“Telling Your Story: Writing Powerful
College Application Essays: Ten Tips”
Rebecca Joseph, PhD
rjoseph@calstatela.edu
@ge...
How Important Are Essays?
What do American colleges look for?
1. Grades
2. Rigor of Coursework, School
3. Test Scores
4. E...
The Power and Danger of Essays
 1. Give me two reasons why admissions officers value
college application essays.
 2. Giv...
How Much Do College Admissions Essays Matter?
 "It's not a substitute for a rigorous curriculum, good grades and
evidence...
So….Tip 1
 Tip 1. College essays are fourth in importance
behind grades, test scores, and the rigor of
completed coursewo...
A New Paradigm
Tip 2. Develop an overall strategic essay writing
plan. College essays should work together to help
you com...
Essays = Opportunity
 Take control over the highest ranked non-academic aspect of
the application
 Realize the package o...
What DO Admissions Officers Seek?
 Context
 Values
 Intellectual curiosity, a playful mind, or a sense of humor
 Commi...
Four Major Application Types:
1. The Common Application
 Many private and some public American use the centralized
Common...
1. Common Application Essays
One Long
250-650 words –actual limit as you upload it.
 One Long:
 Some students have a bac...
Common Application Writing Supplements
 Some long– U Penn, U Chicago (300-650 words)
 Some medium—Stanford
 Some small—...
Four Major Application Types:
2. Large Public Universities
 Many large and most prominent public universities
have their ...
UC California
 Two essays
 Respond to both prompts, using a maximum of 1,000 words total.
 You may allocate the word co...
University of Texas Essay Tips
 Don’t tell us what you think we want to hear. The university’s essay readers don’t have a...
Four Major Application Types:
3. Private college specific applications
 Fewer and fewer major private universities are no...
Four Major Application Types:
4. Other systems
 Some large public systems have their own
applications which do not requir...
Develop A Master Chart
 Tip 3. Keep a chart of all essays required by each
college, including short responses and optiona...
Write the Fewest
Yet Most Effective Essays…
Tip 4. Look for patterns between colleges essay
requirements so that you can f...
Where to Begin: Brainstorm
Tip 5. Plan to share positive messages and powerful outcomes. You can start with
life or family...
Eddie
Resume
 Added Music Magnet
 GPA 3.8
 Test scores Above
average
 Activities
 Orchestra
 DJ
 Private Lessons
 ...
Eddie’s Two UC Essays
Opposite ends of a magnet, my sister and I are experienced masters in
our own worlds. While my siste...
My sister's recovery changed me more than I could realize. Through
Sandra's year of healing, I saw a completely different ...
I had always known Sandra as my fragile and soft-spoken sister with not
much courage. I learned through her ordeal that sh...
Eddie’s UC 2
Playing violin first sparked my passion for music fourteen years ago. Every line,
phrase, bar, and note posse...
My passion for learning about electronic music took a new turn during my sophomore year
when I began DJ'ing, which turned ...
Stuck…Brainstorming Tips
Tip 5. Plan to share positive messages and powerful
outcomes. You can start with life or family c...
Brainstorming Tips
1. Read through Dr. Joseph’s tips for brainstorming. They
include
1. Starting by writing three short ac...
1st person only.
 Tip 6. Always write in the first person. Remember,
these are autobiographical essays, even when you
tal...
Into, Through, and Beyond Essay Approach
Tip 7. Follow Dr. Joseph’s Into, Through, and Beyond approach.
Lead the reader IN...
Into
It’s the way the reader can lead the reader into the piece—images, examples, context.
The 1,200-degree scorching coal...
Through
 What happened…quickly…yet clearly with weaving of story and personal analysis
 Make sure we see your leadership...
Beyond
 Ending that evokes key characteristics
 Conveys moral
If the friendships found in mixed cultures can be so stron...
Take the Time With These Essays
Tip 8. Use active writing: avoid passive sentences and
incorporate power verbs. Show when ...
Free Write
 Thinking of how Eddie started his essays. Think
of a way to begin one with one of your activities or
accompli...
Final Thoughts
Tip 10. Most importantly, make yourself come alive
throughout this process. Write about yourself as
passion...
You Can Make Your College Dreams Come True
 My app ALL COLLEGE APPLICATION ESSAYS
Hamilton High School: College Application Essay Tips
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Hamilton High School: College Application Essay Tips

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Here are tips for Hamilton High School's College Night. Preparing Powerful College Application Essays.

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Hamilton High School: College Application Essay Tips

  1. 1. “Telling Your Story: Writing Powerful College Application Essays: Ten Tips” Rebecca Joseph, PhD rjoseph@calstatela.edu @getmetocollege Iphone/Google App: All College ApplicationEssays
  2. 2. How Important Are Essays? What do American colleges look for? 1. Grades 2. Rigor of Coursework, School 3. Test Scores 4. Essays* 5. Recommendations-Teacher and/or Counselor 6. Activities- Consistency, development, leadership, and initiative 7. Special skills, culture, connections, talents, and passions
  3. 3. The Power and Danger of Essays  1. Give me two reasons why admissions officers value college application essays.  2. Give me two reasons why they often dread reading the majority of them.
  4. 4. How Much Do College Admissions Essays Matter?  "It's not a substitute for a rigorous curriculum, good grades and evidence that you're going to do well,”  Still, the essay can make a difference.  The 10% rule: "If you have 18- or 20,000 applicants, for some of those students, the essay makes a huge difference, both positively and negatively," says admissions dean at the University of Virginia, where admissions counselors read every essay looking for the student's voice.  The first challenge for the writer: picking a topic.  Any topic can work — or fail.  The biggest problem for students is starting with too wide a focus. "By the time they get to the details, they run out of space. I'm all for cutting to the chase."
  5. 5. So….Tip 1  Tip 1. College essays are fourth in importance behind grades, test scores, and the rigor of completed coursework in many admissions office decisions. Don’t waste this powerful opportunity to share your voice and express who you really are to colleges. Great life stories make you jump off the page and into your match colleges.
  6. 6. A New Paradigm Tip 2. Develop an overall strategic essay writing plan. College essays should work together to help you communicate key qualities and stories not available anywhere else in your application. Remember: The package of essays counts…not just one. It’s the message that you communicate along with the power of your stories and your writing It’s your ability to take the reader into, through, and beyond your stories quickly and memorably Tell stories that belong just to you. That’s why a narrow and powerfully, personal focus is key.
  7. 7. Essays = Opportunity  Take control over the highest ranked non-academic aspect of the application  Realize the package of essays counts…not just one  Share their voice  Empower students to take ownership of their stories  Express who they really are  Show (not tell) stories that belong only to them and help them jump off the page  Challenge stereotypes  Reflect on their growth and development, including accomplishments and service  Seek to understand what the admission officer is looking for
  8. 8. What DO Admissions Officers Seek?  Context  Values  Intellectual curiosity, a playful mind, or a sense of humor  Commitment/Depth of Interests  Interaction with and/or perception by others  Special talents and qualities  Realistic self-appraisal
  9. 9. Four Major Application Types: 1. The Common Application  Many private and some public American use the centralized Common Application with their own Writing supplements  It will go live August 1. More than 500 colleges use it.  www.commonapp.org  Don’t start writing any essays until you see all the essays required for your top schools. My app-All College Application Essays has the requirements.
  10. 10. 1. Common Application Essays One Long 250-650 words –actual limit as you upload it.  One Long:  Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.  Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?  Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?  Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?  Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family. Activities The Common Application leaves room for 10 activities with 150 characters to describe your leadership and initiative Additional Information The Common Application allows you to add additional information. Accepts up to 650 words. Supplemental Essays They range from one line to 500 words. Some schools have one, while other have three. They can overlap. If it says optional, view it as mandatory.
  11. 11. Common Application Writing Supplements  Some long– U Penn, U Chicago (300-650 words)  Some medium—Stanford  Some small— Columbia, Brown
  12. 12. Four Major Application Types: 2. Large Public Universities  Many large and most prominent public universities have their own applications.  Universities of Arizona, California, Indiana, Maryland, Oregon, Texas, Washi ngton, and Wisconsin—to name just some  They each have different essay requirements.  They each have your report activities in a different way.  But there are ways to use your other essays here as well.  They have their own essays. You should gather their topics and look for ways to use your common application essay as one of your essays for the public colleges, and visa-versa.
  13. 13. UC California  Two essays  Respond to both prompts, using a maximum of 1,000 words total.  You may allocate the word count as you wish. If you choose to respond to one prompt at greater length, we suggest your shorter answer be no less than 250 words.  Prompt #1 (freshman applicants)-[Outside-In]  Describe the world you come from – for example, your family, community or school – and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.  Prompt #2 (all applicants) [Inside-Out]  Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are.
  14. 14. University of Texas Essay Tips  Don’t tell us what you think we want to hear. The university’s essay readers don’t have a perfect essay in mind – as a matter of fact essays that sound like all the rest of them – the essay that is expected – is more likely to be overlooked.  Be yourself. Show us what makes you unique, how you’ve dealt with issues and problems, what you think about the topic at hand. Good writing teachers tell their students to write about what they know. That’s good advice for college essays, too.  Use a natural voice and style. Although it’s always important to use proper grammar, spelling, punctuation, diction, etc., don’t write to try to impress anyone. Use words and a style that are appropriate for the topic you’re writing about, for someone your age, and for someone who’s trying to communicate clearly and logically.  Don’t be overly informal either. Your essay will be read by an adult professional. In almost all cases, you should avoid using words or phrases that you might use when texting someone or on a social networking site.  Develop your ideas. Although the length of your essay alone technically doesn’t matter, developing your ideas completely does matter. If you can do that in a single page of text, that’s good; but if it takes you three pages or so, that’s alright, too (as long as you’re not just adding words to make your essay longer). It’s not realistic to assume that you can clearly communicate your unique perspective about anything in a short paragraph or two.  Organize your thoughts. All good writing has a beginning, a middle, and an end. That doesn’t mean you should be formulaic in your writing (this isn’t a high school exit exam), but you should introduce your idea, provide interesting examples and details in support of your idea, and come to some sort of conclusion at the end.  Don’t respond to the prompt as though you’re answering a question. Again, we don’t have a perfect essay in mind. The prompt is supposed to get your mind churning, to make you want to tell us what you think about something that’s important to you. Your essay is your opportunity to do that.
  15. 15. Four Major Application Types: 3. Private college specific applications  Fewer and fewer major private universities are not on the common application  But there are still holdouts.  Georgetown and MIT to name a view.  Make sure you don’t write unnecessary essays as Georgetown essays are like The Common Application.
  16. 16. Four Major Application Types: 4. Other systems  Some large public systems have their own applications which do not require long, if any essays. Yet their applications for financial aid or academic support programs add in those requirements. Washington State, for example, several short essays which they share with other state systems.  The Universal Application is another system. It has fewer colleges on it than The Common Application.
  17. 17. Develop A Master Chart  Tip 3. Keep a chart of all essays required by each college, including short responses and optional essays. View each essay or short response as a chance to tell a new story and to share your core qualities.  I recommend three sheets.  1. Major deadlines and needs. Break it down by the four application types  2. Core essays-Color code all the similar or overlapping essays.  3. Supplemental essays. Each college has extra requirements on the common application. Again color code similar types: Why are you a good match for us? How will you add to the diversity of our campus?
  18. 18. Write the Fewest Yet Most Effective Essays… Tip 4. Look for patterns between colleges essay requirements so that you can find ways to use essays more than once. This holds true for scholarship essays.
  19. 19. Where to Begin: Brainstorm Tip 5. Plan to share positive messages and powerful outcomes. You can start with life or family challenges. You can describe obstacles you have overcome. You can reflect on your growth and development, including accomplishments and service. College admissions officers do not read minds, so tell them your powerful life stories. Some states can use only socio-economic status, but not race, in admissions, but in your essays, your voice and background can emerge.
  20. 20. Eddie Resume  Added Music Magnet  GPA 3.8  Test scores Above average  Activities  Orchestra  DJ  Private Lessons  Volunteer Work
  21. 21. Eddie’s Two UC Essays Opposite ends of a magnet, my sister and I are experienced masters in our own worlds. While my sister is an exceptional writer and test buster, I am the exceptional musician. While she prepares for a calculus exam, I write down notes for a song idea. While she rehearses a debate argument, I practice a violin concerto for an upcoming concert. Our talents complement and benefit the other. Sometimes she would tutor me in my mathematics course, and I would decipher and transcribe a piece of music perfect for one of her history presentations. Despite our different interests, we united as a family more than ever in March of 2006 when my sister was diagnosed with lymphoma shortly after my mother, while examining my Sandra’s senior portrait, noticed an unusual lump on the side of her neck. She had just received her admittance to Yale, and our family couldn’t be any happier. Now, our family was in a state of crisis as Sandra faced months of radiation and chemotherapy and at least a year deferral to Yale.
  22. 22. My sister's recovery changed me more than I could realize. Through Sandra's year of healing, I saw a completely different person emerge. She no longer resembled the frail and quiet sibling I once knew but was rather now a soldier and survivor, silent in her strength. She had endlessly devoted her life to the excellence of all aspects of her academic life, and at the end of it all had been cheated out of her own senior year as well as a year of her studies at Yale. In her resilience to overcome her treatment, I saw her steadfast defiance towards sickness and the faith in her own strength. Only shortly after her recovery did I see these same qualities in myself. Sandra's illness motivated me give more to my school and to my music. I became motivated in a way I would never have expected. School work now subconsciously became even more of a priority. I strived for the perfection she had trademarked. Something clicked in my head and with it my perception of school. English papers became crossword puzzles, pre-calculus problems morphed into Rubik’s cubes, and physics turned into visits to the local museum. Sandra gave me a new level of focus in my musical ability. Music became even more of a medium for me to express myself. And through my new exploration of music, I truly realized how much simple melodies can affect the emotions. I used this newly acquired understanding to write pieces of vocal and electronic works that captured the resistance and resilience of emotion.
  23. 23. I had always known Sandra as my fragile and soft-spoken sister with not much courage. I learned through her ordeal that she was nothing like what I had always envisioned her to be. I saw the same potential for breaking all odds and self reliance in her that I now saw in myself and because of this, my outlook for my future dreams and aspirations has also taken a new perspective. My musical life has always been somewhat of an experiment, but now I have complete confidence on how much I have accomplished because I have learned not to doubt my abilities just as my sister refused to be taken over by her illness. She was the strongest I had ever seen her at a time when she was the weakest, and now I have learned through her hardships how I can prosper even at the worst of times.
  24. 24. Eddie’s UC 2 Playing violin first sparked my passion for music fourteen years ago. Every line, phrase, bar, and note possessed an opportunity for me to speak out and even in the same piece, I could evince all the emotions I felt at the time, making each performance of the same musical work unique and specialized to my ever fleeting sentiments. However, in my seventh grade, I found another type of instrument, the guitar, and began to learn on my own. With the guitar, I could strum and pick mainstream rock and pop tunes yet still be able to play many of my favorite classical pieces. My backgrounds in violin and guitar then beget my first compositions, which started off as classical pieces for violin, guitar, and voice. Three years ago when I first heard DJ Tiesto's electronic masterpiece, Loves Comes Again, I experienced a kind of energy and life that I had not felt through classical music. From that moment, I began learning as much about electronic music as I could, from equipment and production to composition and to working as a disc jockey. I began to create new compositions that attempted to move beyond algorithms and calculations and to create genuine music that exposed human emotions.
  25. 25. My passion for learning about electronic music took a new turn during my sophomore year when I began DJ'ing, which turned my electronic compositions into live performances that combined original and professional works of music. As I threw myself deeper into this new passion, I learned more about vinyl technique and mixing while also performing for many school events and private occasions. For every event I spun records for, I gradually developed a sixth sense for "reading the crowd" to know exactly which track to mix in next and my mixing technique only improved as the transitions between songs were practically flawless and unnoticeable. However, I wanted to do more. Between events, I read all the music charts and album releases to be certain I had an updated music library available for upcoming performances, and I practiced at home rigorously to find new ways to transition songs, train my ear to match the tempos of these tracks faster and more accurately, and eventually, develop my own style as a DJ. My varied musical interests have allowed me to express my emotions, create my own reality, and share my passion for music with others. From playing solo violin as well as orchestra to guitar to music production and later into DJ'ing, I have learned about the meticulous labor and genuine concern required to create even simple melodies; and so my music experience so far has also trained me to listen with a kind ear. The more I compose and DJ the more I see communities as unified through dancing, communication, and feelings. I want to go to college to continue learning about how music is created, as well as expand my knowledge about the industry so that I can better understand how my ideas can contribute to the world.
  26. 26. Stuck…Brainstorming Tips Tip 5. Plan to share positive messages and powerful outcomes. You can start with life or family challenges. You can describe obstacles you have overcome. You can reflect on your growth and development, including accomplishments and service. College admissions officers do not read minds, so tell them your powerful life stories. Some states can use only socio-economic status, but not race, in admissions, but in your essays, your voice and background can emerge.
  27. 27. Brainstorming Tips 1. Read through Dr. Joseph’s tips for brainstorming. They include 1. Starting by writing three short activity statements 2. Reading model essays from actual college websites 3. Looking at other college’s essay prompts-U Chicago, Tufts 4. Writing a “Where I’m From” piece 5. Creating a letter to future roommate or an amazing list of what makes you you. 6. Looking at 5 top FB and Instagram Pictures 7. Reading models from other students
  28. 28. 1st person only.  Tip 6. Always write in the first person. Remember, these are autobiographical essays, even when you talk about other people. Remember the colleges are looking to accept you, not your relatives. So use the one third and two thirds rule. If you choose to write about someone or something else, you must show how it affected you for the majority of the essay. Your essays show colleges why you belong on college campuses and share how you will enrich diverse communities.
  29. 29. Into, Through, and Beyond Essay Approach Tip 7. Follow Dr. Joseph’s Into, Through, and Beyond approach. Lead the reader INTO your story with a powerful beginning—a story, an experience. Take them THROUGH your story with the context and keys parts of your story. Make sure the reader understands your initiative, leadership, development, and continuity. End with the BEYOND message about how this story has affected who you are now and who you want to be in college and potentially after college. The beyond can be implied in many pieces that are so strong that moralizing at the end if not necessary.  It is not just the story that counts.  It’s the choice of qualities a student wants the college to know about herself
  30. 30. Into It’s the way the reader can lead the reader into the piece—images, examples, context. The 1,200-degree scorching coals surprisingly left no imprint upon my soles. There were just the hundreds of tiny embers glowing on the ground and the fire department on alert at the opposite end. I had just walked on fire. I was weak and exhausted. During the day we would protest across from the Armenian Embassy in Glendale. We would hold up signs, posters, and banners. We passed out fliers to oncoming traffic. Twenty seven fellow protesters and I chained ourselves together and put tape over our mouths to symbolize our hunger, our deep hunger for change, and yes, for food. We slept outside on wet grass having sprinklers turn on us every night at 2:30 a.m. Every morning, we cleaned up in a restaurant, and the smell and sight of the food tested me. But when I felt doubts arise, I would remember my great-grandfather who barely survived the Armenian genocide. For months, he had little food or water and had to go on a death march which few survived. If he could make it through those conditions, I knew I could make it through this week. And I did. “We have great crack.” Four short words that forever changed the way I viewed public speaking.
  31. 31. Through  What happened…quickly…yet clearly with weaving of story and personal analysis  Make sure we see your leadership, initiative, development, and initiative  Specific focus on the student  Great summarizing, details, and images at same time Last year, I volunteered as a Confirmation leader at St. Raphael’s Church in South Los Angeles . St. Raphael’s is like a home to me and I basically grew up in those old, moldy pews. Brian proved to be the biggest challenge I faced that year. We had a long history together. We were in the same class at grade school until sixth grade when he was held back. I hadn’t seen him since I graduated 8th grade and went to an all girls’ school, and now here we are sitting in class every Sunday morning, me as a teacher and him as my favorite student. Throughout the year, dare after dare, he tried everything he could to push my buttons. He sought out fights, cursed, and even called me a n****r but I didn’t give up. I quietly disregarded his statements and moved on. I would not let Brian and his derogatory comments break me. His dreadful behavior lasted until after our retreat. As a child, I viewed my lack of understanding of the English language as temporary obstacle; as an adult, my mom’s grasp of the English language was a limitation—impaired communication was knowing what you wanted to say but being unable to articulate it. As my grasp of the English language grew to surpass my mom’s, I would often receive phone calls from her at work in which she would ask me the meaning of an English word or ask me to translate a word from Spanish to English so she could use it. My mom taught me not only to appreciate and take advantage of every opportunity presented, but also to use my skills to help others. At the time a seemingly insignificant moment, when a non-English-speaking man at Barnes and Noble wanted to put a book on hold but did not know how to tell the cashier, I translated for him; it is because of my mom that I discovered the joy of helping others.
  32. 32. Beyond  Ending that evokes key characteristics  Conveys moral If the friendships found in mixed cultures can be so strong, so influencing as to, say, bring success in a most challenging class, or make memorable nights with a best friend, why not overlook the differences in details and embrace them? There is great power in bringing people together; I’d like to make it happen and, from there, see it blossom into something powerful. All five of us completed the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon on the rainiest and coldest day we ever experienced. My greatest accomplishment was to help students achieve the goals they thought impossible to complete. I learned that I have the strength and character to accomplish and succeed, and that though the road may not be easy, it is possible.
  33. 33. Take the Time With These Essays Tip 8. Use active writing: avoid passive sentences and incorporate power verbs. Show when possible; tell when summarizing. Tip 9. Have trusted inside and impartial outside readers read your essays. Make sure you have no spelling or grammatical errors.
  34. 34. Free Write  Thinking of how Eddie started his essays. Think of a way to begin one with one of your activities or accomplishments.
  35. 35. Final Thoughts Tip 10. Most importantly, make yourself come alive throughout this process. Write about yourself as passionately and powerfully as possible. Be proud of your life and accomplishments. Sell yourself!!!  Students often need weeks not days to write effective essays. You need to push beyond stereotypes.  You must ultimately submit what pleases you.  Essays cannot be manufactured. They convey truth, unique stories, and writing skills.  Admissions officers can smell “enhanced” essays.  Students have two to five minutes to grab the attention of a essay reader.  You can find many great websites and examples but each student is different.  Admissions officers often say essays make or break an ultimate decision for students applying to “match colleges.”  Facebook friend me: getmetocollege freeadvice  Follow me on twitter @getmetocollege
  36. 36. You Can Make Your College Dreams Come True  My app ALL COLLEGE APPLICATION ESSAYS
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