For the first official post in what I hope will become a regular blog for this site, I’d like to give some suggestions and writing tips to high school seniors out there who are struggling to find inspiration for their college application essays. I know from years of experience that there are a lot of procrastinators here in California who are still working on essays for their UC applications. which are due by midnight tonight. USC applications for students who want to be considered for scholarships are due tomorrow (postmarked by tomorrow if you’re snail-mailing your application).
Camilla is shocked that you still haven’t finished your essays.
First, read my handout “Suggestions on How to Write College Application Essays .”
If you’re experiencing word constipation (aka “writer’s block”), here are a few suggestions to help get you unblocked:
Once the ideas and words start flowing, don’t interrupt them by worrying too much about staying within the length limits. You can always find things to cut out after writing a draft; what’s critical is that you have substantial, memorable material and that you not waste any words. In my thirteen years of experience helping students develop and polish their college application essays, I’ve never had a student who wasn’t better off taking this approach. It’s amazing how much extraneous and redundant material creeps into even a good writer’s first draft, and if you force yourself to trim your writing down, you’ll be left with a dense essay that packs a greater punch. (Also, I recently read a New York Times article suggesting that the Common Application ‘s 500-word limit is not strictly enforced. Colleges are not notified if the essay exceeds the limit, though they’ll surely figure it out for themselves if you give them a War and Peace or a Moby Dick —or my favorite back pain-inducing epic, The Baroque Cycle .)
Finally, two points can’t be overemphasized:
1. Include concrete, specific details and examples. Anyone can barf up the platitudes and clichés about going to college that everyone has heard before. Your job is to convince the people reading your essays that your interest in their school, your passion for learning, and your aspirations are sincere. In writing, truth often takes the form of specific details, and BS (ahem. “boring stuff”) is often disguised as vague generalities. General statements are an important element of essay writing, but be sure to back them up with something substantial.
2. Write with feeling. Don’t go to Jersey Shore melodramatic extremes, of course, but make sure you express your passion for life and learning and that any personal stories you use convey real emotion. A tepid, ho-hum essay will be easily forgotten amidst thousands of other essays. Again, focusing on concrete details will help you achieve this goal.
Here’s another resource that might be helpful to those reading this post: A Washington Post article entitled “7 college admissions myths .” Pay particular attention to this part:
6. Essays don’t really matter much in the end because grades and test scores are so dominant in admissions decisions.
Don’t believe it. A poorly written, typo-filled essay can kill any application, and a beautiful piece can lift a student over another who looks similar on paper.
I hope this advice is helpful. As someone who has shared the pain of college applications with many students, I can empathize with your plight.
In the future, I might be available to give feedback on college application essays for people I’m not currently tutoring. Anyone who’s interested can contact me by e-mail here .
Good luck! Now stop wasting time reading blogs, and go get it done.
In the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Stephen Wilburs called writing college application essays one of those "quintessential experiences" that "from time to time in the history of our country we as a people undergo certain rituals that remind us of what it is to be Americans."  While these words hang significance on one small part of a college application, it is not an exaggeration to say that a college application essay can make or break the overall college application.
I can remember over twenty years ago applying for college and I have no memory of what I put in my college application. I did get into my (non Ivy League) school of choice, however. Half a dozen years later I would be working in a university admissions office where we would shake our heads at and pass around those college application essays that were written terribly or that bordered on psychotic (just before those applicants were denied admission). I'm finally on the other end of process, as a parent of a high school sophomore who is already worrying about SATs, AP exams and, yes, the college application essays she'll have to write. So this article is for her and for parents like me. There are many online resources that can show you how to write those college application essays.
I want to point out some of the things students applying to colleges should not do or not include in their college application essay:
Writing college application essays can be scary. Fortunately there are plenty of free resources online that can offer some tips for how to write them. My "things not to do" list is a good start to get you thinking about what that essay should look like and how it can truly reflect the person applying for college admission.
SparkCollege: The College Search
The college essay is perhaps the most frustrating part of the college application. Since the essay provides the opportunity for you to give the colleges a “window into your soul” so to speak, the essay is essentially a key component of the application. If you’re struggling with essay or just need some expert advice, where can you go for help?
These five experts provide some of the best essay advice on how to write a college essay. For each, I have focused on a specific topic, but if you want (or need) more specific help, visit their websites. You will be amazed at their willingness to offer their expert advice free of charge. They all, however, offer specialized coaching and you and your student would be wise to take advantage of it if you find their advice helpful.How do I begin the essay process?
This advice comes from my go-to essay source, The College Essay Guy. According to him, students should prepare before writing the essay. He starts the process by answering these questions:
This tip is from Essay Hell, a good resource for essay information, along with examples and tips for specific colleges like USC and UT. According to Essay Hell, there are 5 traps you can fall into when writing your college essay:
The Essay Expert, Brenda Bernstein, provides some possible essay brainstorming topics:
According to the experts at All College Application Essays, “the drafting process is critical and can help make your stories and messages clearer. These essays are hard to write and get better with each new layer. To help, they provide 10 questions to guide you through the process:
According to David at EssaysCoach.com, writing a good application essay is hard. Many students write essays that are too cliché or too shallow; others write essays that are impersonal and uninformative; some are even unfortunate enough to write essays that cause their own rejection. Here are five things an admissions officer looks for:
Check out each individual website for more essay tips and for help with the college essay. Always go to the experts!
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Alex Strike in Becoming an Expert | December 18, 2013 5 Writing Tips From Stephen King
Whether you are a blogger or a book writer, you want to write interesting and catchy content.
Every author has their own secret of success, their own sources of inspiration, their personal tricks to attract and hold their readers. Even essay writers can share some exclusive tricks with you concerning what a really perfect essay should look like.
It is difficult to give advice, as what may work out for one of us could be completely worthless to another. Anyway, when it comes to such writing gurus as Stephen King, it’s difficult to ignore his advice concerning effective writing, isn’t it?
Stephen King knows the magic of words very well, and he is a very successful writer by all means. Besides his thoughts and episodes from life, Mr. King gives quite clear advice to all newbies of writing.
His autobiography On Writing perfectly describes the sources of his gloomy novels, and reveals the secrets of effective writing that can work for many other niches as well.
We are here to share King’s thoughts with you, but first of all, let’s learn and remember five main rules for every writer to follow:
As you can see, there is nothing difficult here. But practice is the best master, and it seems the key to success. So, be original, hard-working, and cut all excesses off.
Here are five more secrets of Stephen King to help you write better.1. Do not waste your time on nonsense
Many people fill their time with empty deeds, that do not lead to anything useful. Before there was watching TV there will still a lot of distractions. And now more and more technology makes it easier to be distracted than to work.
“If you’re just starting out as a writer, you could do worse than strip your television’s electric plug-wire, wrap a spike around it, and then stick it back into the wall. See what blows, and how far. Just an idea.” – Stephen King2. Be persistent
Having failed, do not stop trying. Stephen King put all rejection letters from publishers on a nail on a wall.
“By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.” – Stephen King
After years of work, refusals became softer. Some publishers started to send some tips on texts improvements, and began to publish his works finally. And when Stephen King became famous, he could send his previously rejected works to publishers again, and no one rejected him this time.3. Do not take the critics too seriously
There will always be people ready and willing to criticize you. So, do what you think is right, and do not play attention to any spiteful critics.
“If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.” – Stephen King4. Maintain and develop your form
King also talks about making all necessary tools perfect.
“It’s best to have your tools with you. If you don’t, you’re apt to find something you didn’t expect and get discouraged.” – Stephen King
As a writer, King speaks of vocabulary and grammar here. Everyone can identify what tools are needed for his work. Whether that be writing or some other form of art.5. Think of who you write for
Try to imagine what the reaction of your customers will be. Will they like what you do or do you need to change anything in order to improve your work? The trick is to imagine your Ideal Reader, the one person you write to. For Stephen King, his Ideal Reader was always his wife Tabitha.
“If you know the tastes of your Ideal reader at least half as much as I know the tastes of mine, it will be not difficult for you to imagine what he will like, and what – not.” – Stephen King
Good luck with your writing, and let the force of Great Masters of words be with you!
A weekly curated email of useful links for people interested in lifestyle businesses and independent entrepreneurship. Alex Strike is a young copywriter and blogger of Writing-Help.com. a website of the best writing services that helps students to come up with new creative ideas for essay writing. Alex likes the process of writing itself, and the books of Stephen King and Ray Bradbury. Find him on Google+ .
The primary purpose of this web page is to give students easy access to tools that might help their writing. Poor grammar or a dysfunctional writing style will create obstacles throughout your life, ranging from poor grades in college to ineffective essays on law school or grad school applications and unflattering job evaluations from employers or supervisors. I can not guarantee that this page will magically improve your grades, get you into Harvard Law School, or get you a raise and a promotion -- but I do hope that you find it useful.Advice on College-Level Research and Writing
My upper-division undergraduate courses typically require at least one research paper and several essay exams, and many high schools and introductory undergraduate courses do not give students the preparation they need to succeed in classes like this. The following resources are meant to help students cope with such assignments, regardless of their previous experience.General Style and Grammar Links
The following resources offer more general help with style and grammar.A Little Humor
Last updated: 6 July 2008
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