2 10, 2014

Common App College Essay Prompts and How to Master Them for Your Ivy League Application!

By |2019-11-15T12:06:18-05:00October 2nd, 2014|Brown, College Admissions, Columbia, Common App, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, Ivy League|1 Comment

So, it’s official.  You’ve decided it’s time to start working on your Common App. Good for you!  Great even.  You’re not procrastinating!  That is, until you looked at the prompts and thought, “I have absolutely NO IDEA what to say, let alone guess what the colleges are even looking for.”  This thought perhaps made you panicked, sick, ill, malaised (i.e. good SAT word, write it down), and forced you to have visions of working at a donut shop for the rest of your life, (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Perhaps you had plans though of potentially setting off for Harvard, Princeton, Yale, or some other picturesque U.S. school to watch football games, meet great life-long friends, STUDY and get an excellent education, and just do something incredibly solid and interesting with your life…but then messed it all up with the Common App and destroyed the dream.  Done.  OVER.  Donut?

Well, stop worrying.  We’re going to go through the prompts one by one, and if you take away my key points from each of the questions, you’re going to do more than fine.

Prompt #1Some 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.

This essay is a great chance to show your uniqueness, your individuality, what makes you different, and college admissions officers LOVE different.  Did you hear that? They read so many applications, that they truly gravitate towards those students who are unique and stand out.  So, do you have something unique in your background?  Have you done something unusual?  Is there something different about your family that makes you interesting?  Here is where you write about what makes you different from others in your school. What does make you different from your friends.   Remember, different = interesting.

PROMPT #2: Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?

Make sure you answer each of the questions stated in this prompt and you’ll do fine.  Mostly though, you want to pick a negative experience (a “failure”) that then has a positive spin — that shows your self-reflection and ability to pick yourself up and move forward stronger than before!  This essay is a good choice if STRENGTH and FORTITUDE are two of your major traits.

PROMPT #3: Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

This essay is here to show your character.  What are you passionate about?  What are you willing to stand up for, even in the face of adversity? As with prompt #2, make sure you address all of the questions within the question – that is part of what you are being tested on.  This essay is a good choice if you have very strong morals and values and are willing to make a public stand.  Always be aware of your audience though, and take into consideration how things will be perceived by the admissions committee.  In other words, choose your battles wisely.

PROMPT #4: Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

I like this essay, as it is the most creative.  Again, make sure you address all three points, and focus equally on description as well as self-reflection: why this is meaningful to YOU.  I’ve read very lyrical essays that describe a place, only to not understand its significance for the student.  Similarly, I’ve read very factual essays for this prompt that have no description or emotional feeling or language. Balance both, and do it in a creative way, and you’ll win by giving your reader insight into your world.

PROMPT #5: Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

What the admissions committee is looking for here, is growth. Your growth.  That moment when your world changed.  Pick an event that clearly shows how you were before, and then how you were different after.  Again, as with the other essays, they are looking for self-reflection.  This essay also allows for a lot of creativity and I have found sometimes the smaller, less formal and more personal events or moments in life make for the best, most moving essays – and that advice goes for all of the prompts, above.

[I’m a former Harvard interviewer and a Harvard graduate, and currently run the college admissions firm IVY COLLEGE ESSAY.com.  Like more help on your Common App or college applications? Contact me for a free consultation today!  www.IvyCollegeEssay.com ]

21 09, 2014

The Common App: How to Write a Great College Application

By |2022-09-17T23:25:21-04:00September 21st, 2014|Berekeley, Brown, college, College Admissions, Columbia, Common App, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, Ivy League, Ivy League Advice, Ivy League College, MIT, NYU, Princeton, Standford, Stanford, UCLA, UPenn, Yale|3 Comments

The Common App Essay

How to Write a Great College Application!

The season is upon us: college applications, and right now is a good time to start working on your Common App.  You’re a month into the new school year, you’ve settled in, and now the Common App essay is staring you in the face.

Where do you begin?  You know you have to start writing it…but HOW?

You try to forget about it, but you can’t.  How can you write the absolutely best college admission essays possible when you have no idea what to write about or where to begin??

Similarly, neither do you know what the college admission committee is even looking for, nor what will make a really strong college essay and application.  This holds true for all colleges and universities, but ESPECIALLY if you’re applying to the Ivy League.

Oh yeah, and did I mention your entire future appears to depend on this?

Don’t worry though, because I am going to walk you through the process.

I’m a former Harvard admissions interviewer + Harvard grad, and I know how to do this well.  I’m going to tell you how you can master the Common App essay and application and make the most of your college applications.

To be more to the point, I’m going to help you get into the best schools possible.

This includes the Ivy League: Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown, UPenn, and Cornell. The top. I mean, what if you want to go there?  How can you tackle the Common App and catapult your way to the apex of education?

Let’s start with the questions.  These are the choices for your Common App Essay:

  • 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.

Which one to choose, you say? Which one will be the best one to write about?  Here’s what I say:  go with the one that is going to contain the most EMOTION.  Emotion is powerful, good or bad, and the examples you choose, if they have a certain emotional weight to them when you think about it, that will add weight (and admissions committee engagement) to your essay.  In other words, emotion or powerful experiences (which is really what I mean) serves to ENGAGE your reader, and an engaged reader is going to not only remember your essay, but feel that you truly conveyed a mood, and environment, and an experience.

In other words, they will feel they got to know YOU just a little bit more than if you had written about something “less powerful” that didn’t engage.

Go with the powerful emotions.  The experiences and examples for any of the above, that convey some kind of emotion, and make you feel, because that is going to translate to your essay.

More tips and advice to come…

[I’m a former Harvard University admissions interviewer and a Harvard graduate.  I currently run the College Admission Essay firm: IVY LEAGUE ESSAY, out of New York, and specialize in helping students get in to the top schools and the Ivy League.  Please contact me for a free phone consultation today: www.IvyCollegeEssay.com ]

19 06, 2013

How Important Are Extracurriculars for Your College Application?

By |2019-12-01T14:33:45-05:00June 19th, 2013|College Admissions, Common App|0 Comments

 
How Important Are Extracurriculars for Your College Application?
Do schools really care what clubs you joined, what sports you played, what charity you may have volunteered for, or what musical instrument you possibly tried to master? What exactly are colleges looking for when they ask you for all the activities, clubs, positions, events and charities you have (perhaps) participated in during your high school career?
I would like to answer this question today, based on my own experience as a former Harvard University interviewer (and as a Harvard graduate, myself).
In terms of extracurricular activities, admissions officers are looking for a point-of-entry into your personality. They want to find something they can focus on, that’s interesting, that will differentiate you from the many other applicants in the pile.
Admissions committees use your extracurricular activities to paint a picture of who you are, as a student and as a person — to develop a fuller understanding of how you spend your time when you are not studying or at school, and to access your level of intellectual and cultural interest, background and depth.
In other words, your extracurricular activities are like the paint a painter paints with while creating a portrait of YOU. Your goal is to make those colors, that paint – your portrait – as original and interesting as possible. Especially if you are applying to the Ivy League.
The following is probably the most important thing I can say, and something you may not ever read elsewhere, as it is certainly an insider tip: Ivy League schools are looking for ORIGINAL THINKERS.Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Princeton, and University of Pennsylvania.
These are the 8 schools that make up the Ivy League, and to get into any of them, not only do you have to have the grades, the test scores, and the proper level of classes, but you need to demonstrate ORIGINAL THOUGHT.
These schools pride themselves on developing the next leaders of the world — economically, politically, and in the arts and sciences. Going back to the question then — you will be ahead of the game if your extracurricular activities are unique and demonstrate your individuality. Your ability to stand out from the pack. It is this, your own personal voice and interests that make you a unique and powerful future leader, in whatever your field.
So, strive to list those experiences and activities that are perhaps unusual, perhaps a little different from your friends. Demonstrate, if there is skill involved, that you do it and excel at a very high level. Let your uniqueness shine through, and that will shine through to the admissions committee, as well.
[Need help on your college applications or Common App essays? Thinking of the Ivy League? Contact me for a free consultation today! www.IvyCollegeEssay.com ]
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