Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills


Leave a comment

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).

This is the second in my series on how to write the 2016 Common Application essay prompts. Click here to read how to write Prompt 1, Prompt 3 and Prompt 4.

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.

Read the entire series:
How to Write Common App Prompt #1: Background, Talent, Identity, or Interest
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

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.

 


Leave a comment

2016-2017 Common Application Essay Prompts

2016-2017 Common Application Essay PromptsThe news is in!

The Common Application personal statement essay prompts for 2016-2017 will be the same as last year.

Juniors: This absolutely doesn’t mean you have to amp up the stress and start writing in February. But start brainstorming, and when you have time to write you’ll have lots of ideas.

Common App essay requirements:

  • You answer one of five prompts.
  • The maximum essay length is 650 words.

Here are the 2016-2017 Common Application Essay Prompts:

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.

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?

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

4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

 College Essay Writing helpInteresting Stats from Last Year’s Applications:

  • More than 800,000 applicants submitted a Common Application
  • 47 percent chose to write about their background, identity, interest, or talent – making it the most frequently selected prompt
  • 22 percent wrote about an accomplishment
  • 17 percent wrote about a lesson or failure
  • 10 percent wrote about a problem solved
  • 4 percent wrote about an idea they challenged

For more information, go to Common Application website or The Common App’s Facebook page

In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing insights, question by question, to help students understand, think about, and write outstanding college application essays.

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

Save


3 Comments

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.


2 Comments

3 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Start Writing Your College Application Essay

3 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Start Writing Your College Application EssaysSooo…. you’ve got some essays to write.

When are you going to get started?

Today?

No?

Tomorrow?

Here are 3 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Start Writing Your College Application Essay:

  • Go Outside. Yes, you heard me right. Think about your essay everywhere EXCEPT in front of your keyboard. This works, because it allows your brain to become more creative and relaxed. So walk your dog, ride your skateboard, take a swim –  let your brain be inspired.
  • Freewrite: Do you have an idea or two but can’t get a decent sentence on the page? Then freewrite. Give yourself 10 or 15 minutes and write a train of thought paragraph about your topic. Close your eyes and try to put yourself in your story. Write what you felt, heard, tasted, saw, smelled. What were your emotions? What were you thinking? How did it affect you? You’ll be surprised at the material you come up with. After that, you should be able to move on to your essay.
  • Forget about writing “THE ESSAY.” Yes, the college essay is important but I’ve met students who are actually afraid to start writing. They feel so much pressure to choose the perfect topic and make the essay convey everything that’s special about them that they start to panic.

Here’s what I tell them:

  • Your essay isn’t your resume. You only have 650 words. You have to choose what you want to tell the colleges about you – not throw in the kitchen sink.
  • You Don’t Need a One-of-a-Kind Topic. Why? Because YOU are the unique part of your essay. While other students may choose the same topic, no one will react to it, learn from it or grow from it the same way. Schools want to understand your perspective. They want to see the world from your eyes.
  • Don’t settle for easy answers. This is an excellent tip for writing a great essay. Look inside yourself and dig deep for this essay. One way to do that is to keep asking yourself “why?” “Why is it important for me to tell this story?”…”Why did I react this way?” Take the time to figure out those answers and you’ll have an essay to be proud of.

Sooo… you’ve got some essays to write.

What are you waiting for? Go outside and get started.

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon 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. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit her website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.