Part 1: The Common Application and the college essay question
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  • 1. How Not to Write a College Admissions Essay
  • 2. Goals for today§  Introduce the Common Application§  Get to Know Your Review Audience§  Creative Nonfiction = College Application Essay§  Dos and Donts§  Writing Workshop§  Your turn
  • 3. Why do you have to write anessay to get into college?Highest consideration goes to...Your High School Transcript§  Quality of courses you took§  Challenge of the courses you took§  Level of achievement in courses you took thats not all...Who are you really?Your Essay, Short-answer, and Extracurricular Sections§  Smart, enthusiastic, well-written answers§  Depth of commitment§  Evidence of initiative§  Level of interest in the college are the sections that could give your admission chances a boost!
  • 4. The Common ApplicationWhat is it?
  • 5. The IB AdvantageYou already have an advantage bytaking IB courses or by being anIB Diploma candidate, but guesswhat... so do all the other IBstudents around the world.
  • 6. Common Application Essay Questions2013-2014 Essay Topics1.  Some students have a background or story thatis so central to their identity that they believetheir application would be incomplete withoutit. If this sounds like you, then please shareyour story.2.  Recount an incident or time when youexperienced failure. How did it affect you, andwhat lessons did you learn?3.  Reflect on a time when you challenged a beliefor idea. What prompted you to act? Wouldyou make the same decision again?4.  Describe a place or environment where you areperfectly content. What do you do orexperience there, and why is it meaningful toyou?5.  Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal orinformal, that marked your transition fromchildhood to adulthood within your culture,community, or family.
  • 7. Know Your AudienceWho reads your application? Round 2nd RoundFinal RoundApplication Reviewer Panel of Admissions Officers Dean ofAdmissions
  • 8. "A memorable essay, [the dean ofadmissions at the University of Virginia] says, tellsme someone knows how to write, and knowswho he or she is, and can help an applicantwith middle-of-the-road test scoresstand out."(Hoover, "Two, three essays? More can mean less")
  • 9. What is Creative Nonfiction?Memoirs/Narratives/"Big Ideas"/FactualEssays"Admissions essays should reveal the student’s voice, personality, andunique way of looking at the world. The best essays are ones that tell a bigstory in a small way: By focusing on a small event, the essayist shows howthat reflects something larger. The essays don’t need to be funny, or sad, orcontroversial, but they do need to engage the reader" (Wells, 47).Show, dont tell.•  Create scenes that fit together to make your point in response to the prompt.•  Share a story, but make sure its true.(Gutkind, "What is Creative Nonfiction")
  • 10. Your College Application EssayA true story well told...You are an interesting person. Your essay should be yours.Consider these examples of introductory paragraphs:GenericI am very honored to apply as an undergraduate for a degree in Education at theUniversity of Very Smart Teachers because as long as I can remember I have had agreat love affair with books. Since I was eleven I have known I wanted to be a teacher.This is an example that represents 1,000 other people.vs.SpecificWhen I was eleven, my great-aunt Gretchen passed away and left me something thatchanged my life: a library of five thousand books. My best days were spent teaching mylittle brother about the things I had learned from them. Since then, I have wanted to bea teacher.This is an example of a real thing, which happened to a real person, told simply.
  • 11. Dos and DontsDo be:Concise, honest, an individual, coherent, accurate, vivid, likeable,cautious in your use of humor, and smart(Hyman and Jacobs, "10 Tips for Writing a College Application Essay)Dont:•  Take a stand and then not be able to back it up•  Open with a quotation•  Go on, and on , and on, ...and on•  Use a long word when a short word will do•  Use a metaphor, simile, or other common figure of speech•  Dont use common essay cliches ("future potential as a leader", "desire toleverage my education, "my global perspective")•  Never use the passive voice when you can use the active (use "is" not "was")(Peterson, "How to Write a College Essay")
  • 12. Getting from Here to ThereA Pre-essay Writing Workshop: Part 1 of 4Go to: Case matters.)List 3 interesting things aboutyourself that an admissions officerwould not know from looking atyour application.Take about 3 minutes.
  • 13. Getting from Here to ThereA Pre-essay Writing Workshop: Part 2 of 41.  Please get into a group of 3.2. Individually: Write a 50 word letterto an imaginary college roommate.(Think about the list of 3 things you just came up withthat are unique to youand include some or all of them.)Take about 15 minutes.
  • 14. Getting from Here to ThereA Pre-essay Writing Workshop: Part 3 of 41. Trade letters with a groupmember.2.  Read your group members letter.3.  Circle one thing you want to knowmore about.Take about 5 minutes.
  • 15. Getting from Here to ThereA Pre-essay Writing Workshop: Part 4 of 41.  Pass letters back to authors.2.  Authors elaborate on circled item.Take about 10 minutes.
  • 16. Your turnApplication Essay AssignmentChoose one essay question from the handout and respond to it.Requirements: 250 words, typed, double-spaced, MLA formatDue: Thursday, April 25.Remember...You are trying to express to an Admissions Officer at your first-choice college that you are a uniqueand valuable individual (in addition to having amazing writing skills), so...•  Follow the guidelines.•  Use correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling.•  Write about yourself.•  Use your own voice.•  Focus on one aspect of yourself.•  Be genuine.•  Consider an everyday topic that you feel deeply about.•  Share your opinions, but avoid anything too risky or controversial.•  Tell a good story.•  Rewrite and revise.•  Don’t repeat what is already in your application.(Merrill, "Tip sheet: An Admissions Dean Offers Advice on Writing a College Essay")
  • 17. Find out more...Applying for CollegeMeeting for Juniors and their parentsMonday, May 207pm in the CPAFollow the counseling office on Twitter@dexcounselors
  • 18. ResourcesGutkind, Lee. "What is creative nonfiction?" Creative Nonfiction. 2012. Web. 17 April 2013., Eric. "Two, three essays? More can mean less." New York Times. 12 April 2013. Web. 17 April 2013."How not to write a college admissions essay." Howcast. Web. 12 April 2013., Jeremy S. and Jacobs, Lynn F., "10 tips for writing a college application essay." U.S. News and WorldReports. 15 Sep. 2010. Web. 10 April 2013., Martha C. "Tip sheet: an admissions dean offers advice on writing a college essay."The New York Times. 23 June 2009. Web. 12 April 2013., Chris. "How to write a college essay." MIT Admissions- Blogs. 30 July 2012. Web. 10 April 2013., Jennifer “It sounds like me: using creative nonfiction to teach college admissions essays." EnglishJournal 98.1(2008): 47–52."The Common Application." The Common Application. 2012. Web. 10 April 2013.