad news.”

There’s nothing wrong with filling your summers with exotic adventures, or even sports camps, academic camps and volunteer work. But don’t seek out an activity because you think it will make a great college application essay.

Why? Because admissions counselors know you don’t have to travel half-way around the world to find an essay-worthy experience. They look for how students find meaning in the world, wherever they are —  babysitting for neighbors, bagging groceries, or even scooping ice cream downtown.

I recently spoke to Joanne Robertson, Assistant Director of Admissions at Quinnipiac University. For her, exotic summer experiences don’t give students an edge. She says, “As an admissions counselor, I would rather see an essay from a student who could provide a reflection on a summer job than one who sought out a ‘special’ activity just to build a resume. Bringing a creative voice to a simple activity shows more to me than just the significance of the experience.”

A college application essay is a story about you. It asks you to reflect on who you are, what makes you unique, where you’re headed, and what you have to offer.

You don’t have to go on great adventures to answer those questions. You just have to know who you are.


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Interview Tips: How to Interview with a College Sports Coach

How to interview with a college sports coach from Sharon Epstein and First Impressions College ConsultingDo you plan to play sports at college? Then plan to do your homework. Whether you’re being recruited, or seeking out programs of interest, it’s important to find a school that fits you both athletically and academically.

That’s what Jenn Osher has done. She’s headed to Bard College this fall to play Division III soccer, after helping her Stamford, Connecticut Westhill High School soccer team win the Class LL state championship. Jenn says “always ask where the sports program is headed. “Bard’s program is getting better, and that was important to me.” Jenn also stresses that you should “make sure you like the people who will be on your team. If you don’t like them, you won’t want to play.

How Do You Check Out College Athletics Programs?

  1. Read the info on each school’s website
  2. Visit whenever you can
  3. Talk to the students playing your sport
  4. Contact the coach and schedule a phone or in-person interview

Here Are Tips for Interviewing with a College Sports Coach:

  1. Be on time
  2. Bring your resume, highlight reel, and scrapbook, or send them in advance
  3. Know the coach’s name
  4. Be enthusiastic
  5. Talk about your accomplishments without bragging
  6.  Say what you’ll bring to the team as an athlete and team player, as well as to the college as a whole.
  7. *This is the time to find out if the program is right for you, so have questions ready for the coach

Questions to Ask a College Sports Coach:

  1. How will I fit in on the team?
  2. How would you describe your coaching style?
  3. Where is your program headed in the next four years?
  4. If you’re making big changes in your program, will there be a place for me?
  5. How do athletes balance academics and athletics?
  6. What are the best features of your school?
  7. How will you help me become the best player I can be?
  8. Do your school and students support the program?
  9. Does the team have any travel opportunities during the year or during the summer?
  10. Why should I pick your program?
  11. How does the admission process work and do student athletes get any preference?
  12.  How is the training staff at your school?
  13.  Is there a strength and conditioning coach who will help me become a better athlete?
  14.  How would you describe the overall attitude of the team?
  15. Can you arrange for me to meet other players?

Questions a College Sports Coach Might Ask You:

  1. What fields of study are you interested in?
  2. What are the things that you are looking for most in a school?
  3. What are you most interested in about our school?
  4. What types of grades are you getting now?
  5. How do you see yourself fitting in here?
  6. What extracurricular activities are you involved in?
  7. What do you think about your high school coach?

Follow up right away with a thank you note. Email is fine, and a snail mail follow-up won’t hurt, either.

Want more questions to ask a college coach? Check out this post from recruiting-101.com:
What questions should I ask college football coaches or basketball coaches on phone calls?

If you want to play sports at college you’ll need to work hard to find a school that fits you both athletically and academically. But the rewards will be worth it — both on and off the field.

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