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COMMUNICATING THEIR  STORIES: STRATEGIESFOR HELPING STUDENTS     WRITE POWERFUL      COLLEGE ESSAYS                       ...
ESSAYS = OPPORTUNIT YTake control over the highest ranked non-academic aspect of the applicationRealize the package of e...
HOW IMPORTANT ARE THE ESSAYS?1. Grades2. Rigor of Coursework, School3. Test Scores4. Essays*5. Recommendations-Teacher and...
WHAT DO ADMISSIONS OFFICERS LOOK          FOR IN ESSAYS?ContextValuesIntellectual curiosity, a playful mind, or a sense...
STEPS TO SUCCESS1)Understand the landscape2)Create a master chart to highlight patterns3)Read successful sample essays4)Wr...
UNDERSTAND THE LANDSCAPE1)The Common Application: New Prompts!     One Long (250-650 words)       Some students have a b...
CREATE A MASTER CHART: PATTERNS1)Major Deadlines and Needs (by application type)2)Core Essays (color code all similar or o...
READ SAMPLE ESSAYS AND PROMPTSEssays that worked: Connecticut Collegehttp://www.conncoll.edu/admission/essays-that-worked...
YALE ESSAYS5 short takes-175 characters1 long essay-500 words1 short Why Yale-500 characters                           ...
WRITE A RESUMEAcademic: Current school, honors, AP courses, test scores (if strong), summer programsActivities: Colleges...
CORE QUALITIES AND UNIQUE STORIESBrainstorming Exercises:Write a letter to future roommateWrite a “Where I’m From” poem ...
LETTER TO FUTURE ROOMMATEDear Roommate,I love making lists. A series of lists serve as decorations of my walls, lockers an...
LETTER TO FUTURE ROOMMATEDear Roommate:For a majority of my life, I have shared the same room with my two younger brothers...
GEORGE LYON’S “WHERE I’M FROM”                     Where Im From                  I am from clothespins,           from Cl...
THREE RESPONSES TO OLD COMMON  APPLICATION SHORT ESSAY PROMPTList the activities you chose to describeWrite down the tra...
INTO, THROUGH, AND BEYONDInto  •   Lead the reader into the story  •   Start with a hook  •   Consider cutting first para...
ONE JKCF SCHOLAR’S PROCESSMission of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation:  Advancing the education of exceptional students wi...
FINAL THOUGHTSStudents need to remember that admission of ficers: Can smell “enhanced” essays. Often say essays make or ...
CONTACT USDr. Rebecca Joseph: rjoseph@allcollegeessays.org and rjoseph@calstatela.edu. She has an iPhone/iPad App-All Col...
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Communicating their Stories: Strategies for Helping Students Write Powerful College Essays

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Presented at the 2013 NPEA conference by: Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, California State University Los Angeles, Yale University

http://www.educational-access.org/npea_conference_speakers2013.php

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Communicating their Stories: Strategies for Helping Students Write Powerful College Essays

  1. 1. COMMUNICATING THEIR STORIES: STRATEGIESFOR HELPING STUDENTS WRITE POWERFUL COLLEGE ESSAYS NPEA 2013 Rebecca Joseph Rebecca Cullen Jessie Royce Hill
  2. 2. ESSAYS = OPPORTUNIT YTake control over the highest ranked non-academic aspect of the applicationRealize the package of essays counts…not just oneShare their voice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 RJ
  3. 3. HOW IMPORTANT ARE THE ESSAYS?1. Grades2. Rigor of Coursework, School3. Test Scores4. Essays*5. Recommendations-Teacher and/or Counselor6. Activities-Sustained consistency, development, leadership, and initiative7. Special skills, talents, awards, community service and passions JRH
  4. 4. WHAT DO ADMISSIONS OFFICERS LOOK FOR IN ESSAYS?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 JRH
  5. 5. STEPS TO SUCCESS1)Understand the landscape2)Create a master chart to highlight patterns3)Read successful sample essays4)Write a resume5)Brainstorm their core qualities and unique stories6)Use the “Into, Through, and Beyond” method RC
  6. 6. UNDERSTAND THE LANDSCAPE1)The Common Application: New Prompts!  One Long (250-650 words)  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.  Additional Information, and Supplemental2)Large Public Universities3)Private College Specific Applications4)Other Systems (Universal Application, etc .) RJ
  7. 7. CREATE A MASTER CHART: PATTERNS1)Major Deadlines and Needs (by application type)2)Core Essays (color code all similar or overlapping essays)3)Supplemental Essays (color code similar types i.e. “Why are you a good match for us?” or “How will you add to the diversity of our campus?” RJ
  8. 8. READ SAMPLE ESSAYS AND PROMPTSEssays that worked: Connecticut Collegehttp://www.conncoll.edu/admission/essays-that-worked.htmUniversity of Chicago, Elon, and Tufts have great additional essay promptsEssays from other students in your programs RC
  9. 9. YALE ESSAYS5 short takes-175 characters1 long essay-500 words1 short Why Yale-500 characters JRH
  10. 10. WRITE A RESUMEAcademic: Current school, honors, AP courses, test scores (if strong), summer programsActivities: Colleges look for consistency, development, leadership, and initiative. Describe the level of activity and any awards and honors received. Include leadership positions held .Include Sports, Service, Volunteer Work, Jobs or Employment, Internships as appropriate. RC
  11. 11. CORE QUALITIES AND UNIQUE STORIESBrainstorming Exercises:Write a letter to future roommateWrite a “Where I’m From” poem modeled on George Lyon’s originalWrite three responses to the old common application short essay activities prompt RC
  12. 12. LETTER TO FUTURE ROOMMATEDear Roommate,I love making lists. A series of lists serve as decorations of my walls, lockers and notebooks —specklesof organization in a lifestyle characterized by organized chaos.One of my most recent list -making tasks began at two in the morning, with my trying to write aboutsome part of my personality that I wanted to share. I began listing small things about myself, and foundmyself inspired to create a large list of tiny things that define many parts of who I am.The first one on the list goes without saying.I have problems falling asleep.The pronunciation and spelling of my names serves a conversation starter wherever I go.I move my lips when I anticipate other people talking.I have the ability to create and develop different fonts in my handwriting.The first things I look for in someone’s room are the books they keep.Ive been sleeping with a 2 -foot stuffed bear for nine years.All I want is to be able to buy a keychain with my name already on it.Ive been told that I have a silly sense of humor.I have enough journals to fill an entire bookshelf.I love documentaries.One of my favorite words is “ ubuntu,” which means humanity in Xhosa.When I was thirteen, I tried writing an autobiography comprised of poems.I am most compatible with people who I think are most like me.I feel like a four-star chef when I make salads.Im an ENTJ.My favorite colors are coral and cerulean.If I could have any superpower, I would have the ability to be in two places at once.I eat ice cream with a fork.I’m obsessed with the game Bananagrams™.I drink orange juice right after I brush my teeth —just for the sour taste.Scary movies are the worst. RJ
  13. 13. LETTER TO FUTURE ROOMMATEDear Roommate:For a majority of my life, I have shared the same room with my two younger brothers, so I amconfident you will become family in no time. Based on my exper tise, I have developed followingguidelines to get us of f to a smooth and sound freshmen year:1. All non-Dodgers posters will be removed at your expense, and Giants posters will be burnedon your bed.2. The use of anyone else’s toothbrush is frowned upon.3. If you need to borrow my laptop, ask - don’t just take it.4. I f y o u n e e d t o b o r r o w m y u n d e r w e a r, d o n ’ t a s k - j u s t t a k e i t .My fif th and most impor tant recommendation is play whatever music you want.R o c k , r e l i g i o u s , r e n a i s s a n c e r o m a n t i c , r a p - w h a t e v e r, I ’ l l l i s t e n t o i t . I n f a c t m y f r i e n d f r o m b a c khome and I arrange rock and rap into mashups, so I can handle both. Even if the song youdecide to play is just good, I know it can be great. Maybe we’ll drop a beat, add some powerchords, or back it up with a Disney soundtrack . Don’t worr y if our songs are completely dif ferentgenres- the more diverse the tracks, the better the mashup. If you have an idea for somethingn e w , w e c a n c o m p o s e a n d p e r f o r m i t t o g e t h e r.I guarantee I will think that whatever you do with your time is awesome. If you’re par t of a bookclub and I’m par t of an a cappella group, we’ll sing stories. If I’m broadcasting on KZSU 90.1and you’re a member of the Chinese Dance club, I’ll do play -by -play of your moves.I would love to visit you wherever you live, and you’re welcome to visit me. I have lived in NewYo r k , C o n n e c t i c u t , P o l a n d , C o n n e c t i c u t a g a i n , a n d L o s A n g e l e s , a n d I h a v e v i s i t e d o v e r t h i r t ycountries. That is, unless you fail to follow rule number one. RJ
  14. 14. GEORGE LYON’S “WHERE I’M FROM” Where Im From I am from clothespins, from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride. I am from the dirt under the back porch. (Black, glistening, it tasted like beets.) I am from the forsythia bush the Dutch elm whose long-gone limbs I remember as if they were my own. Im from fudge and eyeglasses, from Imogene and Alafair. Im from the know-it-alls and the pass-it-ons, from Perk up! and Pipe down! Im from He restoreth my soul with a cottonball lamb and ten verses I can say myself. Im from Artemus and Billies Branch, fried corn and strong coffee. From the finger my grandfather lost to the auger, the eye my father shut to keep his sight. Under my bed was a dress box spilling old pictures, a sift of lost faces to drift beneath my dreams. I am from those moments-- snapped before I budded -- leaf-fall from the family tree. RJ
  15. 15. THREE RESPONSES TO OLD COMMON APPLICATION SHORT ESSAY PROMPTList the activities you chose to describeWrite down the traits you believe you show explicitly or implicitly to a college Examples: empathetic, resilient, determined, collaborative, creative, insightful, analytic, etc.Which traits you listed or didn’t list might lead to a long essay? What topics might you write about? Examples: Innovative….creating a peer mentoring program for a local elementary school; resilient…living in two worlds (urban neighborhood and elite private school) RC
  16. 16. INTO, THROUGH, AND BEYONDInto • Lead the reader into the story • Start with a hook • Consider cutting first paragraph(s) from first draftThrough • Use 1/3, 2/3 method: if starting with a life or family challenge, move quickly into who student is now; if writing about someone who influenced, make sure 2/3 of essay is about the student not the person of influence • Use first person • Show don’t tellBeyond • Connect to who student is now and who student wants to be • Evoke core qualities, convey morals RJ
  17. 17. ONE JKCF SCHOLAR’S PROCESSMission of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation: Advancing the education of exceptional students with financial need Scholarships: middle/high school, undergraduate (college and transfer), graduate arts Grants: organizations serving high -achieving students with financial needWe hold a 3-day college planning weekend during the summer between junior and senior years of high school .Dr. Joseph has run essay workshops the past four summers. The essays that result take draft after draft but are worth the wait. RC/RJ/SG
  18. 18. FINAL THOUGHTSStudents need to remember that admission of ficers: Can smell “enhanced” essays. Often say essays make or break an ultimate decision for students applying to “match colleges.”Students need to remember that they: Can create amazing essays and control this process Have two to five minutes to grab the attention of an essay reader. Need weeks, not days, to write ef fective college essays. Must ultimately submit what pleases them. Cannot manufacture essays; essays convey truth, unique stories, and writing skills . Should see the first new prompt as a gift. RC/RJ/JRH
  19. 19. CONTACT USDr. Rebecca Joseph: rjoseph@allcollegeessays.org and rjoseph@calstatela.edu. She has an iPhone/iPad App-All College Application Essays that lists every major application essay students have to write.Rebecca Cullen: rcullen@jkcf.orgJessie Royce Hill: jessie.hill@yale.edu

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