College Application Essay Guidance, Writing

Show the Real You

“Sheila" bounded into our first meeting with a wide smile across her face, but that smile soon disappeared when I asked her about her essay. She'd been trying to write it for weeks but had gotten nowhere. "I don't know what to write about!" she sighed. We started to talk. About the subjects she enjoyed.… Continue reading Show the Real You

College Application Essay Guidance, Writing

You can’t hide who you are

"Samantha" was one of my favorite clients last year. A hard worker with parents who had endured multiple layoffs, she wanted to write about what she had learned from her family's experience. There was great material here—she had stepped up to help take care of her younger brothers; her parents' struggles had motivated her to work… Continue reading You can’t hide who you are

College Application Essay Guidance, Writing

The Bad Essay

In last week's post, I discussed whether an essay can make or break an admissions decision. The answer: it depends. If you don't have "the goods"—the grades and test scores—a good or even great essay will rarely push you from the "Deny" to the "Accept" pile. But if you land in the "Maybe" pile, a strong essay… Continue reading The Bad Essay

College Application Essay Guidance, Uncategorized, Writing

Can an essay make or break your college admissions decision?

The short answer: it depends. The longer answer: If you don't have the grades and the test scores a college expects from its applicants—in other words, if you aren't academically prepared—it is extremely unlikely for your essay to push you over into the Accept pile. Even the most interesting, unique, or creative essay. Penn's dean of… Continue reading Can an essay make or break your college admissions decision?

College Application Essay Guidance, Writing

Bird by Bird

In Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life, author Anne Lamott recounts her late father's advice to her brother: Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. It was due the next day. We… Continue reading Bird by Bird

College Application Essay Guidance, Writing

Jenny’s Story, Part 3

 Part 1 and Part 2 of Jenny's Story, in case you missed them. Jenny had lots of funny ideas to write about—Teletubbies, quesadillas made-to-order in Math class, Ashton Kutcher, among them. But could any of these funny ideas be transformed into a story? A story worth sharing with college admissions officers? As a next step, I… Continue reading Jenny’s Story, Part 3