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Don't feel bad if your personal narrative uses a lot of the word "I." It's very common, and it's hard to avoid. After all, we're writing about ourselves. Ultimately, though, too much of the word "I" can weaken your essay (and even make or break your college acceptance). Basically, repetition of the word "I" makes writing boring. Not only does it keep sentence structure generic, it also makes you as the author seem self-centered. If you want your essay to stand out and capture readers' interest, it's time to do something about the "I" problem. Here's how to do it: First, you'll need to highlight or underline every instance of the word "I" in your essay. It's easiest to do this on your word processor, since editing will be easier on the computer. Now, you're going to need to get rid of some of those pesky pronouns. A good rule of thumb is five I's per essay. Ten might be OK. Any more, and we've got some work to... read more

If I could only give one tip to help a student power through your his/her college essay, it would be this: write about something you love to think about.  As you consider topics, don't ask yourself whether something will make you sound smart, or motivated, ask yourself: "Would I enjoy writing about this?"  If the answer is yes, you've got a potential topic.  You'll have more to say, you'll naturally be more interesting, and you will be your best self, if you just start with what you love.  

Everyone has their own approach to writing. Some writers are very methodical throughout the entire writing process while others write freely and revise their way to the final draft. For proposals and admissions essays, a structured writing process draws from the strengths of both approaches. It starts with a creative focus and concludes with deliberate writing and revision. First, with the requirements and prompt in mind, the writer lets him or herself write and think freely. Second, the writer reviews his or her own notes and ideas to identify a cohesive focal point. Next, the writer distills the ideas into a concrete thesis and engages peers, friends, family, and instructors to develop and strengthen the arguments. Finally, the writer lays out the elements that support the thesis and backs it with specific examples or anecdotes. Creative Stage. In this stage, the writer thinks and writes freely but not chaotically. It starts with a careful review of the requirements... read more

Students have a wonderful opportunity to show admissions officers who they really are, by using the college essay to stand out from the crowd. In my experience, if you find a topic that you care about, and you write an essay that speaks from your heart, you will have a successful application experience. Admissions officers have to read dozens of applications per day in the 'busy season'. If you give an application reader a chance to pause, laugh out loud or wonder about the end of the story, and really recognize you as an individual, whether using humor, philosophy, creative writing about a memory or a fictionalized experience, or a profound lesson learned, you will hit a home run!   I am happy to help you get started, and then to edit your results. I do not write essays for students, but I do help you present yourself in the best light possible, and to give you opportunities that you may not find on your own.  Contact me for 3-session essay writing... read more

I’ve been thinking lately about why college application essays—any personal writing, really—triggers so much anxiety.  Andrew Ferguson gives us a marvelously personal perspective when he describes his experience as a father shepherding his 17-year-old son through writing the college essays during their last holiday break. He calls this process “the Great Extrusion,” where parents brace themselves “while dragging, pulling, tugging word after word and draft after draft from the insides of their mulish offspring until something presentable appeared.” Ferguson first gently, then more forcefully, offers stacks of books with sample essays to his son, as he does all he can to help without actually writing the essay for him.   By contrast, Robin Mamlet, a former Dean of admission, and Christine VanDeVelde, a journalist, offer a professional perspective. Their clear, step-by-step approach to the college essay advises 10 drafts written over the span of at least one... read more

Have you ever wondered just who is reading that personal statement you have to submit (along with the rest of your material) when applying to a college or university. Here's a statement from one such reader (No, I didn't write it).             *             *              *            *             *               *                *                     * "The key fact to know about your audience (and yes, you are writing for a specific audience... read more

Essay writing can be challenging for young writers.  I have written hundreds of essays.  It's always been a pleasure to receive a grade of A on an essay; however, it is even more enjoyable to receive a direct deposit for a winning scholarship essay!  Yes, it can make all the difference when funding your own education.  There are thousands of scholarship opportunities and most of them require a well written essay submission.   Have you ever been given a writing assignment that requires referencing a dozen different documents?  Are you learning to organize your writing?  Is it overwhelming when you are asked to complete a lengthy essay or report that includes more than just 5 or 6 references?  Do you want to apply for scholarships but you don't know how to write a winning essay?  To write any type of essay, my first tip is to take a step back, re-read the assignment criteria and/or rubric, and ask yourself a few questions.     1... read more

Okay, guys. I hate to do this, but I need to put on my teacher hat for a moment. (I don’t think teachers actually wear hats, but I’m sure you’re picking up what I’m putting down.) Here’s the thing: YOUR GRAMMAR AND SPELLING IN YOUR COLLEGE APPLICATION ESSAY MUST, MUST, MUST BE PRACTICALLY PERFECT IN EVERY WAY! You may be rolling your eyes and saying, “What’s a little mix-up between ‘there’ and ‘their’ between friends?” While I don’t think your entire acceptance hinges on one spelling error, I do know that mistakes cast a shadow on your application. For example, if your transcript says that you’ve taken Honors English since freshman year but your essay has several grammatical errors, then an admissions officer might assume that either your grades were inflated or your mom was giving you a little too much help on those final papers. Don’t give the admissions department a single reason to doubt your school smarts. What can you do to perfect your essay? Start with... read more

You may be thinking, “Rosie, your essay advice is great, but my applications are due in just a few months and I’m applying to nine different schools and they all have different essay prompts and I have soccer and homework and my job and babysitting to do. How am I ever going to finish nine different essays? AHHHH! I’m not going to college!” Okay, that last part got a tad Lifetime movie-ish, but you know what I mean. I can certainly understand your frustration with trying to tackle such a big job. But the answer is simple: Take the easy (and smart) route: write one essay and modify it to suit the essay prompts from each school. How do you do this? Chances are that you will be able to find a common thread in the essay options between schools. It’ll just take some creative thinking to find the connection. Don’t get me wrong–you will have to modify your essay for each school. The same core life event (and the meat of your essay) can be reused as long as you emphasize aspects... read more

English Composition: for many, it is a course that breeds anxiety and procrastination. Students often feel like they are at the mercy of red ink wielding professors. They squiggle notes about unity, clarity, and transitions in the margins of what you thought was a well crafted essay. You may find yourself on the receiving end of a big fat “F” even if your essay has perfect spelling and grammar. How does this happen? What mysterious criteria are at play here? What does your professor want from you anyway? Rubrics: Unlocking the Mystery Well, this might surprise you, but your professor is not assigning arbitrary letter grades based on whether or not they like you or your essay. Your professor is actually measuring your essay against a standard set by the college. This standard usually takes the form of a rubric: a tool used to assess the quality of individual components in a college essay. These components include how well you address the purpose and audience... read more

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