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College Essay Writing and Interview Skills


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How to Write 2016 Common Application Essay #2: The Lessons We Take From Failure

2016 Common Application essay prompt 2 2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success Recount anHave you ever failed at something? I mean really tanked.

And when you look back on that experience, did you learn from it? Or know what you’d do differently the next time around?

Then Common Application Essay prompt #2 may be for you.

In this post, I’ll teach you what you need to know to write Common Application Essay prompt #2 (The lessons we take from failure).

Are you ready for Common Application Prompt #2? Here we go…

Common Application Essay Prompt #2:

The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

Is This Prompt for You?  Look at the Keywords:

how to write 2013 common app essay

“Lessons”…”Failure”“Affect you“...”Learn”

Do the Keywords Apply to You?

Answer yes IF

  • You tried something and failed, took a risk that didn’t pay off, or made a decision that turned out to be faulty.
  • AND you learned from your experience.
  • AND you can examine (analyze) your failure objectively.

how to write 2013 common app essay

Pitfalls to Avoid: 

  • Don’t wallow in your failure. This answer isn’t really about failure; it’s about how the failure affected you and what you learned from it. Mention the failure and move on.
  • This question has three parts—make sure you answer ALL of them: Your experience, how it affected you, and what positive lessons you learned.
  • Academic failures don’t often make the best essays. Many students end up with a bad grade or marking period, but is the Common App essay the place to write about it? The pitfall here is that if you’re not careful, your essay can sound like a lot of other students’ essays. (“I worked hard and learned that I could persevere.”) Remember: always look for an original approach to your essay—fully explore why this topic is meaningful to you and show how you pushed through this challenge. If your gut says it’s a common topic, sounds boring, or doesn’t differentiate you from other applicants, then choose another topic. If you need to explain a bad grade or marking period and decide not to do it in your Common App essay, you can use the additional information section of your application instead.

Essay Topic Example:

A student started a snowplow business using his ATV. But the ATV couldn’t plow deep snow, and one night, when eight inches of snow fell, the plow got stuck in his driveway. The student knew his customers were counting on him, so he worked all night to shovel out the ATV.  After that, he realized he needed to better serve his customers by upgrading his equipment. Eventually, the student traded his ATV for a truck with a plow, which in turn made his business more successful. He also decided that he wanted to pursue a business career.

Is this Topic Successful? Yes.

•    All the keywords are addressed. The student told his story, examined how his failure affected him, and then wrote about the positive lessons he learned.
•    It also showed that he had good character (see the next paragraph).

 

how to write 2013 Common Application essay

Are You Uncomfortable Discussing Failure?

DON’T BE. Colleges look for character-building stories and problem solving skills.

In fact, Christine Hamilton, Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Sacred Heart University, says she sees a lot of failure essays, and that’s okay with her. She learns a lot about the character of incoming students when they write about failure. As the prompt says, the lessons we learn from failure can be “fundamental to later success.

how to write Common Application how to write essay personal statementSeeing How You’ve Weathered Adversity Can Give Schools a Good Reason to Want to Accept You.

Think about it—when you get to college you’ll probably face some bumps in the road. You might have a tough class, want to change your major, or even have a roommate that’s not exactly what you expected. And since schools don’t have a crystal ball to see how you’ll handle challenges, they’ll look to see how you’ve dealt with them in the past.

So consider this—if your college essay compares your personality to the types of shoes in your closet (please don’t), schools won’t have a clue about how you’ll manage when the going gets tough. But! If you write about the lessons you learned from failure, you’ll be demonstrating your ability to handle unexpected obstacles. And bingo—the schools will be able to envision how you could successfully handle college and beyond

 

CAUTION: Never write about failures that include very risky behavior or anything illegal (such as drugs and underage drinking). 

Next time: How to write Common Application essay prompt #3.

For the entire list of 2016 Common Application essay prompts click here.
If you’re not familiar with the Common Application, click here for more info.

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 College Consulting teaches students how to master interview skills, write killer resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. Our tutors are award-winning writers and published authors who 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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How to Write 2015 Common App Essay #2: Failure

Ahow to write 2015 common app failure essayre you looking for advice on how to write a great college application essay?

You’ve come to the right place.

In this series of posts, I show you how to figure out which 2015 Common Application essay prompt is right for you.

 

Are you ready? Here we go…

Common Application Essay Prompt #2:

The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

Is This Prompt for You?  Look at the Keywords:

how to write 2013 common app essay

“Lessons”…”Failure”“Affect you“...”Learn”

Do the Keywords Apply to You?

Answer yes IF

  • You tried something and failed, took a risk that didn’t pay off, or made a decision that turned out to be faulty.
  • AND you learned from your experience.
  • AND you can examine (analyze) your failure objectively.

how to write 2013 common app essay

Pitfalls to Avoid:

  • Don’t wallow in your failure. This answer isn’t really about failure; it’s about how the failure affected you and what you learned from it. Mention the failure and move on.
  •  Don’t overlook keywords. This question has three parts: Your experience, how it affected you, and what positive lessons you learned.

Example of a Successful Topic:

A student started a snowplow business using his ATV. But the ATV couldn’t plow deep snow, and one night, when eight inches of snow fell, the plow got stuck in his driveway. The student knew his customers were counting on him, so he worked all night to shovel out the ATV.  After that, he realized he needed to better serve his customers by upgrading his equipment. Eventually, the student traded his ATV for a truck with a plow, which in turn made his business more successful. He also decided that he wanted to pursue a business career.

Is This Topic Successful? Yes.

•    All the keywords are addressed. The student told his story, examined how his failure affected him, and then wrote about the positive lessons he learned.
•    It also showed that he had good character (see the next paragraph).

Are You Uncomfortable Discussing a Failure? DON’T BE. Colleges look for character-building stories and problem solving skills.

  • You could face some significant challenges in the next four years and schools want to understand how you might handle them. They don’t have a crystal ball, so they’ll look to see how you’ve dealt with previous challenges. Now, if you write your essay on why your personality is like all the colors of your shoes (please don’t), they probably won’t have a clue about how you’ll manage when the going gets tough. But, if you write about the lessons you learned from failure, you can demonstrate that you’re ready to handle a college — and professional — career.
  • Showing colleges how you’ve weathered adversity can give them a good reason to want to accept you.
    As the prompt says, the lessons learned from failure can be “fundamental to later success.Remember, it’s not about the failure; it’s about what you learned from it. 

TIP: Stay away from failures that include anything illegal (such as drugs and underage drinking) and very risky behavior.

Next time: How to write Common Application essay prompt #3.

Also in this series:
How to Write Common App Prompt #1: Background, Talent, Identity, or Interest
How to Write Common App Prompt #3: Challenged a Belief or Idea
How to Write Common App Prompt #4: A Problem You’ve Solved or Would Like to Solve
How to Write Common App Prompt #5: Transition from Childhood to Adulthood

For the entire list of 2015 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. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, Sharon teaches students how to master interview skills, write killer resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. Sharon lectures extensively on essay writing. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit her website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.


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How to Write 2015 Common App Essay #1: Background, Identity, Interest or Talent

how to write 2015 common app background identity interest or talent essayIt’s that time of year again — college application season.

I love it.

Why? Students start to envision themselves as college freshmen. The next step of their lives is on the horizon. It’s almost here.

But first…

You’ve got a college admissions essay to write.

Don’t worry. Help is on the way.

In this series of posts, I’ll give you tips on how to write the 2015 Common Application essay.

I’ll tell you how to choose a college essay prompt, what colleges look for in college essay answers, and how to avoid college essay pitfalls. I’ll give you essay examples, too.

First — an overview.

  • The 2015 Common Application has five prompts.
  • You answer one of them. 250-650 words.
  • Click here to read my posts on Common Application Essay Prompt #2, Prompt #3, Prompt #4, and Prompt #5.
  • For a complete list of the 2015 Common Application questions, click here.
  • Not every school accepts the Common Application, so check your list. Some schools require different essays.

Okay, ready? Here we go…

Common Application Essay Prompt #1:

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

Is This Prompt for You? Look at the Keywords:

how to write 2015 common app essay

Background — Identity — Interest — Meaningful — Incomplete without it.

Do these Keywords Apply to You?

  • “Background, identity, interest.” These words are meant to spark your imagination. Think about what’s shaped your life – who you are, how you think, your hobbies. You can write about almost anything, as long as it’s important to the person you’ve grown to be.
  • “Meaningful” means that this experience has molded you in a fundamental way. It has influenced your choices, outlook, perspective and/or goals.
  • Your application would be “incomplete without it.” You need to tell this story in order for people to understand you. You also haven’t told it anywhere else in your application.

Why Choose this Prompt?
1. This experience helped shape who you are.
2. If you didn’t tell this story, the school wouldn’t fully understand you.
3. Your topic doesn’t fit any of the other prompts.

Possible Pitfalls:

  • This isn’t “topic of your choice.” You can’t write about anything you’d like. You have to satisfy the keywords.
  • Always Say What You Learned. Even though the prompt doesn’t specify it, make sure to include what you’ve learned or how you’ve grown from your experience. This is essential for a complete answer.

Example of a Successful Essay Topic:

A young woman was such an accomplished ballet dancer that she studied with the prestigious Bolshoi ballet in New York. Everyone, including her family, assumed that she’d turn professional. Instead, she decided to become a nutritionist. The student wrote about her love of ballet and how it exposed her to a hidden world of young dancers with eating disorders. Ballet led this student to a new goal: helping dancers stay healthy.

Why Does this College Essay Topic Succeed?

  •  All the keywords are addressed. This student couldn’t tell her story without writing about dance. It was central to her identity and her application would be incomplete without it.
  • She learned from her experience. From her perspective as a dancer, she realized what she wanted from her future.

Example of a Poor Essay Topic:

A student enjoyed driving his car. He liked to ride for hours listening to his favorite music and taking twists and turns he didn’t know, just see where he would end up. Sometimes he drove so far that he had to use his GPS to get home.

Why Does this College Essay Topic Fail?

  • The keywords are not addressed. This is a nice story, and probably would be interesting to read. But the student doesn’t indicate anywhere how or why it’s central to who he is or what his talents are.  If he didn’t write about this activity, no one would miss it.
  • There is no learning or growing experience.

If you’re not familiar with the Common Application, go to their website. They also have a very helpful Facebook page.

Next time: How to write Common Application essay prompt #2.

Also in this series:
How to Write Common App Prompt #2: A Time you Experienced Failure
How to Write Common App Prompt #3: Challenged a Belief or Idea
How to Write Common App Prompt #4: A Problem You’ve Solved or Would Like to Solve
How to Write Common App Prompt #5: Transition from Childhood to Adulthood

For the entire list of 2015 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. 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 and email. Visit her website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.


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College Application Essay Tips for International Students

College Application Essay Tips for International StudentsFrom Greece to Vietnam, I hear from students who have questions about how to write college admissions essays and especially how to write the Common Application personal essay.

International students face unique challenges. Many aren’t writing in their native language. Others aren’t sure what colleges look for in an essay or if they’ve chosen the right story.

That’s why I’ve written Writing College Admissions Essays — An International Student’s Guide. I’m delighted that it has been published by both i-studentglobal and Magoosh.

Please visit these sites to read the article, or download a copy of it here. Enjoy!

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


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

 

 


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4 Ways to Know if You’ve Written a Good College Essay

4 Ways to Know if You've Written a Good College Application EssayHow do you know if you’ve written a good college admissions essay?

Do you just cross your fingers, hope for the best, and upload?

Wait! Before you hit that send button —

Here are 4 ways to check if you’ve written a good college essay:

1. Put the essay away for a day or two. Then read it again.

Reading your essay with fresh eyes will help you be more objective about your writing.

Make sure:

  • The essay flows well from one paragraph to the other.
  • It holds your interest from beginning to end.
  • It says positive things about you.
  • You’ve answered all parts of the question.
  • You still like it.

2. Read your essay out loud.

  • You shouldn’t stumble over words or phrases when you read your essay out loud.
  • If you do stumble, look at your sentence structure and word choices, and revise the bumpy places.
  • Read your essay out loud again to double-check it’s okay.

3. Ask yourself if your essay says everything you want it to say about you.

  •  Make a list of the important points you want the colleges to know about you when they’ve finished reading your essay. (For example: “I’m thoughtful and creative, and would go out of my way for a friend.”) Then go through your essay slowly and carefully and make sure those ideas are included. If they’re not, find a way to incorporate them.
  • Sometimes an idea that you think is clear is actually not clear to the reader. This can be tricky for writers, because sometimes we’re so close to what we’ve written that it’s hard to tell. So make your list of important points and ask one or two adults to read your essay. Ask them whether or not they learned those things from your essay. If they didn’t, go back and clarify those ideas.

4. Pretend you’re a college reader.

For the next few minutes we’re going to give you a promotion. You’re a college admissions officer named Jordan. Jordan doesn’t know you. Jordan has already read 50 essays today, and some of them have been really boring.

Here is what you have to ask yourself:

  • Will my introduction capture Jordan’s attention?
  • Did I find an interesting way to tell my story, or has Jordan heard it the same way a hundred times? (“I’m so glad I won the big game.”)
  • Is this a story only I can write?
  • Does my personality jump off the page?
  • Did I include interesting details?
  • Does it say good things about me?
  • What will Jordan know about me after reading my essay? How would Jordan describe me?
  • Will Jordan think that I would be a good member of the college community?

Jordan’s got a lot to think about and so do you. So before you hit that send button, take time to re-read your essay, make sure it says what you want it to say, and put yourself in your college reader’s shoes. 

And then you can hit upload.

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

Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy nominee, Sharon teaches students how to write memorable college application essays, write outstanding resumes, and master interview skills. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit her website for more information and connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.