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Cracking the College Essay Christopher Piane Territory Manager – South Jersey The Princeton Review

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1 Cracking the College Essay Christopher Piane Territory Manager – South Jersey The Princeton Review

2 Why do colleges ask you to write essays?

3 Why an essay? To find out who you are (and what they can’t see from your grades and test scores) To find out who you are (and what they can’t see from your grades and test scores) To find unique people who are going to make the campus a better place To find unique people who are going to make the campus a better place To test your ability to organize your thoughts and express yourself through words (what you do most in college) To test your ability to organize your thoughts and express yourself through words (what you do most in college)

4 Most Importantly Be yourself Be yourself Separate yourself from the crowd Separate yourself from the crowd Start early Start early

5 What have you been told about writing a good college essay?

6 The Dos Be creative and/or funny Be creative and/or funny Reflect and opine (easy on the ‘what’, heavy on the ‘why’) Reflect and opine (easy on the ‘what’, heavy on the ‘why’) Write in the first person if you want Write in the first person if you want Omit anything that doesn’t advance the story Omit anything that doesn’t advance the story Give to someone you trust to edit (not necessarily your mom or your English teacher) Give to someone you trust to edit (not necessarily your mom or your English teacher) Follow the word count (not less than the minimum or more than the maximum) Follow the word count (not less than the minimum or more than the maximum)

7 The Don’ts Be funny if you’re not funny Be funny if you’re not funny Be shy or modest (or too much of a braggart) Be shy or modest (or too much of a braggart) Use a template or example essay Use a template or example essay Make stuff up Make stuff up Worry if you haven’t done anything amazing Worry if you haven’t done anything amazing Reuse another essay you already wrote Reuse another essay you already wrote Repeat things from other parts of your application (like grades and activities) Repeat things from other parts of your application (like grades and activities)

8 Topics That Work, Topics That Don’t What do they like? Curiosity, passion, persistence. Attributes that successful college students have. Great students become great alumni. What do they like? Curiosity, passion, persistence. Attributes that successful college students have. Great students become great alumni. What universally makes them cringe? Sex (especially YOUR sex life), drugs (especially YOUR drug use), violent events in which you participated. What universally makes them cringe? Sex (especially YOUR sex life), drugs (especially YOUR drug use), violent events in which you participated. They also tire of reading travelogues and stories of how you recovered from a sports injury. They also tire of reading travelogues and stories of how you recovered from a sports injury. Want to make them groan? Rehash the extracurricular activities that you already listed on your application or editorialize on the top news item of the day. Want to make them groan? Rehash the extracurricular activities that you already listed on your application or editorialize on the top news item of the day.

9 Your grammer will be judged by the admissions officers. (What’s wrong with this sentence?)

10 Composition 101 Spelling, grammar, and usage do matter Spelling, grammar, and usage do matter Spelling is easy, grammar is hard Spelling is easy, grammar is hard Follow the SAT/ACT rules Follow the SAT/ACT rules Put ‘Strunk and White’ into google – it will change your life Put ‘Strunk and White’ into google – it will change your life Be brief, focused. GET TO THE POINT IN 3 PAGES! Be brief, focused. GET TO THE POINT IN 3 PAGES! Proof, proof, and proof some more Proof, proof, and proof some more

11 When should you start writing your essays?

12 Plan of Attack For regular admissions deadlines, earlier for Early Decision. Research your topics (Early Summer) Research your topics (Early Summer) Brainstorm and sleep on it (Mid Summer) Brainstorm and sleep on it (Mid Summer) Write your first drafts (Late Summer) Write your first drafts (Late Summer) Put them in a drawer (at least a week) Put them in a drawer (at least a week) Edit and revise (September) Edit and revise (September) Solicit feedback (October) Solicit feedback (October) Finalize and perfect (November) Finalize and perfect (November)

13 What topics can you expect?

14 Example Topics What would you write? From the Common Application: Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you. Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you. Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you. Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you. Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence. Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence. Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence. Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence. A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community, or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you. A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community, or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you. Topic of your choice. Topic of your choice.

15 More Example Topics What would you write? Rutgers University is a vibrant community of people with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. How would you benefit from and contribute to such an environment? Consider variables such as your talents, travels, leadership activities, volunteer services, and cultural experiences. (Rutgers) Rutgers University is a vibrant community of people with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. How would you benefit from and contribute to such an environment? Consider variables such as your talents, travels, leadership activities, volunteer services, and cultural experiences. (Rutgers) Tell us about a person who has influenced you in a significant way. (Princeton) Tell us about a person who has influenced you in a significant way. (Princeton) Why is UVM a good college choice for you? (University of Vermont) Why is UVM a good college choice for you? (University of Vermont) Describe your reasons for selecting Loyola College and your personal and professional goals and plans for after college. (Loyola College, MD) Describe your reasons for selecting Loyola College and your personal and professional goals and plans for after college. (Loyola College, MD)

16 Even More Example Topics What would you write? How would you describe yourself as a human being? What quality do you like best in yourself and what do you like least? What quality would you most like to see flourish and which would you like to see wither? (Bates College) How would you describe yourself as a human being? What quality do you like best in yourself and what do you like least? What quality would you most like to see flourish and which would you like to see wither? (Bates College) To learn to think is to learn to question. Discuss a matter you once thought you knew 'for sure' that you have since learned to question. (Bryn Mawr College) To learn to think is to learn to question. Discuss a matter you once thought you knew 'for sure' that you have since learned to question. (Bryn Mawr College) In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge that your generation will face? What ideas do you have for dealing with this issue? (College of the Holy Cross) In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge that your generation will face? What ideas do you have for dealing with this issue? (College of the Holy Cross) You have just completed your 300-page autobiography. Please submit page 217. (University of Pennsylvania) You have just completed your 300-page autobiography. Please submit page 217. (University of Pennsylvania)

17 What if? What if the “personal statement” is optional? What if the “personal statement” is optional? What if I’m asked to write short essays? What if I’m asked to write short essays? What if I have a choice of essays? What if I have a choice of essays? What if one of the choices is “topic of my choice?” What if one of the choices is “topic of my choice?” What if I’m asked for my “favorite things?” What if I’m asked for my “favorite things?”

18 What if? Answered What if the “personal statement” is optional? Do it! What if the “personal statement” is optional? Do it! What if I’m asked to write short essays? All the same rules apply. What if I’m asked to write short essays? All the same rules apply. What if I have a choice of essays? Play to your strengths. What if I have a choice of essays? Play to your strengths. What if one of the choices is “topic of my choice?” Don’t get tempted by this easy way out. They will know you are recycling. What if one of the choices is “topic of my choice?” Don’t get tempted by this easy way out. They will know you are recycling. What if I’m asked for my “favorite things?” Tell the truth! Don’t tell them what you think they want to hear. What if I’m asked for my “favorite things?” Tell the truth! Don’t tell them what you think they want to hear.

19 There’s a storm in your brain and it’s time to let it loose.

20 Brainstorming Session Begin to brainstorm a personal essay on one of the following topics from the Common Application: Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you. Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you. Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you. Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you. Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence. Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.

21 Let’s Review Be yourself Be yourself Stand out from the crowd Stand out from the crowd Start early Start early

22 Cracking the College Essay Christopher Piane Territory Manager – South Jersey The Princeton Review


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